Laws won’t stop radical ideologies, but education will
Today’s means of communication makes it possible for radical terror groups to educate their followers entirely over the internet, and they thus have access to every corner of the world in the ideological sense. In the face of this threat, there exists only one workable method: Carrying out an intellectual struggle, thereby putting the internet, televisions and radios to better use than the radicals.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, the parliaments of the European countries embarked on some intense work. The European countries passed their own individual anti-terror laws1 2 3 and swung into action to receive aid from NGOs. At this point, they need to pay attention to one important point; not to nurture the poisonous ideologies of radicals while combatting terror.
Radical terror long ago rose to a threat level that can change the world’s demography. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack proposals that may cause a radical change in the EU’s structure have been brought forward. The idea of removing the Schengen Zone4, a suggestion that may reduce Europeans’ living standards in the spheres of tourism, trade and diplomacy, has been brought to the agenda. The countries in favour of putting border controls in place again are the ones that have had their share from terror threat; namely, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and Holland. Yet the question remains: To what extent can these countries obtain results with these laws that will disrupt the peace of these countries’ citizens and cause further polarization in their societies?
Everyone must know that every step taken to make the lives of Muslim groups more difficult will simply butter the bread of radical groups; these groups are nourished by hatred and fury, and when it comes to dealing with these two feelings, laws alone remain insufficient.
You may thwart a terrorist’s attempt to plant a bomb in a shopping mall by taking strict security measures and making life difficult for every citizen in that city: However, no law can change the opinion of a bigot who harbours hatred for the women wearing revealing clothes in that shopping mall.
The objective of Western society must be to raise generations considering everyone’s life in that shopping mall as blessed and respectful to civil norms. Otherwise, counter-terrorism becomes a vortex both financially and in terms of time wasted, and this ultimately benefits terrorists.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve’s offer for border controls clearly reveals how the European countries fail to grasp the issue of radicalism. Cazeneuve proffered a law making it more difficult to enter the European countries5 rather than adding checkpoints on the borders within the EU. The French Minister seems unaware of the fact that radical threats see no borders. Likewise, he seems unaware of the extent to which radicalism challenges European social structures, and that a young person born into a European family can also be radicalized. Today’s means of communication makes it possible for radical terror groups to educate their followers entirely over the internet, and they thus have access to every corner of the world in the ideological sense.
The communist guerrilla movement that appeared in the 1950s in Cuba could recruit members by paying visits to the numerous and sundry mountain villages in Sierra Maestra; blockading these villages by the military could have slowed down the spread of the movement. Alternatively, preventing the circulation of Sun Tzu’s writings could have caused a setback in the ideological training of guerrilla fighters in Far East countries. Yet today, by means of the internet, the highest mountain village in the world or the remotest island state is only a click away. It has also become evident that filtering the internet does not stop access to information. Once a website is closed, another one appears right away on another address. Today people who are called “lone wolves” direct terrorist acts from their individual cells and they are dispersed homogeneously in almost every society.
In the face of this threat, there exists only one workable method: Carrying out an intellectual struggle, thereby putting the internet, televisions and radios to better use than the radicals. If radicals have a thousand websites used for ideological purposes, we need to have tens of thousands of them that will propagate love, brotherhood and unity.
What the European states must do is to strive so that a mindset that follows only the true teachings of Islam based solely on the Qur’an is developed in the Muslim world. Turkey, a country which managed to establish a stable democratic foundation and a secular constitutional framework despite being one of the most populous Muslim nations, can help the West. If we consider Turkey’s success in keeping its youth safe from recruitment to terror groups, in its integration to a Western lifestyle on a comparative study among the European countries, we can see the positive results of centuries-long Islamic tradition and experience in youth education. Even though the European countries only have a small minority of Muslims, their numbers of recruits to such groups far exceed the numbers from Turkey, with its 99% Muslim population. Turkey is certainly entitled to be Europe’s partner in this endeavour against terrorism. Turkey is a country that will carry the virtues it has preserved from the past forward into the future.
Military Operations Do Not Produce a Solution to Terrorism
American soldiers always win in American films. The most complex operations take place, victory is won and the hostages are freed. American superiority is always symbolized. But is that how it is in the real world?
If we look back at history we will see that the facts do not always match fiction. Operation Eagle Claw is one example of this. The operation staged by the U.S. military in April 1980 to free the 52 U.S. citizens being held hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Iran ended in a debacle due to a sudden sandstorm. An accident during refuelling en route to the USS Nimitz, the centre of the operation, led to the destruction of a C-130 Hercules plane and a U.S. helicopter. The U.S. Army lost eight soldiers, two military planes and one transporter, and had to withdraw from the region without carrying out the operation.
Another instance took place in Somalia. An operation in 1994 under the command of Gen. William F. Garrison ended in a fiasco and the deaths of 24 Pakistani and 19 U.S. troops in fighting in Mogadishu. The U.N. peacekeeping force and U.S. troops withdrew from the region on March 3rd, 1995, in the wake of increasing losses.
The U.S. military history is full of such failed rescue operations, even if they are not always as notorious as these two. One such incident took place in mid-December, 2014, in the village of Dafaar in the Yemeni province of Abva. A rescue operation by U.S. special forces ended in two hostages, the 33-year-old American photojournalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie, being shot to death by militants. A local al-Qaeda commander, various militants, a woman and a 10-year-old child also lost their lives.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed that this had happened during a hostage rescue operation. Somers and Korkie had been held hostage in Yemen for more than a year.
The U.S. had been conducting operations with drones in Yemen since 2002. Yet many of these operations ended in failure, with the deaths of many civilians. In 2014, 13 civilians died and 20 people were injured in an aerial attack on al-Qaeda targets in the Yemeni town of Rada.
So what should be done now as these countries are unable to stop the continuing terrorist activities in their lands and external military interventions are leading to the deaths of innocent people?
To reiterate, first and foremost, an intellectual struggle must be waged against terror organisations that use violence in the name of Islam. The distortions in the thinking of members of these organisations need to be explicitly stated. All leaders of opinion and politicians must emphatically state that in the Qur’an, it is explicitly stated that Muslims must invite people to the moral values of Islam simply with gentle words, not using force and compulsion. These people can be summoned to the true path only by telling them of the freedom of belief found in Islamic moral values.
All Muslims, Shiite or Sunni, must be told that violence is no way to seek their rights and that it is a flagrant violation of Islamic moral values. People need to be told that Islamic moral values cannot be espoused through acts of terror, that such acts will simply add to the numbers of the enemies of Islam and that they will invariably inflict even worse harm on Muslims.
Classes aimed at undermining the intellectual infrastructure of terror organisations need to be provided for students in schools; books and articles must be studied, and conferences and academic seminars must be held. That is the only way terrorism can be eradicated from the world. This method can dry up the swamp in which terror breeds.
Today there are radical organisations and their extensions operating in a wide range of territory from Central Asia to the Caucasus, from Africa to the Balkans, and from inside Europe to the U.S.
The only reason why radicalism is able to gather supporters from such different cultures and geographies is the education, instruction and propaganda techniques they implement on people who are mostly ignorant of religion and who approach matters emotionally, rather than with their intellect. The internet and social media are the global communication tools most commonly used by radical organisations for education and propaganda. Therefore, it is obvious that a different means against radicalism, other than the use of force and weapons, needs to be developed.
Yet the West’s most popular strategic institutions, think tanks and political advisors have failed to come up with any alternative to constantly producing new military strategies. To be more accurate, the idea that there might be an alternative to mass slaughter has never even occurred to them. They have always ignored the factors of belief and ideology in the emergence of sociological phenomena such as radicalism.
The only way of putting an end to the terror, violence and killings that stem from a distorted conception of Islam based on superstitious references, distorted interpretations and false hadiths and commandments that are totally at odds with the Qur’an is to inform the entire Islamic world of the true Islam based on the Qur’an, in the finest manner possible, and to correct those false beliefs and understandings in the light and under the guidance of the Qur’an.
All Muslims must totally reject an angry, unbending argumentative attitude which goes against the very nature of the Qur’an and in its place adopt a friendly, gentle, affectionate, calm and compassionate one. Muslims must set an example to the world and be admired for their maturity, compassion, moderation, modesty and peacefulness. Muslims must live Islam in the best possible way and introduce to the world the Islamic morality, not only in these things, but also by their achievements in the fields of science, culture, art, aesthetics and social order and others.