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East, West and terrorism

Feb 05,2015 - Last updated at Feb 05,2015

Until the emergence of the so-called Islamic State and other similar criminal Al Qaeda offshoots, “Islamist” terror had been seen by Western powers as essentially an external threat.

After IS’ advent, it has become a threat for them as well.

The September 11, 2001, events set the rhythm and the pattern: a group of non-Western Muslim radicals, born and bred in failed states in the Muslim world and angry at being used and then betrayed by Western powers, starts directing its wrath at the West and committing acts of terror against it out of revenge — in addition to those horrific acts they also commit in the Muslim world, of course.

That rhythm and pattern have now radically changed, in many ways reversed. As the terrorist acts against Charlie Hebdo and other recent European targets have revealed, the followers of IS and other Al Qaeda offshoots are now growing and acting from within the Western countries themselves.

This is a very significant development.

They target the West and they also target us, Muslims.

Thousands of Western-born and bred terrorists — the likes of the infamous Jihadi John of IS and the infamous White Widow of Al Shabab — are in fact coming from the West to commit chilling acts of terror in our part of the world.

For decades, the West saw itself as a victim of terrorism that originates in the Muslim world; now the Muslim world begins to see itself as a victim of terrorism that originates in the West, in addition to home-grown terrorism.

This is another interesting development.

The obvious point to stress here is that all are now both targets and source of terror. Therefore, all must now work together, in honesty and in earnest, to eradicate this malady.

Militarism alone cannot eradicate terrorism. As has become very clear, George W. Bush’s war on terror increased rather than decreased terrorism.

This does not mean that terrorism should not be fought militarily. It should. The current US-led coalition, which is fighting IS, could be the stepping stone for a more effective military war against all terror organisations in our part of the world.

These organisations need to be eliminated. Nothing short of that is acceptable.

To do so, of course, we need to get all in the region aboard. For, there are still some key countries in the region and farther that have not only not joined, but seem to be directly and indirectly contributing to IS’ survival and growth, as well as the survival and growth of other Al Qaeda offshoots elsewhere.

As long as there are countries that stay “neutral” or that, worse, tacitly abet and support IS and other offshoots, the war against terrorists can never be won. In addition to militarism, however, much should be done by way of eliminating the causes of terrorism.

One thing is to solve the Palestine question and put an end to Israel’s occupation and aggression, which have for decades directly contributed to the emergence, spread and prolongation of terrorism in the region and beyond.

The Israeli government should understand this fact and should do its best to defuse terror, but this will only happen by giving the Palestinians their rights and ending the Arab-Israeli conflict amicably, once and for all.

Another step is to address the theological and political factors, both in our region and in the West, that contribute to the emergence and rise of terrorism.

Some radical theologians are instigating and injecting life in terrorist groups through their misguided use and abuse of religion. But so do some politicians who, because of their misguided authoritarian policies, also instigate terrorism.

A third measure would be tackling the socio-economic causes.

While some people join terrorist groups because of religious or political reasons, many join as a result of socio-economic exclusion.

This last point was potently argued by Javier Solana in a recent article titled “Europe’s jihadi generation”.

Focusing specifically on the situation in Western societies that contributes to the rise of terror, he attributes the phenomenon specifically to socio-economic exclusion.

To fight terrorism, then, we all — Westerners and Easterners — have to be on the same page, and to work earnestly together to eliminate the causes and not just the symptoms of terrorism.

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