How the battle against extremism can be won
Tariq A. Al-Maeena-The rise of Islamophobia in many countries has reached unprecedented levels. Unfortunately, most of it is based on false assumptions by individuals who prey on the fears of their countrymen to seek an advantage either in the polls or in office. Donald Trump is an excellent example.
He lies about personally witnessing Muslims celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers as he drove around in New Jersey, a falsehood totally debunked by the then attorney general of the state who flatly dismissed such claims.
He now proposes that Muslims be barred from entering the United States. Trump is not alone in spreading such lies and preying on the fears of those who are not really aware of all the facts. The current crop of presidential hopefuls in the US are all lining up to take potshots at Islam and Muslims. They are from the same genre as their forefathers who burned and lynched Afro-Americans and others of color before the US Constitution stepped in and protected them.
But how has Islamic extremism been spawned in recent times? A writer who goes by the name Tyler Durden makes it simple and easy to understand the birth of militant groups who go about spreading their brand of terrorism in the name of Islam. He writes that “in order to understand the rise of militant Salafi groups like Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and Al-Qaeda; in order to wrap our minds around their heinous, abominable attacks on civilians in the US, France, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan and many, many more countries, we must rekindle this historical memory.
Where did militant Salafi groups like Daesh and Al-Qaeda come from? The answer is not as complicated as many make it out to be — but, to understand, we must delve into the history of the Cold War, the historical period lied about in the West perhaps more than any other.”
Durden contends that the opposition to the Russian forces who invaded Afghanistan was heavily financed and armed under the direction of the then US president Ronald Reagan who feared Soviet expansion and was very suspicious of their ideology. Under Osama Bin Laden, the Mujahideen, an international coalition of Islamic militia was organized and provided field training by the CIA and US military advisers and then sent out to help free Afghanistan from the Communists. They eventually morphed into both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The UK daily, the Independent, portentously wrote many years ago: “When the history of the Afghan resistance movement is written, Mr Bin Laden’s own contribution to the Mujahideen – and the indirect result of his training and assistance – may turn out to be a turning point in the recent history of militant fundamentalism.”
Speaking to a gathering of students at the University of Colorado in Boulder in October 1998, just seven months before his death, Eqbal Ahmad, a Pakistani political scientist, writer, journalist, and anti-war activist, was strongly critical of the Middle Eastern strategy of the United States, and believed that US generosity in training and arming independent militia would one day backfire.
He said: “In Islamic history, jihad as an international violent phenomenon had disappeared in the last 400 years, for all practical purposes. It was revived suddenly with American help in the 1980s. When the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan, Zia ul-Haq, the US-backed military dictator of Pakistan, which borders on Afghanistan, saw an opportunity and launched a jihad there against godless communism. The US saw a God-sent opportunity to mobilize one billion Muslims against what Reagan called the ‘Evil Empire.’ Money started pouring in. CIA agents starting going all over the Muslim world recruiting people to fight in the great jihad.”
Once the jihad against the Russians was won, Ahmad was concerned that the lust for war in many of the veterans of that conflict would not easily dissipate. Noam Chomsky, another modern-day Cassandra, is more outspoken. “Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.”
Bin Laden is gone but his twisted philosophy remains in the minds of those he left behind. With the fall of Iraq, more militant groups were liberated to form their own empires. They went about spreading their form of terror, always using Islam as a cover to justify their warped motives. They do not speak for all Muslims. It is now time for Muslims to demonstrate to a suspicious world that we are not terrorists. We must reach out to people of other faiths and establish that.
Pat Bergstresser, an American activist who has fought long and hard in the pursuit of justice for the dispossessed Palestinians said: “God created everything and for a good purpose. We must put our hearts, minds and spirits together to work on solutions based upon mutual respect and compassion rather than destruction of things that are different. If we destroy what God has created then are we disrespecting God?”
— The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeema