OIC mem­ber coun­tries have to ac­knowl­edge that vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism is a prob­lem in many of their ju­ris­dic­tions

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is an in­de­pen­dent London-based econ­o­mist and writer

THE plac­ard of a Manch­ester United fan in the Friends Arena in Stock­holm at the Europa Cup fi­nal against Ajax Am­s­ter­dam on Wed­nes­day night spoke vol­umes: “Your hate makes us stronger.”

Foot­ball for once took sec­ond place. The oc­ca­sion was over­awed by the tragic events that be­fell the city of Manch­ester last Mon­day, when a 21-year-old sui­cide bomber, in a sin­gle act of mad­ness, det­o­nated a bomb at the Manch­ester Arena where teenagers and wait­ing par­ents had gath­ered at an Ari­ana Grande con­cert, killing 22 in­no­cents, many of whom were chil­dren, and maim­ing an­other 59, some crit­i­cally.

While Manch­ester United eas­ily over­came a lack­lus­tre Ajax with 2-0, win­ning the tro­phy and a place in next year’s Cham­pi­ons League, the real win­ner was the sol­i­dar­ity shown by of­fi­cials, play­ers and sup­port­ers with the city of Manch­ester, re­in­forc­ing the no­tion that foot­ball is merely a game and in life there are things more im­por­tant.

Manch­ester United mid­fielder An­der Her­rera spoke for all when he de­clared after the match: “I want to ded­i­cate this tro­phy to the vic­tims. This is just foot­ball and what hap­pened two days ago was hor­ri­ble. This hap­pened in Manch­ester, but ev­ery­where we want to see a united world and fight for peace, re­spect in the world. No more at­tacks and no more deaths, please.”

In Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia last week, the leader of the West­ern world and more than 40 heads of gov­ern­ment of Is­lamic coun­tries in a land­mark sum­mit vowed to erad­i­cate the scourge of ter­ror­ism, es­pe­cially the pro­po­nents of vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism, in this case in the Mid­dle East, Asia and Africa.

That as­pi­ra­tion is eas­ier said than done. The coun­tries of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion (OIC) have to be hon­est and ac­knowl­edge that to­day, vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism is a prob­lem in many of their ju­ris­dic­tions, with dev­as­tat­ing im­pact.

Many do not have the re­sources, the ex­per­tise, the gov­er­nance sys­tems or the where­withal to cope with and mit­i­gate ter­ror­ism and its so­ci­etal and eco­nomic im­pact. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, So­ma­lia, Nige­ria, Ye­men, Pak­istan are largely dys­func­tional due to the soul-de­stroy­ing in­ci­dences of ter­ror­ist at­tacks, fa­tal­i­ties and in­juries. I am not even con­sid­er­ing the eco­nomic, in­fra­struc­ture and per­sonal costs in­volved.

Even in more or­gan­ised coun­tries such as Saudi Ara­bia and the other Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil states, Tur­key, Egypt, Tu­nisia, Al­ge­ria, In­done­sia and Malaysia, the threat and spec­tre of ter­ror­ism lurks in the back­ground.

Very few coun­tries, no mat­ter how af­flu­ent and sta­ble, can af­ford to be com­pla­cent. The re­cent at­tacks in France, Ger­many, Swe­den and the United King­dom have shown that the ten­ta­cles of ter­ror­ism have a wide reach.

My re­search of global ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents high­lights the statis­tics of de­spair and de­struc­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Story Maps, which is gen­er­ally a re­li­able sta­tis­ti­cal sur­veyor of global events, from Jan 1 to May 24, there were 506 ter­ror­ist at­tacks world­wide, claim­ing the lives of 3,337 peo­ple. The caveats are that this data is sourced in­ter alia from crowd­sourc­ing and Wikipedia en­tries, and the def­i­ni­tion of ter­ror­ism may be sub­jec­tive.

This May has thus far been a dif­fi­cult month, with 105 ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the pe­riod from May 1 to 24, with 510 fa­tal­i­ties in 24 coun­tries, of which all but 10 are OIC mem­ber coun­tries. The 10 in­clude the UK, Italy, the Philip­pines, Ukraine, Thai­land, Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Mex­ico, Colom­bia, Rus­sia and Kenya.

In terms of the fa­tal­i­ties due to ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents, OIC coun­tries bore the brunt, with Iraq ac­count­ing for 170 deaths from 30 at­tacks, fol­lowed by Syria with 90 deaths from six in­ci­dents, Afghanistan with 60 deaths from 9 in­ci­dents, Pak­istan with 47 fa­tal­i­ties from 7 in­ci­dents, Nige­ria with 26 deaths from 8 at­tacks, the UK with 22 deaths from the sole at­tack in Manch­ester, and So­ma­lia with 21 deaths from 4 at­tacks.

By far the big­gest per­pe­tra­tors of ter­ror­ism were the so-called Is­lamic State and its af­fil­i­ates in Iraq, Syria and be­yond; the Tal­iban in Afghanistan; Al Shab­bab in So­ma­lia and Boko Haram in Nige­ria.

The sin­gle largest ter­ror­ist at­tack was by IS in Hama in Syria on May 18, claim­ing the lives of 52 peo­ple, pre­ceded by an­other IS at­tack in Al Haqlaniyah, An­bar Prov­ince in Iraq on May 9, in which 47 peo­ple died.

The roadmap of the statis­tics show that ter­ror­ism is a global phe­nom­e­non, but the re­al­ity is that in its con­tem­po­rary phase, Mus­lim coun­tries bear the brunt of at­tacks, fa­tal­i­ties and trauma, and the prime per­pe­tra­tors (IS, Tal­iban, Al Shab­bab and Boko Haram) are vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists op­er­at­ing in the Mid­dle East, North and Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa and South Asia.

Sum­mits aside, the clar­ion call is for gen­uine in­tra-OIC co­op­er­a­tion (with no ex­cep­tions) and en­gage­ment with the wider world in erad­i­cat­ing this scourge once and for all.

This must be done through po­lit­i­cal will, pol­icy co­or­di­na­tion, al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources, in­tel­li­gence shar­ing and trans­parency to give con­fi­dence to or­di­nary peo­ple that val­ues and jus­tice are not tram­pled on in the process.

The silent mi­nor­ity has been the cor­pus of Mus­lim ulama, who, on the whole, seem to have ab­di­cated their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of con­fronting and con­demn­ing rad­i­cal ex­trem­ism.

I know of “prom­i­nent” ulama, who refuse to con­demn sui­cide bomb­ings on the grounds that it would in­con­ceiv­able “for a Deobandi Imam to do so.”

Tack­ling ter­ror­ism is a tall or­der, but the al­ter­na­tive is dire for no coun­try is in a po­si­tion to ig­nore the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, in­fra­struc­ture, de­vel­op­men­tal, med­i­cal and men­tal health and so­cial fall­out.

But it was Char­lotte Camp­bell whose 15-year-old daugh­ter, Olivia, died in the Manch­ester atroc­ity, who sym­bol­ised the in­trin­sic hu­man­ity of the trauma: “I don’t know what to do. Don’t let my daugh­ter be a vic­tim!”


A ban­ner by Manch­ester United fans for the vic­tims of the Manch­ester ter­ror at­tack prior the Europa League fi­nal against Ajax Am­s­ter­dam on Wed­nes­day.

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