Before killing seven CIA agents in a suicide attack in Pakistan in 2009, the terrorist Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi took a video of himself, in which – among other things – he expressed satisfaction with the fact of soon meeting his victims, when he is in paradise and they are suffering in hell.
The planned suicide operation of Al-Balawi took place following a significant improvement during the recent years in the capabilities of the “West” in tracking and eliminating terrorists – while they were still in relatively early stages of introducing new attacks. Tons of money was spent on improving the abilities of terrorist-fighting organizations, and the associated technology reached peaks unknown before.
Still, Al-Balawi’s teachers and operators were armed with a different kind of weapon. Using simple tools, while taking advantage of known human mind weaknesses, they managed to make their flock actually believe of an almighty judge, sitting somewhere in the heavens, expecting them to kill as many “heretics” as possible. In return the judge will grant them the pleasures of the “afterworld”.
Al-Balawi’s perception of the world was different than the actual reality. For him, the sand on which he was standing was “created” by that judge, together with the first human. Other humans carefully selected later on by the judge, passed the judge’s rules to mankind, and the judge’s wishes were indisputable.
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When this is your view of the world – even better – when you are able to generate more and more people with such a view of the world – no sophisticated means of tracking and eliminating are useful.
The right way to tackle religious terror in the long run is not by using sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles for remote elimination, or with sensitive equipment for bomb detection, just like the right way to fight epidemics is not with Aspirin. The right way to struggle with religious terror in the long run is by means of education. When you have the privilege of being exposed to hard evidence and research, when you truly realize and understand the way in which you’ve been gradually developed from your ancestor apes, when you know how easy it is to fool the human mind – you do not expect to meet your dead victims after a terror attack.
Very few organizations worldwide deal with active education of religious believers with the purpose of changing their view of the world. In most cases, such an activity is perceived as interfering with one’s beliefs, many times even as “missionarism” or “hurting religious feelings”. On a state/country level, it is doubtful whether any Western entity is dealing with that.
While the necessity of an institutionalized “secularizing” process may be in dispute, there is a legitimate action that can certainly be taken: Exposing people, as much as possible, to scientific truths. Guided tours of museums are much cheaper than manufacturing more sophisticated elimination devices, and educational watching of lab experiments is much easier to produce than turning even more parts of airports into fortresses.