Along with military means, the global fight against terror also requires us to fight terrorists with our “intellectual troops”.

Terrorists are tangible entities with fluid ideologies. Along with military means, the global fight against terror also requires us to move our intellectual troops on ideological frontiers so that the contagion of ideas can be controlled.

As I write this article, families in Quetta (Pakistan) are still deciding which friend’s funeral to attend first. A terrorist attack hit the 9th biggest city of Pakistan on 8th of August taking more than 74 innocent lives. It’s been more than two years since Pakistan Army started their Operation Zarb-e-Azab to fight terrorism in Pakistan but people still live under a constant fear for their lives, and the lives of their loved ones.

Madrassas: Religious Schools Preach Lessons of Hatred

At a time when army troops are fighting militants in Northwestern borders of Pakistan, a radical cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz sits in the heart of Pakistani capital and preaches his lessons of hatred, bigotry, and militancy to young boys and girls.

Maulana Abdul Aziz is running a Madrassa (religious school) in Islamabad, named “Lal Masjid (Red Mosque)” which is not only known to produce, harbour and train militants but is also a place where radical and violent misinterpretations of Quran are taught.

Our security forces keep directing all their budget and efforts towards fighting terrorists in the mountains of Waziristan, but they ignore the huge ideological threats settled in the hearts of our cities. The same dilemma is applicable to the global fight against terror as the international community keeps ignoring the ideologies and is directing all their efforts on the use of force.

When the East has unleashed on itself, the serpents fiery extremists, the West is nowhere behind. Words spitted out by the likes of Donald Trump just fuel the already raging fire. The job done by radical clerics in the East is substituted by the extreme conservatives, and what we generally call, the “Red Necks” in the United States, and an Islamophobic rhetoric keeps existing.

When people sitting in my side of the world come across those fallacies, they exclaim “Oh, they hate us”. Similarly, when my friends in the US come across the words coming out from the likes of Maulana Abdul Aziz, they ask “Why would they hate us?”. This is when a viscous cycle of hatred is born which directly feeds into the terrorist narrative.

I do not argue that we should abandon military warfare against the terrorists. The use of force helps in controlling the spread of territorial and economic powers of terrorists and reduces their manpower as well. But when a terrorist dies, his/her ideology lives on which can give birth many more terrorists as well.

I do not believe it is possible to kill a radical idea, but it is possible to control its spread. For example, Red Mosque in Islamabad is a place where such ideologies are being propagated.

But why would any parent send their kids to such a Madrassa?

First reason is a lack of awareness, and the second is that they do not afford to send their children for a more expensive quality education. So the solution to this can include strong awareness campaigns and financial support for such families so they can provide their children with a better education. There should also be strong checks and regulations on Madrassa administrations. This way, we can stop the radicals from polluting our youth with their extremist ideologies.

Similar efforts should be made in the West as well so that we can put an end to the culture of stereotypes and generalizations that leads to hatred. When a fundamentalist from Pakistan tells someone that the United States hates Muslims, listening to a speech from Donald Trump doesn’t really help.

It is need of the hour that people should fight stereotypes on the western side and give out a message of harmony so that it’s easier for us to deal with the anti-American sentiments here on our side.

Terrorism is one the biggest threats facing our world today. The complexity of this issue calls for non-mainstream and innovative measures. Thus, the fight against terrorism should be updated to also control the spread of violent ideologies.

Sohaib Nashit is a Yale Young Global Scholar 2016.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *