Only Love can Defeat Terrorism

IN 2001, JET PLANES were crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, injuring and killing thousands. In the days following these attacks – totally unexpected in their timing and method, aimed at the world’s only superpower – the world began debating the concept of terrorism that lay behind them.

An atmosphere of fear and panic grew, especially in the United States. But that didn’t last long: Soon the entire world began wondering how best to combat terrorism. No longer could any country stand apart from the fight against terrorism and declare, “Those attacks weren’t aimed at us.” Citizens of every nation realized that the dark face of terrorism could confront them at any time, whether asleep in their beds, while watching television, taking their children to the park, or at work in the office. The terrorists’ aim, they realized, was to paralyze society, making civilians reluctant to venture into the street, much less use public transport or go shopping – in short, to create a permanent climate of fear. As soon as America recovered from the shock of 9/11, it joined with a large number of other countries to launch a worldwide war on terrorism. Right from the start, however, officials of this powerful coalition declared openly that it wouldn’t be enough for them to fight on the military field alone.

How should the struggle against terrorism be pursued? To answer that question, we need to identify terrorism’s roots. To do so, we must examine the course of the past century, during which terrorism first emerged as a major threat.

The twentieh century’s two World Wars, along with many regional conflicts and various acts of local violence, made it the most bloody century ever. In addition to that, toward the end of the millennium, constant technological advances only helped terrorists widen their reach. Now, just one touch of a button could kill hundreds of innocents. High-tech terrorism could inflict billions of dollars in damage to any nation’s economy and shape world politics without ever emerging into the daylight. Clearly, after the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. in the United States – the world’s greatest technological power – no other country can consider itself safe from terrorism or beyond its deadly grasp. Worse still, if the necessary counter measures aren’t taken, the 21st-century terrorism will grow even more powerful, until one single chemical, biological, or even nuclear attack can slaughter tens of thousands.


With terrorism dominating the world’s agenda, the definitions of terror, terrorist, and terrorism assume a whole new importance.

All attacks that threaten peace, or that are aimed at civilian targets, even in a state of war, are terrorism. There can be no question of defending, approving or justifying such attacks. There can be no question of defending, approving or justifying such attacks. However, such violence is very widespread in the modern world. That’s why any war on terrorism needs to be wide-ranging. Its every stage should be carefully planned, with its final aim the total eradication of the entire concept. That in turn, requires individuals in every nation to totally distance themselves from terrorism. Every form of terrorism must be unequivocally condemned – whatever its causes or aims, no matter what its targets, where it arises, or how it is carried out. Similarly, anyone sincerely opposed to terrorism should show the same empathy for the thousands of innocent victims it has slaughtered – not only at the World Trade Center, but in attacks in Japan and Spain, in East Turkestan and Indonesia, in the massacre of more than half a million llutus in Rwanda, in the murder of defenseless people in Palestine, Israel, and all across the globe.

Once every form of terrorism is fiercely condemned, then no longer will its perpetrators receive support from any country, or be allowed to seek shelter inside its borders. Quite literally, terrorists will have nowhere to hide.


Before the war against terrorism can come to any definitive conclusion, its underlying philosophy must first be identified, along with the means to be employed. This article, therefore, deals with terrorism’s basic starting point, as well as the disasters to which it leads. Its starting point is the assumption that violence is a virtue in itself and a powerful means to solve social or political problems. While killing the innocents, damaging public order, and disrupting peace, any terrorist acts under the influence of ideas that have been imposed on him, coaxing him to believe that he’s engaged in a justified struggle. Terrorism can be healed only when such people understand the mistaken illogic of any ideology that inspires terrorism and incites to violence and when they realize that going along with it can never get them anywhere. Until those ideologies’ errors and contradictions are revealed, all measures taken against terrorism can be short-term only. Soon terrorism will emerge again, in different places and under different circumstances, behind a different mask.

We can put an end to terrorism only by destroying its ideological infrastructure. Modern terrorism’s ideological foundations in fact go back to Social Darwinism and the materialist tendencies derived from it People exposed to this indoctrination believe that life is a field of struggle, and that only the strong survive. The weak are condemned to be eliminated. Man and, in fact, the entire universe, are both products of chance. Therefore, no one is responsible for his actions to anyone else. These and similar ideas inevitably coax people into leading an animalistic form of life, where ruthlessness, aggression and violence are regarded as acceptable or even virtuous.

Anyone who resorts to terrorism, maintaining that violence is the only way to achieve his aims, is actually under the influence of Social Darwinism and materialist thought no matter what his religion or race, or what group he belongs to. Modern terrorist groups that claim to act in the name of religion are also under Darwinism’s influence and materialism, even though they claim to carry out their terroristic acts in the name of religion. This is because for anyone who lives by the morality of religion revealed by God, it’s impossible to approve of violence of any kind, much less achieve a “higher” aim by murdering others. Those who resort to such methods are therefore pursuing the exact opposite of the moral values upheld by religion, carrying out their actions under the influence materialist ideologies.

Today’s politicians, political commentators and academics agree that by itself, military force isn’t enough to root out terrorism. This article concentrates on the only way it can be eradicated: by means of peace, tolerance, and love. AU the divinely-inspired religions that God sent down by means of His messengers are helpful guides and each of the three divine religions forbids the use of unjust violence. The only way to fight terrorism is to heal the root causes through the love, affection, compassion, humility, forgiveness, tolerance and concepts of justice that religion’s morality instils in people. Such fortunates will do their utmost to build a world full of peace and love.


Terrorism is currently inflicting suffering and physical damage all over the world, not only in the United States, but in the African countries Uganda, Angola and Nigeria; in the European nations of Great Britain, France and Spain; in Asian countries like Japan, and throughout Middle East and Latin America. At any moment civilians can find themselves facing a terrorist attack, whether sitting at home or at a movie theater, in a shopping center, riding a bus, or at their workplace. Naturally, terrorism’s ability to enter peoples’ homes has led to considerable anxiety and alarm. People are hesitant to crowded areas or use public transport; daily lives are becoming intolerable. But that is exactly what terrorism wants to see: whole communities living in fear and alarm.

The evidence of terrible attacks throughout in the world certainly confirms that concern. In 1996, there were 296 incidents with 314 people killed and 2,912 injured. In 1997, terrorism’s scope began to expand: Out of 439 attacks, 398 were aimed at workplaces or non-official premises, leading to the loss of 139 civilian lives, 39 of them civil servants or military personnel.1

According to the U.S. State Department, the number of terrorist attacks in 2000 saw an eight percent rise over 1999, with 423 deaths and 791 injured. Between 1981 and 2000, the total number of dead resulting from terrorist attacks was 9,184/ Nor do these figures include all the people who died in all terrorist attacks across the globe. The report considered only attacks by international terrorist organizations, not those inflicted by local terrorist groups. In Turkey alone there were 21,866 terrorist attacks between August 15, 1984 and October 31, 2001, costing the lives of 5,605 security personnel and 4,646 civilians. A further 16,562 security forces and 5,ogi civilians were injured.3

Terrorist actions’ physical damage and economic harm add yet another sobering dimension to the picture. The chaos and anarchy provoked by such incidents prevent investment in the affected regions. Attacks aimed at the economic infrastructure doesn’t just hold back development. Existing resources are also destroyed, creating economic difficulties that impede social life across a wide spectrum of areas, particularly education. Military costs of the struggle against terrorism impose yet another burden. This diversion of resources that should be spent on raising standards of living affects not just the nation in question, but the entire global economy.

This summary reveals the grim picture that terrorism represents – bringing destruction all over the world and causing untold harm to human lives.


If a sick person is to be treated properly, an accurate diagnosis is essential. Whatever treatment follows that diagnosis must be followed meticulously and decisively, until the sickness is finally expelled from the body. If not, the illness will inevitably recur. The same applies to one of the most serious ills affecting society. One ?G the chief reasons why we can’t find effective solutions to this century’s social problems is that their causes aren’t properly identified. When dealing with any social problem, the first thing to do is establish what causes give rise to it. Otherwise, whatever measures are taken can only be temporary.

The roots of terrorism are often sought in concrete matters; and thus the fight against it, aimed at these superficial targets, cannot provide lasting results. In order to free the world from terrorism, the principal factors behind it must be identified and eliminated.


It’s not possible to defeat terrorism by security measures. By itself, military force is only likely to meet with increased violence, producing a vicious circle in which bloodshed continues to be answered with more bloodshed. When embarking on the fight against terrorists, we need to understand – and then combat – their way of thinking, the way they view life and other human beings, and how they justify their use of violence.

A terrorist believes that he can succeed only by using violence. He wants people around to fear him, and cloaks himself in pitilessness, ruthlessness and aggression to bring that fear about. Anyone opposing his ideas is an enemy, whom he regards as an object that needs to be eliminated. In his article, “Terrorists View us as Targets, not as Humans,” psychotherapist and Journal Sentinel writer Philip Chard examines the terrorist mindset and how they justify violent attacks aimed at defenseless people:

Researchers have glimpsed aspects of [the terrorists’] psyches. Most prominent among these is their capacity to view their victims as things, as objects, as statistics that, they hope, will show up on a casualty list.

They don’t want to experience their victims as human beings, as they would a friend or loved one. Rather, they strive to view them as pawns on a political chessboard. Consequently, from their own vantage point terrorists don’t perceive themselves as killing “people.” In order to slaughter with ease and callous indifference, they mentally dehumanize us into “targets”… Their “cause,” whatever it may be, is sufficiently sacred, noble or desperate that it justifies the carnage they instigate … For most terrorists, their chief interest resides in effects, not persons … They are after … the impact of the massacre, not the experience of the massacre itself. Terrorists want to murder hope, or a way of life, or the spirit of a group of people oran entire nation. They destroy human beings because they believe doing so is the fastest and most direct route to that goal.4,

Philip Chard draws our attention to a most important matter: that terrorists feel not the slightest pang of remorse at the death of others. On the contrary, the more they can kill, the more successful they consider themselves to be, and rejoice in that fact. Such minds can quite happily shoot innocent people and bomb small children. For them, shedding blood becomes a source of pleasure. They cease to be human and turn into savage monsters. If one of them does evidence the slightest remorse, he is immediately branded a traitor by his more radical comrades. Being more radical and more bloody is considered to be more devout in the cause, so the zeal to kill increases constantly. Since any dispute can easily be defined as treacher, terrorists invariably use guns against each other, and carry out attacks on other splinter groups within their own ranks.

This passionate attachment to violence goes deeper beyond political ideologies and in fact stems from an underlying misconception about human nature. The terrorist mindset finds its inspiration from the materialist philosophy and Darwinist thought. Darwinism regards human beings as animals and maintains that living things evolve through a struggle for survival in nature. Eliminating the weak, so that the strong can emerge victorious, forms the essence of any terrorist’s twisted thinking.


According to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, there is constant conflict in nature, and a ruthless competition for survival. The strong always defeat the weak, thus enabling progress. Out of that concept came the idea of the “struggle for survival” and such terms as “the favored races” (European whites) and “inferior” ones (Asian or African races). This racist logic laid the groundwork for hatred and conflicts all over the world. In turn, Darwin’s idea of “the survival of the fittest” justified a great many movements that led mankind to hatred, enmity, conflict and war.

Darwinism still indoctrinates people with the deception that humans are no more than a highly developed animal species, the result of blind chance and have no Creator. This theory maintains that the world once consisted of nothing but inanimate rock, soil, and gasses. By sheer coincidence, life emerged as a result of the effect of natural forces like wind and rain and lightning on organic molecules. The theory goes on to explain all life on earth, including human beings, as a product of the blind forces of nature and mere chance. Yet this theory of evolution is a huge deception that violates the most basic laws of chemistry and biology and defies all reason and logic. However, the theory is imposed on modern society through comprehensive propaganda efforts and people indoctrinated with this idea believe themselves to be the products of chemical and biological accidents – free of all responsibility to the Creator and His moral code. Moreover, those under the spell of Darwinist logic – seeing life as a battlefield and therefore, justifying all kinds of wickedness in the struggle for survival are brainwashed with the terrible idea that it’s normal to treat other people like animals, even to exterminate them.

People educated with such ideas transformed the 20th century into one of savagery, supported conflict as part of Darwinism, and even regarded war as the most important means of furthering their aims. “Dialectical conflict” became the so-called justification for the massacres carried out by Communist ideologues. Over the course of the century, Communist terror cost the lives of some 120 million people. Darwin’s nonsensical “struggle for survival between the races” and “natural selection” became the foundations for Nazism. Adolf Hitler claimed that only the superior races could – or should – survive. The Fascist terror he inspired unleashed a wave of slaughter across the entire world. Some 55 million people died in World War II, which began as a result of the Nazis’ policies of war and occupation. Those in the 21st century who still follow those ideas, regard violence as the only way and want this century to go down in history as one of terror.

Darwinism’s theory that man is a warring animal, with which so many are subconsciously indoctrinated, has wreaked dreadful harm on mankind. Terrorist attacks are echoes of that. Darwinist slogans that maintain that only the strongest can survive, praise violence, support conflict, and see war as a virtue need to be thrown, once and for all, into the dustbin of history. Darwinism’s overthrow can undermine all of those ideologies that support conflict and violence.

On the other hand, the definition of human nature by the monotheist faiths is much different Christianity, Judaism and Islam – the three religions believed in by most people in the world – all oppose the Social Darwinist value called conflict. Each of these religions aims at bringing peace and security to the world, while opposing the oppression, torture, and killing of the innocent. Conflict and violence, they agree, are abnormal and unwanted concepts, violating the morality that God has set out for Man. Darwinism, on the other hand, regards violence and conflict as essential, and therefore justified. In short, the source of the world’s terrorist nightmare lies in atheism and its contemporary equivalents: Darwinism and materialism.

Since schools in many countries teach Darwinism as clear scientific fact, new generations of terrorists are inevitable. From that point of view, it’s urgent to prevent young people from being taught that they’re the result of chance, descended from animals, totally unfettered with no duties towards God, and can survive only by emerging victorious in the struggle for survival. Anyone brought up to believe such concepts will inevitably be selfish, aggressive, ruthless, and prone to violence. Such young people are easily susceptible to anarchic and terrorist indoctrination. Following such ideologies, they can become cruel enough to kill children and murder their own brothers and sisters, without batting an eyelid. The communist, racist and fascist terror groups that have plagued the world for the last hundred years are the products of just such an educational system.

That being so, we need to expose the true rottenness of terrorist logic. People need to be awakened to the fact as effectively as possible, that all those who support and believe in Darwinism are mistaken. Man is not unfettered and irresponsible. We do have a Creator Who watches us at all times, knows even our innermost thoughts and Who, in the hereafter, will call us to account for all our deeds. Our Lord has created Man different from the animals, in that we possess a soul, reason, free will, judgment and powers of discrimination. If a weak-willed person, easily angered, regards himself and others as mere animals, he can act in a totally ruthless manner and easily do them harm. It makes no difference if those others are totally innocenl children. But anyone who possesses reason and conscience and knows that he bears a soul, given him by God, holds his anger in check – no matter what the circumstances. His judgment and conscience will always prevail. Never will he do the slightest thing for which God might one day call him to account.

In the Qur’an (91:7-10), God reveals that Man is inspired by both evil and the will to avoid it. Therefore, it’s not some imaginary evolutionary process that underlies moral degeneration and the commission of crimes. Immorality and crime come from the evil side of human nature, which can only be defeated by personal devotion to the moral values that God has taught to humanity through religion. If people have no faith in God and don’t believe they must ever account to Him for their actions, they have no reason to avoid committing evil in the forms of personal greed and dishonesty or social evils like wars, racist killings, gang wars or ruthless skinhead assaults. On a less dramatic level, it accounts for why people are left to starve, and for the rampant injustice and ruthlessness in the world today. There is no end to the cruelties of those who regard Man as only an animal species, believing that they, like animals, are engaged in a struggle for survival. Not believing in God and the hereafter, they induce others to forget about them too.

Every human being bears a soul breathed into him by God, and is responsible to the Creator Who created him out of nothing. In the Qur’an (75:36-40), God reminds those who think of themselves as totally unfettered that they were created, and will be resurrected after death: “Does Man reckon he will be left to go on unchecked? Was he not a drop of ejaculated sperm, then a blood clot which He created and shaped, making from it both sexes, male and female? Is He Who does this, not able to bring the dead to life?”

So far, we have concentrated on how Social Darwinism, believing that violence is the solution to every problem, encourages violence and is the foundation of terrorism. That is why demolishing the Darwinist theory – which teaches that man is an animal, that only the physically powerful can survive, and that human life is a battleground – will also demolish one of terrorism’s mainstays. The most effective means of protecting people from the nightmare of terrorism is spiritual education. Societies can achieve permanent peace only when their individuals learn to live by proper morality. Beyond that other measures, rules and precautions to regulate the life of society can go only so far, but can never eradicate the scourge of terrorism.


In the Qur’an (32:9), God reveals that He has breathed His own soul into Man, His creation, and that Man is His representative on earth (Qur’an, 6:165). One of the most important differences between Man and the animals is that Man was created with both earthly desires and with a conscience. Every person possesses desires that incite him to evil, along with a conscience that inspires him to avoid it. Alongside such pleasing attributes inspired by that conscience – love, sacrifice, compassion, humility, affection, honesty, loyalty and kindness – he also possesses destructive and undesirable tendencies, stemming from his earthly desires. Thanks to his conscience, however, the believer can distinguish between right and wrong and opt for what is morally right. Strong belief in and fear of God, faith in the hereafter, powerful fear of the endless torments of hell and a yearning for Paradise all keep the temptations of his earthly desires at bay. Therefore, he always behaves well towards people, is forgiving, responds to wickedness with good, assists those in need, and shows compassion, love, affection and tolerance.

Terrorists, on the other hand, listen to their earthly desire for violence instead of their consciences, and can easily turn to all forms of wickedness. They become loveless, aggressive people who easily hurt others without the slightest pang of conscience. Having no fear of God, they do not know the morality of religion, nor do they practice iL Nothing can stop them from committing crimes.

In restraining its citizens, society’s prevailing rules can go only so far. Thanks to its law enforcement units, the state may be able to partially protect streets and public spaces, and – thanks to a powerful system of justice – may be able to take necessary means to ensure public order and ensure that the crime rate drops. But since it’s impossible to keep watch on every individual, 24 hours a day, it’s essential that peoples’ consciences enter the equation at some stage. Someone who doesn’t heed the voice of his conscience can easily turn to crime when on his own, or surrounded by people of like mind. The result is a society of individuals who gladly lie when they feel it necessary, have no compunction against enjoying unfair profits, and feel no qualms about oppressing and exploiting the weak. In a society that has lost all spiritual values and has no fear of God, purely physical measures are clearly not going to solve every problem. The morality of religion, on the other hand, commands a person to avoid evil deeds, even when on his own and when he knows that nobody in his community will ever punish him for his misdeeds. The person who knows that God will call him to account for his every deed, his every decision and his every word – and will reward him for them accordingly in the hereafter – will always avoid evil.

Terrorist organizations cannot possibly have any place in a society whose people avoid evil of their own free will. Where religion’s morality prevails, problems that give rise to organizations supporting the use of violence will disappear naturally. If the whole society possesses superior virtues like honesty, sacrifice, love and justice, there can be no place for such things as poverty, unequal distribution of income, injustice, the oppression of the weak, or limitations on freedoms. On the contrary, a social order will emerge that meets the wants of the needy; where the wealthy protect the poor and the strong, the weak; where everyone can enjoy the very best health care, education, and transport systems. There, tolerance and understanding will dominate the relationships between different ethnic groups, religions and cultures.


Unless necessary measures are taken, unless deep-rooted solutions are brought in, the 21st century will continue to be a time of terror and violence, just as the 20th was before it. The ideological fight against terrorism, therefore, must begin with great urgency, to include very great numbers of people. This fight will be fought on the level of ideas – between people who believe in the true religious morality, who are loving, forgiving, compassionate and in full possession of their conscience; and those who draw their strength from ignorance, arrogance and violence.

In one holy verse (Sura Hud: 116), our Lord asks, “Would there had been more people with a vestige of good among the generations of those who came before you, who forbade corruption in the earth…” Believers should possess the virtue that God describes in that verse. While terrorists hope to achieve their aims by violence, believers should know that true success can be achieved only by clinging tightly to the religion of God, and acting accordingly. If Jews, Christians, and Muslims join together in that struggle, in a spirit of respect for all beliefs and ideas and, by the will of God, they will enjoy definitive success.

A terrorist may learn by heart all the fundamental sources behind his beliefs. Yet such a person is still unaware of the one evident truth that will bring him happiness and inspiration, both in this world and the next. That’s because all his life, he’s been educated in radical ideologies, in the context of the idea that life is a battleground in which only the strong survive, where violence and oppression are the only means of survival. Anyone resorting to terrorism, no matter what his religion, race, or nation, must understand that he’s acting under the influence of a misleading philosophy, that in the final analysis stems from materialist and Darwinist thinking, though it sometimes poses as a religious idea.

Those who resort to secular terrorism are unaware that God and the hereafter really do exist; that this world is merely a place of trial; and that only those who believe and carry out their religious obligations devoutly will be saved. Those who resort to allegedly “religious” terrorism, are far from understanding God’s commandments against mischief and the value of human life, such as that “… If someone kills another person – unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth – it is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

At this point a great responsibility falls on all true believers, no matter what their religion. Jews must not ignore Old Testament statements calling mankind to peace and tolerance, and they must call on all other Jews to oppose terrorism – including the state terrorism employed by Israel in the occupied territories. So should Christians call on all other Christians, taking as their guide the morality most pleasing to God. They should also stress that “the war on terror” should not turn into violent revenge, and a peaceful “counter-terrorism” should be preferred, since the Christian faith proclaims that “blessed are the peacemakers”. (Matthew, 5:9) One should not forget that terrorism stems from wrong ideas and the basic struggle against terrorism should be on the level of ideas. Believers must explain that these ideas are wrong both in terms of their theory and practice. No idea can prevail by means of violence, oppression and cruelty; and despotism can never triumph.

Terrorist ideology is built on sand. Its foundations can easily be swept away by mobilizing a proper education campaign. Sincere believers in ail parts of the world can help end the ignorance that breeds terrorism by searching for solutions, writing books and articles, promoting educational activities and disseminating their own cultural heritage.

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    A piece previously published in the print issue of Islamica Magazine between 2003-2009. The following has been an effort to digitize and archive as a free service. Author citations can be found at as we continue to work on improving the digital archives here.

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