Terrorism and corruptioin: Crisis of morality

Prof. Shahiduzzaman

Terrorism has often been treated as mindless violence. Even those who have a cause and see themselves pitted against the wall, appear ridiculous since their act of violent killings results in deaths of innocent people. It is this aspect of terrorism, which turns such acts into heinous crimes. Whatever may be the rationale for those who indulge in acts of terrorism, it is beyond any doubt that wanton killing and destruction can never be justified for they inevitably reflect the type of mentality that portray insanity. But then whatever the evils that define terrorism the ultimate dire reflection undeniably is that terrorism, once it enters social main stream in large-scale does not go away soon unless eventually, society investigates at least a part of the root causes of violence. It is here that we need to explore some of the root causes of terrorism in our society. Here terrorism can lead to awesome consequences, since the land is increasingly growing more thickly populated and pressures for a share of a shrinking pie are bound to lead towards destructive alternatives. The fact is that in our political culture, we could have laid the foundations of sanity had there been some limits to corrupt practices at the top of the social ladder.

Corruption top down is most menacing, specially if there are no effective punitive actions to halt such reckless greed. Such total breakdown in moral order may serve as the best inspiration for terrorism among Islamic radicals in our society who seek a type of puritan alternative because, and only because, our leaders encourage the type of crisis of morality that seeps down to the bottom in every segment of this society. It is quite amazing when we notice that people who commit themselves to wipe out terrorism do not hesitate to perpetuate the same old pattern of looting, bribery and all the unethical practices, which are now completely deep rooted in this society. Terrorism cannot be expected to go away in this reality of social and political degeneration. Terrorists may be caught and punished but there is a certain element of cynicism in the whole process-the rank and file of these serial bombers are not ordinary criminals they are the products, many of them rather very religious and puritanist of the unending and reckless social ills against whom these ill-fated 'jihadists' have chosen to fight it out to break this social order.

The future may fetch a new creed of terrorists who probably would have definite targets. In fact, if one may strip off the religious labels, the facial props of even current day terrorists may be comparable in many ways to the “Sharboharas' or the Maoists in Nepal or even the Naxalites of the Charu Majumdar variety, except that they have all carried their own ideological versions as the ultimate ends. But there happens to be one deep similarity which is, these methods are aimed at challenging deep-rooted corruption that prevails without any restraint.

Morality in governance is perhaps the root criteria in determining the prospect of any vulnerability of young folks undergoing madrasa education who eventually fall easy prey to doctrinal intimidation. This is the reason why it may not be easy to stop this lingering ongoing process of cadres springing up in succession, despite counter-terrorist measures. Ultimately therefore, the political system must address the root inspiration behind terrorism which are corruption-based politics and economies.

Democracy in this society of ours has lost all essence and positive meaning. This country will simply sink into a state of uncontrollable anarchy and societal break-down, given the inability of successive governments to undertake reforms in the power sector, communica-tions, integrity of bureaucrat selection, and a host of welfare related public works that continue to be vulnerable to alarming levels of corruption. Terrorism is only an ultimate consequence of deliberate indulgence in such practice that offers no hope to clean up the perpetuation of social evils which only go on to reward corrupt people instead of punishing them.

Such a reality leads to the fear that if the current perpetrators of terrorist bombings may develop greater accuracy and sophistication in their act, they could specify and target the leaders of corruption in the society.

It is quite possible that if the terrorist bombers can succeed in targeting the whole bunch of the powerfully corrupt who remain fully secure and are in fact the major barrier in upgrading the development process, such acts could accord the currently much-hated terrorists an undeserving sense of legitimacy.

This is not an impossibility. We can an already see the symptoms of complacency among those who see themselves as agents of compromise to work out the mechanism of live and let live solutions, where expedience may serve to offer a lease of life to the corrupt mainstream. Some change is necessary in this country. There must be a break-through which could end the process of handing over the country's reins to the politicians by turn in the name of democracy. This democracy that we cultivate is so hollow, self-destructive and devoid of any morality that unless this is effectively halted and replaced by a truly transparent and accountable management, there will be very little prospect to effectively eliminate terrorism from this society. Religion-based politics is not just a malaise comparable to other forms of terrorism-it has a moral legitimacy of its own - it has silent sympathisers who look upon the field-workers of terrorist groups as Robin Hood characters, as people who believe that religious values can be implemented by a holy war against the corrupt and insane.

Militancy is a very recent but potent source of physical power when religion based groups are involved in its organisation. These groups have now achieved financial solvency through a wide network of public services where their level of efficiency has proved to be impressive. They have missionary zeal and they enjoy a relatively corruption-free life style. They are very well organised and disciplined. They learn and improve from their past failures and are not at all suffering from illusion.

On the other hand, their exposure as a violent outfit and their eventual collapse of the physical capacity to implement expensive terrorist destructive designs, do indicate amateurish lack of guerilla-fighting abilities-involving the Maoist insurgent style hit and run tactics. Although the leaders are in hiding now, it appears unlikely that those top-rank religious detractors can eventually escape the eye of the law at this particular point of their threat-perception. It would be interesting to see whether they can effectively maintain shelter outside the territorial boundaries of this country.

However, this new trend of terrorism, based on religious militancy may not die down soon. This may acquire new sophistication following the recognition of the drawbacks that were confronted during their first initial violent rupture in a bid to eventually capture state power.

The basic weakness of all elected governments thus far in failing to implement even the minimum honest discourse to counter the lavish exercise of corruption as well as the abuse of public money, can help to foster Islamic militancy. One must realise that the current public hatred against religious militancy may be a very misleading indicator of revulsion against the corrupt. The true test lies elsewhere.

The author is Professor of IR, Dhaka University

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