When the topics “Islamic terrorism” and “the war on terrorism” are discussed, there is a fundamental flaw in that in both cases, the terms and ideas incorporated into each phrase are contradictory.
That was part of the thesis presented Monday by Parvez Ahmed, University of North Florida finance professor and Islamic scholar, to the Rotary Club of Jacksonville.
He said the doctrines of Islam, as presented in the Quran, are completely opposed to terrorism, which Ahmed defined as “frightening people to accomplish a political goal.”
The central religious text of Islam “talks about the pluralism of humanity and that diversity is God-given,” said Ahmed. “You must compete in righteousness — that is how God will judge you. Life is sacred. The Quran does not condone killing.”
As for the war on terrorism, Ahmed said it’s hard to declare war on an idea and terrorism is not driven exclusively by religious beliefs.
“Terrorism is not a country, it is a tactic,” he said. “Terrorists will kill anybody who disagrees with them. Religion does not matter.”
Ahmed said his presentation on terrorism, like his presentations on financial topics, is driven by data. He cited information from the Global Terrorism Database, a project begun in 2001 at the University of Maryland that includes data collected since 1970.
According to the database, during the past 43 years, more than 125,000 acts of terrorism have been committed by hundreds of groups. Since the War on Terrorism was declared Sept. 12, 2001, that day after the 9/11 attacks, 220,000 civilians have died, more than 6,800 U.S. soldiers have been killed and 970,000 have been disabled at a cost of $4.3 trillion, said Ahmed.
Terrorism has become worse since the war was declared, with half of the incidents of terror recorded since 1970 occurring in the past decade.
When the terrorist leaders responsible for the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden, justified their violence in the name of Islam, it created a perception assisted by a “cottage industry of media experts” who promote the idea of associating terrorism with Islam, he said.
Terrorism has been part of the human experience forever and “it’s likely to persist as it has since the beginning of antiquity,” said Ahmed.
A fundamental change in policy may be the only solution to resolve the long-term conflict and military action is likely not the way to peace.
“While we have promoted U.S. interests in the Middle East, in my opinion, we have too often favored interests over values,” said Ahmed. “Armies cannot win the war. Armies cannot answer the question, ‘What happens the day after the war is won?’”