Saturday,23 June, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1359, (7 - 13 September 2017)
Saturday,23 June, 2018
Issue 1359, (7 - 13 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

National Council opens

Egypt’s newly-created National Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism has officially started operations, reports Gamal Essam El-Din


National Council opens
National Council opens

The 31-member National Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism (NCCTE) held its first meeting on 24 August. Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said the meeting, led by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, had focused on implementing a comprehensive national strategy to combat terrorism and extremism at home and abroad.

“All state institutions will be mobilised to achieve this strategy on the security, cultural, economic and social levels,” Youssef said, adding that “President Al-Sisi stressed the necessity of modernising education and religious curricula in order to underline the values of citizenship and religious tolerance and uproot terrorism and extremism.”

“We will never be able to eradicate terrorism unless we implement plans that will safeguard young people against radicalisation, spreading the language of moderation and modernisation and eliminating unemployment,” Al-Sisi said.

According to Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, at its next meeting the NCCTE will discuss a government report on combating terrorism and extremism. “The report reviews all the studies and reports that the government has prepared in the past to eradicate terrorism and its causes,” Ismail said, adding that “these will be used to build a new national strategy intended to combat terrorism and extremism at home and abroad.”

He indicated that the ministries of defence, waqf (religious endowments), youth and sports, social solidarity, foreign affairs, interior, telecommunications, justice, education and higher education would participate in implementing the NCCTE’s national counter-terrorism strategy.

“Each ministry will be required to make a detailed report on how it can help in implementing the NCCTE strategy, not to mention the role of parliament in updating anti-terrorism legislation,” Ismail noted.

He said that “the justice and interior ministries will draw up reports on the legislation needed in order to assist in the national battle against terrorism and extremism. Legislation such as the criminal procedure and the penal code will be reviewed to help implement the new anti-terrorism strategy,” he added.

Ismail also indicated that ministries such as those of the waqf and youth and sports would also report on how to make sure that clerics were moderate and not politically motivated and that extremist elements were kept out of mosques and sporting clubs, making it impossible for them to spread religious bigotry or recruit jihadist elements. 

He said the government had begun contacts with neighbouring Arab countries with the objective of unifying efforts aimed at coordinating anti-terrorism policies.

The NCCTE, set up by presidential decree on 26 July, is headed by the president and includes the prime minister, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the head of the Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II, the speaker of the House of the Representatives, and 11 ministers among its members.

It also includes the head of General Intelligence and the chairman of the Administrative Watchdog Authority.

Khaled Okasha, a security expert and NCCTE member, told reporters following the meeting that the council’s meetings would be held on a periodic basis. “At each meeting, members will be required to review their role in implementing the NCCTE’s national strategy, explaining their success in turning this strategy into a reality on the ground,” Okasha said.

He indicated that “a secretariat will be created to take charge of implementing the NCCTE’s activities and objectives.”

Okasha said that the NCCTE included 13 public figures who would also contribute their views to the national strategy on combating terrorism and extremism. “While some of these are independent clerics, others are secularists who can contribute innovative ideas on how to rid Egypt of the threats of terrorism and extremism,” Okasha said.

“The NCCTE’s members also include former grand mufti Ali Gomaa, poet and writer Farouk Guweida, political analyst Abdel-Moneim Said, former minister of culture Mohamed Saber Arab, former head of State Security Fouad Allam, actor Mohamed Sobhi, head of the State Information Service and Al-Ahram political analyst Diaa Rashwan, presidential advisor for religious affairs Osama Al-Azhari, sociologist Hoda Zakaria, and Coptic journalist Hani Labib,” he said.

Okasha indicated that the council had begun coordinating Arab positions on terrorism-related issues and establishing a Pan-Arab entity to this end. “The council will coordinate with Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in pursuing legal measures against countries sponsoring terrorism like Qatar and Turkey,” he said.

He drew attention to the need for further contacts with the United Kingdom, “as this is a country which gives shelter to the world’s most dangerous radical Islamist elements. It gives a lot of assistance to these elements, which like to introduce themselves to Western societies as the ‘victims of Arab dictatorships’, not to mention the fact that London has become the capital of the international organisation of Muslim Brotherhood,” Okasha said.

UK Minister of State for Middle East Affairs Alistair Burt paid a surprise visit to Egypt last month to discuss Egypt’s growing worries about Britain giving shelter to terrorist and extremist elements. In an article in Al-Ahram, Burt said that “although Britain has not decided to ban the Muslim Brotherhood organisation as other countries have done, the UK has tightened monitoring on the group’s activities and visa requests by its members and is also monitoring sources of funding for the Brotherhood.”

However, Okasha described Burt’s comments as “hypocritical, ignoring the fact that radical Islamists exploit the UK as a transition station for infiltrating European capitals to spread their extremist ideology and jihadist ideas.”

NCCTE member and prominent political strategist Abdel-Moneim Said said in an interview with Al-Ahram that the formation of the council had come after the security forces had had impressive success in fighting terrorist groups like Hasm, a militant group widely believed to be the military arm of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

“But the war against terrorism should no longer rely on the security forces alone, and it was for this reason that the NCCTE was created,” Said said, explaining that “the fight against terrorism should focus on reforming religious discourse and eliminating extremist ideas that risk turning Egypt and other Arab countries into breeding grounds for terrorists.”

Said said the “NCCTE should represent a qualitative step in the war against terrorism and extremism.”

“This war was at first the responsibility of the security forces alone. Then Al-Azhar joined the war in a second stage to confront extremist ideals and reform religious discourse, and now comes the NCCTE in a third stage to mobilise the state and society as a whole in the war,” Said said, arguing that the “NCCTE should primarily target the Muslim Brotherhood because this is the organisation that created Political Islam and spread this venomous ideology throughout the world.”

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