As we are about to bid farewell to the year 2020 and welcome a new year – there is no sign of relief as religious and Islamist extremism remains the most threatening form of terrorism worldwide, while there are signs of an alarming rise in radical Hindutva in India – which poses the gravest threat to its religious minorities. According to the latest Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2020 report though states among the top 20 states most vulnerable to terrorism, 19 of them are mainly targeted by armed Islamist actors. But, things will for sure get worse with no real good news about this world getting freed from the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been costing economic sectors, thus resulting in a rise in the size of the unemployed population globally due to the closure of business establishments. Unemployment and economic crisis generate frustration and that is exactly where religious extremist groups and Islamist terror outfits will take advantage by luring the frustrated class in the society towards destructive acts.
The economic recession and unemployment caused by the pandemic is increasing the size of frustrated people around the world – especially the youths. In India alone, the rate of unemployment is jumping at an alarming level, thus creating millions of frustrated youths – both Hindus and non-Hindus. The size of the Muslim population in India is roughly above 140 million. It will be a real catastrophe if the number of unemployed Muslim youths in that country crosses six digits.
A study conducted by Colonel John M. Venhaus, a career psychological operations officer for the U.S. Army, who commanded the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force, gives another comparison with individuals joining the ranks of Al-Qaeda. According to him, young people often search for purpose after finding themselves utterly lost and confused. He said, “Al-Qaeda’s ability to turn them to violence is rooted in what each seeks: Revenge seekers need an outlet for their frustration, status seekers need recognition, identity seekers need a group to join, and thrill-seekers need adventure”.
The terrorist group presents itself as the only path towards satisfying those needs, by providing a narrative, which appeals to their concerns. As a result, their media content is deliberately fashioned in a way, which exploits these yearnings. Videos on YouTube stress romantic concepts of brotherhood, holy war, revolution, and martyrdom in the struggle for an Islamist utopia.
Hence, Al-Qaeda attempts to give birth to a pan-Islamic identity using a revengeful, provoking and downtrodden narrative in which the Muslim community is under the constant threat of the West in order to augment its credibility in the minds of its target audiences.
According to Col. Venhaus: “Al-Qaeda uses terrorism as a ‘genre of symbolic communications’ rather than a military tactic. The psychological impact of the deed is more important than the physical results of the fight”.
In this case, the frustrated and unemployed youths in India and the world may turn into revenge-seekers, thus finally resorting to notoriety of religious extremism and terror.
The four deadliest terrorist organizations identified in the GTI study are the Taliban, Boko Haram, the Islamic State, and the al-Qaida affiliated al-Shabaab group based in Somalia. These Islamist organizations were behind over half of the total deaths recorded in 2019. Some politically or otherwise motivated media outlets, especially in the western nations, however, chose to twist the fact in the GTI study by highlighting a concerning trend of rising far-right terrorist activity in the West.
Despite the fact of rise in the far-right terrorist incidents are on the rise, radical Islamic terrorism or jihadist attacks certain are more lethal particularly for the Western nations and the State of Israel. Since 2002, right-wing extremist attacks have inflicted 0.86 deaths per incident, whereas Islamist groups kill 4.49 people per attack. The deadliest form of terrorism in the West over the past two decades has been religious terrorism, which has almost exclusively taken the form of radical Islamist terrorism. It may be mentioned here that, Australia-based organization Institute for Economics & Peace compiles the annual GTI report based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) and few other sources. The GTD includes more than 170,000 terrorist incidents from 1970-2019.
The GTI report finds that among the 13,826 terrorism-related fatalities last year, far-right groups – including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, killed 89 people. A lone gunman attack on two mosques in New Zealand caused 51 of those deaths. None of the media outlets or counterterrorism entities have investigated what had prompted the gunman in New Zealand attacking mosques killing so many people, although it is evidently clear, a section of people in the Western nations are becoming increasingly angry at Islam for the continuous cases of jihadist attacks and intimidation of non-Muslims.
While we are worrying about radical Islamic terrorism or jihad, we possibly are underestimating the level of danger posed by global Shi’ite terrorism, which enjoys funding and sponsorship from the Iranian regime.
Radical Islamic jihadist activity is spreading beyond its traditional center of gravity and remains the greatest terrorist threat globally. Since 2013, the Islamic State’s affiliates have carried more than 3,000 attacks in 48 countries outside its central base in Syria and Iraq.
Fatalities from terrorism in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa now surpass terrorist-related deaths in the Middle East and North Africa.