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
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