16th August 2010
“[An] act of terrorism, means any activity that (A) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; and (B) appears to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.”
United States Congress, 1984
In March of 2007 Timo Kivimäki, a senior researcher for NIAS — Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, specializing in the areas of Terrorism, conflict, development cooperation, published an article in The Pacific Review entitled, ‘Can development and democratization address the root causes of terrorism in Southeast Asia?’. The paper although highly informative seemed to possess an outward bias toward the current trend of activities governed at present by the West and more specifically by the United Sates.
His article addresses many key areas relative to terrorism in the region and provides insightful information into the drive and motivations of Islamic terrorist organizations in the South East Asian area. He looks at identifying methods and roles in which the international community, especially Europe, could support and participate in South East Asian attempts to address the root causes of terrorism in the region. Throughout the article he attempts to find correlation between poverty and terror, education and terror, location and terror, economic and political conditions and terror, even down to looking at social levels. On many of these cases it is noted that, although there is little evidence to support any finding, each of these individually motivates the actions of terrorist, each piece playing a small role contributing to the larger overall picture.
Kivimäkis’ article provides a solid background from which we are able to exclude factors not directly linked to the motivations of terrorists, hence providing us with a point of reference and a starting direction for further, more comprehensive studies to be made. It is more useful however in generating a more accurate model of what life for the general populous of the region is like, ranging across multiple fields such as economic, political, education and social diversities. It also assists in providing and understanding of where these people, the individual terrorists, fit into their perspective societies.
However it is my opinion that the author of this article while trying to be as accurate as possible has become short sited and somewhat confined by the relative data listings for terrorist organizations as provided by the United States government. One has only to peruse the list there to find that the vast majority of listed terrorist organizations are also Islamic. This creates a simple bias in the reporting that all terrorists in South East Asia are Islamic. Appendix 1 notes two organizations, both listed in 2000 as active, both in the South East Asian region; however neither are listed by the Unites states since they were not designated as a “foreign terrorist organization”. Terrorism that happens on home soil, by definition provided by the United States Congress, is still terrorism and still affects the stability and safety of the region.
There are also occasions within the article where he directly quotes his sources however fails to clarify for the reader who exactly the source is talking about. A clear example of this can be found on page 53; “This is not about economic matters, it is a religious war, fought because they hate our religion”. Who are they? Is he referring to the United States, Western powers as a whole or about the home government of the speaker?
Additionally the article seems to generate more questions than it answers since none of the findings are definitive but rather a “best guess” at which direction to take. He also fails to address the issue that ties the terrorist groups, in which his study seems to include, together as a collective, Religion. That is to say that if he intends to primarily focus on Islamic terrorists than he needs to broach the issue of the Islamic faith. This is especially relevant since terrorists often see themselves as the victims of aggression and oppression. The Quran 22:40 reveals that in response to this oppression “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged-and Allah indeed has power to help them” (Khalifa p.268). They don’t view them selves as terrorists but rather as soldiers fighting a war for freedom. This persecution is noted by Kivimäki where he writes, “that only social injustice, in the form of discrimination against Muslims at the national and perhaps international level, can be verified with empirical evidence” (Kivimäki, p55).
Kivimäki states that, “Terrorist individuals are more motivated by the injustices they perceive around themselves than by personal grievances” (Kivimäki, p.56) such as individual poverty or lack of education – this is due, in the case of Islamic people, to the perception instilled through their faith as to what makes a good person. They are given what they refer to as four heads “1. Our faith should be true and sincere, 2. We must be prepared to show it in deeds to our fellow man, 3. We must be good citizens, supporting social organizations, and 4. Our own individual soul must be firm and unshaken in all circumstances”. (Supreme council for Islamic affairs)
Having finished this, I would argue that although he has addressed many relevant points in relation to the scope of the article and given some insightful options to consider as to how Western nations can be more involved in a positive way with in these areas, he has not really addressed two fundamental questions; what is the common factor to all these organizations and individuals?; what exactly is the root cause of terrorism in the South East Asian region. He has identified numerous factors which are not, or which are perhaps not, without saying what is. He has also failed to explore the option that is sort by the terrorists themselves, simply for the west to be less oppressive and domineering within their country or as is sometimes bluntly put ‘go home’.
Kivimäki, T, 2007, ‘Can development and democratization address the root causes of terrorism in Southeast Asia?’, The Pacific Review, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 49–73.
Bashīruddīn Maḥmūd Aḥmad, 2005, The Holy Quran with English translation and commentary, Volume 1 Life of Muhammadsa, Islamic International Publications, Tilford, Surry, United Kingdom
Khalifa Rashad, 2003, Quran: the final testament: authorized English version, Islamic Productions, p268, 22:39
United States Code Congressional and Administrative News, 98th Congress, Second Session, 1984, Oct. 19, volume 2; par. 3077, 98 STAT. 2707, West Publishing Co., 1984
Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs [online] Accessed: 12 Aug 2010