In his latest article in Le Figaro newspaper on 26th July, Jail Kebele, a French researcher specialised in Islamic movements, argued against the idea that there is a growth of fundamentalist terrorism in the Islamic world. Contradicting the views relayed in a large proportion of the western media since the attacks in London and Sharm El Sheikh, he argued that it is important to recognize that these attacks are an indicator of the isolative nature of terrorist groups that aim to substitute public support with cyber space tools that allow them the opportunity to recruit more volunteering fighters. The internet has permitted free communication with recruited fighters; orders to execute terrorist attacks have been facilitated through this modern technological tool.
Kebel’s analysis is clearly accurate; since he totally refutes the prevalent attitude which supports the claims that terrorist groups find great financial and public support in the Arab and Islamic world. He contests suggestions that this alleged support and the spreading of religious slogans and the exploitation of the situations in Iraq and Palestine encourages the mobilization of people.
The truth is crystal clear for those who choose to see it; the public spectrum is able to separate legitimate resistance from the terrorist groups that are void of any noble message. The reactions of people within the targeted countries and of Muslim communities in the west have clarified feelings about these terrorist groups.
Nevertheless, the methodology presented by these terrorists is problematic; the counteraction of such movements, can lead to the enrichment of the ground these groups use to incubate their ideologies.
Both the Arab and western press are regularly dragged into the trap of delivering the fearful messages of terrorist groups. The regular scenes of attacks, with the devastating loss of life and dramatic damages, fulfill the extremist’s aims. It is through this form of forced propaganda that the public are terrified and the weaker segments of terrorist movements are encouraged. Clearly the coverage and analysis of these disturbing events is necessary, however as every television station covers the news, the two main objectives of these terrorist groups are being met. On the one hand they are succeeding at alienating Muslims from other communities within western communities, and on the other, they are managing to take advantage of the frailness and fears in the democratic western countries, which may increase public pressure upon governments. It is this kind of pressure that can tumble existing systems, as in Spain in 2004.
In addition many western writers, and increasingly more Arab writers, are falling into the trap of misinterpreting the relationship between these terrorist movements and the religious and cultural backgrounds in the Arab and Islamic world. Unjustified links are being made between hostility and Islam, which are in effect strengthening terrorist movements from two perspectives; in the first instance, this unfounded link provides religious legitimacy to a marginalized section of the Islamic world. In addition, suggesting that Islam is somehow hostile, promotes further cultural estrangement between Islam and the west, which goes on to provide justifications for targeting Islam.
Calls for religious reform have been introduced over recent years for a number of legitimate reasons. However it is important that the notion of reform is not used in order to demolish religious fundamentalists. Any suggestion of reform must focus upon locating new trends of interpreting religious texts, similar to those attempts made in the west.
A further trap laid by the terrorist groups involved in recent attacks, involves the reaction of security forces; it appears that attempts to increase security as a reaction to recent events has lead to the undermining of democracy. Western countries have served the aims of the terrorist groups through spreading skepticism in relation to the credibility and efficiency of democracy as a political system. Democracy is falling victim to terrorism as freedoms are restrained, and accusations of illegitimate violence are made.
Clearly the violations and infringements committed by Americans both in Guantanamo prison and prisons in Iraq, have cast a shadow upon the American war on terror. Ethical questions have been raised in relation to this war on terror and the emergence of a new legal trend that aims to justify violations, by declaring "Fair War”. In his new book titled “On War and Terrorism”, American philosopher Michael Walzer, defends the possibility of violating the concept of, "non molestation with non fighting civilians". He argues that there are certain superior urgent matters that allow for the infringement of such concepts, therefore permitting political leaders to breach the ethics and laws of war. The hazard of this approach is that it loosens the concept of terrorism and diminishes the ethical gap between terrorism and legitimate war and transforms confrontations into ethical debates between conflicting parties. Unfortunately this can lead to the justification of terrorist crimes, since there is an absence of formal procedural forms of war.
After the first London attacks, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair”s speech was a strong and courageous one. He refused to link terrorism to Islam and Muslims; he also refused all the calls that aimed at restraint of freedoms. He considered that the most efficient means to eliminate terrorism and extremism is resorting to the fundamental aspects of democracy. Nevertheless the latest London attacks have created an atmosphere of panic and terror and I fear that this will lead Britain into the terrorist trap that America ended up in after September 11th.