Where are we headed?

This week's editorial tackles the issue of so-called terrorists who use their actions in the name of religion.

Another mass killing in the US, another set of headline news, wittingly or unwittingly, contributing to the already strengthening trend of isolationism among the conservative voter base in our southern neighbour, and despite the harsh criticism by establishment Republicans, higher number of Americans agreeing with Donald Trump that Moslem bashing is the way to make America great again.

As for Canada, while Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau keeps defending a principled position, insisting that no ransom should be paid for hostages, yet another Canadian citizen lost his life at the hands of terrorists, who are still described as Islamists but have long dropped the idea of jihad- the holy war against infidels- and have been practicing terrorism to get rich.

Whether the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay bar in Orlando is really connected to the Islamic State-ISIS, as the organization claimed, is almost irrelevant. What is relevant is his origin, born in the US but to Afghan parents. That makes him enemy enough.

Similarly, it doesn’t matter whether the Abu Sayyaf group, who are reported to have killed Canadian Robert Hall after the expiry of the deadline for the payment of the ransom demanded, are really fighting a holy war or just being bandits robbing people and kidnapping innocent individuals for ransom. They have emerged to the scene as Islamic extremists and their label remains unchanged.

If one looks at the recent history of the mass killings, it is easy to see a trend emerging and accelerating over the last 20 years, with a majority of terrorist attacks carrying religious overtones.

As earlier mentioned in this very column, what has been happening over the last quarter of a century is very much aligned with the prophecies foretold immediately after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and subsequently of the Soviet Union: Clash of Civilizations as described by Samuel Huntington, who said following the victory of capitalism over socialism/communism-whichever term you prefer-, the next global conflict axis would be based on religion, with the two most widely followed Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam, battling it out for supremacy.

The conflict is going on at various levels, in different parts of the world under a range of different guises: From the immigrants being trafficked, and tragically exploited on their way, to Europe to the wars in the Middle East, which increasingly looks like headed to a redrawing of the international borders in the region within, maybe, less than a decade, this clash of civilizations is being fought with a wide variety of subtle tools and policies, which now include the almost daily terrorist attacks.

But how are we to understand the reason for the international order to have an axis for conflict?

To have an understanding of the need for a basis for continued conflicts, it will be enough to take a broad look at the history: Governments that wanted stricter controls over their own people have always created enemies for them to fear and ask for stronger protection by their governments when they felt weak and vulnerable.

Joseph Stalin used kulaks to create that fear, Hitler targeted Jews of Europe, Mao in China ushered in the Cultural Revolution leading his nation to famine, and in Cambodia Pol Pot took it to the extreme ordering the killing of every person wearing spectacles because he branded them intellectuals, useless people in a classless society.

We are now living in a dangerous era, with middle class slowly being pushed to poverty throughout the industrialized West, seeking stronger governments to protect their living standards and hoping to find that strong leadership in the likes of Donald Trump; one or two more mass killings, perpetrated by or attributed to Islamic terrorists may well pave the way to the White House for the real estate mogul.

Cool heads are desperately needed to prevent a dangerous slide to the path that we have already passed before, but with extremism on the rampage on all sides, history just might repeat itself to prove Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu right as he once said “We learn from history that we don’t learn from history.”

 

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