LETTER TO THE SCMP:
America and its allies are lumbering around in the Middle East killing innocent civilians willy-nilly. Muslims are enraged at this and respond by bombing, shooting, axing and driving over anyone in their path, including Hongkongers. If America and its allies would only stop interfering in the Middle East, blessed peace would reign.
That, at least, is Yonden Lhatoo's thesis (Hongkongers are no longer safe thanks to America and its allies, , July 29). It's all "bloody blowback from western powers' disastrous policies of intervention in the Middle East".
Like most simple explanations, it's wrong.
It's often forgotten that Islam was once itself a mighty empire. In the centuries after its founding it grew rapidly from Mecca to Northern Africa and Southern Europe. It did so, in its own description, "by the sword". For those subjugated this would have been very much like terrorism.
In the 19th century, Barbary pirates terrorized American merchant vessels. Their leaders told president Jefferson they were obliged to do so by the Koran. Ironically, the US Navy was established in direct response to these Muslim Barbary attacks.
In the 20th century, jihadists attacked America multiple times before 9-11, when there was virtually no US footprint in the Middle East.
Even today jihadi atrocities are taking place in areas which have nothing to do with "America and its allies". Places like Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
The reasons we have jihadis attacking Europeans and Hongkongers, as well as Nigerian Christians, Bangladeshi Shia and Filipine Catholics are doctrinal. They have nothing to do with "America and its allies".
Osama bin Laden stated it clearly in his 2002 treatise "Moderate Islam is a prostration to the west" when he said: "the matter is summed up for every person alive: either submit, live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die". .
ISIS have said the same in the latest issue of their glossy magazine "Dabiq", in which they explain "Why we hate you". (Spoiler: because we are infidels).
There's no doubt that grievances are a part of the terrorists' motives. But they are not the, or even the most important, motive.
To believe, as Lhatoo appears to, that grievance against America and its allies is the sole or primary reason for terrorism, is dangerous. Attempts to redress the alleged grievances would be seen by Islamists and jihadis as appeasement and lead to even more aggressive terrorism and encroachments.
 The Al-Qaeda Reader. Doubleday 2007. Raymond Ibrahim, p43.
Related: The fallacy of grievance-based terrorism.