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Let us put forth a hypothetical question: How long would it take to cleanse this region of extremist ideas, violence, and terrorism, if the right policies were in place, alongside the will and financial means? The answer would be definitely not a year or two, but rather a decade or two, if not more. Just as this virus needed time to infiltrate the body of the region, and become a dangerous phenomenon, it will take time to eradicate it.

The issue here is not the handful of individuals, who conspire to place a bomb here or there, detonate a car bomb, or carry out a suicide attack. Regardless of the scale of destruction and harm that they cause, they are just a handful of sick minds that do not represent the mainstream trend. The issue here is the environment which produced this phenomenon, and created a school of thought that finds justification and theories to support such atrocities, when there is in fact no justification for these crimes, indiscriminate killings, and the targeting of particular sects or specific sectors of society.

During the past week there have been 3 terrorist incidents, one of which drew worldwide attention. Thanks to the warnings of Saudi Arabia, a global disaster was averted when a parcel bomb was sent from Yemen. Apparently, the bombs were designed to explode on board the aircraft carrying them. The sick minds behind this plot see nothing wrong in masterminding an intercontinental transfer of explosives, for their aim is to kill, and nothing else.

The second incident was far deadlier, but attracted less global attention. Many Iraqi hostages were held captive in a church in Baghdad, and the incident ended in a bloodbath, and the deaths of dozens of victims, after one of the insurgents detonated a bomb during the rescue operation. The third incident was the suicide attack in the heart of Istanbul, which may have been carried out for other motives [other than radical Islamism]. Nevertheless, the objective was the same in the end, and that was murder.

The Yemeni parcel bombs and church attack in Baghdad share a similar thread and ideological basis. They were performed by similar groups, feeding off each other, even providing each other with personnel. In Istanbul, the terrorists resorted to bloody methods of violence, like the previous two groups, although their targets were local.

In Yemen, a group has taken advantage of the [government’s] difficulty to control some areas, in order to establish itself a base for waging a global war, albeit with vague objectives. In Iraq, a religious sect was despicably targeted, and many reports indicate that large numbers of this group are now migrating abroad, in search of safety from this unhealthy sectarian atmosphere.

These ideologies, which manipulate and brainwash the youth of society, are the product of turbulent environments marked by frustration, instability, and economic and political challenges. Instead of encouraging young minds to work hard to find creative solutions to these challenges, and advance their societies, these ideologies provide recipes for violence and destruction. The only result of which is the demise of their own societies.

A terrorist group may achieve success here or there, as has happened on previous occasions, and create the media uproar it desires, through destruction and murder. However, in the end, the most affected, and the biggest loser, is the community where these groups operate. The lifeblood of the community is drained, and the atmosphere becomes tense. Let us observe and see if violence has succeeded in the development of society anywhere. Wherever extremists groups are present, there is a lack of stability. Furthermore, violence in these areas is escalating from one degree to the next, and the majority of victims are always the local residents. Somalia and Afghanistan are clear examples of this.

The question I would like to ask those who try to justify such terrorist acts, and those who offer conspiracy theories, or see these groups and ideologies as useful instruments for political maneuvers, is this: Do you want your societies to follow the same path as Somalia or Afghanistan? Do you want them to be consumed by armed conflicts, sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing, and reap nothing but ruin and destruction?

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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