Terrorism and Spirituality

- Rev. Fr. Paul D'Souza

{ In the following articles, Fr. Paul D'Souza, a Discalced Carmelite, attempts an analysis of the possible links between apparently contradictory human phenomena terrorism and spirituality.}

Terrorism and spirituality are English words. What are the realities for which they stand? Terrorism is associated with terror, violence, murder, bombing; spirituality, derived from spirit, is associated with religion, peace, justice, pardon. Terrorism is apparently concerned with might,while spirituality is more concerned with right. Is terrorism therefore wrong ? If and when terrorism is right, may it not enjoy good relations with spirituality ? 

Since in searching out the meaning of words and concepts, contextualization is important, the historical scenario is to be taken into account. Terrorism and spirituality are both concepts abstracted from the complex human realities interwoven with life and society, politics and religion, law and communalism. In such a complicated matrix, ther is the risk that attempts at conceptual clarification may result only in further confusion. That, however, is no excuse for abandoning all efforts. Failures are stepping stones to success.

Terror and Terrorism
Already in pre-historic times, Cain's assassination of Abel could be labelled terroristic in today's idiom. Other, like Cain were terrorists insofar as they inculcated terror in the people around. Coming to historic times, Xenophon, a contemparory of Socrates, speaks of terrorist activities among the Greeks and others of his time. In Rome, the emperors Tiberius and Caligula in the first century of our era, are said to have had recourse ro banishment, expropriation and execution as means for controlling their own subjects. Terrorist activities, therefore, may be perpetrated not only against, but also by, the government. Ivan the Terrible I1530-1584), though known for his insane cruelty, seems to have considered threats against himself as threats against the government. This happens quite freqiently.

Closer to our own times, the French Revolution glorified terrorism -- a terrorism that paved the way for Robespierre's Reign ofTerror (1793-1794). Between the end of the American War of Independence (1865) and 1905), terrorist groups mushroomed in parts of Europe and the New World, and instigated the assassination of several kings, prime ministers and high government officials. Terrorist organizations were formed, such as the Ku Klux Klan to foster anarchy.

The twentieth century advancements in technology which provided new techniques for terrorists -- techniques that were as handy as they were deadly. Totalitarian regimes like those of the Nazis in Germany and the Stalinists in Russia employed terrorist techniques to subjugate their own as well as other peoples. In N. Ireland Protestants and Catholics vied with one another in the use of terrorist tactics. Colonies such as Algiers and Vietnam used terrorism in their struggle for liberation. The Palestinians and Israel employed the methods of terrorism mutually against one another. Terrorist forces were also at work in Nicaragua, Argentina and other parts of S. America. Terrorist attacks in Kashmir have been an everyday affair since the 1960s as have been those of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

A U.S. State Department report of 1997 saif that no international terrorist acts had occurred inside the U.S. in 1996, whereas in other parts of the world 296 such acts had been recorded --- the lowest annual count in 25 years, but with the highest number of casualties.

The dreadful attack on the World Trade Center at the beginning of the third millennium, shocked America and the world waking up people everywhere to the universal vulnerability of humanity.

Defining Terrorism 
The practices of violence, hatred, war, vengeance and guerilla war-fare, and so on were there before learned attempts by theoretical taxonomists, through hair-splitting distinctions, tried to define their specific features, marking them off violence from hatred, and terror from terrorism. Legal distinctions help to clarify to the police the nature of the action they should take. Hence, Police Acts in the United Kingdom and the U.S. attempted definitions of terrorism from the 1970s. Though such acts and definitions have their value, they can reflect the perspectives of the respective governments. 

Such definitions tend to ignore the terrorism practised by government departments themselves, including the army. Is this then a case of might or right ? Do these government departments contibute to conceptual clarification when they call terrorism a crime ? There is plenty of scope for conceptual confusion in researching into the relationship between terrorism and spirituality. Presently, the United States poses itself as a great champion of human rights; there are nations, however, that perceive the States as a threat to their own rights, and a champion of might over right. 

Let convention, then, suggest the elements that should feature in a tentative definition of terrorism according to a general understanding, from governmental as well as non-governmental points of view:

  • a cause: terrorists have the conviction that their cause is right and just. That cause is worth fighting for; worth dying for ; worth killing for.

  • that cause is said to be generally of a political nature;

  • it turns out, however, that the cause is often of a religious colour; as will soon be clear, in the history, at least of the West, politics has often been entangled with religion;

  • a method: planned, sustained, sudden, violence -- kidnapping, murder, bombing -- directed usually against civilian populations, unarmed individuals; in this perspective, violence will be the genus, terrorism, a species

  • publicizing their acts of terror in order to make their cause known to the world;

  • the reason -- to be carefully distinguished from the cause -- why these methods are employed, is because terrorists find no other solution to problems ; and to the achievement of their goals. Since their contest is against superior forces that have might, but not right, on their side. The terrorists who claim to have right on their side, are compelled to use "hit and run" methods, precisely because they are fighting against superior forces.

Putting these elements together, we may conclude that not all kidnappings or assassinations or other acts of violence are now considered terroristic. Only those that are part of a sustained and systematic endeavour. This endeavout need not be exclusively political in motivation. There are terrorists who may not clearly perceive any distinction between politics and religion; nor even the distinction between violence in general, and terrorism.

Religion and Politics
Since religion is the sister of spirituality, while politicsa is the sister of terrorism, this relationship must be explored for understanding the links between spirituality and terrorism. Space permits only brief indications here of how religion and politics have become so hopelessly entangled in history that much of the terrorism that was politically motivated, has been attributed to religion.

When the Philosopher called man a "political animal", his intention was to emphasize the social essence of human individuals. One of the principal manifestations of this social essence is political activity. Political activity deals with the governing of civic groups, and the ordering of their relationships to one another, under some authority . Thus it comes about that every community, country, nation finds itself under some governing authority.

From the times of Babel and Noah, governing authorities have been managing and manipulating the formation and evolution of groups, communities and nations, in accordance with the economic resources made available generation after generation, and providing, occasionally, creeds and belief-systems most amenable to thier purposes and goals. Many of the ancient monarchies of Egypt, Japan, and even imperial Rome, by claiming divinity, succeeded in amalgamating religion and politics. Some of the Greek sophists attributed to religion, a political origin, maintaing that the idea of God had been invented to prevent secret law-breakers from escaping political authorities.

In Judaism, when the true religion was revealed initially to Abraham, he had to leave his socio-political milieu, and come into a new region and style of life. But could he and his posterity eschew entirely the ways of all flesh ? Some new political authority would have eventually to safeguard the true religion as its revelation was in progress. Even in those early days, after the split of Solomon's empire, there were rulers who used political power to tamper with religion; to secure the allegiance of the people by forbidding their subjects to go to worship in the Jerusalem temple, and providing alternative temples, if not cults . Thus religion could now become the occasion of political discord, dissension, conflict and destruction.
Among the privileges of Israel were the prophets. Men, like Elijah and Jeremiah defended, even at the risk of their lives, the true religion from becoming the plaything of political powers. The Pharisees took advantage whenever they had the chance, of the facility of confusing politics and religion. 

By making a clear distinction between the two, Jesus avoided one of the many traps they set for Him. Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar; and to God what belongs to God." The apostles themselves, and their relatives interpreted in terms of political power and earthly kingdom, whatever Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God.

In Christianity, initially, the teaching of Jesus in the sermon on the mount, prevailed. The Good News of Jesus is enturely against terrorism. The Gospel condemns violence, injustice, hatred and even enmity.

Indisputably, the teachings of Jesus sank deep into thousands of consciences. In 295, Maximilianus was martyred partly because, as a Christian, he refused to become a soldier. Chrysostom, commenting on Jesus' advice that His disciples were being sent out as lambs among wolves, warns Christians against turning into wolves in order to survive when they saw themselves surrounded by wolves. Mahatma Gandhi caight the message of the sermon on the mount; and so did Martin Luther King. 

Later, however, when the political situatio of Christians altered, and sate and church joined hands, millions, however, paid no heed, and continued to go the way of all flesh --- returning tit for tat, and butter for fat -- especially after Church was wedded to state in western Europe.

Politicians became cruel in the name of religion, and religious leaders sometimes felt compelled to become wolves in order to survive amon wolves.

Religion and Terrorism
In the seventh century, Islam took by storm many of the stronholds of the known world, starting from near the Holy Land, sweeping across the northernmost pasts of Africa, from East to West, and occupying southern Spain. Western Chtistendom geared itself up to meet the challenge through zeal and zealotry. The roles of religion, on the one hand, and politics, on the other, were further fused and confused. By now the pope had become a statesman, playing the games of politics with the great European powers of the time. Together they organized the crusades, which were at times guilty of extravagant excesses. Soon afterwards came the institution of the Inquisition which was entrusted to the Dominicans. 

There are historians who consider some methods of the Inquisition, sheer terrorism, though the professed intentions of the inquisitors was to protect the faith. Ample opportunity was given for accusations -- true or false -- to be politically motivated.

With the advent of Protestantism in the 16th. century, political authorities often decided what their subjects should believe. "Cuius regiom illius religio." Religion depended on region, which, in turn, depended on its prince. This regionalism soon turned into communalism, the Dutch Calvinists carrying their bitter hatred for the Portuguese Catholics even as far as the East Indies. 

The massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day in 1572 when thousands of Huguenots were murdered by Catholics in France was nothing but terrorism at its worst. The motive ? Fear that the rapidly growing Protestants might take over the government.

Many atrocities have thus been committed in the name of the Christian religion, with Christians slaughtering Christians through the centuries. A residue of these bygone days is still to be seen in Northern Ireland --- where interests are not merely religious, but also territorial and political. 

This brief and somewhat cursory survey of what political and communal forces can do with religion, reveals the human tendency to be corrupted by power, rather than to be built up by true religious ideals. The more a religion aspires to control of the state, and identifies itself with state and political government, the more is it liable -- directly or indirectly -- to terrorism. Although Jesus Himself declared the distinction between the realm of God and that of Caesar, some popes, later, entangled religion and politics. In the presence of Pilate, Jesus clearly maintained that His kingdom pertained not to this world, but to the Truth. 

Can other religions say the same of their respective founders ? Did other religions have the same involvement and struggles with political authority, as did Christianity ? It isd for them to say. It does, however, to an outsider that other religions too cannot escape the political and communal factor -- either because of the nature of the religion itself which may aspire to identifying political with religious authority, ot because of the nature of the human disposition condition.

What the reported facts reveal is that other religions too as well as "cults" have been involved in terrorism especially after 1990. In 1993 a first attack was made on the World Trade Center in New York. The culprit, caught two years later in Pakistan, is said to have confessed that this attack had been made in retaliation against the assistance that America is constantly giving to Israel. 

That same year, members of another doomsday religious cult Aum Shinrikyo 
(" Supreme Truth") were accused of the worst terrorist attack in the nation's history. 

They allegedly released deadly nerve gas in Tokyo's subway during peak hours on March 20. The organizers of this group apparently thought that they and their followers were destined to control history. The same year, too, a series of bombs exploded on commuter trains in Paris, master-minded allegedly by Algerian Islamic militants. In November, a right-wing Israeli assassinated the Prime Minister, Rabin. 

The number of Islamic -- particularly Shiite -- fundamentalists who indulged in terrorism, kept increasing steadily. Algeria, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, and other countries have experienced the consequences. 

Hinduism was thought to be a religion that promoted kindness even to animals. Incidents like those in Ayodhya, and Godhra are more than enough evidence of the fragility of religious ahimsa in the world of today. Contemporary Indian politics aims at once again establishing an indissoluble union between religion and state.

Even Buddhist monks have been implicated in terrorism in recent times.

Terrorism and Communalism
What is communalism ? Comminalism is an extension of egoism, stemming basically from human selfishness, and then ramifying through deadly tentacles into many areas of human activity and thought-processes, infecting even the branches of knowledge that are considered "scientific", such as history, psychology, and politics. This communalism insists on first, differentiating, and then, discriminating, between groups on the basis of language, culture, colour, race, or caste. Religion becomes a cherished victim of this deeply rooted sickness, which has a knack of eating its way not only into the subconscious and gaining control of a group's logic as well as epistemology. 

Concealed under many disguises, communalism easily enters into the precincts of administrative offices and law-courts and tribunals, contributing to the perversion of justice wherever it goes. Thus, religion too is made an accomplice in the devices of communalism when it lends its support to the marginalization of minoruties and their rights, to the oppression of the poor, to gender discrimination,till feelings of hatred and rebellion are stirred up in the hearts of the powerless. Such a state of affairs is conducive for the mushrooming of terrorist groups.

Groups set themselves against groups in the same society and even in the same church. Thence, will arise the further complication of majority against minorities. Minorities will soon come to feel that they and their most basic rights are coolly ignored, and set aside. Eventually they have no choice but either to make patience a virtue of necessity and subnit to a slow martyrdom, or to have recourse to some form of terrorism. 

Such, for example, has been the situation of the black Christians in America. The anger of the suppressed blacks in American Christendom was partly described in J. H. Cone's in the 1960s, through his book,Black Theology and Black Power. Cone feels that the blacks are in the situatuin of bondage and oppression in which the Israelites in Egypt found themselves. Such conditions of oppression engender hatred and revenge, and may lead to spiritual terrorism -- volcanoes of resntment weeling up from the heart, yet finding no way to self-expression. Yet in New Testament religion, such hatred is nothing less than murder. But the communalistic hater is tempted to argue : As an individual, I forgive my oppressors, but about my familu, group, community ?" Can religion give an answer ? Has faith succeeded in rooting out communalism ? 

In the 1930s, black religious leaders appeared in the States, who proclaimed that Christianity was the white man's religion, whereas Islam was the black man's creed. The Christians in India broken by communalism into a hundred fragments, don't have recourse to conspicuous acts of terrorism, but nurture terrorism in their hearts. Within Islam, there are the Sunni's and the Shi'ites. Within Hinduism, communalism is rife.
There was violent rioting in Mumbai by the dalits in 1997 because a bust of Ambedkar was garlanded with leather shoes. 

Spirituality: its Roots 
What is spirituality ? That is the ither cinceot that calls for clarification. The word itself is associated to spirit, a term that is often made to refer to alcohol or other brands of liquor. But no one mistakes alcoholism for spirituality. Spirituality is derived from the spirit that is translated into Indian languages by the word 'atma'.Gandhi was called mahatma because he was a great soul. Soul-consciousness, soul-energy, soul-power: that is what we mean by spirituality. Spirituality is rooted in the human ability to know, to love, to live, to dare, to die, to give. Every science, including political science, is possible because of the human capacity for knowledge. 

Human spirituality, however, is not always sufficiently displayed through politics. Truth is often not the basis of political activity. Hence, politicians are not usually considered spiritual. Spirituality -- according to popular opinion -- tolerates no companionship with dishonesty. Spirituality is concerned, not only with knowing the truth, but also with loving and doing and living the truth --- not only in the sphere of political activity, but in every area of human conduct. The human spirit has a mysterious capacity for the absolute, for the infinite. Where is the true Absolute ? the Infinite ? For Christians, this truth is found in Jesus, Whose Spirit teaches the disciples and guides them. Others think this guiding truth is to be found in their respective religions or ideologies or world-views, or the traditions they have imbibed. 

True knowledge, therefore, is the root of spirituality. This true knowledge is not the prerogative of every Tom, Dick and Harry, but only of those who have been enlightened. Spirituality presupposes enlightenment, engenders the fortitude to follow the light. The popular mind is inclined to identify religion with spirituality, and atheism with lack of spirituality. That is a misconception. Spirituality is an attribute of human nature, in that human beings are rational. They have powers of knowing, understanding and freely choosing and deciding. These powers are the manifestations of what may be called the ontological spirituality of human nature. From this angle, religion is not the source or cause of spirituality, but its effect. Persons who call themselves atheists, may occasionally display genuine spirituality, in yet another sense and degree. They may be more deeply rooted in religiosity than some who profess to be followers of a religion. Many religious believers are robbed of religiosity by politics and communalism, which are also among the chie causes of terrorism. 

Religiosity is the link between religion and spirituality. There are atheists who are more imbued with religiosity than some "religious". Some of the implications of this religiosity are mentioned by the apostle James : " Pure ans undefiled rekguin before God and the Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." 

Spirituality and Religion
Religion therefore is the effect of spirituality at one level, and its cause on another level. Whereas reasonableness leads most people to follow or invent religion, there are a small percentage who find reasons for opposing religion; How is it that both religion as well as atheism have occasioned so much violence and terrorism in the past ?

Though ideologies, world-views and traditions may be considered as sources of truth, which is the root of human spirituality, the vast majority of contemporary humanity are not satisfied with any set of truths that does not have some divine guarantee. Scholars and geniuses may be fantastically brilliant; some great thinkers may even claim enlightenment. How can one be sure ? Most human beings living today do not trust ultimately in ordinaryhuman beings, like themselves, at least in the more important areas of life. They look for guarantees in revelations that claim to be divine or quasi-divine. 

Hence, the great world-religions -- Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity -- support themselves on some divine revelations. After all, only the divine can effectively bring about true enlightenment. The written records that document this revelation are the Scriptures. Those who make the meaning of the scriptures available to the people of different times and climes, are the teaching authorities, the theologians, the lawyers, the imams, the rabbis, and others, who maintain and keep alive the traditions that are indispensable for the applications of scriptural doctrines and injunctions -- moral as well as spiritual.

Most religious scriptures proclaim emphatically that there is a life after death, where the righteous will be rewarded, whereas in this world many a time, the just are punished and the wicked are rewarded. Belief in life after death, which has inspired great warriors, holy martyrs, mighty heroes, is also a powerful stimulus to spirituality. The final reward is to be received in the hereafter. This means that in this present life, the final outcome of the vattle between truth and falsehood, between light and darkness, between right and wrong, cannot be decided or settled.

Religious scriptures are one thing; religious leaders, another. Not all religious leaders are equally enlightened. It is this enlightenment that makes all the difference between mere formalistc religion and spirituality. Theologians and lawyers may be tempted by the maxims of merely human considerations, and by temporary interests, such as popularity, to modify or mitigate a revelation that they themselves claim to be divine. That is a risk inherent to human learning and scholarship. This supposed expertise can present as divinely revealed what is merely the fruit of human speculation. But the believers are not supposed to question the authorities. Hence, with the subjective conviction that they are practising the spirituality taught by their religion, believers can commit atrocities condemned in their own scriptures. 

Spirituality and Terrorism
Spirituality is at the heart of every religion; but not always in the hearts of the priests, imams, rabbis, mullahs, swamies, gurus, sadhus and theologians, who succumb to the temptation of appearing wise in their own eyes, and in the eyes of those whose admiration they seek. This desire that prefers popularity and prestige to truth can make people blind. If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit. That precisely seems to be the case with many terrorists, from an objective perspective. This appears to be applicable especially to some leaders of so-called cults who have remarkable talents for brain-washing their followers. 

In April 1995, a bomb explosion in Oklahoma dispelled once and for all, the illusion that America was immune to domestic terrorism. The suspects were linked -- according to reports -- to a religious cultic group known as Branch Davidians. David Koresh, a Seventh-Day Adventist, who had several revelations beyond those found in the Bible, had led his followers to a place near Waco, The police, possibly misunderstanding his revelations had taken measures against the crowd. In the reaction that followed, 74 people had perished.In October that same year, the derailment of a passenger train in Arizona, was considered sabotage in retaliation to police action against the same cultic group. 

Cult leaders seem to " ... believe that they alone hear the voice of God accurately, that they alone act on what they hear, and that they and their leader foresee doom for others." 

It does emerge from the foregoing that even though some instigators to acts of terrorism, may be blind, those whom they lead into the pit may possibly have been in good faith. Saul, before his conversion into the great St. Paul, was something of a terrorist. Similarly, Judas the Machabee, was motivated by zeal for the law of God, and the survival of the true religion. Sympathizing with the Christians who were ill-treated in Pakistan, a Catholic bishop allegedly committed suicide in the not-too-distant past. Did he turn some terroristic instinct inwards to eliminate himself ?

If truth is the root of spirituality, then justice, which is a sister of truth, is very close to the very root of spirituality. The terrorists beliece, or are led to believe that there is no solution whatever for their grievances if they abandon recourse to terrorism. 

As I write these lines, there are reports of a suicide attack in which 15 Israelis were killed by Arabs. 

Since Islamists emerge so prominent in today's global terrorism, people may ask: 

" Why so ? " The answer is perhaps to be found in their concept of jihad. Central to Muslim law, since the early centuries of its existence, is the concept of jihad which may be interpreted a duty of all Muslims to expand Muslim territory and Muslim rule. In some versions, it seems to establish an indissoluble bond between religion and politics. Believers following this understanding of jihad would regard terrorism in a perspective very different from that of others. There have been reformers, like Sayyid Ahmad Khan (d. 1898) who have attempted a mellowing down of the interpretation that prevailed for many centuries, preferring other texts of the Quran, through which a more spiritual interpretation could be given to jihad as a warfare against one's own evil tendencies. Islam should be spread, they say, by heart, hand and tongue, rather than by sword. In the language of the Shari'ah, says another authority, jihad "... particularly for a war that is waged solely in the name of Allah against those who practise oppression as enemies of Islam." 

Has our conceptual clarification taken us, round and round the bush, back to square one ? At least we have had a glimpse of the complexity of the forest of relationships between the various fields of human thought, beliefs, attitudes and activities that can possibly entangle terrorism even with spirituality. Speculation can abstract and analyse. But those eager for action, in their anxiety not to miss the opportunity of the present moment, either because they are brain-washed by their leaders, or over-charged by resentments, may find nothing but emptiness in our speculations.

We cannot blame them if we ourselves have not arrived at any definite conclusions for the solution of today's problems with terrorism. Our aim was just conceptual clarification, and delimitation of the problematic. Many questions remain to be answered, some of which may be posed as follows:

Can terrorism not be the effect of spirituality ?
Truth is at the very root of spirituality. Hence, fighting, killing, dying for the truth of one's religion, and the defence of the true rights of one's people, country or community might justify terrorism. Most of the terrorism in the world around us, is or appears to be a fight of right against might. It is in many cases, a last resort, after other methods have failed. Is there any other alternative ? Are the majority and the mighty not the real causes of the very terrorism they seek to punish ? Could anyone demand that the Israelites remain forever under bondage in Egypt ? 

If truth and justice go hand in hand, then isn't the struggle for justice, a sign and effect of spirituality ? Could the Nazis tell the Jews: " you be martyrs!! allow us to tread you under our feet ! We are a superior race, and we need still more to grow!"

Is terrorism always the result of brain-washing ? or of the blind leading the blind ? 

Why cannot spiritual ideals move some great champion of human rights to take up the cause of the oppressed, the marginalized, those deprived of their basic rights --- as were the children of Abraham before their exodus from Egypt ?

If spirituality could inspire Saul or Judas the Machabee, why can't terrorism in other instances be the fruit of spiritual inspiration ? 

Should the Tamils in Sri Lanka suffer forever the privations to which they have been subjected ? and the privation of their rights ?

On the other hand : recall the torrents of blood that were shed by dialectical materialism in the name, not of religion, but of humanity! Recall the atrocities of the French revolution, committed in the name of liberty, fraternity and equality! Theoretically, indeed, they may profess some faith; practically, on the other hand, they may be more concerned with personal pride and communal prestige, rather than with truth or justice. Who can say whether or not the Tamils are claiming more than their due, and complaining more than due ? Such is the ambiguity of human spirituality, that we cannot say where rationality ends, and where rationalization begins.

Can terrorism be the cause of spirituality ?
The intention of the terrorist may not be to make his victims spiritual. The bekuever, however, who trusts and loves his/her God, can climb and fly nearer to God even in moments of destruction and death. Maximilian Kolbe is a shing example of this. He sacrificed himself to the Nazis to save a fellowman from their clutches. That was an act of supreme faith and supreme spirituality. 

Both these angles of the relationship between terrorism and spirituality seem to be implicit in the prediction made by Jesus to his disciples : " ... the hour is coming when anyone who puts you to death, will yjinl he is rendering service to God." In so far as they who put the apostles to death think that they are rendering service to God, are they also not spiritual ? Will the Judge not reward them for acting and living and dying in accordance with their sincerest convictions ? These are questions beyond the reach of human knowledge and human fallibility. Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect." 

In such instances, we are compelled once again to grapple with age-old distinction between subjective and objective. As si iften happens in a globalized milieu, one man's food is another man's poison. What is criminal terrorism for some, is justice and righteousness for others. Orthodoxy can appear fanaticism; rationalization can put on the mask of rationality; and communalism can wear for long periods of time, the garb of patriotism. In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Brutus is represented as professing; "Not that I loved Caesar less, but I loved Rome more."

Something deeper than depth-psychology is required to plumb the spirituality of terrorists, and also of some of their victims. Who, for example would feel qualified to sit in judgement over Atta, one of the principal hijackers who crashed into the WTC on Sept. 11 ? Here are some extracts from the Washington Post :

The Sept. 11 attacks have laid bare the existence of a cadre of young men like Atta, ready to plot their own deaths years in advance to serve a cause, ... In the details of his life are clues, tentative to be sure, about the making of a suicidal fanatic -- a devout, highly intelligent and diligent student ... "He was very, very religious," said Joerg Lewin, one of the firm's partners, who noted that Atta regularly prayed on the floor of the office by a large draftsman's table. "My impression is that he became more and more intense."

In 1995, Atta took six months off from Plankontor. Half of that period, Atta told his office-mates, he would use for a pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim is expected to make once in a lifetime. It's unclear if he actually did it.

On the front of his thesis, when it was finally ready, Atta included a quote from the Koran: "My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death belong to Allah, the Lord of the worlds." 

Could the heights and depths of spirituality match mire brilliantly the heights and depths of terrorism ? The commands from heaven demand obedience. In the Catholic Church, however, what is bound on earth, will be bound in heaven. 

Rev. Fr. Paul D'Souza
Institute of Philosophy
R.S. Naidu Nagar, Mysore- 7, Karnataka State, India
Phone 0821-2490638/ 2493949/ 3099005
mail:- or 



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