The troublesome question that faces the civilised world is, "Can we confront and conquer terrorism?" The answer is, yes we can. The road to success is perhaps long and tortuous, but the first step is to analyse and expose the problem with moral clarity and uncompromising honesty.
Our commitment to truth must be absolute, unwavering and transparent. Let us be clear that our war is not against Islam. It is against a group of evil, non-humans who are deliberately misguiding people to say that Islam is pitted against the rest of the world. In truth, it is this evil group that is pitted against Islam and all that Prophet Mohammed had taught and practised. The terrorism we witness has nothing to do with the fight for the legitimate rights of the Palestinians or the Kashmiris or the Chechens, but is, in fact, a conspiracy to impose on the whole world the hegemony of a counterfeit faith.
The civilised world is yearning for peace. Peace will come only if the practitioners of terrorism are persuaded to believe that terror is not their gate pass to heaven.
I have been repeatedly questioned by the media about Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab, the two convicts who have been sentenced to death. I believe that both have been indoctrinated over a long time to believe that killing innocent persons in cold blood will earn them post-mortem bliss. In fact, the immediate execution of their death sentences will be an act of mercy on them. They should be made to rot in the hell of an Indian prison for the rest of their lives so that it dawns on them, and those seeking to become like them, that what they have learnt from their misguided clerics is totally false. Denying them death is a more effective punishment than hanging.
Terrorism cannot be conquered only by the use of superior military power wielded by the state and its agencies. The poisonous teaching of some mullahs must be neutralised by superior intellect and persuasive arguments. This is a stupendous task. Ranged against us are the teachings of Mohamed ibn Abdul Wahhab, a religious movement called Ikhiwan promoted by Latif, a Saudi judge, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt founded by a schoolteacher, Hasan-Al-Bana, and last but not the least, the madrasas of Maulana Maududi of Pakistan.
All these groups have ideological affinity. The common theme which they propound is that the terrible decline of the world of Islam has resulted because Muslims have forgotten and forsaken jihad. They denounce secularism in education and condemn it as an aggression against Islamic legitimacy. The Muslim World League, which set up its office in Pakistan within two years of the country's birth, is an amalgam of all these movements. The Peshawar office of the League has been a prolific feeder and recruiting ground for Osama Bin Laden's terrorist network.
It would do well to recall that the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia decreed death and annihilation for all polytheists. They expanded the meaning of the term to condemn virtually all others, Christians, Jews, Shias, Hindus.
The World Trade Center attack of 11 September 2001 changed the nature of discourse in the American media. The dominant question became: "What is wrong with the Islamic world that it failed to produce democracy, science, education, its own enlightenment and created societies that breed terror?"
Political philosopher Stephen Bronner offered one answer: "The 11th of September only highlights what should have been obvious; the need remains for an unrelenting assault on religious fanaticism not merely of the Islamic variety, but of the sort promulgated by 'born again' Christians, Biblical literalists, Protestant sects intent on converting the Jewish infidels, and all those who would bring their revealed certainties — contested by others with other revealed certainties — into the mainstream of public life." He could have added some Japanese and Indian lunatic groups as well.
Such evil indoctrination can be effectively countered by responsible Muslim intellectuals only, of whom there is no dearth. Non-Muslims will be much less effective, since they will be always prone to suspicion of having a hidden agenda.