Defeating extremism is a universal duty

The town of Kobani has been under assault by extremists from ISIL. (Vadim Ghirda / AP)
The town of Kobani has been under assault by extremists from ISIL. (Vadim Ghirda / AP)

Maj Mariam Al Mansouri captured the imagination of the world when she led the UAE Air Force into action against ISIL targets in Syria last month. What the country’s first female fighter pilot did was testimony to the active role women can take in fighting violent extremism. Yet, while we acknowledge the need for air strikes to deplete the ISIL forces, these alone will not win the battle.

Groups such as ISIL cannot be defeated without addressing the root causes of extremism and terrorism. That fight is global and multifaceted. As The National reported yesterday, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the United Nations, led a discussion on women, peace and security. She stressed the critical role women can play in fighting terrorism by working within their families, communities and public spaces.

Educators have to do their part in developing curricula that denounce any form of violence and instil the peaceful and tolerant teachings of religion. Extremist ideas must be tackled within schools, colleges and mosques. A “cyber war” is also critical, since much of the extremists’ propaganda material is being disseminated online, the truth must be told in the same forums.

It may also be possible to use returning extremist recruits to debunk the false messages that glamorise life as a jihadist. ISIL has been able to effectively connect with the disaffected, mopping up thousands of young and naive recruits. This fact can be turned against them, because the horrors of the false caliphate will never match up to the romantic notions of freedom fighting. Those who return disillusioned from the battlegrounds should be allowed to tell their stories and articulate the true horrors of ISIL. Only when their evils are exposed will we effectively counter their narrative.

It is also important to cut the flow of funding to extremist groups, which have been gathering private donations from all over the world. As The UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, said at the Harvard Kennedy School earlier this month, stopping funding can be more effective in slowing down extremists than direct battles and air strikes.

The fight against violent extremism will not end soon, but there are many ways to blunt its threat.

Published: October 29, 2014 04:00 AM


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