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JASTA and the roots of violence

Debates related to the ideological roots of terrorism and its breeding ground has reached unprecedented levels

Turki Aldakhil

Published: Updated:

Debates related to the ideological roots of terrorism, and its breeding ground, has reached unprecedented levels not seen since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) has revived the discussions once more.

The US presidential elections and Saudi determination have brought the debate to the fore, which has pained Iran and it is swaying like a raging bull that strikes in every direction. Even Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif wrote an article holding Saudi Arabia responsible for the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations.

The ink of al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden’s declassified letters has not yet dried but rather, sheds tremendous light on his relations with Iran. I’ve written regularly on this subject earlier. ISIS’ dependence on Iran is also very clear, available purportedly as YouTube videos in which ISIS leaders prohibit targeting on Iran.

Zarif does not care about looking for the actual source of terrorism but he wants to falsify history and go against it by spreading false rumors. Iran has murdered Americans everywhere and targeted them through its Revolutionary Guards. The Americans should be the ones who know most about state sponsors of terrorism across the world.

In all these cases, we can say that the seeds of terrorism were planted under Iranian eyes. Terrorism has other roots as well. It’s no secret that religious extremism – which is based on a distorted understanding of religion – also plays a role. However other ideological aspects have laid the foundation of terrorism. Traditional radical movements do not bear the biggest chunk of responsibility for violence as much as political Islamist groups.

Attempts to attribute terrorism to some elements of Salafism have been rejected by historical circumstances and facts on which violence in the name of religion was established

Turki Aldakhil

The spark of terrorism began with “ideological oppression” as thinker Dariush Shayegan puts it. Shayegan says turning religious principles into ideologies compromises the faith and leads to all sorts of problems. He adds that turning these principles into ideologies leads to making religion worldly, i.e. wasting energy in symbolic rituals and emptying it of its moral content. Shayegan also says that religious concepts are very accurate, warning that if they exit their special boundaries, they’d lose their capabilities.

The Iranian revolution has worked within a thin line with the Muslim Brotherhood considering the mutual influence. The source of ideologies is common. Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna are mutual references for both. Khomeini had tasked Khamenei of translating Qutb’s books into Persian, and there have been joint publications about unified principles. The Brotherhood has the “secret apparatus” and Iran has the “revolutionary guards.”

Violence in the name of faith

Violence in the name of faith invalidates the state and ignites trouble as states are marginal while the nation is more important than the homeland. Principles which incite violence were adopted by the Iranian regime on the basis of political Islam.

The alleged influence of Salafism does not get the biggest share of blame for inciting terrorism. To get the evidence of this we must go back to the roots. The responsibility falls on the political Islam, which Iran represents, and which it derived from the legacy of sectarian grudges and from the Brotherhood’s political Islam.

Attempts to attribute terrorism to some elements of Salafism are rejected by historical circumstances and facts on which violence in the name of religion was established.

Thinker Mohammed Arkoun who notes two points that are linked to the genesis of Islamism and terrorism; beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood was established during the first quarter of the 20th century and eventually with the Iranian revolution erupting in the end of the 1970s.

While the Muslim Brotherhood chose from traditions whatever it wanted from the takfir fatwas, the major leaders of terrorist organizations did not directly come out of traditional Salafis. They rather passed by the Brotherhood's tactics, adopted its principles and taught governance and how to make societies ignorant, how to bargain with rulers and how to accuse other countries of infidelity. The legacy contains a lot however the Brotherhood only chose everything violent from it. Therefore, the content of terrorism is not traditional Salafism but it is the choices of the Brotherhood as they chose whatever they need for their activity to succeed. This is where the huge difference lies!

The attempt to distort the Sunni legacy by considering it the disaster overlooks a history of Shiite grudges; therefore, the source of terrorism is not just a massive legacy but it is also a selective, serious and dynamic approach that attacks in every direction. And the aim as Hassan al-Banna put it in one of his articles is to work on “death making.”

This article was first published in Al-Bayan on Oct. 11, 2016.
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Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

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