Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Terrorist mentalities

Law cannot be the only tool used to counter terrorism. Our main war is against terrorist mentalities, writes Salma El-Nashar

On 16 August 2015, Egypt’s Anti-Terrorism Law 94/2015 was issued, which included 54 articles defining terrorist acts, terrorist groups, the penalties of committing a terrorist crime, of communicating with foreign countries or associations with the aim of committing or preparing a terrorist crime in Egypt, and of using websites or social media to promote terrorist ideas. The law also gave security forces a number of broad powers to facilitate dealing with terrorism, as well as establishing special courts to judge terrorism cases.

Internationally, the French Senate approved a controversial French anti-terrorism law by a majority vote after it was adopted by the French parliament on 1 October 2017, a law similar in many of its articles to the Egyptian law. The new law also affords greater powers to the administrative authority and the police to verify identities near the border without judicial approval, to be extended to certain highways, train stations, airports and harbours. Authorities also retained emergency power to search homes, restrict movement and close places of worship.

Meanwhile, Egypt set up the National Council to Combat Terrorism and Extremism by the Presidential Decree 355/2017, which aims to combat terrorism by developing plans and strategies to counter terrorism in cooperation with security authorities and religious and social institutions as well as different political currents. In fact, laws, despite their great importance, especially in light of the exceptional circumstances and destructive terrorism the Middle East and the whole world are passing through, are not enough. Security measures, legislation and laws cannot be the only tool to confront and eliminate terrorism without the unity of religious and social institutions in the country, headed by Al-Azhar.

Recently diffused, the recorded dialogue with a terrorist who is committing his crimes and terrorist acts intentionally with religious reference points has caused wide controversy and criticism in Egypt. The interview contained Salafist extremist ideas, in addition to the concept of jihad, that will lead them naturally to paradise, and the idea of the “Islamic caliphate”.

These extremist ideas and others that have nothing to do with Islam are in fact the cause of condemning all Muslims for the actions of the few. No one can deny the plans of some countries to destroy and undermine the security and stability of the Middle East, and neither the support and finance of those terrorist groups and organisations by money and weapons. But we cannot also deny that there are Muslims who are killing in the name of the Islamic religion and under its banner. 

With extremist interpretations of jihad, those killers found the reasons to exonerate their actions and the religion of peace and tolerance became suddenly just a bloody war, while the real fact is that the gravity of such crimes is equated in the Quran with the killing of all humanity. Whoever read the Quran and understands it well will always believe in the peaceful face of Islam that strongly prohibits violence, harming people and destroying safe places. And this is why we need more efforts, especially from the religious institution, to uproot extremist thought and to defend peace against extremism by all means.

On 4 December 2017, the Administrative Prosecution Authority referred a preacher affiliated with Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy in Giza governorate to urgent disciplinary trial on charges of inciting sectarianism while teaching a lesson in a mosque. It has previously also referred the imam of Al-Arbaeen Mosque in the village of Mitt Habib in Mahalla Al-Kubra to urgent trial. He was accused of participating in facilitating the child marriage of approximately 27 underage girls. In many other cases, the Administrative Prosecution Authority has played a fundamental role in combating extremist and sectarian ideas that are the seeds that give birth to terrorism. It has set during the recent period a good example not only in combating and preventing corruption, but also of how to fight against extremist thought.

The battle against terrorism is not only a military fight; it’s also a mental one, and the war against the mentalities of terrorists is one we must win.

The writer is attorney at law.

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