Our suffering will continue unless
Extremism is uprooted
Hamid Alkifaey

Extremists, with their religious ranting, are accustomed to confrontation with whomever they disagree with. The nature and degree of this disagreement are of secondary importance to them. The confrontation with their foes has not come out of nowhere. They firmly believe that they are able to defeat their enemies because they think they are on the right side while their enemies are on the wrong side. They also believe that they would win in either case. If they get killed, they will go to eternal heaven, and if they kill their enemies, they will send them to eternal torture in hell! This is their logic and rarely do they find it necessary to resort to diplomatic means to resolve matters with their foes, even if they feel the foe is stronger

The other issue that they all agree on is that they hate the moderates more than the extremists among their foes, even though the moderates are less threatening and less dangerous to them, but they have a craving for provoking their strongest and most extreme enemies for the sake of hastening the confrontation with them which they believe they would win, come what may. Their policy is based on the destruction of self and foe 

The Jordanian terrorist, Abu Musaab Az-Zarqawi, directed his fighters to kill civilian Sunnis “so that rivers of blood would flow to wake Sunnis up” according to letters found in one of their hideouts in Iraq. Zarqawi was an enemy of the Shia, yet he chose to kill Sunni civilians first in order to push them into fighting the Shia. The end result of this mad policy was that Zaqawi was killed and Al-Qaeda waned in Iraq and the world. The extremists targeted the most moderate and pacifist of the Shia leaders, Izzuddeen Saleem, the president of the Governing Council and the general secretary of the Islamic Call Movement. They assassinated him and his companions in a car bomb on 17th of May 2004

The leaders of Taliban in Afghanistan were more hostile to the moderate and weak members of ethnic and religious minorities. When Taliban fighters entered the city of Mazar Shareef in Afghanistan in 1998, they committed massacres against civilians among the Hazara, Uzbek and Tajik minorities. They singled out the weakest of these minorities, the Hazara, and this was documented by Human Rights Watch. Diplomatic missions were not spared in this killing frenzy. The staff of the Iranian consulate, together with accompanying journalists, were slaughtered

Prior to American military invasion of Afghanistan in March 2001, the leaders of Taliban defied the world and undertook their last achievements; the destruction of the Buda statues that had been standing in the Bamyan mountains for 2500 years. They ignored all international appeals to spare this world archaeological legacy, even those appeals coming from clerics who sympathised with them

ISIS targeted pacifist minorities in Iraq and Syria such as Christians and Yazidis and treated them in the harshest and most inhumane way, even though they didn’t pose any threat to them. They also treated Sunnis harshly, even though they claimed they came to protect them. They targeted international aid workers, journalists and women who were all armless and didn’t pose a threat to anyone

Extremist actions are always characterised by cruelty and targeting the weak among other religions and sects. Paradoxically, they justify their ugly barbaric actions religiously

 When Iranian students from ‘the Followers of the Imam’s Path’ seized the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, taking the staff as hostages, an act that contravened international diplomatic norms and practices and was not a reflection of bravery or sound political stance since diplomats are civilians and even the weakest state in the world can seize them and do what it likes with them, they negotiated with the moderate Carter Democratic administration for 444 days but didn’t hand over the hostages till the right-wing Republican president, Ronald Reagan, took over. The aim was to ‘humiliate’ the moderate Democrats and push them into extremism in order to portray all western people as extremist

   All religious extremist groups behave according to this logic. They targeted France which is ruled by the liberal socialists led by President François Hollande. They committed the most heinous and barbaric terrorist acts in France such as those that took place in Nice on Bastille Day. The terrorists have also targeted Germany, which is ruled by the liberal Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel, who is regarded as the leader of world liberalism. They sent a truck full of explosives to kill innocent people celebrating Christmas in a street in the centre of Berlin

  Extremists believe that when they attack moderates in the West, they would push western people into extremism, therefore, making the confrontation they seek with the West inevitable. They also want to prove to Muslims that Western people are all hostile to Muslims. The presence of moderates in the West annuals their theory that all westerners are hostile to Islam

  They celebrated when the UK decided to leave the European Union because this meant to them that ‘the forces of infidelity’ will be divided and weak! They celebrated when Donald Trump was elected because he was ‘hostile to Muslims’ and his hostility will push all the Muslims to unite against America!  

 They celebrated when Marine Le Pen won in the first round of the French elections for the same reason. But their ‘celebrations’ are temporary because reason will eventually prevail in the West. France, which was the first to revolt against backwardness and was the country that initiated liberalism, won’t go backward. It won’t change its policies because of a few terrorist acts, heinous and barbaric though they are, because those acts only befit obscurantist medieval-minded terrorists. In the end, the French electorate proved the terrorists and populists wrong and elected Emmanuel Macron as president

 The US, which was founded on the principles of diversity, democracy and human rights, will return to the leadership of the free world, despite the Trump setback. Britain’s departure from the EU does not mean departure from Europe and the principles of the free world which started in Britain at the declaration of Magna Carta in 1215. It’s an administrative and economic matter that will disappear with the disappearance of the reasons that caused it

 But the rise of populism and right-wing political groups in the West is certainly fueling extremism in the Muslim world and giving credence, in the minds of ordinary people, to the claims made by extremist groups that the West is generally hostile to Muslims and no degree of cooperation with it will make it change its attitude towards Islam and Muslims. Therefore, their current terrorism and confrontation with the west are justified. Westerners who are influenced by the acts of terrorists to go back on the principles of human rights and liberalism which they heralded for the last two hundred years, will be giving the extremist groups ‘magisterial’ service. They will be enabling them to commit more terrorist acts and enhancing their popularity in the third world since they provide them with the pretexts they are looking for in order to continue their barbaric march

 Western powers and agencies which used terrorist organizations for their own purposes are equally guilty of causing terrorism and violence to spread across the world. They must share the blame for the troubles people in many countries are facing now since terrorism has impeded freedom, tourism, business and ordinary human activities as well as made it very difficult for different cultures to interact and benefit from each other’s experiences. Travelling has become a huge burden on any individual due to lengthy and cumbersome security procedures and checks at airports and train stations   

 We must always remember that extremists suffer from psychological disorders and should be treated as such. They are crisis-ridden people who are unable to live in our world, that’s why they try to go back and live in an imagined previous world, and take all others with them. When they fail to reach this impossible world, as they are bound to, they resort to killing themselves as well as the others. They commit suicide because this is the solution for those who lose hope in life and the terrorists are bereft of hope and reason 

 Governments, institutions and cultural elites are invited to find pilot solutions to the phenomenon of extremism that has impeded life in many countries and it’s now leading us into the abyss.  This is an urgent matter. It cannot wait any longer. The ministries of culture, education, labour and religious affairs must start spreading awareness among the people about how to respect diversity in society. They must educate people to celebrate life and look forward to a better future instead of going back to the past through destroying the present and the future. The syllabi of religious schools must be revisited. Mosques and religious centres must be reminded that their primary duties are to promote tolerance and human values. Individuals who preach hatred, racism and extremism must be held to account. Unless we take extremism seriously and act urgently to tackle its causes, we will continue to suffer for years to come