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Are we serious about combatting terrorism?

November 28, 2017 at 8:02 pm

On the morning of the terrorist massacre committed in Al-Rawda Mosque in Beir Al-Abed, which aroused widespread popular anger and seemed to lead to the formation of a national alignment in the face of terrorism, while the people were busy thinking about the crime, how to face violent terrorism, and how everyone can form a single national front against terrorism in order to support the police and Armed Forces who are confronting terrorism on the frontlines, news outlets reported that the security forces arrested five young men from Qena. They were arrested on charges of affiliation with the April 6 Youth Movement, which is a peaceful civil youth movement that participated in the January revolution, celebrated by Major General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi at the time, who was head of military intelligence and a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Furthermore, on the day after the terrorist act, a senior national party blocked Al-Mesryoon’s official news website in Egypt. Only hours before being blocked, the website had posted dozens of articles and news stories calling for the people to unite, condemning the crime and proposing ideas to confront such terrorism. I am mentioning these two incidents as examples of the political misguidance that causes confusion in the country and gives the impression that the political priorities of the decision-makers are reversed. It makes it seem that there are those who believe that the more important danger that must be confronted, eliminated, and that the state, its capabilities and agencies must confront is political opposition, civil society organisations, newspapers and websites that dare to criticise the president or government in a serious and uncompromising manner. Such parties are seen by some decision-makers as more dangerous than those carrying weapons and killing worshippers in mosques.

Read: Sisi’s terrorist organisation

Yesterday I referred to something all counter-terrorism experts in the world agree on, i.e. that one of the most important steps to winning the battle against terrorism is successfully strengthening your popular base, while, at the same time, stopping terrorists from gaining poplar bases. A government’s popular base requires political cleverness, wisdom, absorption of differences and the opposition, showing a high respect for human rights and the dignity of citizens, and making sure to raise the ceiling of dialogue, discussions and places to express opinion within the media, parliament, partisan activity and civil society.

All of this creates movement within society; brings about psychological and moral health, as well as satisfaction and confidence in the leadership, making it difficult for terrorists to infiltrate. These are political basics. However, for the priority after a massacre to be shutting down a news website because it posted an article not to your liking or a point of view different to yours, or because it called for changing direction or provided frank advice, this clearly indicates a lack of politically wise priorities within the mind-sets of the decision-makers. Or, it suggests they have other considerations we do not know about, different to the considerations agreed upon by the entire nation regarding the priority of confronting terrorism.


Furthermore, the fact that on the morning of the crime, a security raid was waged against peaceful youth with peaceful political, civil and media activity that has no links to terrorism, under the pretext of affiliation with the April 6 Youth Movement, which Al-Sisi himself had boasted about taking a picture with their leadership and youth figures several years ago, is illogical, even if they did actually belong to the group. However, anyone who knew them denied this. Are these really the priorities when confronting terrorism? Criminals strike at the Rawda Mosque in Beir Al-Abed so the response is to arrest members of the April 6 Youth Movement in Qena? How does this make sense? Is this the political logic employed by any leadership seriously thinking about strengthening the national front to combat terrorism?

The battle with terrorism is not purely a security or military battle; it is a comprehensive political battle that cannot succeed without employing a mature and comprehensive political mentality, with a mature and comprehensive political vision, guided by a wise and experienced political leadership. This leadership must possess a cohesive vision of the challenge and its complexities, as well as the courage to revise and correct any fault, without stubbornness. It must also have the ability to absorb and deal with all trends in its society and to strengthen the national ranks, as well as confidence in its legitimacy and ability to deal with a free, open and vital political atmosphere, with the knowledge that such vitality is ultimately conducive to the success of its battle and the country’s battle against terrorism.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 28 November 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.