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Sunday, January 11, 2015


Today could be a historic day if world leaders and civil society will continue to stand united against religious extremism in general and radical political Islam in particular, the branch of Islam that has been responsible for many terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States.

That the French have finally awakened to the curse of global terrorism because their values have been attacked may raise cynicism, perhaps rightfully so. So does the overrated participation of both the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in the Paris rally: The first was surely motivated by the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris, particularly the murder of fellow Jews in a Kosher market, as likely as he was by the upcoming elections in Israel; the latter needs international support for his attempt to create the Palestinian state through unilateral means.

But that Muslim leaders gathered with Christians, Jews and followers of other religions to reject radical Islam is encouraging – as a first step in the war against global terrorism – if this is in fact what we are seeing in Paris today.

The images emerging today from TV screens are indeed powerful. They bring hope that perhaps the world, or at least parts of it, has finally got it. That it suddenly understands the scourge of extremism, providing that the hype from Paris will not subside tomorrow or the day after, and that the root causes of terrorism will also be addressed.

Lost in the hype is a piece of news in today’s papers of a 10 year old girl who was used by Nigerian insurgents as a suicide bomber, killing herself alongside 20 others, and wounding many more.  

The use of children as potential suicide bomber is not new. Hamas hat tried that before. And there are other means by which terrorist groups use children: Most of the 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who had been abducted last year by Boko Haram are still in the hand of their kidnappers. That too has been missing from the voices in Paris, not to mention last week’s possible killing of 2,000 Nigerians by the group. But the rally is not over yet at the time of this writing, and may be these atrocities will be mentioned too.    

The phrase “not in my name” uttered by many Muslims, whether ordinary citizens or leaders from Arab and non-Arab Muslim societies, sounds good. But unless it becomes a movement, it will remain an empty slogan. The movement needs to include not only civilian and military leaders, but also, most importantly, Imams from the Middle East, Africa and the West.

Till that happens, today’s rally in Paris, impressive and moving as it is, will be a fleeting episode in the “fight” against the latest wave of fascism the world is facing.

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