Dr. Ikramul Haq
The blatant acts of terrorism against the United States 17 year back jolted the entire world. These raised some important questions about the future shape of modern day societies. The U.S and Western people secured freedom from political, economic and spiritual shackles that have bound humanity for many centuries after a strenuous and protracted struggle during the last century. The 9/11 caused serious threats to freedom by all societies that still continues even after lapse of 17 years.
Terrorism is a destructive ideology. All the world societies want to uproot it but lack a collective approach. Wishful thinking about military might and invincible air strike power for the last 17 years has failed to help to win the war against terrorism and fanaticism. Humanization of world societies can be the only effective tool to eliminate terrorism. Use of force, as experience shows, has provoked more terrorist acts around the world. The most important question faced by humanity in the aftermath of 9/11 is whether we are afraid of freedom or want to preserve it for our future generations. In a world, after the debacle of communist oligarchy, the responsibility of western democracies increased manifold to assure the rest of the world that absolute power in their hands does not mean high-handedness towards others. But they have proved it otherwise.
The mankind after much struggle and paying a heavy price learnt the principles of economic liberalism, political democracy, religious freedom and individualism in personal life. Since 2001, certain forces have been working to push the mankind back towards the dark ages when inalienable fundamental rights were denied by the authoritarian rulers. There are now debates inside the USA and elsewhere pinpointing the dangers of more wars and further erosion of civil liberties on a massive scale. In occupied Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, terrorism surfaced as a reaction towards growing “fascism” on the part of USA.
Freedom of expression per se has been considered as sufficient fulfilment of the need to achieve a democratic society. The fall out of this fulfilment appears to be a misconceived notion on the part of individuals and groups that freedom of speech ipso facto gives them an authority or a license to impose their own ideas on others using money, power and physical force as means. They 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 terrorists think their way of thinking is the correct version of life and the defenders of freedom are of the view that they hold the ultimate truth. Neither side is ready to open a dialogue. Both the sides have a non-comprising attitude when matter comes to ideology. This growing authoritarian thinking has led to a perpetual conflict position in the world. In all the politically tumultuous areas the main reason for unresolved disputes is this stubborn attitude on the part of the parties in conflict.
Lack of rationalism on the part of the powerful to be fair towards the powerless has 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 remain the target of hatred and attack.
This authoritarian thinking on the part of the powerful and mechanism adopted by him e.g. imposing economic sanctions is most illogical and irrational way to fight a war against fundamentalism and terrorism. 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 as an authoritarian State reminiscent of a fascist system of the last century practices in Germany and Italy where the dominant role of authority in social and political structure rests with the dictators. The revival of dictatorial State orders in the name of security needs is a step towards fascist systems. 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.
In devising military strategies to fight the forces of fundamentalism 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 [who want to make oil and political maps right] then of what need is freedom for the common man? When we are remembering 9/11 there is skepticism and cynicism towards everything. The future of freedom and democracy is at stake.
The writer, lawyer and author of many books and articles on terrorism, arms-drugs-trade, is Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).