9/11 and trig­gers that turn into ter­ror

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - By

SEPT 11 marked 15 years since the 2001 at­tacks on the US that killed nearly 3,000 peo­ple, in­jured over 6,000 oth­ers and thou­sands more dead or taken se­ri­ously ill from col­lat­eral causes. It is said that 9/11 changed the world. In­deed, it did.

Since then, the US and na­tions have en­gaged in wars and coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts, rang­ing from mil­i­tary, po­lice and in­tel­li­gence to border and in­fra­struc­ture se­cu­rity in­ter­ven­tions.

In its broad­est sense, ter­ror­ism has ex­isted from time im­memo­rial. The use or threat­ened use of vi­o­lence to achieve a po­lit­i­cal, reli­gious or ide­o­log­i­cal aim has long been en­gaged in by in­di­vid­u­als and dis­af­fected groups.

Ter­ror­ism takes root in minds. It can never be erad­i­cated by force or by en­forc­ing laws. Such mea­sures deal with the symp­toms – what we ex­pe­ri­ence and see as a re­sult, not the root-causes of ter­ror­ism.

Ac­cord­ing to the Global Ter­ror­ism Data­base, acts of ter­ror­ism have in­creased in fre­quency and in­ten­sity with nearly 63,000 in­ci­dents of ter­ror­ism claim­ing over 145,000 lives since 9/11.

The twin evils of ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism can only be con­tained and de­feated in hearts and minds.

Minds are moulded in the home, com­mu­nity, places of wor­ship, learn­ing in­sti­tu­tions, on play­ing fields and at work­places.

Th­ese are where the young, mak­ing up the ma­jor­ity of those who join ter­ror groups, get in­cul­cated – not with ter­ror­ist mo­ti­va­tions, but ideas and ide­olo­gies that breed ha­tred to­ward those dif­fer­ent from them; envy of those who are bet­ter off; and a fear that oth­ers are al­ways try­ing to put them down or even de­stroy them and their way of life.

When in­di­vid­u­als feel they have no re­course to ad­dress what they be­lieve are their right­ful needs or are os­tracised by so­ci­ety, th­ese are the trig­gers that of­ten make them act vi­o­lently.

Much is said of self-rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, even point­ing to the in­ter­net and so­cial media as cul­prits. Let’s be clear, it can­not and does not oc­cur in iso­la­tion. Minds must be sat­u­rated first with hate, fear and anger which, then, be­come fer­tile ground skewed to­wards acts of vi­o­lence.

While some young peo­ple morph into lone-wolf ter­ror­ists, more of­ten they join ter­ror groups, in all cases look­ing for an iden­tity for them­selves to be able to vent their emo­tions against th­ese “in­se­cu­ri­ties”.

Also, cor­rup­tion, in­jus­tice and de­priv­ing com­mu­ni­ties of rights and ac­cess to op­por­tu­ni­ties, re­sources and ben­e­fits lead to dis­con­tent, re­sent­ment, dis­sent and ul­ti­mately vi­o­lence to right what groups per­ceive as a wrong.

Ter­ror­ist re­cruiters prey on th­ese vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties with im­mense suc­cess.

Given how the ter­ror­ist con­cept and var­ied ter­ror groups have in­fil­trated com­mu­ni­ties and na­tions, no sin­gle coun­try can ad­dress the threat of ter­ror­ism alone.

Rather, it re­quires a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach in­clud­ing con­tin­ual ex­change of ideas and en­gage­ment with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to de­prive ter­ror­ists of the con­di­tions con­ducive to the per­pe­tra­tion of vi­o­lent ac­tions and the spread of their per­verse ide­ol­ogy.

Ad­dress­ing the chal­lenge of ter­ror­ism de­mands ca­pac­ity build­ing at all lev­els. It re­quires po­lit­i­cal will to ad­dress the root causes, not us­ing ter­ror­ism as an ex­cuse to fur­ther po­lit­i­cal agen­das.

We need to look at the griev­ances and lo­cal fac­tors that ter­ror groups ex­ploit and the pro­pa­ganda that is their key in­stru­ment in push­ing vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als down the path to vi­o­lence.

We must re­solve le­git­i­mate griev­ances peace­fully and strive to fos­ter good gov­er­nance, re­duce poverty and cor­rup­tion, and im­prove ed­u­ca­tion, health, ba­sic ser­vices and ac­cess to de­cent work and in­comes.

There is no trade off be­tween se­cu­rity and hu­man rights and the rule of law. It is in­creas­ingly ev­i­dent that the re­cruit­ment of ter­ror­ists is most suc­cess­ful where lo­cal dy­nam­ics in­crease pop­u­lar dis­af­fec­tion and cre­ate con­di­tions of des­per­a­tion.

We must em­power na­tional and lo­cal lead­ers to chal­lenge ex­trem­ists by work­ing with NGOs, reli­gious groups and pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships be­cause th­ese ac­tors are of­ten the most ca­pa­ble and cred­i­ble part­ners in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

This is done through the shar­ing of best prac­tices and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of train­ing pro­grammes de­signed to im­prove the abil­ity of na­tional and lo­cal lead­ers to mit­i­gate the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties on which ter­ror­ism thrives.

An im­por­tant com­ple­men­tar­ity has to be the devel­op­ment of ca­pa­bil­i­ties to com­bat transna­tional threats, that in­clude pre­vent­ing hu­man and drug traf­fick­ing, money laun­der­ing and the arms trade; se­cur­ing vi­tal in­fra­struc­ture and re­sources; and im­prov­ing bio­met­ric iden­tity sur­veil­lance and cy­ber-se­cu­rity – oth­er­wise, ter­ror groups will have open rein to fur­ther their ac­tiv­i­ties.

We should el­e­vate our un­der­stand­ing of the role played by women and youth, both as vic­tims and pos­si­ble per­pe­tra­tors of ter­ror­ist acts.

Due to their po­si­tions in fam­i­lies, women can ex­ert a sta­bil­is­ing in­flu­ence and em­power in­di­vid­u­als to be able to re­sist ex­trem­ist pro­pa­ganda and rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion.

Pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for women to ap­ply their skills and share their knowl­edge can drive so­cial and eco­nomic progress that not only brings ma­te­rial ben­e­fits to their fam­i­lies and so­ci­eties, but has a de­riv­a­tive ef­fect that in­creases ide­o­log­i­cal mod­er­a­tion.

The wider and more ef­fec­tive use of the media, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion events and other forms of in­ter­ac­tion, lead­er­ship train­ing re­treats and school pro­grammes will help en­er­gise and mo­bilise civil so­ci­ety’s con­tri­bu­tions to­ward a safer world.

One-size-fits-all pro­grammes may work in some in­stances, while in oth­ers, re­gional and trans-re­gional strate­gies have a bet­ter chance.

It is crit­i­cal that ad­dress­ing so­cial, eco­nomic and gov­er­nance deficits must go hand-in-hand with wider coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts.

The writer was for­merly a United Na­tions / ILO re­gional deputy di­rec­tor for Asia and the Pa­cific. Com­ments: let­ters@the­sundaily.com

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