Though there had been acts of terrorism before 9/11, this event compelled the world community to act. Let us look at what it brought. 9/11 brought an expenditure of billions of dollars on security. It brought two wars which snowballed into a massive economic crisis for America. It brought stringent measures such as making people remove shoes before boarding flights, a ban on carrying liquids while flying and random profiling of people. After having gone through ten years of all this, we must take stock of how effective the war on terror has been. Of course, these measures have had an impact on enhancing safety. However, we have to introspect and ask -- are they enough to eliminate terrorism? An emphatic no!
A Shift in Education
What is the root cause of terrorism? It is religious indoctrination, perpetuating hatred towards other cultures in the name of God, pursuing a violent agenda and justifying it. There is a mindset among a very small section of people in this world that only their religion will take them to heaven. They feel that since they follow a set of rules, the whole world should follow the same. And those who do not, will go to hell. This kind of wrong understanding about religion has given rise to terrorism that we see in the world today. Terrorism is being bred in schools and colleges. Whether it is leftist or religious terrorism doctrines, they all have their roots in schools and colleges. The way to combat such a mindset is by making our education multi-cultural and multi-religious. Religious and spiritual leaders, in particular, should have a broad understanding of cultures and religions. Every priest, rabbi and mullah should know something about all other religions. A sincere acceptance of the diversity in this world has to be cultivated from the beginning.
Suppose a child grows up learning a little bit about all the major religions of the world. Then that child will grow up with a sense of appreciation for them rather than prejudice. The seed of terrorism cannot take root in a mind that has been brought up with a broad outlook and a feeling of belongingness with everybody. We accept so many things from various parts of the world. We do not have to be Danish to eat Danish cookies nor do we become Swiss if we eat Swiss chocolates. We do not become Chinese by eating Chinese food. We also accept music from all around the world. Similarly, we must globalize wisdom as well. We need to be broad-minded. Every child should know a little about the Upanishads, the Bible, the Quran, the Guru Granth Sahib and other holy books. Multi-religious upbringing, inter-faith education and inter-religious exposure will bring about much love and harmony.
Terrorism affects all of us and it is our duty to invest in a future without it. This has to be done collectively -- for even if a small part of the world remains narrow minded and fanatical, the world cannot be a safe place. If we learn to broaden our vision and deepen our roots, people will not fall into a narrow idea of the will of God; they will see life in a broader perspective. A human value based, multi-cultural education is the need of the hour. Perhaps, that would be an effective mechanism towards eliminating fanaticism.
This article appeared on the Huffington Post website on Sept. 9, 2011