Until terrorism is eradicated completely


Although it was created two years ago, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition held its inaugural session just last week. Nevertheless, the gathering in Riyadh came at a critical juncture in the fight against terrorism. Days earlier Egypt suffered its worst-ever terrorist attack with the shocking assault on a mosque in North Sinai that killed more than 300 people, including 27 children, during Friday prayers.

This alliance of 41 nations spanning from West Africa to East Asia has come at a crucial time, not only because of the grotesque Sinai attack. The countries involved in the coalition are among the worst affected by terror attacks and extremist insurgencies. Seven of the 10 countries suffering from the most terrorist deaths each year are its members. Well before the mosque attack, Egypt reported a nine-fold increase in terrorist attacks in the country last year. Seventy percent of terrorist attacks have happened in the Islamic world, making the coalition an important source of countering the attacks within their own countries.

Both Syria and Iraq, the two countries who experienced the heaviest insurgency by Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS), are also where Daesh has been smashed and evicted. Daesh has lost much of its hold on territory in the two countries, but its power does not come solely from its ability to conquer and control territory. Its envisioned polity is based on its efforts to penetrate the minds of disillusioned and disenfranchised youth who seek to belong to a community with inspiring, unflagging devotion to what they believe is a just cause. Despite its military losses, the feelings of exclusion and other grievances that drive misguided recruits into the arms of Daesh and its affiliates will continue. It retains a global network of affiliates that will help sustain the movement.

The coalition’s new website says that among its main purpose is to counter radical Islamic ideology. A new religious discourse is needed to restore Islam’s original meaning. Either because of woeful ignorance or a willful misreading of Islam, extremists with agendas of their own utilize the religion in order to justify their own warped behavior, much of which flies in the face of the essence of the faith, to realize their own ends, however insidious these may be.

What we have today is a far cry from the Islam of the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). There is hair-splitting by those who claim to be the guardians of Islam. They pick and choose which verses to apply to this or that situation, claiming that this is Allah’s judgment as revealed in the Holy Book. Anyone who turns religion into a project to attain power, or who claims that they need power in order to protect and disseminate the faith, is actually wielding a sword against the religion itself.

In his address at the IMCTC, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, stressed the importance of coordination among Muslim and Islamic countries in fighting terrorism, admitting that coordination had been lacking, allowing terrorism to flourish. But with this alliance, in the Crown Prince’s words, those days are over: “Today, we will chase it until terrorism has disappeared from the face of the earth... until it is eradicated completely.” On the day of the mosque attack, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi had some fighting words of his own, threatening to crush the militants with “brute force”.

That the Kingdom and Egypt have set their sights firmly on terrorism is bad news for all terrorists and all forms of terrorism. Now that these two countries are part of a coalition whose task is to fight terrorism and extremism wherever they exist, the worn-out slogans endlessly rehashed about the war on terror are also coming to an end.