NO ROOM FOR COMPLACENCY IN FIGHTING TERRORISM
OIC member countries have to acknowledge that violent extremism is a problem in many of their jurisdictions
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.