Abdul Haleem طارق عبد الحليم is an Egyptian
Islamist cleric residing in Canada
years have passed since Al-Qaeda murdered its way onto the global stage. In the
West, except for a reasonably tight circle of policy and security specialists,
the group’s emergence caught everyone completely by surprise.
complacent we were. And indeed, still are today. As damning evidence unearthed
by Arab News’s Preachers of Hate series demonstrates, the West can still be a
depressingly weak link in the global campaign against extremism.
everything that has happened, and the hundreds of thousands killed and maimed,
Canada allows Tariq Abdelhaleem — someone the respected writer and researcher
on Al-Qaeda, Thomas Jocelyn, calls “an Al-Qaeda-linked religious figure” — to
operate openly within its borders.
there were supposed to be no safe spaces for terrorists. During the 1990s parts
of the UK, mainly in London, were havens for Islamists and Jihadis to
fundraise, network and build their organisations in. Groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir
said they wanted to build a caliphate and overthrow leaders throughout the
Al-Qaeda ideologue Abu Qatada operated openly, just like Abdelhaleem does
today. London policymakers mostly shrugged or ignored the hate preachers and
But 9/11, and
then the 7/7 bombings in London, changed the rules of the game. However, the
damage was already done. A network was up and running. People like Anjem
Choudary continued to preach radical ideology. The caliphate of Hizb
ut-Tahrir’s dreams became a reality. And hundreds of British men and women made
the journey east to join it.
countries generally deal with terrorist cells and networks reasonably
effectively through intelligence and security responses.
spot is countering the ideologues and disrupting the thinking that helps
inspire the violence. We have little concept or understanding of the ideology
that underpins the violence of Al-Qaeda and Daesh. And we have few ideas about
how to stop it.
To a mostly
secular West, we struggle to think that a twisted interpretation of Islam could
provide the religious justification for the most inhumane acts. In fact, it is
perfectly logical. Daesh recruits may have been found with “Islam for Dummies”
in their luggage as they journeyed to the killing fields of Syria and Iraq, but
the ideologues who drew them there were experts in using their extreme
religious creed to justify slaughter, including the slaughter of other Muslims.
some jihadists are deranged psychopaths. But for most, hate has to be learnt.
And Al-Qaeda and Daesh rely on religious justification to teach it.
efforts are not a solution in isolation. More drone strikes on terrorists
remove those pulling the trigger. But no missile or bullet can kill an idea.
And radicalised recruits simply take their place.
wallow in a sense of shame believing that all of this has come about due to
Western interference in Muslim lands. Of course there have been Western foreign
policy mistakes — although the West is as much condemned for not interfering in
Syria as it was condemned for its intervention in Afghanistan. But Spain is a
target for ISIS because of the overthrow of Islamic rule over 500 years ago.
Spain respond to that? Perhaps we should realise that extremists will use cases
of Western foreign policy misadventure for propaganda purposes — to recruit,
and create the conflict zones to wage war. But even if no Western wars exist,
they find other narratives to recruit. How else do they get people to attack
German and Belgian citizens?
Abdelhaleem case demonstrates, despite occasional jihadist attacks, Canada
clearly has not reconciled itself to dealing with those preachers of hate who
use the freedom of the West to inspire terrorism.
This is not
straightforward for Western societies, but it does require us to understand the
ideologue’s misuse of religion and subtle call to violence, and bring in laws
that make it illegal to act in this way.
inevitably and rightly comes up against freedom of speech and human rights
concerns. But most Western countries would have no problem stopping political
movements that inspire violent acts. So why not religious ones?
developers should be able to come up with a legal framework that prevents hate
preachers inspiring violence through religious justification on and offline.
Citing human rights concerns is not an adequate response. And lecturing on
human rights is easy when it is not your citizens being murdered by the
ideology you shelter. By allowing Abdelhaleem to freely contribute to jihadi
ideology, Canada is being deeply irresponsible.
William Neal is an international
communications consultant and political advisor based in London.
Source: Arab News