Fri, Oct 03, 2014 - Page 9 News List

The intellectual battle against ISIS requires attacking its roots

By Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

The global financial crisis taught the world how profoundly interdependent its economies have become. In today’s crisis of extremism, the world must recognize that it is just as interdependent for its security, as is clear in the current struggle to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

If the world is to prevent ISIS from teaching it this lesson the hard way, it must acknowledge that it cannot extinguish the fires of fanaticism by force alone. The world must unite behind a holistic drive to discredit the ideology that gives extremists their power, and to restore hope and dignity to those whom they would recruit.

ISIS certainly can — and will — be defeated militarily by the international coalition that is now assembling and which the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is actively supporting. However, military containment is only a partial solution.

Lasting peace requires three other ingredients: winning the battle of ideas; upgrading weak governance; and supporting grassroots human development.

Such a solution must begin with concerted international political will. Not a single politician in North America, Europe, Africa or Asia can afford to ignore events in the Middle East. A globalized threat requires a globalized response. Everyone will feel the heat, because such flames know no borders; indeed, the militant group has recruited members of at least 80 nationalities.

ISIS is a barbaric and brutal organization. It represents neither Islam nor humanity’s most basic values. Nonetheless, it has emerged, spread and resisted those who oppose it. What the coalition is fighting is not just a terrorist organization, but the embodiment of a malicious ideology that must be defeated intellectually.

I consider this ideology to be the greatest danger that the world will face in the next decade. Its seeds are growing in Europe, the US, Asia and elsewhere. With its twisted religious overtones, this prepackaged franchise of hate is available for any terrorist group to adopt. It carries the power to mobilize thousands of desperate, vindictive, or angry young people and use them to strike at the foundations of civilization.

The ideology fueling the ISIS has much in common with that of al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

What worries me most is that a decade ago, such an ideology was all that al-Qaeda needed to destabilize the world, even from a primitive base in the caves of Afghanistan.

Today, under ISIS, adherents have access to technology, finance, a huge land base and an international jihadist network. Far from being defeated, their ideology of rage and hate has become stricter, more pernicious and more widespread.

The destruction of terrorist groups is not enough to bring lasting peace. We must also strike at the root to deprive their dangerous ideology of the power to rise again among people left vulnerable by an environment of hopelessness and desperation. On this note, let us be positive.

The solution has three components. The first is to counter malignant ideas with enlightened thinking, open minds and an attitude of tolerance and acceptance. This approach arises from the religion of Islam, which calls for peace, honors life, values dignity, promotes human development and directs us to do good to others.

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