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Radicalism vs terrorism

Feb 19,2015 - Last updated at Feb 19,2015

US President Barack Obama rightly said that radicalism and terrorism are two different things. A fine line separates them, but it is a line that needs to be drawn.

Speaking at an international conference on extremism earlier this week in Washington, Obama refused to call terrorists like Daesh and Al Qaeda “Islamic radicals”. 

To call them “Islamic”, he correctly argues, gives them the religious legitimacy they desperately need.

This, in fact, is the position of many Muslims who see perverse individuals like Osama Bin Laden and Abu Baker Al Baghdadi not as extremist Muslims who misinterpret Islam, but as criminals and mercenaries who speak the language of Islam in order to give their devious schemes and evil cults some legitimacy.

Drawing this fine line is crucial in the fight against terrorist groups that are now plaguing both the Islamic and Western worlds.

To be sure, religious extremists and radicals may be drawn to these groups. As a matter of fact, many gullible or misguided religious individuals, from both the Islamic and the Western worlds, have joined and are joining these groups in large numbers.

They foolishly mistake these criminal groups as defenders and representatives of Islamic causes. 

The Internet and the media are full of sad stories of thousands of innocent young men and women from both East and West who flock to these groups thinking they are joining them in order to defend their “brothers and sisters” in Syria and Iraq, and now Libya, who are being crushed by “infidels” and dictatorial regimes.

Many of these young men and women are not criminals but victims.

And this is precisely why the line needs to be drawn.

Calling them what they are, terrorists, will reveal the nature of these groups and thus substantially curtail the recruitment channels they rely on. 

Devilish and criminal though these groups are, they rely on innocent recruits — in addition, of course, to those who join them for benefit or gain.

Now that many countries in our region, including our own, have developed or are developing strategies to fight extremism, it is crucial to draw the line between terrorists and extremists.

Terrorists are our enemies and the enemies of humanity, and they need to be unwaveringly fought and eliminated.

By contrast, religious zealots are not. These need to be dealt with through an entirely different approach, especially since many of them are innocently or foolishly drawn into such positions.

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