Our War on Violence and Extremism

“The battle against ISIS is not America’s alone. It is ours par excellence. Those are individuals that targeted us as nations — that targeted
our people, history, culture and everything...”

Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister

Nothing occupies the minds in this region and the world nowadays more than the war on terrorism. War drums have rang to counter an expanding threat that spares no country. More serious than the military war itself is its impact and repercussions on the local conditions in each country, triggering many questions, such as: How could we create a clean environment where the viruses of violence and terrorism cannot grow? This leads us to the other arm of the counter-terrorism policy, the part relating to policy? thought and culture.

In essence, terrorism is an enemy of life, especially in the form manifested by ISIS where decapitations and women captivation left no room for preserving any of the human rights, chief among them are the ‘right to life’ and the right to be free, as the world has fought hard to put an end to slavery and combat it through regulations, laws and legislation. Do we really want to go back to the ages of captivation and ignorance?

As far as Bahrain is concerned, the Bahraini Foreign Minister pointed out that the number of Bahrainis enrolled in ISIS (ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front does not exceed a 100 people. Nonetheless, it is not a small figure for a country with a tiny population, especially one that has been renowned for its tolerance; acceptance of cultural, sectarian and religious pluralism; social openness, and a long history of civil peace.

Here we must recognize a number of objective fundamentals:

• Terrorism, especially of the Al Qaeda and ISIS brands, does not grow in a clean environment, but rather flourishes in turbulent atmospheres, suffering from political, social or security-related unrest or all of these combined. We believe that the security and political unrest in Bahrain has facilitated the growth of the extremist thought and ideology which is essentially imported from abroad. This led to a deep schism in the community which fed on political dissent, and was further inflamed by media outlets and social networking sites. For all of the above, all social groups in Bahrain, are required to be aware of the fact that the various conflicts which had happened in the past three years have provided a favourable climate for extremism in thought and practice, which, we pray to God , would not escalate into local violence. All the warring factions have rallied against each other, and spared none of its media, cultural or religious weaponry without using it in its political discourse. This resulted in ? tense and charged audience that is fraught with pain. On the other hand, the prolonged political crisis, and the lack of prospects for moderate solutions, has contributed to the creation of a corrupt climate where all the parasites of violence and terrorism were able to grow.

• We believe that the ideology of extremism and violence is imported and that it is alien to Bahrain. Although this ideology holds but a very tiny share of the ideology market, its shoppers do, in spite of their meagre numbers, constitute a major threat to security and stability. It is time to take severe and decisive measures against those advocates and promoters of hate speech and extremism in Bahrain. It is time for the discourse of our intellectuals, scholars and politicians to rise to the challenge if we want to cleanse our country from an epidemic of excommunication (Takfeer) and extremism that leads to violence and blood. It is also time to impose tight censorship over those imported extremist thoughts and combat them with moderation, tolerance and respect, and by highlighting the spotless image of the values ​​of Islam and humanity.

• As we have seen and still see nowadays in other countries, the extremist and violent ideology should not be a tool in the hands of an individual against the other, because it is, ultimately, an exclusionary ideology against everyone. It is an ideology that predates the statehood era. Its adherents are not against a particular group but are actually against all groups and sects, and against the very origin of the system of government. They are against the way of life of the ordinary citizen and against their culture and traditions. None, whether a country, political party or group, has ever used this thought and its adherents for their ends, without seeing it backfire at them with dire consequences. This fact should made everyone realise that they are within the circle of danger and targeting. The sense of collective danger should drive them to re-communicate after a long period of estrangement between social, political, religious or cultural groups. Whatever the political dispute, it remains a much lesser risk compared to the danger of excommunicating and violent extremism. The political dispute should not be allowed to turn into a sectarian dispute that feeds extremism and violence in Bahrain.

Finally, we must reckon with the fact that this violent ideology feeds on societal divisions, and the greater the rift, the easier is the generation of extremism. Politicians should avoid the intercalation of sectarian, ideological and cultural differences in political controversy.

In sum, what has happened in the region during the past few months is a lesson to all, including states and elites of various orientations. We in Bahrain need to cooperate in eliminating the environment that provides the lifeline for extremism and violence potentials. We have to arrive at rapid political understandings to deliver everyone from the crisis. This cannot be accomplished without true realization and remembrance of the imminent and impending danger to everyone on the one hand; and making concessions for the benefit of the security and stability of the country and the future of its generations.