The largest mine planted in the Arab culture is the mine of extremism which should have been removed from the beginning by solidifying the spirit of tolerance and societal co-existence and strengthening critical approaches within the education system. This mine remained latent and it finally exploded in 1967 following the defeat at the Six-Day War.
Historians believe that the date of defeat marks the beginning of reviving the spirit of extremism which was latent during the liberal phase in the first half of the past century. Extremism made its comeback with a new spirit that’s adopted few political theories and modern technologies which tools were more destructive. During that phase, terrorist organizations and political Islam and extremist groups prospered. When the nationalist project was defeated, these groups presented themselves as an appropriate alternative that provides a solution by going back to the past and going back to the Middle Ages and inquisition courts even if via suicide bombings and beheadings. The defeat was pictured as a godly punishment, and these groups presented themselves as the ones with the solutions to all problems of the world and the hereafter.
These terrorist organizations could not find a place in society as governments pursued them and imprisoned their commanders. They were thus fragmented so they had to gather in failed countries in areas where weak governments have no control, such as in Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan. Extremist groups failed at defeating countries; however, they ideologically succeeded in spreading their teachings and extremist ideas among millions. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood controls educational systems in several Arab countries that are socially and ideologically distant from the groups’ culture and secret branches.
This mistake, which was intentional sometimes, happened. However, the entire culture was poisoned and there is plenty of evidence to that. The value of real education that’s based on experiments and proof declined. Liars were marketed as experts in “scientific miracles.” People thus became naïve while intellectuals stayed back. They made everyone suspicious about creative men such as authors, poets, artists and thinkers and replaced them with extremists and blood-lust figures and preachers who rather resembled clowns. The market of intolerance thus became open. Satellite television channels helped spread extremist ideas, especially in the absence of moderate and enlightening voices. Moderate figures were accused of infidelity and heresy and some of them were killed like Farag Fouda who was shot dead in front of his office.
An intolerant culture thus dominated people’s minds. Meanwhile, governments faced several crises that obstructed their work as they had to fight back every time an essential modernizing project was announced. Civilized measures were thus rejected by extremists who are willing to incite people whose minds they influenced. Some governments had to back down on several projects due to extremists’ pressures and in the end their work and development were obstructed. Therefore, they focused on modernizing machine and equipment and not on developing minds. The culture of extremism was thus left alone without being looked into or criticized or replaced.
For the first time in decades, we have a chance to remove these mines and alter their path for good.Mamdouh AlMuhaini
Since extremism was not addressed, terrorism found a fertile soil to grow among everyone, even among teenagers. Terrorists easily recruited people from different communities from Kandahar until Mosul. All they had to do was just enter these areas and recruit people. These groups could also easily and quickly recruit people via Twitter and WhatsApp. Extremism resulted in emotional isolation and ideological decline. Meanwhile, western countries and the US advanced. It’s like we live in two separate worlds now!
As a result, it was not possible to integrate in western culture due to the radical difference in values and ideas. Youths born in the West would not feel like they belong to this world so they’d return to it to avenge and blow up its markets and airports. Jihadi John is only one example of men who cautiously dealt with the West because they are ideologically isolated from it due to extremist and violent ideas.
This is a quick and short analysis of the path of extremism during the past decades. Imagine if we can go back in time and change few things, like remove the mines of extremism instead of leaving them until they spread like cancer. If this happened, we would have been living in a different world. We would have produced tolerant societies that look towards the future and not back to the past and that suffocate extremists instead of turning them into stars who send their own children to their death. We are now paying for this mistake. However, this is not the end as today, and for the first time in decades, we have a chance to remove these mines and alter their path for good.
A real war
Saudi Arabia is launching a real war against extremism in the kingdom. Extremists’ voices have been greatly weakened. It’s also pursuing terrorist groups outside the kingdom, crushing them and eliminating their cells. When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the historic statement about combating extremist thoughts once and for all, analysts were following up on the brave measures which the Saudi state took to strengthen the culture of tolerance and moderation and eliminate voices that incite people and call for chaos. We quickly saw results. Extremists who were celebrities followed by millions became insignificant. Their role and influence diminished after circumstances which helped them nurture declined. The UAE is fighting extremism as well. It never received preachers of extremism and violence. The same applies to Egypt.
For the first time ever, a strong front that seeks to end extremism and terrorism, both on the domestic and foreign levels, has been established to enter a new era that we long stood at its gates. It’s illogical for these countries to remove these mines while Qatar is planting them on a larger scale by supporting extremist and armed groups and inciters. Doha is the major party behind planting extremism and terrorism. The boycott decision is a historical decision because it will eliminate the root of the problem and help us enter a new civilized phase. Without eliminating this problem, we’d be committing the same mistake again and history will repeat itself.
This article was first published in Arabic.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain