Yet another New Year was born with the spectre of mindless terrorism. The slaughter of innocents amounted to a staggering 180 deaths in 30 recorded terrorist incidents in the first week of the month.
These included suicide bombings, assassinations, mass killings by lone gunmen, and ambushes inter alia in Iraq, Turkey, Bahrain, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, Yemen, Central African Republic, the Philippines, Nigeria and the United States.
Apart from the incident in Burundi, where Environment Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was assassinated in the capital city of Bujumbura, and the murder of five people at the Fort Lauderdale airport in the US, when Iraq war veteran Esteban Santiago, 26, opened fire randomly after flying from Alaska with a gun in his luggage, the other acts of terrorism occurred in Muslim countries and were perpetrated by diehard extremists.
In the process, they destroyed the lives of countless babies, children, the elderly, women and men. A cynic might be tempted to conclude that these extremists, with their seemingly innate but irrational death wish, are inculcating a mechanism for perpetual ethnic cleansing or population control, given that terrorism, in the contemporary sense, has been entrenched in the landscape of many Muslim countries over the last few decades.
The danger is that, if this pattern of wanton destruction and devastation continues, terrorism may become institutionalised as the new normal, especially in the minds of the vulnerable and easily manipulated young people. This means a sizeable faction of unsuspecting young Muslims, including recent converts, in core countries — the diaspora may be condemned to the ashes of a lost generation.
This is like a vicious cycle; the psychological impact on the perpetrators and the families of victims, given the paucity of counselling and support services, could affect those close to them, and there’s a possibility that the cycle of violence will perpetuate well into the future.
What a daunting prospect, with little sign of abatement, given the spectacular and near-criminal failure of politicians all over to effectively deal with this brutal blight.
As Baghdadis were preparing to usher in the New Year, two suicide car bomb blasts in a busy market square in central Baghdad killed 35 shoppers. In Istanbul, as revellers were celebrating the onset of the New Year, a lone gunman armed with grenades and automatic weapons entered the Reina nightclub, which is popular among foreigners, and slaughtered 39 people.
The nationalities of those slaughtered or maimed read like a mini-membership of the United Nations. Needless to say, many Turks, including those who worked in or near the nightclub, like taxi drivers, also died.
Turkey, especially, has been singled out by terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Kurdish Marxist faction the PKK, which is fighting for autonomy leading to independence.
The country, which is on the front line of the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, suffered a staggering 28 terrorist attacks last year and the latest one on New Year’s Day, resulting in a death toll of more than 500 people, with a few thousand others injured and maimed for life.
There are signs that all this may lead to a sense of deepening national trauma, albeit thus far, the Turks have remained defiant in their fight against terrorism, just as they had rallied behind their government in the aftermath of a failed military coup in July last year.
Perhaps, it is a relief that the incident in Fort Lauderdale did not involve IS or al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists (indeed, the bogey of so-called “Islamist terrorism”).
This goes to show that terrorism is a universal phenomenon and scourge, and there is no room for complacency or assuming the moral high ground for any country, society, ideology and faith group.
But, there is one crucial difference between these murderous merchants of death and the politicians of the inflicted countries, with their public and foreign policy deficits: that of commitment!
The rise of “Islamist terrorism” — ranging from the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, in the wake of the Soviet invasion of the country, to the advent of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and, more recently, the self-styled IS — is as much due to the single-minded and maniacal commitment of these groups to their “cause” as it is to the internecine lack of commitment shown by their “adversaries”: the countries, organisations and individuals that the violence targets.
This is not confined to “Islamist terrorism”. It is irrespective of ideology, and includes terrorist activities the world over, whether in Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Spain, Greece, Thailand, China or South Sudan, to name a few.
The lack of commitment is breathtaking and mired in callous self-interest, electoral considerations, poor governance, democratic deficits, foreign policy shortcomings, combat and resource fatigue, intelligence ineptitude and a lack of humanity in appreciating the scale and impact of terrorism on the lives of ordinary people, let alone military targets.
I am reminded of the prophetic words of Irish poet William Butler Yeats in his iconic poem The Second Coming, written in 1919 in the aftermath of World War 1.
Turning and turning in the widen-ing gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falcon-er;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
Mushtak Parker is an independent
London-based economist and writer