Hwang Jae-jeong, Jimmy carter School of International Studies
“You are the first Korean telling us that.”
From this sentence, my life and my goals for the future got completely changed.
In 2018, I was in a class named “Advanced Topics in Human Rights and Security”. Basically, through that class, the students had opportunities to talk about general issues in human rights or social securities. As a person who is aiming to be an opinion leader in the Security field, my main topic of the class was interconnections between terrorism and Islam. More accurately, “Logic of power and Islamophobia”. Many people, not only for Koreans but in world-wide range, Islamophobia or so-called “Anti-Islam” is inside of them.
In this paper, I will write down what basically terrorism is, and show that “All the terrorists are Muslims” is completely wrong. Therefore, how it does change my life and perspectives.
First of all, we must focus on the transition of terrorism. The paradigm of terrorism has changed. Throughout Imperialism, World War I and II, and so on, we can see the major sector of terrorism was on the “hard-targets”, against specific groups, persons and institutions such as governmental organizations, military personnel, or politicians. And motivated by political reasons. However, since before the start of the 21st century, the paradigm has started to be changed, more focusing on “soft-targets”, and became like a massive “genocide” to random people such as civilians, and unarmed people. The main case that changed people’s sight and perspective on terrorism could be the 9/11. Then the United States initiated an operation, “War on Terror”. A simple “war” to eliminate all the terrorist groups and their sponsors. It seemed to end everything, but the “ending” never ends. It has lead, and still leading huge chaos on this globe, created ISIS, the economic crisis that is still hugely affecting the present. Yet, terrorism hasn’t ceased at all. Instead, it is becoming more dangerous, risky and structural. And this was the starting point which has brought blood and screams around the world.
Terrorism these days, are not mainly conducted by the political motivations, and rather than that, it is religious reasons, and conflict. According to Samuel Huntington who already expected that the 21st century will be different. In his book, “The Clash of Civilization”, he highlighted that “the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural.” (Foreign Affairs, 1993: 3) And he divided the cultural sectors as Western, the representative of Christianity, Arabic for Islam and China for Confucianism and so on. (Foreign Affairs, 1993: 4) Especially between Islam cultures and Christianity cultures that are mainly between the Middle East and Europe. We’ve already seen several radical Islam groups such as the Taliban, Hamas and the ISIS. In addition to that, we’ve also seen that many terrors occurred in European countries. Because of this, people have started to think when they hear about “Terrorism” of Islam. Since then, Islamophobia, hostility against believers in Islam have increased not only for European people but even Koreans as well. I must say that it is understandable as I was the same blaming Islam, thinking that every terrorist believes in Islam. And I’m ashamed that I’ve been lived like that.
However, I also must say that that is completely wrong. It’s kind of a ‘brainwashing’.
Then, what’s happening to us?
The main reason I personally think is biased media. Many people remember what happened in Paris, Berlin, London, and so on. However, the number of people don’t know what happened and happening in the African continent, the Middle East, South America. Media only shows and focuses on advanced countries. It seems like, they’re thinking that 1 life in the Global North part is ‘heavier’ than 10 or 100 lives in the Global South countries. Of course, it is understandable that the advanced countries have more power and more influence on the world. However, media I believe must speak out all the ‘facts’ with responsibility. In this point, we see many of terrors and media are saying that the terrorist is Arab, Muslim and so on. But not only media but we, readers or audiences must be careful and skeptical too. ‘Are only Muslim people killing people and others are just the victims?’ I would say, that can not be the truth. As evidence, I would set another definition of terrorism. Traditionally and recently, as I mentioned earlier, terrorism is motivated by political and religious reasons. On the other hand, I personally think that Terrorism is, no matter what the purpose and motivation are, killing or hurting innocent people with their power can be considered as terrors. With this idea, let’s look at the world again. We’ve got a lot of news from Paris, London, and elsewhere. How many hours have we looked for, or heard about Afghanistan, Palestine, and others? Europeans are not the only victims. For example, after the Paris terror, 8 innocent Muslims were killed. It’s understandable but not justifiable nor acceptable. It’s another form of terror as killing innocent people. In Israel, many of Palestine people were killed and still being killed without any proper reasons and causes. But not many people remember that or criticize Israel as they do criticize Arabians and Muslims. Or even think that the Arabians and Muslims might have done some bad things. The United States, they’ve killed and still killing innocent civilians under the name of “War on Terror” but these never have been in public or only by small numbers of people and media. Of course, without proper legal punishment.
According to the definition of terrorism, these are also terrors. Importantly, according to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, Article 2 says, “Any other act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict…” (United Nations, 1999) as typical cases considered as terrors, then other cases killing or hurting people have been done by anybody are also terrors. In this aspect, terrorism is not related to Islam nor Muslim people. There is no correlation between them.
What I’m trying to say here is that the current common phenomenon that is the rise of Islamophobia and Racism could be significantly dangerous. Terrorism could be happened by anybody, anytime and anywhere.
As I mentioned earlier, I admit that I had the same idea, Islamophobia. As if I believe ‘Ethnocentrism’. However, since I entered this department, and hung out my best friends who are believing in Islam, my “freezed-heart” got completely warmed. I’m Christian. They’re Muslims. We’re different, very. We, are very same. We respect each other’s cultures, we learn each other’s religion. We find love from it.
When I finished the presentation ending with “There is no correlation between Islam and Terrorism”, my friends came to me with a very serious face that I’ve never seen before from them, “You’re the first Korean we’ve ever met and seen saying that, that “we” are not terrorists.” When I first heard that I got a bit of sadness by thinking that ‘is it really happening even in my country?’ After that, I convinced myself it is happening as I had the same idea. I couldn’t say a simple sentence “Yeah, you are not”, instead, I had to say “Sorry. I thought the same before I met you guys. But at least I wanted the students here to know that there is no correlation, and not to make the same fault by thinking that the believers are terrorists.”
Since the day, I made a dream for my future that is I want to be a diplomat who is establishing better relationships with Arabic, African and Central Asian countries or someone in charge of taking care of social minorities in my country and the planet.
As a person who will serve my country as a Naval Intelligence officer from next year, I might think my country and the security are the priorities rather than ‘human rights’ or, ‘I can do everything in order to protect my country and my people.’ However, the thing I’ve learned from my friends, and from my experiences is that there are no “my people”. Everyone could be my people I must protect not just physically but their hearts too as they’ve made me a better person.
“Bro, don’t be sad. You’re not the only Korean saying to us we are not terrorists.”
Samuel P, Huntington. (1993). “The Clash of Civilizations?” in The Clash at 20, eds. Gideon Rose, Council on Foreign Relations, NY, New York. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2013-08-12/clash-20 (Accessed on 29 September)
United Nations. (1999). “International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism”. Retrieved from https://treaties.un.org/doc/db/Terrorism/english-18-11.pdf (Accessed on 30 September)