In response to the Saudi initiative in pursuit of the unification of efforts of Muslim countries in the face of terrorism, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition has been established. “Allied against Terrorism” was the slogan of the first meeting of the coalition hosted by Riyadh on November 26, 2017.
The keynote speech by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman was clear and comprehensive as he relied on facts, not slogans. He reaffirmed the strong message of the coalition of over 40 countries, of their cooperation against terrorism. He said: “Extremist terrorism distorts the image of our religion and faith,” adding that: “Distortion of the image of our religion and terrorizing civilians will not be allowed in Muslim countries after today”.
The final communiqué of the meeting reaffirmed ministers’ determination to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts through concerted collective action to put an end to those who fuel extremism and sectarianism. The ministers also approved clear and specific mechanisms to confront terrorism at the ideological, media, financial and military levels.
Firstly, ideology: “Disclosure of the ideas and methods of extremism and limiting its spread and impact on individuals and communities, while highlighting the values of moderate Islam and its ability to coexist with the other.”
There is an urgent need to address the misconception of establishing the Islamic caliphate in its utopian form and to strengthen national belonging and identity. The misconception of so-called end-time prophesies, which are used by terrorist organizations to legitimize their operations, also needs to be addressed. Hence, the ideological aspect is one of the fundamentals of our combat against terrorism.
Eighty percent of the information stock of ISIS comes from publicly available websites without any violation of network rules and protocolsDr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin
Propaganda through the media
Secondly, media: “Using media to confront terrorist propaganda, clarify the evil of its actions, expose the advertising methods of terrorists, disclose their beliefs, and to erode their perceptions.” Modern media is a key tool used by terrorist organizations, including ISIS, in advertising their ideology and recruiting youth.
Eighty percent of the information stock of ISIS comes from publicly available websites without any violation of network rules and protocols. Moreover, ISIS has over 90,000 pages on Facebook and Twitter in Arabic, and 40,000 pages in other languages. Therefore, media is one of the most powerful tools in advertising ideology and recruiting teenagers.
Thirdly, combating the financing of terrorism: “Work on curbing the sources of financing terrorism while increasing coordination and information exchange between the countries in this area besides developing systems and procedures for the prevention of terrorism from any financial sources.”
Terrorist organizations forefronted by ISIS have a strategy that prioritizes money over fighting. Therefore, after the chaos and instability in Syria, Iraq, Libya and other countries of the Arab Spring, terrorist organizations strived to seize control over oil or central banks. Such resources are essential to terrorist organizations for self-financing with a view to expanding their operations without reliance on any external financing.
Fourthly, military coordination against terrorists: “Significance of the military confrontation of terrorism in maintaining regional and international peace and security. Commitment to secure the required military capabilities and resources to weaken and eliminate terrorist organizations.”
The essence of military coordination lies in reducing the legitimacy and ideological attractiveness of terrorist organizations. A weak, fragile and failing state cannot be a convincing caliphate for the youth. Therefore, the cooperation of the different countries working within the above-described four fields will undoubtedly lead to a significant decline in the attractiveness of such organizations and their recruitment capabilities.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on January 11, 2018.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Ibrahim.email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin.