Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial - Jihadists are no revolutionaries

Al-Ahram Weekly

Some people think that the problem of terror started with the return of Afghanistan jihadists to their countries after the Soviet withdrawal from that country in 1989. But Egypt has seen violent jihadist movements since the early 1970s, one of which, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyah, assassinated President Anwar Al-Sadat in 1981.

Terror became a global issue with the 9/11 attacks in 2001, which spawned US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it was the uprisings of the Arab Spring that finally turned the war with terror into a decisive confrontation.

In various countries in the region, terrorist groups pose as governments, conquer territories, take on regular armies, control capitals, brutalise opponents and murder innocent people.

Every week, dozens fall to terror in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Lebanon. Even Saudi Arabia is not safe, as the attack on border guards in Arar, two weeks ago, shows.

Turf wars between jihadist groups have become commonplace, with the Islamic State (IS) group and Al-Nusra Front locking horns in Syria, and the Army of Islam, led by Zahran Alwash, flexing its muscles in villages near Damascus.

But it was the terror attacks in Paris that grabbed the global headlines of late, sending millions into the streets to protest the killing of cartoonists, and bringing world leaders to France in a show of solidarity.

Confronting terror is not an easy task. The new brand of jihadists seems to thrive on war and manage to recruit more young people as the conflicts drag on.

In some cases, negotiations have been sought as a way of reducing the terrorist threat.

In Libya, initiatives have been proposed to reconcile rival militias and governments. In Iraq, former prime minister Iyad Allawi is trying to mediate between the government and rebels of the Naqshabandi Army.

Cairo and Moscow are talking to Syrians, in the hope of finding a compromise that would end the four-year-long civil war.

One problem that seems to help terrorism survive is that of double standards. It is common to tolerate terrorism when the target of attack is a foe, but the practice can backfire. Terrorism is unacceptable under any circumstances. And it is not to be confused with freedom fighting.

People living under occupation are allowed by international law to use lethal force to seek independence. But under no circumstances should the targeting of innocent civilians be condoned.

The new breed of jihadists that has emerged in the aftermath of the Arab Spring has no respect for human life or dignity. The extremists frown upon diversity of opinion and faith, scorn all systems of government except their own, and will kill and maim to reach their objectives.

Theirs is a fight against the underlying assumptions of the modern state. Theirs is a fight against freedom, equality, and diversity — the very fabric of human progress.

The new breed of jihadists is supremacist, uncompromising and determined to reverse the course of human evolution. Their disrespect for any society but their own runs deep, and they have no use for well-established forms of government.

Modern governments, no doubt, can make mistakes. Their decisions can be challenged and their policies debated. But life under the archaic forms of governments the Islamists are trying to impose would be pure hell. A modern government is a guarantor of human dignity and freedom. Even when it fails, it is better than the options the jihadists are offering.

The Arab Spring started with peaceful protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Tunisia managed a successful transition to a stable government, and Egypt, which had some trouble courtesy of the Muslim Brotherhood, is getting there.

The Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown in Egypt because it fomented social and political unrest, tried to grab power and hang on to it through both legal and illegal means. And it remains, even after its overthrow, a firm backer of violence in Egypt and elsewhere.

In Libya, violence erupted as rival Islamist militias tried to dismantle the state in a frenzied quest for power. Libya became a hub for regional jihadists, and the ongoing conflict in this country is sending ripples of terror across the region.

In Syria and Yemen the governments are hanging on by a thread as rival jihadist groups carve off spheres of influence, the ideals of the revolutions long forgotten.

To defeat terror we have to keep our minds clear as to who the terrorists are and what they really aim for. We cannot condone terrorism in the name of any revolution. The jihadists who masquerade as revolutionaries should be confronted and put out of business.

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