A BOMB was detonated at a pop concert in the northern city of Manchester, England. The latest count of 22 dead and more than 50 injured is testimony of the cruelty perpetrated in a closed venue where people were about to leave at the end of a performance by American singer Ariana Grande. Terror has come to European cities. Granted that the current spate is garbed in Islamic extremism and blamed on the infiltration of refugees from the war-torn Middle East, but in several instances the perpetrators are homegrown as that occurred on London’s Westminster Bridge and Westminster Palace, and that in Brussels, and the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. Whether Islamic State or al-Qaeda inspired, the perpetrators in Europe are believed to be disgruntled European Muslims.
On the other hand, the terrorists wreaking havoc in Syria, Iraq and Libya come from all over the world, most especially from Muslim majority countries or provinces, such as Chechnya in Russia and Xinjiang in China. Many have converged in the Middle East war zones from an assortment of European countries and even the United States. Malaysians and Indonesians are there, too. But why, when most Muslims agree that Islam is a religion of peace?
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, one of five speakers, attending the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh last week, reaffirmed his conviction that only moderation, wasatiyyah, a Quranic injunction, can temper the extremist attraction that drives the terrorists who commit atrocities garbed as Muslims. Speaking in front of a gathering of leaders of the Muslim world — Syria and Iran were not invited — in the presence of US President Donald Trump, Najib reiterated Malaysia’s commitment to the principle. The policy thrust involved is to spread Islam’s message of peace and to, once and for all, banish the idea that there is anywhere in Islam where violence is part of jihad. Towards this effort, the King Salman Centre for International Peace was launched in Kuala Lumpur during Saudi ruler King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s recent visit here.
Indeed, military action against terrorists is necessary, but without an effort to win hearts and minds, extremism cannot be defeated. According to Najib, “a credible narrative needs to be told, in which Islam and modernity are compatible”. This is the objective of wasatiyyah, and as highlighted by Najib, the deradicalisation programme in Malaysia has had a 95 per cent success rate of reintegrating former extremists. Of course, it does not help when the United Nations Security Council bickers over what groups are to be categorised as terrorists. Geopolitical interests of some countries have conveniently turned terrorist groups into proxy armies. The combined effect of such geopolitical expedience is to exploit the disaffection of Muslim minorities especially, and Muslim activists who exploit the Muslim identity. Until such time a global united anti-terrorist front exists, the disgruntled and the opportunists are a dangerous cocktail whose presence explodes on the unsuspecting — as in the Manchester bombing — killing and maiming anywhere, at any time.