The MIT-trained nuclear physicist, professor, essayist and political analyst, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy spoke at the Josef Korbel School last Monday regarding the nature of religious terrorism and what can be done to combat it. If Moses were to climb Mount Sinai today he would receive a completely different set of commandments, Dr. Hoodbhoy explained. The first tablet is for the West and contains the following:
- Thou shall not seek to run the world or invade countries.
- Thou shall settle the Israel-Palestine issue justly and equitably.
- Thou shall not start new wars to eliminate nukes.
- Thou shall not support dictators and quislings.
- Thou shall use soft power, not hard.
And the second tablet Moses receives would be for Muslims. The tablet would contain the following five edicts:
- Thou shall not blame others for thy own failings.
- Thou shall not poison young minds.
- Thou shall not imprison women in homes and burqas.
- Thou shall accept the UN charter on Human Rights.
- Thou shall accept the premises of the scientific method.
If each party abides by these 10 commandments, Pakistani nuclear physicist Dr. Hoodbhoy contends that religious terrorism could be defeated.
"I fear that unless we do something about it we might end up in a conflict that will leave everyone losers," Dr. Hoodbhoy said.
While help from the West is necessary to defeat it, Dr. Hoodbhoy said most terrorist acts are not attacks on westerners but instead on Muslims.
"They're no attacking the West- that's their sideshow," Dr. Hoodbhoy explained as he displayed a list of most attacked countries in the last two years, with European countries and the United States clearly missing. "The majority of victims of Muslim terrorism are Muslims themselves. This is a war within Islam.
Dr. Hoodbhoy explained that the Taliban admit they are responsible for many of the attacks in Pakistan and are proud of it.
"It's all over the country," he said of the attacks. "It's at funerals, hospitals, mosques."
Dr. Hoodbhoy added that when the floods were raging in Pakistan the Taliban did not spare the flood victims. But United States helping the rescue efforts with Chinook helicopters was the best public relations that the country could have done, he said. Which is much needed after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have hurt America's image in the Muslim world.
"The fact that the U.S. attacked Iraq, that it is in Afghanistan, has created a degree of hostility with Muslims across the world," Dr. Hoodbhoy said. "They see that Muslim lands were attacked."
Dr. Hoodbhoy added that these wars are part of the reason why the United States get cases like Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American who attempted the New York car-bombing earlier this year. Dr. Hoodbhoy said Shahzad and the recent German terrorists killed in Pakistan are motivated by revenge.
"There are people who actually have it pretty good in the West," he said. "In a perverted form of altruism they decide to throw it all away. It's important to listen to people like Shahzad if we are to ever get a handle on why people do these things."
In his hour-long lecture, Dr. Hoodbhoy also addressed four key questions necessary to understand religious terrorism: Is Islam the problem? What are radical militants fighting for? How did they become so powerful so fast? Will education help?
Dr. Hoodbhoy began by defining what is true Islam. He explained that as Islam spread it would pick up the flavor of the culture.
"Over the centuries Islam has dwarfed into many different streams and manifestations," he said. "In India you will find that there are shrines at which both Hindus and Muslims worship."
And now, Dr. Hoodbhoy said the Taliban want to remake society. They want to convert Pakistan into an Islamic state, not just a Muslim state. He added that there was no Islamic fundamentalism in the middle of the twentieth century, but that all changed in 1979.
"The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 changed everything," he said. "It was the beginning of a global jihad in which Pakistan, the United States, and Saudi Arabia brought together fighters from around the world."
President Reagan would later say these mujahideen were the moral equivalent of America's Founding Fathers. It was also at this time that whenever there was a power vacuum, Islamic fundamentalist leadership would take its place, Dr. Hoodbhoy said.
He added that since no one expected the Soviet Union to fall as early as it did, there was a major effort to teach children that the war was an attack on Islam.
"There was a major effort to indoctrinate Muslim children that this was a fight for Islam," Dr. Hoodbhoy said. "An entire generation had to be trained."
Even today, when asked if education will help in reducing terrorism, Dr. Hoodbhoy says no.
"Not unless education comes to mean enlightenment of the mind- and that's just not happening," he said. "It's all learn, learn, learn. Submit, submit, submit. Never ask questions."
And so that leaves Dr. Hoodbhoy with a new set of 10 commandments.
-M. Schwinn, MA candidate in International Security
Josef Korbel School of International Studies