What is the root cause of terrorism? What drives a terrorist group to commit acts of violence? Is it the environment they are born in to or is it a trait that is developed over time as a result of their upbringing? The term ethno-nationalism can be defined as “the combination of both ethnic and national identities in some way for a political purpose, usually to infer superiority over some other group or groups”. This identity is what brings a terrorist group together and serves to invigorate their extremist actions.
Through an ethno-nationalism identity terrorists are able to not only empower their case of taking on the identity of “freedom fighters” but also to recruit and retain supporters willing to join their cause. Across the globe the ethno-nationalism identity problem is responsible for the dilemma of international terrorism. Terrorism can be defined as the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. It is an act intended to cause fear perpetrated in the name of some type of political, ideological, or religious goal and is not concerned with the safety of civilians.
Terrorist acts throughout the centuries have been performed with the goal of spreading a system of belief, viewpoint or opinion. International terrorism is evident in almost every nation at one point in time or another. From places like Baghdad, Iraq to New York City terrorism impacts the world. From suicide bombers in Jordan to car bombs in Kabul no one is free from the effects of terrorism. In order to understand the term ethno-nationalism and its contributing factors to terrorism it is necessary to define it in its simplest form.
The dictionary defines an ethnic group as a group of people who identify with one another, or are so identified by others, on the basis of a boundary that distinguishes them from other groups. These boundaries can be cultural, political, ideological, religious, or economic in nature. It isn’t necessary for a person to reside in their country of origin in order to be considered part of an ethnic group. Sunnis for example are part of an ethnic group. Albanians are part of an ethnic group. Another characteristic of ethnic groups is a link in time such as the history of a people. The history of an ethnic group binds them together.
Nationalism can be defined as a desire for political independence, patriotism, or even an excessive devotion to a nation. “National identity is the person's identity and sense of belonging to one state or to one nation, a feeling one shares with a group of people, regardless of one's citizenship status. National identity is not inborn trait; various studies have shown that a person's national identity is a direct result of the presence of elements from the "common points" in people's daily lives such as their national symbols, culture, blood ties, or history” (Wikipedia 2011).
Through the deprivation of religious ideologies, the struggle to maintain cultural standards, and the opposition between national identities international terrorism is generated. So what cases can we provide in order to support the theory that international terrorism exists because of the ethno-national identity problem? Let’s look at the terrorist group known as the Jama’at-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). The group is believed to have come into existence around 1998 in The People’s Republic of Bangladesh, a country in South Asia on the north littoral of the Bay of Bengal.
The Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Party of the Mujahideen) aims at establishing the rule of Islam in Bangladesh through an armed struggle. “The outfit is opposed to the establishment of democracy and calls for the conduct of government under Islamic law. It is opposed to cultural functions, cinema halls, and shrines and seeks to “free Muslims of the influence of anti-Islam forces” (South Asia n. d. ). “On August 17, 2005, near-synchronized blasts of improvised explosive devices in 63 out of 64 administrative districts targeted mainly government buildings and killed two persons.
An extremist Islamist group named Jama'atul Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) claimed responsibility for the blasts, which aimed to press home JMB's demand for a replacement of the secular legal system with Islamic sharia courts” ( State Dept. 2010). This and several other acts of terrorism over the years in Bangladesh are the result of the JMB promoting their ethno-national identity. The Muttahida Quomi Mahaz is a terrorist group in Pakistan that originated out of the Mohajir Quomi Movement (MQM) which originally was portrayed as an organization of Mohajirs.
The Mohajirs refers to an ethnic group of refugees from India who settled in Karachi and the Sindh Province. “The first assertions of a distinct ethnic identity were made by the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organization" (APMSO) founded by Altaf Hussain in Karachi in 1978” (South Asia n. d. ). The group plays a part in the political struggles of Pakistan, usually accompanied by violence. On October 1, 1988 suspected MQM activists killed 90 Sindhis in separate attacks in Karachi.
News reports suggested that most of the violence was between supporters of the MQM and the Jiye Sindh Movement, an organization purportedly fighting the cause of native Sindhis (South Asia n. d. ). The MQM (A) is a prime example of one ethnic group seeking to establish their ethnic identity through the use of terrorist acts. Al- Qaeda is an international terrorist network founded by Osama bin Laden. One of its main goals is to “rid Muslim countries of what it sees as the profane influence of the West and replace their governments with fundamentalist Islamic regimes” (Bajoria 2011).
The group supposedly has cells across the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and Central Asia who continue working to carry out attacks against U. S. and Western interests. Their violence has been responsible for multiple civilian deaths through the years including the bombing of the USS Cole, the August 1998 bombings of the U. S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as well as the attack on the United States on September 11, 2011. Al-Qaeda is a mastermind at using ethno-nationalism to its advantage.
As the terrorism scholar Jarrett Brachman noted, “Al – Qaeda realizes that it is a lot more effective at being a movement, an ideology, even a worldview. It is starting to see that terrorism is only one of many tools in its arsenal and that changing minds matters more than changing policies” (Brachman 2009). Earlier termed Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) is a Sunni sectarian outfit that has been alleged to be involved in terrorist violence, primarily targeted against the minority Shia community in Pakistan (South Asia n. d. ).
In Jhang, the home base for the SSP, the Sunni sect sought a political voice amongst the Shia landlords who controlled the region. This struggle brought about the formation of the SSP along with violent sectarianism. The SSP wants Pakistan to be declared a Sunni state. Maulana Zia-ul-Qasmi, a leading SSP leader said in an interview in January 1998, "the government gives too much importance to the Shias. They are everywhere, on television, radio, in newspapers and in senior positions. This causes heartburn” (South Asia n. d. ). SSP operatives have two forms of strategies they prefer to use to promote their identity: the killing of
prominent opponent activists and the firing on worshippers in mosques operated by opposing sects, mainly the Shias. Once again one can see how ethno-nationalism identity is directly correlated with terrorism. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was formed in 1976 in Sri Lanka and emerged as one of the most disciplined terrorist forces. “Terrorism in Sri Lanka began in 1970 with the formation of a militant student body called the "Tamil Students Movement" to protest government plans to limit access of Tamil students to universities.
Very soon this movement went underground and turned to overt terrorist activities” (South Asia n. d. ). The LTTE sought to create a separate homeland for the Tamils known as the Tamil Eelam (State) in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka and to seize control of the country from the ethnic Sinhalese majority. The group was ahead of its time in the world of international terrorism. Their use of discipline, rigorous training, dedication, and training gave them the label of being one of the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the LTTE was responsible for inspiring networks worldwide, including the al-Qaeda in Iraq. The terrorist organization also used women and children as soldiers to promote their cause. . The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have earned a dubious niche for frequently employing suicide killers with success. “The politico-social environment, besides indoctrination, motivates a LTTE suicide bomber” (South Asia n. d. ). The promotion of the Tamil nationalism and ethnicity developed into one of the most notable terrorist networks.
In the mid-1990s the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was formed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Its creation came from a movement to seek the removal of the current Uzbek government in order to establish an Islamic state. Typical IMU attacks include bombings, ambushes, raids on security force facilities, assassinations, and hostage-taking/kidnapping for ransom and intimidation. “They were designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U. S. State Department in September 2000. Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, the IMU has been active in insurgency operations against U.
S. and coalition security forces” (Violent Extremism 2012). In one of its more notable incidents, the IMU was responsible for plotting a bombing attack against the U. S. Embassy and a hotel in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in May 2003. Again, one can note how the goal of establishing a group’s ideologies relates to terrorism. The term Naxalite refers to various militant Communist groups operating in different parts of India under different organizations. In the eastern part of the country they refer to themselves as Maoists, after the Chinese guerrilla warfare strategist, Mao Zedong.
“Charu Majumdar, inspired by the doctrines of Mao Zedong, provided ideological leadership for the Naxalbari movement, advocating that Indian peasants and lower class tribals overthrow the government and upper classes by force. A large number of urban elites were also attracted to the ideology” (Absolute 2011). In April of 2010 the Naxalites launched the biggest assault in the history of the Naxalite. The attack was launched by up to 1,000 Naxalites in a well-planned attack, killing an estimated 76 CRPF policemen in two separate ambushes and wounding 50 others, in the jungles of Chattisgarh's Dantewada district (Absolute 2011).
It is through the oppression of the lesser class that ethno- nationalism begins to rise and terrorism evolves. Lastly one simply needs to focus on the Janjaweed in Sudan to see the result of the ethno-national identity problem. The Janjaweed are militia men who are members of the nomadic "Arab" tribes who've long been at odds with Darfur's settled "African" farmers, who are darker-skinned (Koerner 2005). This terrorist group, if you will have been responsible for more than 1,000,000 refugees in Sudan.
In 2003, the Janjaweed became more of a problem after two non-Arab groups, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, took up arms against the Sudanese government, alleging mistreatment by the Arab regime in Khartoum ( Koerner 2005). The Janjaweed began raiding African villages from which the armies gathered the support of Zaghawa, Masalit, and Fur tribes to supplement their strength. Interviewed refugees from Darfur also allege that Janjaweed commanders are using racism as a rallying point, encouraging their charges to rape the dark-skinned villagers they encounter during their raids (Koerner 2005).
The ethnic and nationality issue between the two groups of Arabs and Africans has created much more than just a deliberate terrorist act. More than 300,000 people have been killed and 2 million forced from their homes. “Congress was the first to call these atrocities in Darfur by their rightful name—genocide” (Wolf 2010). Ethno-nationalism identity problems reach across the world, from Asia to Africa, and are directly responsible for international terrorism. A group’s ideologies, religious values, political beliefs, and culture can shape their place in society.
Unfortunately some groups are not content with the hand that has been dealt to them and choose to use terrorism as a tool for change. Is there an answer for terrorism? Is our counterinsurgency theory really the best plan? One can assume, based on the history of the world, that as long as there are different ethno-nationality sects there will be terrorism. References Absolute Astronomy. (n. d. ) Naxalite. Retrieved from the web February 14, 2012 http://www. absoluteastronomy. com/topics/Naxalite. Anti-Defamation League. (n. d.
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