Last month Richard Reid – you remember him, the shoe bomber – was sentenced by a US district court Judge William G. Young to 80 years in prison for attempting to blow up an airliner on approach to Miami. In his sentencing speech Judge Young told Mr. Reid that in order to have done such a thing he must hate freedom.
At the risk of losing a few friends and maybe more than one reader I hereby, whole heartedly disagree with Judge Young.
I dare say; No one hates freedom. Not Muslims, Christians or Jews. Not Capitalists, Socialists, Liberals or Conservatives. Not one person on this planet hates freedom. Anyone who would agree with the statement “I hate freedom” is more likely confused than sincere.
The American historian, political commentator and leading authority on terrorism, Walter Zeev Lacqueur once said that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Since 9/11 this sentiment has lost much of its popularity. I can understand why, after you have been attacked it’s hard to say your attacker was just standing up for his freedom, but it’s still a lot more accurate than calling all terrorist freedom haters.
When I began this blog several months ago one of my first posts was called, “My Peace Statement”. It’s there in the archives on August 9, 2009 if you want to take a look. In it I stated my position on peace in one sentence;
Peace, Without Justice, is Oppression.
I still hold firmly to that statement. Terrorists are most often oppressed people that resort to violence as a last ditch effort to be heard. Their message is always loud but very rarely understood by their oppressors. All too often the response to terrorism is to redouble efforts at “security”.
We build walls, both metaphorical and physical between “us and them” that serve to create a false peace and ignore the broader issue of justice and oppression.
The world over, hot beds of terrorism are often areas of extreme poverty that are rich in natural resources like oil and diamonds. Those resources are exploited by the powerful and used as tools of the oppression. We vilify the locals calling them terrorist or insurgents when it’s really us who are the more violent oppressors.
When you oppress a local population, steal their resources and force them into abject poverty sooner or later someone is going to stand up and say ENOUGH. Nelson Mandela did it, so did Ghandi. Regardless how they were perceived by their rulers at the time, history has proven both of these men right, they were not terrorists, they were true freedom fighters. There are countless others throughout history, most notably the leaders of the American Revolution, terrorists who destroyed a boat load of tea in the name of freedom.
Do I agree with terrorist methodology? No! Do I think that we should negotiate with terrorists? No!
I do think that we need to take a long hard look at the regions of the world that spawn terrorism and figure out how to engage with the local population. We need to offer them justice so they do not become oppressed and therefore feel they have to resort to violence.
Peace and Justice, like two sides of a coin, cannot be separated.
...to be continued!