Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq
The humanity at large has been suffering from fear of freedom since the ghastly attack on twin towers of New York on September 9, 2001. The incident that took place sixteen years ago and what followed thereafter has changed the very fabric of modern day societies—the unfortunate causalities are loss of individual’s privacy and world peace. In the name of fighting terrorism and ensuring security, certain states are encroaching upon citizens’ fundamental rights and giving rise to fascism and militarism. Terrorists are exploiting modern days’ information technology tools to advance their agenda. Sixteen years have proved that mere use of ill-directed military force against militant groups, instead of cutting their financial lifelines and without eliminating the causes leading to “terrorism”, cannot defeat the forces of obscurantism.
The mankind after hectic and long struggle secured individual freedom, democracy and equality before law. The 9/11 gave pretext to certain vested interests to push the mankind back in the dark ages when fundamental rights were denied by the authoritarian rulers. Now there is open admission by the US and many other governments of eroding civil liberties on a massive scale in the name of security. The rising tides of terrorism, militarism, fascism, fanaticism and fundamentalism since 9/11 hold many lessons for international communities and their governments.
The real dilemma is that the proponents of ‘Freedom’ and ‘Fundamentalism’ are not only intolerant towards others’ views but also suffer from the misconception that their ideas are the only truth through which the world can be changed into a wonderful place. The Taliban and other fundamentalist groups like ISIS are convinced that their way of thinking is the correct version of life and the defenders of ‘freedom’ believe that they hold the ultimate truth. Neither side is ready to live within the paradigm of “peaceful co-existence’ with the agreement of wining the hearts of people through canvassing and not the use of force. This non-comprising attitude on the part of both sides reflects modern day absolutism leading to a perpetual confrontational world since 9/11. In all the tumultuous areas in the world the main reason for unresolved disputes is this unbendable attitude of the parties to conflicts.
Lack of rationalism on the part of the powerful to be fair towards the powerless has also converted our world into a place full of misery, destruction and unhappiness. The frustration of the powerless gets its vent in ghastly acts of terrorism and destruction. If we want to change this situation drastically, a balance has to be struck between the powerful and the powerless. If a large segment of the world lives in a state of powerlessness, the powerful will always be the target of hatred and attack. The powerful want to transform the world as a machine where all others act as a cog while they have the master control. But the cogs have their own way to develop malfunctioning depriving the master from enjoying absolute control.
The authoritarian thinking on the part of the powerful and greed to monopolize economic resources is the root cause of conflicts, both internal and external. The oppressed and powerless have their peculiar ways of reacting, which by no means can be expected to be according to the norms of internationally agreed principles. Their destructive tendencies are symptomatic of a sick world order. Our world is fast emerging a state reminiscent of systems of the last century practiced in Germany and Italy. The revival of dictatorial orders in the name of ‘security needs’ is a step towards ‘unipolar fascist state’. On global level, there are now open expressions of superior and inferior statuses while entering into relations with different States and blind admiration of the unipolar force. This is like pushing the entire World to ‘Ground Zero’—taking revenge of 9/11 in negative terms.
In devising military strategies to fight the forces of fanaticism and terrorism, the people at the helm of affairs should not overlook the human side of the whole problem. Freedom and democracy are inseparable. The right to express our thoughts clearly means something only if we are able to have thoughts of our own. If the media and state machinery is shaping the thoughts of everybody then where is freedom of expression? If one does not have his own thoughts what does democracy mean? If the shape of the world is to be determined by a handful of people having known economic interests then of what need is freedom for the common man? When we are remembering 9/11 after sixteen, there is skepticism and cynicism towards everything. The future of freedom and democracy is at stake.
Terrorism like fascism is a self-destructive ideology and if we want to fight terrorism we will have to understand it. Wishful thinking about military might and invincible air strike power will not help to win the war against something that relates to human behaviour. Humanization of world societies is the only effective tool to eliminate terrorism. Use of force and denial of peoples’ legitimate rights on the contrary is bound to provoke more terrorist acts around the world.
The doctrine of right of pre-emptive strikes and attack is only a short-term solution. In the long-term, the governments of the world will have to sit down and chalk out a comprehensive strategy to ensure that miscreants are dealt with a strong hand without disturbing the peace and tranquility of individual societies and the world as a whole. The most important question faced by humanity is whether we are afraid of freedom or want to preserve it for our future generations. The attacks of 9/11 and many others thereafter are, in fact, a strike against human freedom. In a unipolar world, after the debacle of communist oligarchy, the responsibility of western democracies has increased manifold to assure the rest of the world that absolute power in their hands does not mean high-handedness towards others that is breeding ground for hatred and terrorism leading to a chaotic world. On the 16th anniversary of 9/11 they should ponder over it more seriously to save the world from further military actions, destruction and miseries.
Huzaima Bukhari and Dr. Ikramul Haq, authors of many books, have studied terrorism, narco-arms-trade and its socio-economic impacts on modern day societies.