Tolerance, the Best Way to Root out Terrorism

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mehdi Zakerian
Human Rights Professor at the University of Pennsylvania

Study of global developments in the past 15 years will show that the use of force against terrorist groups cannot, on its own, lead to the elimination of terrorism in the world, but to achieve this goal, a powerful struggle must be launched against biased thoughts and extremist ideas. In September 2001, a group of terrorists, who were affiliated with al-Qaeda terror group, planned and carried out attacks against civilian targets on the American soil. At that time, neoconservative politicians in the United States topped by the then US president, George W. Bush, believed that terrorism must be fought against in a serious manner.

In 2002, they formulated a strategy as the national strategy of the United States, in which the issue of preemptive strikes by the United States against terrorist targets had been brought up as a new item on the United States’ political agenda, and the country later on attacked Afghanistan and Iraq on the basis of the same strategy. However, after al-Qaeda continued its activities and carried out terrorist attacks in London and other parts of the world, Americans claimed that they must eliminate the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden, and they actually did it. The question, however, is “have the Western countries been successful in rooting out terrorism despite all the costs they have undertaken during these years?” Have terrorist activities in the world reached their end? The answer to these questions is definitely negative. If al-Qaeda terrorist group was eliminated – which is actually not the case – it was superseded by other groups that have taken its place, one of which is Daesh group.

Western countries claim that they are fighting against Daesh and aim to physically eliminate this group. There is no doubt that such groups must be dealt with forcefully, but the past experience with physical elimination of al-Qaeda, which has not reached a final conclusion yet, has shown that such measures, though necessary, are not adequate. Theoretical roots of al-Qaeda and Daesh should be traced back to the ideas and thoughts of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, and Ibn Taymiyyah, before him. These ideas are ideas that give birth to extremism. The best way to fight such ideas from the viewpoint of Islam is to bolster and promote tolerance and coexistence. If there were tolerance and coexistence, people would not be deceived by the ideas of the likes of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyyah. If those people, who get inclined toward extremist groups, believed in real Islam, which is the religion of mercy and compassion, they would have never attached any value to extremism. This issue has been widely neglected.

The main factor fostering this negligence is that governments in the Middle East not only do not support Islam’s way of thinking, which is based on compassion and mercy, but on the contrary also support religious schools that promote the ideas of Wahhabism and Ibn Taymiyyah, which only foster extremism. Governments like those in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain, have been and are still supporting extremist religious schools and their muftis. They have invested a lot in this field and throw their weight behind such ideas and way of thinking.

There are many reasons for the adoption of such an approach by these countries, some of which are ideological, because these countries nourish the same way of thinking, and others are political. Under these circumstances, governments with a claim to fighting terrorism, which mostly include the Western states, still continue to support those governments in the Middle East, which are backers of Wahhabism and extremism. As long as Western states share the similar concerns with totalitarian leaders and leaders who overtly support extremism, the problem with terrorism and such terrorist groups as Daesh would continue to exist. Therefore, the crisis in the region will continue to rage on and its flames will also spread to Western countries as well.

These countries are only trying to ignore the main problem, but this way of thinking is totally erroneous because extremist ideas should be addressed at their roots. How this could be possible? First of all, religious schools that promote extremism must be discredited. How these schools can be discredited? As a first step, measures must be taken to promote the culture of tolerance. And who can take such a measure? The main party to take this measure is leaders of governments in the Middle East. People in these countries have no power to bring about any change because some of them are faced with totalitarian regimes that are sole decision-makers. The leaders in totalitarian countries of the Middle East will only take steps in this direction if they are put under pressure by the West. Under these conditions, the problem is that the West not only refrains from putting pressure on these leaders, but also considers them as its friends and allies.

The existing culture in totalitarian countries in the Middle East provides a good breeding ground for the growth of extremism, whose result is nothing other than the export of terrorism and terrorist ideas. Western countries must make serious revision in their relations with these countries and put mounting pressure on them in order to root out extremist ideas and, in its place, promote tolerance, peace and friendship as has been underlined by Islam. During recent years, Iran has come up with two proposals in this regard, both of which have been accurate proposals.

The first proposal was about dialogue among civilizations, and the second one was offered in the form of the World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE) initiative. Both proposals have been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations through resolutions, though none of them have been seriously followed up on. If Iran’s proposals had been taken seriously, the current situation of the international system would have been undoubtedly quite different.

Key Words: Tolerance, Terrorism, Elimination, Al-Qaeda, Dialogue among Civilizations, World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE), Middle East, Extremism, Western Countries, Wahhabism, Ibn Taymiyyah, Daesh Group, Osama bin Laden, Zakerian

Source: Hamshahri Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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