Double Standards Fueling Extremism

Finance Desk
Double Standards Fueling Extremism
Double Standards Fueling Extremism

Recent terror attacks on the French weekly satirical Charlie Hebdo reignited debates on the status of emerging terror networks around the world and also on new ways of recruitment by extremists. Al Qaeda in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks and said the assault has been years in the making.    

In the aftermath of the deadly assault however, the French Prime Minister Manual Valls declared that France was ‘’at war’’ with radical Islam and jihadism. His words were reminiscent of President Bush’s remarks after 9/11 who declared war on terror saying it would not be over until ‘’every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.’’

Now after more than 13 years of war with thousands of civilian deaths, tens of thousands wounded and several trillion dollars spent, not only were the terror groups not defeated but in many aspects they have expanded and gained momentum: The terrorists of the so-called Islamic State are ravaging Iraq and Syria with President Obama’s airstrike campaign against them largely ineffective, Boko Haram is widening its bloody swath through Nigeria, al Qaeda and its affiliates are killing with impunity in Somalia, Yemen and beyond, and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.

The French authorities and other western political elite should learn the lesson of the past 13 years that being ‘’on the offense’’ and taking the war to Muslim countries will not actually solve the problem, and rather will exacerbate it. The West in its passionate fight against communism in decades past rushed to help many groups that later turned into a Frankenstein biting the hand that fed them. They should not repeat the same mistakes in their ‘’war on terror’’ by thinking that military action alone can wipe out extremism.

By looking for roots of terror, the west should realize that it is no longer just the Muslim youths from the Middle East joining the extremists; some European countries are now turning into fertile recruitment grounds. It should be asked what can be done to counter a seductive message that has reached deep into Europe and the US and inspired jihadists by the thousands to travel wherever for terrorist training that can be exported back into western societies as well?  

The fact is many disaffected Muslim youths in Europe are feeling marginalized and even the target of racism and discrimination. In the minute of national silence observed for the victims of Charlie Hebdo attacks some Muslim students refused to join in. The newspaper Le Figaro quoted one teacher in a dense Muslim neighborhood in the eastern city of Strasbourg as saying that 80 percent of her students did not participate. While condemning the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, the students believed the act of drawing cartoons of their Prophet which insulted their religious sensitivities was also wrong

France has close to 6 million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. Muslim leaders have condemned the attacks, and many ordinary Muslims are worried about being stigmatized. Since the killings at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery store there have been incidents of vandalism at dozens of Muslim sites across the country.

The spirit that brought millions together in France from all religious and political creeds can open the way for a more serious dialogue and understanding between the western institutions and Muslin groups inside and outside their countries. Double standards that treat anti-Semitism as a serious crime but tolerate Islamophobia as freedom of speech are big obstacles in the way of reconciliation and harmony between Muslims living in societies like France and the dominant culture.  

Finally, moderate regional powers including Iran should be part of any campaign to defeat terrorists. With recent thawing of relations and the possibility of a nuclear settlement at hand, this constructive cooperation seems all the more attainable.