How to control home grown terrorism


The terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday of November 13th,2015 have revived the debate about the root causes of terrorism and what the world must do to deal with the threat. Some young people are voicing their rage through social media against Islam, western policy, refugees or whomsoever they might find objectionable. Politicians and world leaders are issuing statements depending on their political or community needs and obligations. The variety of arguments notwithstanding, one thing is clear. ISIS will not be deterred by air strikes inside Syria alone.

The devastating attack on the city of lights that killed 130 people, involved European citizens, including Frenchmen. Even if ISIS is deprived of its base in Syria and Iraq, its affiliates are now in the heart of Europe.  The battle for Syria may be important but the battle for Europe might not necessarily end with the end of the war in Syria. Moreover, homegrown European terrorists will continue to threaten Europe with arguments about a clash between Islamic and western civilizations. Barring immigrants trying to escape brutality in the Middle East will only strengthen the hatred that Jihadis thrive on.

France responded the attack by an air strike on Islamic State’s (ISIS) command and control system on the city of Raqqa. But what measures can a state take to control the rising home grown terrorism. From air strikes, to war, from destabilizing dictators to rebuilding nations; we have seen all the measures taken by the United States and its western allies.

Still, western citizens — our own citizens – continue to be used by terrorists to destroy our peace and freedom. After spending trillions of dollars and using most sophisticated weapons and surveillance technology, we are forced to think that the terrorists, whether Taliban, Al-Qaida or ISIS, have clearer plans than our leaders’ strategy.

 President Obama offered US assistance to France, while condemning the Paris attack. But after few days, ISIS threatened to attack Washington D.C.

The question is that, are these air strikes that we seeing for two decades enough to secure the homeland? Haven’t we seen this menace grown bigger and bigger every day?

In recent target, the places ISIS chose are mostly crowded by young people, and so were the attackers. If we do a little research on the assailants of Paris like attacks, they were mostly young men, which show that young people are highly vulnerable to fall for such ideology.  And sometimes, the constant media rhetoric against one community or religion also upraises the hatred in young minds against the system.

 In June 2015, Ali Shikri, a 17-year old young man, from Manassas Virginia was pleaded guilty for helping another 18-year old man, Reza Niknejad, who traveled to Syria to join ISIS.  Shikri would be graduated from high school but instead pleaded guilty for providing assistance to a terrorist. During investigation Shikri admitted of encouraging ISIS and its supporters on social media. He was managing a twitter account for this purpose.

No one can be radicalized over night by reading online material or seeing pictures of war torn cities or dead bodies. I personally know that a large number of Muslims take their children to either religious schools or religious groups, both held in their local mosques on Sundays. Usually, many Islamic countries offer mosques for fund and in return ask the mosques to spread their way of Islam (radicalized), and bring the preachers (Imams) of their choice.

Recently, Egypt Ministry has confiscated more than 7000 books written on Salafism from mosques and libraries due to immense threat of home grown terrorism spread through hate material.  Homeland security should do close monitoring on what material mosques are teaching to these young children in religious schools. Local representatives should do monthly questioning sessions with mosques administration to find out what activities are they holding recently.

Religious education is not harmful as long as the students are learning religion as a way of living a life of a civilized citizen. I send my children to a Sunday school, and feel that it’s my duty to closely watch their syllabus and lectures. Keeping eyes on religious school library’s books, available for children, can be a good step from parents. These are simplest roles we can play to save the future.  In past we had seen mosque like Dar al-HIjrah of Virginia’s involvement in terrorist activities. 

Therefore, close monitoring is important but closing down the mosques, as Donald Trump suggested in presidential debate, will create more polarization in the society. A community will go in isolation, which can result in backlash. The isolated, young men are vulnerable to get recruited by groups like ISIS. They easily get brainwashed against their own country and society due to unjustified measures.  The U.S and allies should share the information about the local terrorists of which mosques they visited daily? What books are being used in those mosques?  The reason is that, not all sects of Islam preach such hatred and promote killing of innocent people. In fact, with non-Muslims, many different sects of Islam have been targeted by terrorist groups like ISIS.

Now is the time to fight this war at home by respecting the citizens’ rights. The measures like monitoring the mosques and ideology they spread, engaging the administration in dialogues and doing background check of Imams of the mosques can become useful. We also need to bring the real face of Muslims (those who are against terrorism) forward, where they can preach a peaceful message among other sects (who have been misled) and other communities.

‘Otherising’ Terrorism: Paris to Peshawar

Paris attack

The terrorist attack in Paris was too familiar to many of us. Scenes of panic as people try to figure out what is happening, not knowing if they are safe or if they will be the next target. Reports of well trained gunmen, casually walking through crowded buildings and killing innocents calmly, smiling even as they commit atrocities most of us could not even imagine in our sickest nightmares. Heartfelt grief and support poured out from around the world as we watched helplessly while another tragedy unfolded before our eyes on our TV screens. These sorts of scenes have become too common, and now it does not even take a day before questions and accusations are thrown about.

Almost before the first report of a Syrian passport was broadcast, already there were people claiming the attack was a ‘false flag’ intended to stop the settlement of refugees. I am not going to dignify such idiocy with a proper debunking, but will only point out that no  country, European or anywhere else, needs to murder its own citizens in order to refuse refugees. Actually, it serves the agenda of Daesh much more than it does the West if refugees are refused, which should be enough in itself. Now, this part of Daesh’s plan seems to be coming true. Nations are re-thinking to let refugees in, essentially relegating them to a fate of choosing between joining Daesh or dying. It is the ancient strategy of conversion by the sword.

We have taken great pleasure in pointing out the cold hypocrisy of abandoning war refugees, even while we resent and try to get rid of the millions from Afghanistan that have taken refuge here. But there is a bigger lesson that I think we should not miss.

Western countries want to refuse refugees because they are afraid that some terrorists will sneak in with them and carry out new attacks. The idea is that they will be safe if they seal their borders. But this assumes that the terrorists are someone ‘other’ than European. However except for possibly one person, the attackers appear to be Europeans. This is the important point that is being missed: There are thousands of Europeans joining Daesh. Why would they need to smuggle in refugees?

This is an important warning for Europe, but it is also an important lesson for Pakistan. After every terrorist attack here, we point to someone outside the country. Usually it is India, and even GHQ has taken the unprecedented action of blaming India for terrorism.

A recent survey found that most Pakistanis believe that foreign powers are behind terrorism in the country.

According to the survey, about 55 percent of respondents believe India is involved behind terrorism in Pakistan. Another 29 percent blame the US for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. Overall, 79 percent of the respondents see a foreign hand behind terrorism in Pakistan.

This belief is firmly held even though the people caught for committing the terrorist acts are never Indians or Americans but always Pakistanis. Salmaan Taseer killer? Pakistani. Sabeen Mahmud killer? Pakistani. PAF Badaber attackers? Pakistani. APS Peshawar attackers? Pakistani. Wagah bomber? Pakistani. Jacobabad attackers? Pakistani. The list goes on and on and on.

When Europeans place the blame of terrorism on refugees, they are missing the point that the threat of extremism is already spreading within their own societies. Daesh does not have to invade with people because they have already invaded with ideology. They have converted Europeans to their madness and now those Europeans are turning on their own people. Just like the extremist ideology has spread here and it is our own people who are turning on us.

In order to defeat terrorism, we have to stop looking to blame someone else. From Paris to Peshawar, it is the extremist mindset and jihadi ideology that is at the root of these atrocities. We have experienced this for decades and suffered the most from it’s poison. We should be able to warn Europe and correct their mistaken strategy of blaming refugees and an ‘other’ for threatening terrorist attacks. But before we can save anyone else, we will have to save ourselves by admitting that it is the same problem we are facing also.