With the release of The Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index this week we have learned that religiously motivated terrorism has grown exponentially as I covered in this post here.
The study itself is very thorough and looks at motivators from all over the globe as shown in this chart:
The study clearly shows that in Islamic countries or regions, religion is playing the major role in driving terrorism, but it also shows that around the globe that nationalism and politics still play a major role. The study states:
Over the past 14 years there has been a large increase in religion as the motivator for terrorist activity. However in 2000, nationalist separatist movements were a more prominent motivation for terrorism than religion. Today, political and national separatist aims are still a significant driver of terrorism but unlike religion, they have seen comparatively little change over the period.
I don’t think this will shock too many people, I don’t think many thought all terrorism must have the same motivators, however it is a stark reminder that terrorism cannot be solved in a one-size-fits-all package. What works to drive out terrorism in Central America will not work in MENA.
This also for me is a good reminder of why the “war on terror” cannot succeed in its goals, and that we must be cautious not to focus on one problem. It would stand to reason if we eliminated Islamic extremism in MENA, US occupation, if continued (as historically the US does), this chart could one day simply reflect that politics or nationalism are once again major driving forces.So solutions must come primarily from inside these regions, through the elections of secular politicians and governments, to religious reformist groups and moderates who are against the violence but do not speak up. Outside intervention must be kept to a minimum as we have to realize the US and its allies are not going to be the ones to fix these issues.
As I noted in my previous post, and highlighted in the study:
“To counteract the rise of religious extremism, moderate Sunni theologies need to be cultivated by credible forces within Islam. The current political context underscores the importance of moderate Sunni countries and not outside influences leading such a response.”
However, it cannot stop there. Sunni’s as a group have endorsed human rights violations such as Female Genital Mutilation, despite what apologists like Reza Aslan want you to believe. So while groups like this can play a role in ending terrorism, they must still be held accountable for their contemptible religious beliefs.
For me at least, this study and its findings stand as a reminder that as much as I wish things were different, that Christopher Hitchens was not in fact wrong when he said, “religion poisons everything.” In a previous post, I strongly condemned Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins for what I saw as the wrong view on terrorism and wanted nothing more than to reject the idea of “new atheism”. I was wrong to do so and today I am reminded of why I became an activist, why I was drawn to new atheism many years ago and why I am still proud to call myself a new atheist and stand up against religious extremism.