US group says RSS is like al-Qaeda
Press Trust of India
Posted online: Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 1044
Updated: Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 1247 hours IST
Washington, August 10: A US-based think tank has
clubbed the RSS with al-Qaeda and some other groups as
examples of 'new religious movements'.
"NRMs (New Religious Movements) can be found in
Hinduism-- the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS,
Israel (Gush Emunim), Christianity (the US-based
identity movement) and Islam, including al-Qaeda, a
global network with a transcendent vision that draws
support in the defence of Islam," a new Rand study
"Sometimes referred to as cults, NRMs have two
defining characteristics -- a high degree of tension
between the group and its surrounding society and a
high degree of control exercised by leaders over their
members," the study said.
"While most are not violent, a few have engaged in
ritualised acts of mass suicide and homicide. Notable
examples include Heaven's Gate, the branch Davidians
and Aum Shinrikyo."
The Rand study suggested that al-Qaeda cannot be
defeated by force, but only by reaching out to its
roots in religion and promoting convergence of
Christianity and Islam.
Among possible conditions under which NRMs resort to
violence, said Rand, two stand out -- if the group or
movement feels threatened from the outside, by society
or the government and if it has young, inexperienced
leaders that resort to violence when threatened either
from inside or outside the movement.
Therefore, a government's policies with regard to an
NRM, if perceived as threatening, could prompt the
group to resort to violence, it said.
This new approach suggesting the need to defeat
al-Qaeda by means other than violence is suggested by
Rand in an analysis it conducted on contract for
Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, the Joint Staff,
the Unified Commands, the defence agencies, the
Department of the Navy, the US intelligence community,
allied governments and foundations.
"No major religion," said Rand, "has been, or is
today, a stranger to violence from its extremists, and
that violence will pose challenges for US foreign
policy and for the analysts who seek to inform that
New religious movements or NRMs have also emerged as
sources of violence, it said. "Yet Islamic extremists
are now in a class by themselves as a threat to the
United States, as a transnational, non-state movement
with the chance to appeal to a billion and a half
Mark Juergensmeyer's concept of "cosmic war," said
Rand, provides a useful conceptual framework for
examining the larger-than-life confrontations that
religious extremists are engaged in today. This
concept refers to the metaphysical battle between the
forces of good and evil that enlivens the religious
imagination and compels violent action.
Acts of terror in a cosmic war, said Rand, are seen as
evocations of a larger spiritual confrontation between
good and evil. "In the Middle East and other parts of
the Muslim world where the battle for the soul of
Islam continues, Islamists and al-Qaedas networks
have placed their struggle against secularism,
perceived western domination, and the United States,
in a cosmic context."
States have tended to approach religious Opposition
tactically rather than strategically, Rand said.
"Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have
focused on short-term political gains using the most
expedient tools available to counter religious
opposition -- from concessions on social issues to
crackdowns on political opposition."
The history of changing and short-sighted state
policies toward religious opposition suggests these
approaches are not sustainable in the long term, it
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