Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Cycle of terror ceaseless

Iqbal Widastomo, Research Associate, London School of Economics

August 6 will regrettably go down in the growing history of terrorism, which seems to be on the rise. Despite the apparent determination of the American President to wage his "war on terror", the world suffers from more and more terror attacks. Just as President George W. Bush will claim to be engaged in a "just war on terror", terrorists will claim that they are acting for a just cause.

And so it seems the world is caught up in a spiraling cycle of violence. An American President that is so obsessively occupied is in danger of both misguided and foolhardy decisions and policy making. And once again the terrorists will mirror the President in their misguided and foolhardy actions.

It is a sad, but tangible, reality that terrorists see their actions as legitimate and even acceptable. Despite the fact that they are hitting "soft targets", terrorists are increasingly seeing their actions as a legitimate way forward for their causes and even ideals.

The idea that hitting soft targets and destroying innocent lives is going to serve one's cause is both misguided and foul.

Many may already be wondering whether terrorism is in fact effective; whether the sight of horror and terror can really change people's minds and making them accommodate and or understand the motives of the terrorist groups. The nature of responses are interesting here, one of them being that of neighboring Singapore.

Nobody would expect governments to be swayed by terrorist attacks but, presumably, terrorists hold out the hope that their actions may influence the minds of people and create a potential for a different direction in the world. Yet the evidence in the aftermath of the Marriott bombing suggests that the terrorists' aims here are not meeting with success.

Previously it may have been possible to detect only lukewarm relations from Singaporeans towards Indonesia following the fallout from the economic crisis and our ethnic and social problems. But following both the Bali and Marriott Hotel bombings a quite different attitude may be observed.

As Singaporeans viewed the dreadful pictures from the scene of the hotel bombing there was only genuine concern and sympathy. The ordinary person saw only reason to sympathize with the victims. There were few or no expressions of concern for the reasons or motives that had led terrorists to do this.

Of course, a suicide terrorist bomber has taken an extremely fanatical position and would hope that his actions will be have an effect on the ways of the world. But no one in Singapore was expressing any interest or cares for the motives of the attacks. More people simply expressed their hope that the people behind such bombing attacks are caught and quickly eliminated.

Likewise in Indonesia, whilst many share concerns for falling moral standards and religious conduct, no one sees the way forward to returning moral standards and maintaining religious conduct by bringing of death and destruction upon people.

Such thinking is hopefully not shared by the moral majority, and the recent responses to these outrageous attacks indicate that most people, whether at home here in Indonesia or within our neighboring countries such as Singapore or in most other countries, condemn and despise such acts.

Terrorists may think that they are leading the way back to the mosque, church or temple but whether from Muslim, Christian or Buddhist backgrounds people reject terrorism. Violence from whatever source (whether from a president waging his war or from terrorists striking at soft targets), cannot ever be a way for us to resolve our disputes and come together for higher moral and religious and humane living.