Poverty and Terrorism

Experts have noted recently that the failure to provide opportunities which leads to poverty coupled with misreading of religion has helped fuel terrorism worldwide.  Extreme poverty is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time and a fundamental contributing factor to 21st century terrorism and insurgency.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “You can never win a war against terror as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate — poverty, disease, ignorance.” Also the Former U.S. Secretary of State General Colin Powell stated, “We can’t just stop with a single terrorist or a single terrorist organization; we have to go and root out the whole system. We have to go after poverty.

In the aftermath of 9/11, World Bank had stated that terrorism will not end unless and until poverty is not taken care of.

One of the motive behind terrorist activities is money which is due to poverty. Lack of opportunities employment wise leads to anger and frustration and is compounded by a sense of injustice.  When the gap between rich and poor widens, the impoverished majority are more likely to consider their situation as a function of either indifference or criminality by those controlling the wealth.  A classic example of such an offshoot is of Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram.

Extreme poverty is more than the lack of material resources necessary to meet an individual’s basic needs. It is the lack of opportunity for the individual to make meaningful choices that will sustainably improve her life. Choice is powerful and opens the door to hope, opportunity, change, and a better future.

The reality is that terrorists and insurgencies cannot function without the support of the communities in which they operate. Studies have shown that they earn this support by providing social services for their often impoverished constituency. But the services provided by these organizations come at a great cost to the community – including economic oppression and coercion into violent activities – which perpetuates the cycle of extreme poverty. For instance, the Terrorist organizations have the tactic of organising community development activities. Example can be cited of Taliban build madrassas to offer free education to the poor in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, terrorist activities cannot be only linked to poverty. Osama bin Laden was the son of a wealthy Saudi construction magnate. But the soldiers who blow themselves up along with innocents around them – are disproportionately drawn from the poor underclass, the idle youth with few prospects for employment.

The need of the hour is to support democracy in true spirit. Reformists projects must be undertaken and importance must attributed towards investments in order to create job opportunities, stressing the necessity of adopting new policies and setting a good environment for investment to flourish.

Efforts such as Nuru International which exists in Kenya must be undertaken. Nuru International is a holistic community-based development model.  Its mission is to end terrorism by ending extreme poverty.

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