Addressing the root causes of terrorism

Addressing the root causes of terrorism
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The Islamic State has suffered setbacks, horrendous terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11 and the Nov. 26, 2010 attacks in Mumbai are few and far between these days and lone wolf operations are frequently thwarted by vigilant authorities. So, have we triumphed over terrorism and can we declare mission accomplished? Sadly, no.

While we all agree that this requires concerted action from authorities and citizens alike, including countering immediate threats to our safety and welfare, targeting combatants, bringing to justice those who harbor and assist attackers, cutting off terror financing, and so on, the root causes of terrorism must also be addressed if we are to truly make headway against this scourge.


It is no secret that the militants of ISIS, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are indoctrinated in hate at a very young age. When children grow up thinking only their ideology is correct, and all others are wrong and will go to hell, it is potentially an explosive situation waiting to happen.


Educationists will have to play an active role and promote education in peace so that the coming generations are both sensible and sensitive to life. Religious leaders will have to come together to promote the common good of mankind and reform the misguided. I strongly believe this is all doable in our generation.

Often, people who feel very passionately for a cause feel justified in adopting violent means in its pursuit. They are driven by a sense of righteousness, though misplaced, and committed to their cause. Some of them are willing to resolve differences through dialogue if approached in the right way.

We have been able to successfully bring back many extremists from a life of violence and rehabilitate them in mainstream society. In fact, many tribal schools in terrorist-affected regions in India are being run by former extremists. They were hostile in the beginning and threatening to volunteers, but when they saw that these efforts were benefiting their own communities, they became volunteers themselves.

Based on our experience, I believe that the global community should come together in:

  • Steering youth away from a culture of death to that of life; inculcating a more expansive view of life, its wonders and all its blessings; and broadening one’s understanding of the Divine, justice, history, science, the arts, human rights and love.
  • Providing education in human values that focuses on the benefits and strengths of diversity, compassion and friendship.
  • Teaching methods to release stress, tension, anger and anxiety in a safe, healthy manner. 

  • Educating about all the different religious and cultural traditions of the world. Today’s youth need a broad understanding of other faiths. Deepening our roots and broadening our perspectives in this way will help prevent narrow interpretations of the will of God. 

  • Educating and emphasizing the need for making non-violence and peaceful means the baseline for resolving disputes and achieving objectives in life.

By taking these measures, we can help plant the seeds of humanity in today’s youth and lower terrorist recruitment. Weeding out the hate-filled and destructive ideology of the extremists will help to address the root causes of terror while working toward spiritual upliftment.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values which collaborate on humanitarian initiatives worldwide. Sri Sri’s work includes armed conflict resolution, U.S. Veteran PTSD reliefprisoner rehabilitation, addiction treatment, poverty alleviation and human rights advocacy. His programs have reached an estimated 370 million people in 155 countries.