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No enabling environment for radicalism

Aug 15,2018 - Last updated at Aug 15,2018

The recent fatal attacks by extremists in Fuheis and Salt have produced two worrisome facts. Fact number one is that all those who carried out the attack and who shot at members of the Jordanian security are local nationals.

The other fact, according to statements by Jordanian government and security officials, was that there is no evidence that the perpetuators of these heinous crimes have not been in Syria, nor that they have been part of any external radical group. 

While analysts believe that the violent attacks, confrontation with the security and blowing up a residential building have the fingerprints of Daesh, there is no direct link, as stated by security authorities. Some observers, however, doubt that using remote control to blow up the security patrol car in Fuheis and bringing down the building could not have been done without training and that it would have been difficult to train in Jordan.

The fact that the attack against the Jordanian security was done in a location outside the largely-Christian town of Fuheis and on the eve of a cultural festival is also a telling factor in the thinking of extremists.

Mohammad Abu Rumman, an expert on Islamic movements, has done research and writing on the issue and has noted a marked increase in radicalism among a segment of the Jordanian youth. Some of the Salafist leaders have stated that they are having a hard time controlling some of the young hot heads within their ideological circles.

All these factors combined point again to the danger of home grown militant and violent radicalism and, therefore, the need for a national strategy in Jordan to counter radicalism.

Previous governments, as well as His Majesty King Abdullah, have talked a lot about the need to counter what King Abdullah calls khawarij “religious heretics”, but little has done to reach, agree to and implement that resembles a national strategy.

A previous national strategy to counter extremism was leaked to Al Ghad daily. That plan showed a concerted attack at basic democratic values and principles in the pursuit of addressing this problem.

Since then, different groups and donor countries have spent time and funds to draw up such a national strategy. UNDP was assigned to do extensive studies and present recommendations to the government, but all that effort has never been converted into a national strategy.

Such a strategy should not be done in secret, it needs to be discussed and debated and gain the necessary buy-in before it is approved and implemented.

No doubt any strategy to countering the kind of violence we saw last week needs to address the grievances that push youth to extremism, tackle ideological proponents of extremism and at the same time provide the public, and especially youth, with ideas and role models that can present a viable alternative.

It is not clear why the national strategy has been stuck in some hidden drawers months after UNDP experts provided the government with the basic tenants that are needed to be included in such a national strategy. Any attempts by one individual or party to monopolise such a strategy is a formula for failure. 

This needs to be a truly national effort by all sectors of the state. Government, parliament, the security, the private sector, NGOs, religious leaders, media and social media influencers all must be included in the discussions about the best way to move forward. This process is long overdue and needs to be accelerated now that we have seen the tragic results of the inaction that has allowed such radical elements to thrive in such a short time. Any delay is a mistake. Discussions must begin immediately followed by consensus making, decisions, action plan and implementation within an agreed to timetable. Short of that, we might find ourselves, God forbid, again wondering why Jordan’s youth have been radicalised?

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