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Stop them before they wear suicide belts

Electronic recruiters will continue to find people ready to wear explosive belts as long as inciters and preachers of extremism and jihad are not stopped

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Since last November we have witnessed a series of crimes in Europe, with one perpetrator. That month, terrorists killed 130 people in the bloodiest attack in Paris since World War II. The city looked like a battlefield. Terrorists then attacked Brussels, killing more than 30 people and injuring 300.

The most heinous attack, which spread terror among millions of people, was carried out by an armed man who killed 84 people and injured hundreds with a truck in Nice. This month saw attacks in Germany - including the stabbing of a pregnant woman, and the killing of rail passengers - then the killing of a priest in a church in Normandy, France.

The countries attacked are our friends. France has politically supported the Syrian people against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad more than any other country, and has supported Arab countries against Iran. Germany has warmly welcomed a million refugees, mostly Muslims.

Excuses

Anger will not fade after the news bulletins. There will be further political crises, internally and externally. No one will give importance to weak justifications and excuses. Why should the West ignore the identity or religion of a perpetrator? We are facing a widespread terrorist war carried out by one group that claims to hold the banner of Islam. Instead of explaining an individual crime here and there, we must stand by these injured societies.

We face the same tragedy and suffering, from the same group, as France, Germany and Belgium. Together we must track down the main perpetrators, who are the preachers and defenders of extremism. We should get past denials and excuses. The world is tired of justifications from perpetrators and those covering up for them.

Electronic recruiters will continue to find people ready to wear explosive belts as long as inciters and preachers of extremism and jihad are not stopped

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

In the beginning they justified terrorism with poverty, only to be told that their late leader Osama bin Laden was a millionaire. They then claimed ignorance and lack of education, until they were told that there are teachers and engineers in the ranks of extremists, and that their leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is a doctor. They blamed political persecution, yet in their ranks there are leaders from the free world, such as the late Anwar al-Awlaki, who was American.

They tried to link terrorism to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, but no one believed them because Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Nusrah Front have not carried out a single attack in Israel. They linked terrorism to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but were told that Al-Qaeda started its actions seven years prior, and continued them after the American departure.

They are now justifying terrorism in Europe with racism and mistreatment, but millions of Muslims want to come to the continent to escape harsh conditions in their countries, since Muslim countries suffer the most from terrorism. Denial is no longer convincing, and cause and effect must be confronted.

Brainwashing

The killer of the priest in Normandy is 19 years old. Most of the terrorists are young, and were kids at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. They are not the generation of Bin Laden’s videos, but of Twitter and Facebook. The means differ but the cause is the same.

Both generations are the product of the same extremist thought, which qualifies them to work for Al-Qaeda in Yemen, ISIS in Iraq or Al-Nusrah Front in Syria at a later stage, or to become an intelligence officer for Iran. Those brainwashing children and youths should be held responsible first and foremost.

Some preachers of extremism probably do not understand what they have done to their countries, people or the world. They are planting exaggeration and extremism into young people’s minds. Typically, people who carry out operations join terrorist organizations only after becoming groomed intellectually. ISIS takes in individuals who have already been incited. Its leadership in Al-Raqqah is the last stop.

No one really knows who is sending electronic messages, whether from Al-Raqqah, Tehran or elsewhere. However, this does not matter. Electronic recruiters will continue to find people ready to wear explosive belts as long as inciters and preachers of extremism and jihad are not stopped.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 29, 2016.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.