Our Agenda Against Terrorism: Reform First
Extremism and terrorism in our region did not come surreptitiously. It is an inevitable consequence of the Arab countries policies.
Western countries have dealt with the consequences and repercussion of terrorism without touching the causes and facing the people who support it.
We can’t fight terrorism and extremism in isolation from the causes and motivations or ignore the human rights violations in the context of this war. All wars waged by western countries and their Arab allies against terrorism have failed, the savagery of theses wars and the violations that accompanied them have contributed to the spread of terrorism and gave birth to more radical and extremist groups while strengthening existing once.
At the beginning, we must admit that extremism and terrorism in our region did not come surreptitiously. It is an inevitable consequence of the Arab countries policies. Most of these governments have pursued tyranny, oppression and injustice against their people who demanded freedom and social justice. Furthermore, there was no room for the marginalised to exercise their right of freedom of expression. It is striking that the youth were the most targeted group by Arab governments, it is almost impossible for them to express their grievances and legitimate demands without ending up in prisons or exile. Religious extremism and sectarian polarization in the region has reached worrying levels. This is due to some governments exploiting religion for political reasons and using it as toos of mobilization for the Cold War in the region, in addition to the regional conflicts and internal wars, that have been waged or supported by some of these governments directly or indirectly. These governments always attack the legacy of the Arab Spring, and turn people against each other, as a form of evasion from the legitimate popular demands for freedom, democracy, social justice and human dignity. Some governments have used extremism and terrorism as pretext and justification to stop people’s demands in political and human rights reform.
The main dilemma that faces the Western countries is the ties that some of their Arab and Muslim allies have with terrorist and religious extremist groups, working as incubators by providing funding and support for them. The western countries preferred to stay silent and ignore those issues in order for them not to lose their economic interest and trade relations that they have with those rich and generous allies. For a long time, western countries have dealt with the consequences and repercussion of terrorism without touching the causes and facing the people that support it.
It does not seem logical to talk about anti-extremism and anti-terrorism on one hand while encouraging it on the other. Our schools, institutions and religious curricula in some Gulf countries are still teaching our children the culture of hatred and religious blasphemy. Our mosques, preachers and the state religious institutions publish, encourage and incite religious and sectarian hatred under the support of the governments. The same governments that target all the advocates of political, religious and social reform and imprison human rights defenders and prosecute clerics who call for a culture of tolerance and religious coexistence. The fate of such policy is failure without any doubt, as any strategy that aims to eliminate extremism and terrorism, without a real will of the governments and its leaders. If the policies failed to conclude having a transparent dialogue between governments and their peoples, nor does it seek to initiate the process of political reform aims to achieve justice for the marginalized nations and increase public freedoms, freedom of expression and respect for human rights, will be a loose strategy, not based on solid pillars and doomed to failure and may further inflame the internal tension.
It is essential today to disconnect the relations between the authoritarian governments and Islamic extremist movements and stop the use of religion and religious groups in the political disputes by these governments. We are in great need to encourage reformists and pro-democracy clergy and empower them, to spread the culture of tolerance and religious, sectarian and ethnic coexistence and promote modern religious readings that respects justice.