Terrorism is a harmful phenomenon. It has been spreading, and its presence has worsened because many of the solutions addressing it across the world lack the right vision. They fail to go beyond dealing with the moment of the terrorist act and therefore do not tackle terrorism’s ideological and organizational roots and origins.
The roots of ideological terrorism lie in the religious extremist rhetoric and hate, incitement and justification speeches delivered after each terrorist act. Some hide these justifications under the pretext of interpretation. Therefore, one must strike all sources of religious extremism with an iron fist. Everyone must perform their roles in this comprehensive war against concepts that support extremism and ideas and symbols related to it.
The organizational roots of terrorism which are manifested in the form of groups, organizations and networks are also as important in this war as it is these organizations which enable extremism and plant it, spread it and market it. These groups also guarantee the permanent revival of terrorism thanks to their multipurpose organizational capabilities.
Islam as a heavenly religion has not been harmed by anyone as much as it’s been harmed by extremist speeches and groups which claim to talk on its behalf. Terrorism certainly has no religion but at this moment in history, it’s almost limited to Islam due to the rise of terrorist groups and organizations and their rising brutality.
In the royal letter to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, Saudi King Salman wrote: “We are very delighted by our sons, the loyal security forces’ heroic acts and sacrifices to serve their religion, country, nation and sanctities.” This is royal praise of the long successful journey in fighting terrorism inside and outside the kingdom. It also commends the magnificent model of fighting terrorism, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and the heroes from among security forces and soldiers - with all their ranks - who participated in the success of this model.
The roots of ideological terrorism lie in the religious extremist rhetoric and hate, incitement and justification speeches delivered after each terrorist act. Some hide these justifications under the pretext of interpretationAbdullah bin Bijad al-Otaibi
Sinful, misguided aggressive men
Security forces are confronting “a category of sinful, misguided and aggressive men who violated the commands of God and the Sunna of his prophet (prayer and peace be upon him) and followed the paths of the devil who lured them and embellished their bad acts for them and they thus deemed it permissible to shed blood which God prohibited.
They did not even spare God’s houses and their harm and criminality targeted those near and afar. Fathers, brothers, friends and relatives were not spared from their acts. God has exposed their shame. Their acts have been thwarted thanks to God and the efforts of the heroes, the security forces,” the king added in the letter.
Confronting terrorism through security forces is effective, and before that, confronting it via legislations, laws and rules proved to be more comprehensive as it provides lasting results. This is why the Muslim Brotherhood was categorized as a terrorist group in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. American President Donald Trump’s administration is currently debating the importance of listing the group as a terrorist organization.
In last Friday’s edition, Ash-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that a “group led by Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, desires to include the group in the terror lists of the American State Department and Treasury.” This orientation - if approved - will have significant effects in targeting the organizational roots of modern terrorism and extremism.
The Muslim Brotherhood has received great support during Barack Obama’s eight years in power. His administration had spoiled the group and submitted to it during the phase known as the Arab Spring. Saudi Arabia and the UAE acted against the desire of the Obama administration and took a historical stance in supporting the Egyptian people and army get rid of the Brotherhood’s rule. However, the US is now going back to acting according to its strategic interests away from that arrogance of the wrong vision of the previous administration.
Any serious confrontation to eliminate terrorism must be preceded and accompanied with the establishment of a coherent and comprehensive strategic vision to confront extremism. If the strategy and vision are not complete and strict, terrorism will continue to exist and terrorist groups will spread.
Even if half solutions yield results on the short run, they worsen the problem on the long run. The time of confrontation came a long time ago, and what’s left to be done is to create an effective international integrated framework to dry out the sources of terrorism, cut its funding and attack its roots.
If America follows suit and categorizes the Brotherhood as a terrorist group - like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt did - many countries will also do the same and some of these countries which have become the Brotherhood’s new strongholds will have to reconsider their calculations especially that few of these countries have altered their policies regarding some major issues in the region, therefore they must be capable of doing the same in terms of their stance from terrorist groups.
Is the Muslim Brotherhood the only source of extremist rhetoric? Is the Brotherhood alone responsible for this extremist rhetoric and the terrorist groups that have branched from it? The answer is certainly no. Some Salafist speeches, particularly those known as jihadist Salafism and some traditional extremist speeches which are cited to create hate speech that represents a source for modern terrorism are also responsible.
Political Islam groups which resemble the Muslim Brotherhood are all terrorist groups, like the Sururi, Qutb groups or parties like Hizb ut-tahrir. All terrorist groups are completely related to political Islam groups. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are the close sons of these groups. Abdullah Azzam was a venerable Brotherhood member and Osama bin Laden was an orderly Brotherhood member. There are dozens like them. The rhetoric of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly al-Nusra Front, belongs to the same structure.
Establishing tolerant religious speeches accompanied by efforts over a long time are a must and without them, there will be no significant difference in this war against extremist rhetoric. There will be no significant difference unless the concepts of tolerance and co-existence are more spread than the concepts of governance, ignorance, takfir and hatred. Without these concepts of tolerance and co-existence, the extremism machine will continue to produce terrorism in droves.
Finally, many European countries have been a haven for Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups for decades and they will have to reconsider their policies amid the new reality they’re living through. The major transformation in the American stance - if approved - will play a role in helping these countries figure out where they stand in this long battle against extremism and terrorism.
Abdullah bin Bijad al-Otaibi is a Saudi writer and researcher. He is a member of the board of advisors at Al-Mesbar Studies and Research Centre.