(Featured picture courtesy of PBS)
By Neha Middela (’19)
Even though the concept is not foreign, the word “terrorism” evokes a pusillanimous response from many Americans. Thus, terrorism is fought with bullets and an ever expanding military budget while a more effective and humane solution is ignored: education.
The US government has utilized various means in order to fight terrorism, including drone attacks, which kill a great amount of people and are far from precise. An analysis of data conducted by human rights group Reprieve showed that when the United States attempted to target 41 leaders of Al-Qaeda, over 1,147 civilians were killed for no reason in the process. In order to combat terrorism more effectively, the United States should not resort to violence in order to spread its message of peace. Instead, we must attack the issue of terrorism at its root, providing opportunities for people most vulnerable to being recruited.
Islam is not a religion of violence. Rates of interpersonal violence in predominantly Islamic countries have been consistent or even less than that of countries without a large Islamic population. Terrorists are also not particularly cold-blooded. Instead, they have a strange, altruistic motive for their actions.
Many become terrorists due to the yearning of being a part of something greater and bigger than themselves, or to retaliate for what they perceive as injustices . Often, many are coerced into the process by jihadi recruiters. Murad Tawalbi, a 19-year-old failed suicide bomber even described bombs as “key[s] to heaven,” exposing his flawed motivations.
Al-Qaeda has been indoctrinating young children into their philosophy by using “Disney-style” cartoons to promote their anti-Western propaganda. A video game called “Quest for Bush”, a game that depicts America as the enemy, has been released by Islamist terrorist organizations, further highlighting the fact that jihadi recruiters use all sorts of avenues to spread their vengeful messages. The children who play the games or watch the cartoons do not yet have a well-rounded worldview and thus are unfairly brainwashed. Because of their uneducated upbringings, terrorist recruits an anamorphic view of religion itself.
Former British prime minister, Tony Blair explained his views in front of the United Nations counter-terrorism body, calling extremist views as the “soil of ignorance” and saying that “education is a security issue in the 21st century”. This paradigm is exemplified in the actions and repercussions faced by Malala Yousafzai, a teenage girl whose views about religion led to her being shot by an extremist organization. Her words, “While guns only kill terrorists, education kills terrorism,” poignantly describes the situation. Bullets and bombs can impede the route of terrorism, but it is education that can truly eradicate these ideologies.