Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1271, (19-25 November 2015)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1271, (19-25 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: Extremism breeds terror

Al-Ahram Weekly

For a country that has been on alert since the Charlie Hebdo attack early last year, the recent assault in Paris was a double blow. It was also a reminder that regardless of how much security you put in place, a terrorist can cause unimaginable mayhem.

Egypt knows well how it feels. Sympathies with France notwithstanding, we know how it feels to fight terror and have a relative success at keeping it at bay, then get blasted all over the media for allegedly letting terrorists slip through our system.

Even before the investigation into the Russian plane crash in Sinai was concluded, Western media rushed in with charges and insinuations. A bomb must have been placed aboard the plane. Egyptians are too inept and inattentive to secure their airports, etc. The campaign was so systemic and uttered with such confidence that the Russians, caught in the middle, felt compelled to discontinue flights to Egypt and recall tourists mid-vacation.

While Egypt was being thus maligned, it was actually fighting a pitched battle against terrorists in North Sinai and making credible progress. But fighting terror is one thing and stamping it out is another.

Egypt has gone after the terrorists, but it still has a long way to go to dry up the sources of terror, to create a culture where terror cannot survive and initiate religious reform that makes our young people less susceptible to fanatical propaganda.

The French government is now putting draconian measures in place. There is nothing wrong with that. France has to do what it takes to protect the lives of its citizens: nothing is more sacred than human life.

But in the days and weeks to come, Arabs and Muslims will — as usual — pay the price for the horrors committed by the smallest of minorities in their ranks. The hundreds of thousands of pacifist Muslims will denounce violence, voice their sympathy for the families of the victims and pledge to cooperate with the authorities. But their hearts will be heavy, and their hopes for integration and acceptance will once again be dashed.

Let’s admit it. The terrorists come from our ranks, and the twisted ideas they espouse sprout from the same fields that the mainstream irrigates. The mainstream, disapproving of and disgusted by terror, as it will always be, once again has to explain itself to total strangers.

A nexus of medieval ideas and modern telecommunications has provided Islamic State (IS) and likeminded groups with a rare opportunity to recruit and corrupt. And they are not going to let it pass.

Lone wolves or in packs, armed with simple or sophisticated gear, they aim to inflict mayhem on the softest of targets, to kill without mercy, to die for a hair-brained cause.

So what can we do about it? One thing that we should keep in mind is that extremism is the progenitor of all terror. You may find extremists who never held a gun and never will. But you will not find anyone detonating a bomb for a religious cause who is not an extremist to the core.

To fight terror we have to fight extremism. This is the first lesson that we must learn. This is the lesson Egypt knew all along, and it is the lesson that Europe has yet to learn.

Europe given political asylum to extremists, allowed them to live there and preach their version of Islam and, thus, gave terrorists the first layer of education they needed — a chance to be fanatical.

The rest would be easy. IS and likeminded groups are all over the Internet, waiting to brainwash the young, to recruit them, to provide a few weeks of training before throwing them into the hell of terror, to kill and be killed.

Political Islam, a doctrine that has been tolerated for too long, is a necessary component of terror. Again, not every believer of political Islam is a terrorist, but every terrorist is believes in political Islam.

Muslims as a whole are inclusive in their world vision. They want to coexist with others, to be part of a whole, to communicate and be accepted as equals. This is not true for the terrorists. Armed with extremist ideas and propelled by the zeal of political Islam, they believe they are superior to all others. In short, the terrorists are Muslim supremacists. They despise, and even kill, pacifist Muslims. Their hatred of the West is only a byproduct of their hatred for fellow Muslims.

Now let’s return to freedom of expression, the chink in the Western armour that the extremists use to their advantage. All over the West, extremists from our region are free to reside and operate. They pretend not to spread violence, but the fanatical ideas they espouse lead the young down the road to perdition.

 Terror is not going to spare anyone. It starts in our region, but the entire world is its potential victim. So all of us must confront it. It is therefore time that the West understood that the protection it offers to extremists is just one step away from aiding and abetting terror.

Thankfully, the terrorists are not intelligent. What they don’t understand is that when they attack everyone, they are likely to unite the world against them.

The terrorists, IS included, are equal-opportunity villains. They attack Iraqis, Syrians, Turks, Americans, Iranians, Egyptians, Russians and a host of other nations. And if everyone unites against them, there is no way they’ll be able to operate with impunity for long.

 Perhaps Egypt should organise an international conference in Sharm El-Sheikh to fight terror. Perhaps, as a result, Western nations would start coordinating with Arab countries to defeat IS and other likeminded groups.

But even when the guns fall silent, we mustn’t forget one thing: our main and enduring enemy is not terror, but the extremism that feeds it.

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