These days, the most common words dominating the world media headlines are: Terrorism, terrorists and coalition against extremists. Well, there is nothing to complain against this trend. These are in fact words representing a disease and its symptoms. We, however, appear to ignore the root cause of this phenomenon that has gripped the entire world.
Nobody is born a terrorist. It is a mindset, which is the product of an ideology that is void of any tolerance and does not promote harmony. These false ideals create divisions among people and instill feelings of hatred in their hearts, which gradually make people suspicious of each other and sow seeds of anger resulting into heinous acts that the world describe as terrorism. The manner in which these false ideals are etched in the minds of people or we can say that they are brainwashed to such an extent that killing others or getting killed appears normal to them.
The strength of radical groups that actually came to the fore in the early 1990s has dramatically increased. The Taleban, Al-Qaeda and other similar organizations made their presence felt in various manners from time to time but from a western perspective they were just a transient minority.
The United States responded to the terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan by bombing them. Next in line was Iraq, and more recently there was very little objection to terror organizations flourishing to fight “a common foe” in Syria.
Despite the West’s continuous military interventions the situation in the Middle East aggravated to an unbelievable extent. Apparently, all of a sudden radical groups took control of large swathes of territory in both Syria and Iraq. Extremist groups even began to threaten the West. People from all around the world joined these terror organizations and the western countries had been unable to prevent even their own citizens from joining those outfits.
Despite American efforts to arm its allies against these terrorist organizations, the results are far from satisfactory. A close scrutiny of the entire scenario reveals that it is due to the erroneous policies of the past that the situation has come to such a pass. The phenomenal growth of the terrorist group, the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), indicates serious mistakes in dealing with the issue of terrorism.
The strength of ISIL and its likes is a message to the world powers that their previous policies toward radical groups failed to bear fruit. Unfortunately, Washington and its allies are about to repeat the same mistake in dealing with the ISIL. The western countries have joined hands with regional powers and committed to providing them with weapons, conducting air strikes and providing military training. These are the same tactics that have been in use for over two decades now. The question is: What is the result? All knows the answer. Terrorist organizations have only grown stronger. Clichéd analyses depict members and would be adherents of the ISIL etc., as having psychological problems or economic hardships but don’t provide any strategy to combat this phenomenon. Some people imagined that if they labeled these members as such, a degree of achievement might be reached to ease people’s fear from the terror unfolding.
It is true that there are some people who joined the ISIL are indeed troubled. However, there are also many who joined the ISIL and who are not poor. They are highly educated and proficient in several languages. They have attended top-class universities and are very successful in their social lives. The issue here is not people’s psychological problems or ambitions for power. These people are not after political power or hegemony. The fact is that these people have coalesced around a twisted, deviant and perilous ideology, which they associate with Islam. The reason why they are not afraid of death is not because they are troubled or come from poor families rather it is their absolute faith in their perverse ideology. Thus, the problem is that the ideology they believe in is not only wrong, but if it’s not dealt with at its roots, then it cannot be stopped from spreading. If the problem is an ideology, the target must also be the ideology. We must focus on the ideological system that makes these people fearless. It should not be forgotten that the military response has produced no results since the 1990s when radicalism began spreading, and that organizations such as the ISIL are a terrible outcome of a policy that endorses using violence against violence. Such outdated methodology must be revisited.
The aerial bombardments now being planned against the ISIL will serve no other purpose than further strengthening the scourge of radicalism. It will merely result in more innocent Muslims being martyred while new support for the radicals will increase hostility toward the West. Western countries are also trying to prevent their own people from joining the ISIL and trying to keep close tabs on their borders. Of course, the border crossings must be controlled but the West should also know that closing borders would not stop people from joining the ISIL. This time, the people in question will have no qualms about carrying out actions in their own countries. This is a state of affairs that we condemn and do not wish to see. Yet unless the erroneous ideology is targeted, if we try to stop these people using technical means alone, it will inevitably fail to produce results.
The ISIL and the radicalism that it represents can only be defeated by ideas. These people must be shown, with evidence from the Qur’an, that their concept of Islam is wrong. It must be proven to them that there is no violence, compulsion, repression or hatred in the Qur’an. It should also be known that these people could reach any part of the world and spread their ideas very effectively through social networks. It is no coincidence how they are able to gather supporters from Australia and Indonesia. This is proof how vast the communications system is in terms of education and indoctrination. Therefore, the same method must be used to show these people evidence from the Qur’an and the false nature of radicalism. Western states must coalesce around this policy of education and mobilize their resources for an ideological struggle. They must forge an alliance on this subject with those Muslims who take the Qur’an as their guide.
Radicalism is a very serious matter. It is now stronger than ever. There are some groups that may hope for turmoil in the Middle East in order to perpetuate endless wars to reap profits in the defense and arms sector of their respective countries. However, if western countries are really seeking a solution to this scourge, and if they have really grasped the scale of the danger, then they must also see that there can be no other solution than an ideological struggle. Much time has already been lost. We must not make the same mistakes again.
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