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June 29, 2017

Lessons on the origins and prevention of terrorism: Fahmy

Mohamed Fahmy

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There is no easy answer but for the time being we can't let evil win.

Christine Archibald, a social worker from Calgary, was one of the victims of the attack in London on Saturday. She had moved to London to be with her finance.

After each terrorist attack we are reminded of what we believe is senseless murdering of civilians.

To better understand the terrorism dominating our headlines and protect ourselves we must read into the motives driving those killers.

Firstly, the lack of a universal legislation hinders efforts to expeditiously try those outcasts because the international community and the United Nations have not agreed on a legally binding definition of terrorism.

For example, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, or Salafi jihadists, who are designated as terrorists in some countries in the Middle East are simply able to organize protests in the U.K., Canada, the U.S. and operate freely from their nerve centre in London — a city that has become far too tolerant to extremists.

Secondly, we must learn from the mismanagement of the theatres of such wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

Little did I know as a cub reporter standing outside Camp Bucca U.S. detention facility in southern Iraq in 2003 that Daesh was being born inside the prison under the eyes of inexperienced guards.

More than half a dozen of the group’s senior members, including its current leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were able to recruit and collude freely before they joined forces after their release to form the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which years later evolved into ISIS.

A decade later, life’s wheel of misfortune left me unjustly incarcerated for my journalism in the terrorism wing of Egypt’s Scorpion prison. My understanding of radicalization took a whole new perspective as I watched veteran terrorists poison the minds of disaffected and confused young boys. They brainwashed them on a daily basis with stories of what they consider a just holy war in the name of jihad — the struggle against the enemies of Islam.

If prisons worldwide do not apply a strict segregation of their population then these detention facilities will just become recruitment centres that produce more bin Ladens and Baghdadis.

Many of the prisoners I lived with talked proudly about their bomb making skills as they promoted their motto: One man’s terrorist is another’s man’s freedom fighter.”

In 2014 Abu Mohamed Al Adnani, a former detainee of Camp Bucca, who later became the spokesman of Daesh, released a statement before his demise urging his disciples to attack disbelievers waging war — citizens of western states such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K. and — “especially the spiteful and filthy French”

“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

Many of the men I met in the terrorism wing justify their killings as rightful vengeance for the thousands of civilians killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If they are orchestrating these indiscriminate attacks as compensation then how do we private citizens protect ourselves in this cycle of violence?

Bombs alone won’t end it and boots on the ground in the enemies’ terrain is the exact trap they strive for.

How do you stop a suicide bomber, like the man who blew himself up at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester killing 22 people, the bomber who killed 12 Muslims at an ice cream parlour in Iraq during the holy month of Ramadan, and the killers who used a van and knives to slaughter seven civilians in London, including a Christine Archibald from British Columbia?

Cutting millions of dollars Qatar provides to terrorist groups is a must, specifically after five Arab nations severed diplomatic ties on Monday with the oil-rich state for funding groups such as Al Qaeda and Daesh.

Monitoring preachers at mosques who promote violence against non-believers is valid and by no means a clampdown on freedom of expression, as some call it. Reviewing curriculum that endorses violence and twists the peaceful teachings of Islam in the textbooks of some schools in developing countries is a must.

Twitter, Facebook and other social media must do more to curb accounts promoting terrorism or violence.

Establishing centres to aid concerned parents about their children’s involvement in extremism at an early stage could be a game changer.

There is no easy answer but for the time being we can’t let evil win.

We must go on with elections, sing our songs, start a Twitter hashtag, petition the leaders we elect, pay tributes at vigils, spread love, light up the Eiffel Tower and pray.

Mohamed Fahmy is an award-winning journalist and war correspondent. He is the author of The Marriott Cell: An Epic Journey from Cairo’s Scorpion Prison to Freedom.

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