What to do with militant or radical Islam?

Barbarous Muslims
Introduction by Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis

In September 2014, US President Barak Obama announced to the world that he has a “comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy” the self-styled “Islamic State” (IS) group.

The strategy was to embark, together with a handful of allies, on a campaign of air strikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, and the trigger for that was the IS’s capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Almost a year later, far from being degraded and diminished, IS has continued its strategic advance in Iraq and Syria, and its wings of terror have now spread far and wide – to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, France, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Thus, so far at least, Obama’s comprehensive strategy has failed, and one preliminary conclusion to draw from this is that the fight against IS and Islamic extremism is a long term one, lasting years or perhaps even decades.

Another conclusion is that you cannot defeat the ideology underpinning IS and its like by bombing alone: IS may be defeated on the ground in Iraq and Syria but that will not stop its poisonous ideology from spreading to the brainwashed in Muslim communities elsewhere. To do that, the core of the ideology must be tackled head on.

The truth is, IS and other jihadists such as Al-Qaeeda represent an ideology and are a tangible fact on the ground. As with Nazi Germany, they have to be destroyed ideologically and militarily.

Below, two writers explore two plains on which IS and other Islamic extremists must be fought. First, political commentator Magdi Abdelhadi, in an article originally published on his blog, draws attention to the internal dimension of the problem which calls for fundamental self-examination to be undertaken by all Muslims before the ideology of IS and jihadism can be snuffed out. Alan Hart, in the second article, focuses on the external dimension which fuels what he calls “perverted and barbaric Islamic fundamentalism”, arguing that, in addition to their security/military approach, Western governments must also cut off the policy oxygen that allows Islamist terrorism to flourish.

No buts, no ifs

By Magdi Abdelhadi*

The debate about what to do with militant or radical Islam flares up after every terrorist outrage then dies down. There is talk of confronting the ideology behind the violence, but no one knows exactly how. Western politicians are terrified of publicly confronting the problem head on out of fear of making inter-communal relations more fraught. Understandably, because the far-right uses the problem of Islamic terrorism to further its own agenda, many are afraid of adopting positions than may appear to be a leaf taken out of the hate propaganda of the racists. Rightly or wrongly, the charge of Islamophobia is hurled at those who dare to speak up.

But in Egypt, where criticising religion carries far greater risks – jail or even death – the debate has taken a candid and, as such, an unprecedented approach. The following are extracts from a piece by Egyptian columnist Mahmoud Gamal that appeared on the news and lifestyle website dotmasr.com recently :

When will we eradicate terrorism?

By Mahmoud Gamal

We will eradicate terrorism when those impostors stop repeating the sentence that we have grown sick and tired of every time there is a terrorist incident: “Islam is innocent”. The same applies to its sister phrase, which is by no means less silly: “Terrorism has no religion”.

We will eradicate terrorism the moment Muslims are persuaded that Islam is not the solution, and that, in its current shape, it is the problem

We will eradicate terrorism the moment Muslims are persuaded that Islamic tradition is the main swamp – in fact the only one, exclusively — that produces all those murderers — terrorists of the past and the present.

We will eradicate terrorism the moment Muslims are persuaded that secularism is not synonymous with permissiveness, and that it is Muslims who are obsessed with sex and the pursuit of depravity more than any other people in the world.

We will eradicate terrorism the moment Muslims believe that Islam is no more than a religion. And that religion, any religion, has nothing to do with the state, or at least the modern state.

We will eradicate terrorism when Muslims believe that the worst modern system of government is better than the non-system which is called in their literature the caliphate.

We will eradicate terrorism the moment Muslims are persuaded that secularism is not synonymous with permissiveness, and that it is Muslims who are obsessed with sex and the pursuit of depravity more than any other people in the world. The sexual scandals of their clerics are unparalelled by any other scandals worldwide.

We will eradicate terrorism when we admit that sex in this world is a pleasure that matches that of the virgins in paradise. It is easier in this world. The road to it is strewn with flirtation, kisses and roses, and not with suicide bombs, grenades and blood…

We will eradicate terrorism the moment we stop entrusting the task of reforming the faith and standing up to terrorism to an institution whose students know nothing but the production of terrorism: Al-Azhar.

We will eradicate terrorism the day we stop wasting billions of our money to sustain that institution, then spend even more to repair the calamitous damage it does…

We will eradicate terrorism when Muslims admit that those who worship a cow humanely are closer to God than those who worship him savagely.

We will eradicate terrorism when we draw – courageously – the lessons of terrorism: we admit that poverty is not the problem, otherwise we would not have terrorism in the richest Arab country, namely Kuwait, and we would not have one of the richest Arabs leading the terror march: Osama Ben Laden. Oppression is not the problem either, otherwise why would it appear in the bastion of freedom, France, or why would scores of European [Muslims] go to Syria [to join IS]? Nor is illiteracy the problem. If it were, why would terrorism strike Britain, the US and Spain. [Ayman] Al-Zawahiri [who is a medical doctor] would not have raised the banner of Al-Qaeda…

We will eradicate terrorism when Muslims learn the basics of geography, learn how to read maps, to see with our own eyes that there is not a single state that has Muslims in it without terror groups.

We will eradicate terrorism when Muslims have the courage to admit – now – that they are the most backward nation on earth, the most parasitical on earth, and that the whole advanced world bears no relationship whatsoever to Islam.

We will eradicate terrorism when we admit that in the advanced West there are Europeans and Americans without Islam, and that in the backward East there are Muslims and Islam.

We will eradicate terrorism when Muslims admit that those who worship a cow humanely are closer to God than those who worship him savagely.

We will eradicate terrorism when we admit that the age of black and white is gone for ever, when we realise that the world is made of colours and, therefore, when we admit that the one Islam does not exist, but there is the Islam of the Shia, and that of the Sunnah, the Islam of the Mu’tazalita and the Khawarij, the Islam of the philosophers and the Islam of the terrorists…

No sign of coherent Western strategy for defeating perverted and barbaric Islamic fundamentalism

By Alan Hart

In Western political and mainstream media circles the great debate about what must be done if perverted and barbaric Islamic fundamentalism (PBIF) is to be contained and defeated is heating up. But nobody participating in this debate (be it President Barack Obama or Tony Blair or whoever) wants to come to grips with the real issue. In my view the question that takes us to the heart of it is the following.

What could and should be done to address the prime causes of Arab and other Muslim hurt, humiliation, anger and despair which open hearts and minds to PBIF’s propaganda?

Generally speaking these feelings do not of themselves turn Arabs and other Muslims into killers/terrorists or even supporters of those who do the killing and/or order it. The transformation happens because these feelings are exploited and manipulated by deluded/mad preachers and other self-styled leaders who misinterpret and pervert Islam for their own purposes.

As the BBC’s Mark Mardell put it, “The continued rise of violent, anti-Western, Islamic fundamentalism is one of the defining challenges of our time.” He added: “There is no lack of emotive words and stirring phrases from politicians around the world but it is questionable if they have a coherent strategy to counter it.”

I think the truth can be stated more explicitly than that. Western leaders and their governments do not have a coherent strategy to counter PBIF in all of its manifestations because they are focused on dealing only with consequences not causes.

As I have previously written there are two main causes of Arab and other Muslim hurt. humiliation, anger and despair.

One is American-led Western foreign policy for the Arab and wider Muslim world, including its double standard as demonstrated by refusal to call and hold Israel to account for its defiance of international law and rejection of the Palestinian claim for justice.

Western leaders and their governments do not have a coherent strategy to counter perverted and barbaric Islamic fundamentalism in all of its manifestations because they are focused on dealing only with consequences not causes.

The other is the corruption, authoritarianism and repression of most if not all Arab and other Muslim regimes. (In most cases they are regimes supported/endorsed by American-led Western foreign policy).

Addressing these two main causes is something that can’t be done with bombs and bullets. They only make matters worse.

And though it is necessary, ramping up security and surveillance on our home fronts throughout the Western world may also be counter-productive to some extent if it leads to Muslims feeling that they are being unfairly targeted.

In my analysis American-led Western foreign policy makers could make a good start on addressing the prime causes of Arab and other Muslim hurt, humiliation, anger and despair if they ended their double standard with regard to Israel by putting the Zionist (not Jewish) state on notice that it will be isolated and have sanctions imposed on it if it continues to demonstrate nothing but contempt for international law and its lack of interest in justice for the Palestinians.

That really would give Western foreign policy a degree of credibility and respect and by doing so assist the process of taking some of the wind out of PBIF’s sails.

But in my view the single most important thing American-led Western foreign policy makers could and should do is to use their influence, with carrots and sticks as necessary, to persuade Arab leaders that it really is time for authoritarianism to give way to democracy. If Arab leaders agreed (no matter how reluctantly) this would rob PBIF of its most persuasive argument: that the Arab and other Muslim masses have nothing to gain from politics and non-violent demands for change.

There was recently a good indication that President Obama understands this. In an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times he went quite a long way to acknowledging that the corruption, authoritarianism and repression of Arab and other Muslim regimes is one of the main causes of the rise and growth of PBIF. He wrote:

Groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today’s youth something better.

Governments that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change. Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies. Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development so people have hope for a life of dignity.

Fine words but there is no sign of a policy to give them substance.


*Magdi Abdelhadi is a political commentator who blogs at maegdi ~ ex-c.a.v.a.t.i.o.n.s. A version of this article first appeared on his blog.

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