The events that took place at Charlie Hebdo magazine’s office in Paris were acts of cowardice. Now that the Kouachi brothers, who were responsible for the killings, and Amedy Coulibali, the Jewish market hostage-taker, are dead, the world must take a fresh look at the war on terrorism. The crime ought not to divide the world between Muslims and the rest.
It is crucial that we use the lessons we’ve already learnt to put the world back on track. Things changed after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. At the time, the West saw all Muslims, Arabs and almost every individual from the Middle East, either as terrorists or as potential extremists. Everyone became suspect. If the last 14 years have taught us anything, it is that this way of addressing terrorism wasn’t appropriate. And it didn’t work.
The war on terrorism is in no way linked with a religion or ethnicity. It is a struggle to safeguard humanity and civilisation. Terrorists that hide behind the cloak of “real Islam” couldn’t be farther from this faith. The West needs to understand this, lest the war on terror continues to be counterproductive.
The West must realise that we in the Arab and Muslim world have been suffering from terrorism for many years. Our friends in the West need to remember that countless families in our region have lost their sons to extremist ideology. In the name of jihad, hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims have left home forever. They have been misled by an illusion – ideas that are contradictory to human values.
In fact, today’s war isn’t between religious extremists and the West. It’s between good and evil, between humanity and barbarism, between progress and primitivism. This realisation should help us understand that negative views and stereotyping are counterproductive.
As for us, Arabs and Muslims, we need to stop looking at the West – or anything that isn’t Arab or Muslim – with contempt. We need to forsake the idea that we are the forefathers of modern civilisation and forerunners of the Renaissance. At the same time, the West ought to renounce its sense of its superiority. Only then will it stop looking down on Arabs and Muslims.
What we need to do now is join hands to fight terrorism. It is true that many of the terrorists the world faces today call themselves Muslims, but it is also possible that in just a few years there will be other extremists who will profess other faiths. So let us not stigmatise a religion.
Terrorists are cowards. They will run away if confronted in a united fashion. The more disunited the world in the war on terror, the stronger the terrorists. Therefore, I urge my colleagues in the western media to be prudent when delivering antiterrorism messages and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Millions of Arab and Muslim immigrants lead peaceful lives in the West. Muslims make up six per cent of Europe’s population. It is to be hoped that they are never made to pay the price for the actions of a handful of terrorists, who have been disowned by the majority of Muslims.
Europe’s Muslim citizens and residents are people who left their home countries to escape from poverty, injustice and terrorism. Their work benefits their adopted countries just as much as them and their contribution must be recognised.
Perhaps westerners who live in Arab countries should take up the onerous responsibility of conveying a positive image of our region, our people and our faith to the western world.
For years, the West stood by and watched while terrorism wrought havoc in other faraway parts of the world. That was wrong, with the passiveness merely helping terrorism to spread. Those who think they are safe from terrorism are deluded. Everyone is at risk and it is time to come together to fight this evil.
The United Nations must take a practical position on the war on terrorism. This is not an option but a necessity.
Funding and weapons are two big factors. The taps must be turned off. When terrorists are well supplied with money and arms, they are better able to organise and expand their areas of operation.
The world deserves to live in peace. We should not be held hostage by thugs and butchers.
Mohamed Al Hammadi is editor-in-chief of Al Ittihad, which is the sister paper of The National
* Translated by Racha Makarem