The Invisible Battle Against Extremism in the Middle East

The very first hour of 2017 witnessed the tragic terrorist attack against innocent civilians from multiple nationalities across the world in Istanbul’s famous nightclub and restaurant, Reina. Not surprisingly, most of the victims were of Arab’s descent, from Palestine, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia, Kuwait and Iraq. In fact, Muslims have suffered between 82-97% of terrorism-related attacks in the past five years. ISIS, Al-Qaeda and all other religious-related butchering activities throughout the world, including that of Turkey, have targeted more Muslims in the Muslim majority countries than any other Western countries.

Muslims are the primary victims and targets for these terrorist attacks. The psychology of religious-based terrorism and “Takfirism,” apostasy, upsurge from the believe that those who do not pursue the same route are non-believers and must be terminated. This philosophy also includes individuals with the slightest deviations from the very unheeded concerns related to Islam. One good demonstration of this is the interview with the Saudi terrorist in 2013, Khalid Al-Mawlid, who vividly indulged in explaining the very minute issues used to impeach millions of Muslims. He, for example, used the issue of Prophet Mohamed’s tomb to approve the extermination of millions of Muslims, among with the presenter who was interviewing him. His views, according to his understanding of Islam, are that Prophet Mohamed’s tomb must be demolished, and whoever agrees to keep it in its current state is apostate and must be advised to return to Islam or more preferably killed. This irrelevant issue formed the main impetus of motivation for this terrorist to embark in fights in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

In every terrorist attack taking place in Europe, the evolving social media’s controversies divided people into two camps; the first are those who justify such attacks, and defend them, using all forms of available religious and hidebound tools; while the second camp denounce such attacks and tries to relentlessly explain the misuse and manipulation of religion. On social media, this is clearly protracted in an invisible battle taking place among Muslims as well as Arab activists and intellectuals who condemn terrorism and all forms of religious extremism against a minority of non-representative Muslim groups who poorly articulate and misuse Islam and its narratives to justify such terrorist acts.

This battle is ferocious, especially for those who work and live in Western countries and other economically developed Arab societies such as the UAE. The ability to combat terrorism with intellectualism or to influence ideologies that pave the path for extremism is an extremely laborious and challenging task, with unprecedented experience. Currently and unfortunately, many Muslims, Arab intellectuals and activists are fully embedded in this battle and will continue to be (either individually or through civil-society organizations) for an unknown amount of time. The horizons are very vague, shady and ambiguous.

Ironically, which further complicates this battle is that the fact that many of the extremist groups actually have emerged and reside in the West. The events of the Istanbul’s nightclub terrorist attack clearly illustrate this. Instead of condemning the attacks, the social media witnessed allegations of many of these extremist groups who succeeded to transform the discussion from being one against the horror of the massacre to whether it was ethically acceptable for the victims to be in that “place”, as it is a nightclub. These deep factions observed among the different social media users reflect the severity of the social and intellectual crack that the Arab region is suffering from. It is scary how much the events of this latest terrorist attack uncovered the need for a deeper understanding of extremism and extremist groups, in order to better and effectively counteracts them.

In my opinion, which you may consider a radical and extremist as well, I urge Western and some Arab countries (for instance UAE and other Gulf countries) to exercise harsh and stringent measures against religious extremists who believe in and encourage the normality of slaughtering others based on their lifestyles and ideologies. To live in an economically and socially developed country, and applaud the killing of innocent people because they were (according to them) in a night club (aka to them a brothel!!!!!!) is at the least not permissible. Individuals bearing such perceptions should be expelled to their home countries. Main reason be it that their Views, Perceptions and Beliefs contribute to the real sprout of ISIS and alike.

NOT to condone these individuals with such perceptions and ideas means you are sitting on a hushed bomb. These individuals do not deserve to enjoy the economic prosperity, social equity and justice in your countries. These commodities should be treated as luxury that they should not be able to afford, given the fact that they believe in and normalize the murdering of innocent lives, and encourage extremism and terrorism guided by their religious moralities. These individuals should be terminated back to their home countries to enjoy the real “treasures” of their “Haram-free” lands.

Although, Arabs, Muslim activists as well as intellectuals are using different forms of power, lobbies and rallies to counteract extremism, yet, this is not sufficient, if institutionalized efforts are not adequately enforced. A stronger political will coupled with educational programs, civil society programs, and mean-tested programs are very crucial and instrumental to be able to counteract the sweeping madness of misinterpreting Islam, which is intrinsically defined as the Religion of Peace.