Of war and terrorOleh Bielokolos
The tragic events of November 13 force us to look carefully over time into the real reasons of what happened in Paris that terrible Friday. The audacity of the attackers and their synchronized actions suggest some reflections about the existence of terrorist coordination and ideological centers in Europe and beyond.
Analyzing individual acts of Islamic fanatics as another isolated terrorist attack would not only be overly simplistic, but also a serious mistake in the context of objectivity, comprehensiveness and adequacy of conclusions that humanity will make dealing with this situation. The analysis of certain historical processes will help understand the issue.
In late 1960’s a mostly moderate Islam prevailed in the Arab world. Even Palestinians, before a notorious terrorist attack at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, had not considered terrorism as their main weapon, hoping to start creating their own state based on military aid and political support from the Arab states.
The sign of Islam’s radicalization was the increased popularity of Muslim Brotherhood across the Arab world in late 1970’s. The organization promoted unification of all Muslims in a fight against the "Imperial Western system" and demanded restoration of a medieval caliphate, with public life to be governed by Koran exclusively.
The revolution of 1979 in Iran, has shown the Islamic world that religion can be a powerful political weapon.
The Iranian revolution also led to the Islamization of Lebanon and the Palestinian movement, whose leaders were at the time looking for new means to consolidate their supporters, and brought the cult of jihadism and martyrdom into the Arab movements and organizations.
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the following brutal ten-year war gave another impetus to the radicalization of the Islamic world. It was Islam that became the foundation and ideology for unification of disparate Afghan tribes and ethnoses in the struggle against foreign aggression. Moreover, the Soviet war in Afghanistan led to an active expansion of ties between different kinds of Islamic fundamentalist groups.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, these fanatical groups turned sharply against the West and the United States. Subsequently, Osama bin Laden created the infamous Al-Qaeda, while Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 should have become indicators (but they have not!) of the latent and dangerous trends in the Islamic world to the U.S. and the West as a whole.
Perhaps this was the reason why the 9/11 attacks shocked the Western world so much. The next thing was the global war of the U.S. against terrorism, operation in Afghanistan against the Taliban, the invasion of American troops in Iraq in 2003, media scandals regarding Guantanamo detention center Abu Ghraib… All of this further strengthened anti-western sentiment and the level of radicalization in Muslim communities around the globe.
Then came the armed struggle of the Islamists in Iraq, the bombings on trains in Madrid in 2004, terrorist attacks in London in 2005, and in Mumbai in 2008. Radical Islamist groups have increased their activity: Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa. These groups commonly oppose Western values and culture, primarily targeting Christians in their terrorist attacks. It was on April 2, 2015, when Al-Shabaab militants went on a killing spree at the University of Kenya’s Garissa, murdering 148 Christian students.
Not by chance, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Afghan Taliban are now cooperating closely with the Islamic State (IS), which declared its goal the creation of the caliphate – the world power for all Muslims who would live under Sharia law.
In our article for the Dzerkalo Tyzhnya newspaper published on Dec 26, 2014, titled "Year of Ukraine" we emphasized: "The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant challenged not only the Western civilization, which preserves the purely symbolic Christian identity despite emphasized secular form, but also the states which adhere to traditional Islamic movements."
Due to various factors, in particular chronic poverty, population stratification, lack of opportunities for the youth, contemporary Islam has become dominated with radicalism. Terrorism is no more an isolated phenomenon. It has transformed into a stable tradition implemented by various movements that are hard on the principles of zero tolerance for anything that contradicts their views.
Therefore, the Paris events of November 13 are in no case an isolated terrorist act, but rather one of the episodes of a new type of war that the radical Islamists are waging against the Western (or, as they call them, “liberal”) values. In this war, terror is just one of the wide range of tools.
This new type of war does not recognize any borders or rules – neither military, nor civilian.
This war is being waged on a global scale. This is the war, which the West is so obviously scared of. And the Kremlin would like to use this war to achieve its goals.
What lessons should Ukraine bring from the Paris tragedy, given high probability of terrorist attacks and subversive actions inspired by Moscow, amid low credibility of the government and security services? Obviously, certain steps should be taken. First, immediately halting all radical anti-Ukrainian activities of all organizations, regardless of ideological or religious connotation.
Second, banning media that spin obvious anti-Ukrainian propaganda. Civil society activists would be of great help in detecting such actors.
Third, people who finance or otherwise facilitate terrorist and subversive actions should not only face criminal prosecution, but also be stripped of Ukrainian citizenship and declared unwanted persons.
And finally, establishing regular, frank and constructive dialogue with the Muslim community on the basis of mutual respect and consideration of their interests and needs, including educational ones, while harshly tackling any forms of radicalism. Creating proper conditions for operations of cultural, educational, theological centers, educational institutions for training of clergy of the Muslim community, and above all of the Crimean Tatar people, who recognize the primacy of human values, rule of law, and demonstrate loyalty to Ukraine.
Oleh Bielokolos is an expert at Maidan of Foreign Affairs charity foundation