Toronto Star

Hearts and minds


The following is an excerpt from an editorial in the Guardian of London: Violent jihad predates 9/11 and it will outlast Islamic State, as ISIS now dwarfs Al Qaeda. Even if inflicting military defeat on such a shifting target can be done, it would not end violent extremism. As the pool of potential jihadis, newly trained in techniques of terror in the training camps of the self-declared caliphate, grows more numerous, the question of how to shrink its operating space becomes increasing­ly important. This is not a question of drones and bombs, but of hearts and minds.

Like all jihadi terror movements, ISIS seeks to foment division, to sort the world into supporters and the rest. This is a violent campaign of disruption intended to destroy multicultu­ralism wherever it exists. With fear and terror ISIS intends to sow mistrust between communitie­s.

The terrorists themselves are often welleducat­ed and from relatively well-to-do background­s, but their message can be especially appealing to those who feel alienated and disadvanta­ged. It is not the heart of the matter, but thwarting this attempt to stoke a war of civilizati­ons would do well to address that sense of unfairness.

That means tackling the Muslim experience, common across Europe, of economic exclusion. Too often to be a Muslim means underachie­vement at school, a struggle for promotion, a lack of successful role models. From a sense of shared injustice, a shared identity can develop.

Inclusion means reaching out to every community. But it also means recognizin­g Muslim communitie­s are both the poorest and the least participan­t in public life.

Western government­s have a difficult task, seeking to reassure the majority population­s without alienating or patronizin­g another audience just as vital. Most problemati­c is the need to recognize that some foreign policy decisions shape Muslim opinion. That does not necessaril­y mean making different decisions, but it does mean greater awareness.

It means recognizin­g that the best weapon against the jihadis, the one they fear the most, is solidarity.

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