How to Combat ‘Violent Extremism’?

UN Secretary-General presented to member states an action plan, which he considered an urgent call to forge a new global partnership to confront what he described as ‘violent extremism’.

Ban Ki-moon said that Muslims make up the vast majority of the victims of this ‘violent extremism’, and that it is not limited to any one religion, nationality or ethnic group. However, upon reading the published details of the action plan, one finds that it cited no examples of such ‘violent extremism’ other than Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Da’esh (ISIS), which are organizations that emerged among Muslims and within Muslim territories, by exploiting their religion. Such exploitation led them to legalize the spillage of Muslim blood and looting of their property, as well as sexually violating Muslims in some cases.

The Secretary-General’s plan explained the roots and causes of extremism and provided states with practical proposals to confront it. The UN plan noted that there is reluctance among states to confront the ‘roots of extremism’; and that they mostly fail to adhere to human rights standards when facing extremism.

However, it seems that there is no such thing as ‘non-violent’ extremism. All extremism is either inherently violent, such as terrorism founded on religious claims or based on a religious interpretation (as in the case of Al Qaeda, ISIS and their branches) ; or it is an extremism that is intellectual, ideological or racist upon inception but eventually, and almost inevitably, leads to violence.

Of course, ‘violent extremism’ has numerous root causes, which were enumerated in Ban Ki-moon’s plan. Some of these root causes are due to governments and their behavior, while others are attributed to the personalities and ambitions of individuals involved in terrorism and the motivating influences to which they are exposed, which ultimately lead them to engage in blood-stained causes.

States may spawn terrorism and exacerbate the situation by adopting short-sighted policies (as described by Ban Ki-moon) by relying entirely on security measures in confrontation. The Secretary-General noted that a total disregard for human rights, to the extent of unrestricted heavy-handedness of authorities against its opponents, would inevitably transform groups of people towards adopting violence. According to the UN plan, sectarian discrimination, marginalization policies, oppression in prisons, failure of economic development, sealing off channels of partnership in decision-making and other factors create the perfect environment for the growth of violent extremism.

The action plan noted that adoption of sectarianism and incitement of hate speech contribute to the growth of ’violent extremism’ , and called for the promotion of a culture of tolerance and human rights in educational curricula, youth welfare, as well as positive contribution in the media and social networking sites to prevent the spread of violent extremism culture.

It is clear that the Secretary-General’s action plan or call to confront violent extremism is addressed to us, as Arabs and Muslims, more than other groups. Bloody violence is virtually spread over all countries. The culture of religious extremism, in particular, does not only provide justification for sectarianism and sectarian wars, and lead to destruction of the social fabric by turning citizens against each other, but also ultimately leads to the destruction of the very foundations of coexistence. Thus, social cohesion becomes difficult and countries come closer to civil wars. Under such conditions, violence becomes the only available means of survival.

Failed states also seek to implant violent rhetoric, which leads to bloody outbursts; affecting ‘the other’ at first, but then ends in self- destruction of humans and even inanimate objects. Some governments, as do political groups, use sectarianism believing that it adds to their strength. However, they ultimately discover that the ultra-sectarian rhetoric, which relies on verbal violence and death threats, would be heeded by the extremist groups, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, which exploit the effects of the sectarian discourse to create youth groups that are keen on blowing themselves up with explosive belts.

In order to secure themselves against ‘violent extremism’, countries must first adopt a policy based on the principle of ‘prevention-is-better-than-cure’. Prevention requires nurturing the community on the basis of open and tolerant discourse. However, such discourse cannot survive in an environment of political tyranny; in a lawless state; in a country afflicted with racial, religious, tribal, sectarian or regional discrimination, nor in any country that does not respect human rights. Ban Ki-moon’s call and UN action plans do not work except in a country that is under good governance or actively working towards it.

Prevention requires strengthening of the legislative structure, by enacting stringent laws to combat extremism, sectarianism and hatred, because the mere existence of these diseases in itself constitutes a violation of human rights, as it conflicts with the principles and requirements of equality and true citizenship. But more so because these diseases are capable of leaking into the official media, where they may be used for narrow political purposes. This in turn paves the way for ‘violent extremism’ as adopted by al Qaeda, ISIS and their branches. A third factor is that the ‘laissez-faire’ attitude adopted by governments, deliberately or negligently, accelerates the spread of the plague of extremism, as well as the conversion of cultural and societal differences into an internal war between citizens, which would consequently lead to the destruction of the foundations of the state itself.

Hence, it is necessary to develop a law for combating racism, sectarianism and extremism, provided that it is applied rigorously. This in itself can put an end to the politicization of intellectual and religious differences by political players, and will eventually help in controlling the spread of the spirit of extremism, and in guiding the community towards the participation in decision-making through open political channels, rather than through the exploitation of partisanship and fanaticism that will ultimately play into the hands of extremists who can only drag the country into the road of slaughter, murder and blood