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Opinion: Fighting terrorism requires deeds not words | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism on February 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

In a recent speech, US President Barack Obama spoke about the need to confront extremism and terrorism, while defending Islam and calling for the need to correct misconceptions about it. For all its truth and nobility, what Obama said amounts to nothing more than a theoretical argument.

Obama’s defense of Islam and Muslims, and his argument that extremists do not represent a billion Muslims are worthy of praise. But this line of argument was only acceptable early in George W. Bush’s presidential term, particularly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, not now. The world has changed drastically since then, particularly our region which has shown that it has great influence on international security. This requires practical steps rather than lectures, theories, or the “strategic patience” Obama has proposed as his second presidential term draws to a close.

What is required today are deeds not words. The fight against terrorism cannot be achieved through a theoretical approach as is followed today, particularly since there are certain facts on the ground, blood being spilled and nations destroyed.

President Obama, for example, has spoken about the need to provide jobs to eliminate terrorism. This is true, but it is only one aspect of an issue that is far more complex. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), for example, is not looking for jobs; neither are Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah. Hassan Nasrallah is more concerned about shedding blood, destruction, and gaining control than about employment or education. The solution to Lebanon’s problem, for example, does not lie in providing jobs to the unemployed youth, but rather in filling the most important job vacancy of all, that of the president. In Syria, people are not after jobs but are seeking to stop Assad’s killing machine that has murdered and displaced millions of their people and continues, with the backing of Iran, to destroy Syria.

As long as we are talking about Iran, I must comment on an issue Obama touched upon. According to the US president, oppressing the opposition leads to extremism and terrorism. However, the oppression of the Green Revolution by the Iranian regime that continues to place its leaders under house arrest until this moment has not led to the emergence of extremism or terrorism in Iran. Nor have there been suicide operations or bombings there. This raises several serious questions: Why is the entire region, except Iran, being targeted by terrorism? Why are some of Al-Qaeda’s leaders in Iran in the first place? Moreover, the Obama administration is opening up to the Iranian regime despite all it has done and continues to do to Iranians and the whole region.

Therefore, the issue is not about having good intentions or making efforts to defend Islam, particularly since there are groups in the region exploiting the religion. The Obama administration has failed to realize this and instead has chosen to deal with Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, the root cause of national fragmentation, as rife examples testify to this fact from Sudan to Egypt. What we need now is to curb extremist propaganda on social media, not just counter it, and to stop the bloodletting, killing, and the destruction of nations in the region, rather than theoretically defending Islam. Islam already has those capable of defending it.