Mohammed Dahlan: Terrorism – A View from An Arab Leader
Mr. Mohammed Dahlan wrote the below as an exclusive for ASP, and is adapted from his speech at the Mediterranean- Gulf forum in Sardinia
We have all heard about ISIS and have watched their terrorism on TV. It is strange for Arabs and Muslims to hear about something called “Islamic State.”
Unfortunately, the media insists on using the name the “Islamic State” for ISIS. It is like if they are saying that ‘ISIS is the future of Muslims.’ Which is wrong
Terrorism was obviously witnessed in the incidents that took place in New York and that targeted the Pentagon.
Since 2000, the international community has not made success in the fight against terrorism. To the contrary, terrorism has become stronger. It has become cross-border and cross-religion. Addressing terrorism has become even more deficient compared to the past.
There are several reasons why terrorism is getting stronger. It is the West that have always identified terrorism causes and that have diagnosed terrorism. They act as if they know about us more than what we know. They analyze and evaluate the phenomenon. They intervene in our religion, interpret it and then give solutions. The result is a failure unfortunately.
There are many reasons why no solution has been reached for terrorism. Think tanks have accumulated experience in this area. However, in my point of view, the lack of inclusive diagnosis of the phenomenon is the first reason why terrorism has survived. The diagnosis that has been made has always been deficient. Terrorism has always been attributed to poverty, dictatorial regimes or political corruption.
I believe the following reasons are behind growing terrorism: the lack of accurate diagnosis, addressing terrorism at country and region level without linking it to globalization and globalization tools, the lack of international consensus – away from polarization – to face this phenomenon, and most importantly exploiting terrorism by countries with no exclusion. Many countries have exploited terrorism, directly or indirectly. They have provided shelter to terrorists under the pretext of human rights, legal protection or a third party to fund their activities – making us believe they are innocent and have nothing to do with terrorism.
There have been many examples since 2000. These countries include EU member states as well as Arab countries.
Another reason why terrorism continues to persist is that states that sponsor terrorism are not dealt with seriously. Thus, conflict of economic interests has been a reason for growing terrorism.
Sometimes the United States, an individual, a group, a think tank or an international party decides that Muslims are terrorists by nature. Then media talks about this and so Muslims become suspects at airports and other places. This makes Islam and Muslim look like if they have created terrorism. This is untrue and unfair.
However, when some countries have adopted terrorist organizations, the confusion has become purposeful. After the constructive, creative or soft chaos – that the United State has created, managed followed up and applied … By the way, I doubt the United States’ abilities. I do not support the theory of conspiracy in Arabs’ mind. Although the then US administration announced, in the words of its then Secretary of State, the creative chaos, I doubt that it was behind the “creative chaos” in the Arab world that turned into fatal chaos. Now, we, Arabs and Muslims, are paying the cost of illogical and invalid judgments and solutions.
Over the recent years, the international community decided that the Muslim Brotherhood group are not terrorists, they are not enemies of the democratic process, they are not against freedom of opinion, they give absolute freedom to women, they respect opponent opinions and they are ready to lead the Arab world in the years following the Arab spring.
I would like to talk about the case of Egypt as an example. I am not Egyptian, I am an Arab, some countries are still hesitant to deal with the great choices of the Egyptian people even after the whole people went to street to protest against the Muslim Brotherhood rule. These choices resulted in fair and democratic elections that defined the start of a serious path for Egypt.
Why am I talking about Egypt? Today ISIS have 30,000 elements. Imagine if the Muslim Brotherhood is still ruling Egypt! ISIS would be able then to spread in Sinai, Libya and Sudan in addition to Iraq and Syria and their elements would count 300,000 not only 30,000.
I am not saying that the Muslim Brotherhood are terrorists but I am saying that the whole system is an environment where terrorism grows. This system produces terrorism and extremism. I am not going to talk about the difference between ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, the difference between ISIS and the Jabhat al-Nusra or the difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jabhat al-Nusra.
For me, there is no difference between them all. I am Muslim. I studied Islam and I graduated from the Islamic University. Any party that leads and establishes extremism must be shunned from the beginning. I believe that in order to diagnose terrorism, we need first to be sincere with ourselves and not to exploit political Islam parties in order to impose our agendas on certain countries and tell them that X thing is valid today and then it becomes invalid after 10 years.
So, how did terrorism benefit, in my point of view, from the development of globalization tools?
It first benefited from the free movement of people and granting of nationalities. It second benefited from funds movement. Today, it is difficult only for honest persons to transfer money. Persons who are not honest can transfer money in large sums and very easily.
Terrorism benefited third from ideologies and forth, and most importantly, from media and incitement. Unfortunately in the Arab world we do not have professional media. The media we have is inflammatory. It calls for killing and slaughtering. Media outlets in the Arab world show how Muslims, Christians and people from other religions are slaughtered for any given reason.
By the way, I sometimes hear allegations that ISIS kill Christians only. This is not true. ISIS kill Sunni Muslims, Shiites, Jews and all those who disagree with them. They do not recognize other Muslims because they have their own Islam, their own interpretation of Islam and their own judgments.
I estimate that we will be forced to live under terrorism at least for 20 years. Taliban which was in a limited region lasted over the terms of 3 US Presidents who served 2 terms each. So imagine for how long ISIS will last. ISIS are cross-border and they exist on the borders of Iraq, Syria, Sinai, Sudan, Libya and Tunisia – which are close to Europe. Terrorism has become a cross-border phenomenon and Europe is no more far from terrorism in the region which was created by everyone. We cannot say that it is Arabs who produce terrorism. We are victims of ideologies and countries that contributed to the creation of this phenomenon.
We hope that rather than addressing terrorism in Iraq, we won’t be obliged to address terrorism in Europe, Germany or Britain. Terrorism will move to Europe as thousands of terrorists are exported by Europe – or export themselves – to Arab countries. It is only God who knows when they will go back home. Then we will be in a dilemma and the situation will be even more complicated.