The US naming the religionist terrorists ‘Islamic’, ‘Islamist’ or ‘Jihadist’, includes many innocent Muslims into the terrorists networks. ‘Islamic’ for example means ‘something according to Islam’, or ‘something has no problem with Islam, OK for the Islam’. If you name Al Qaeda ‘Islamic’, you lose the vital public support against terrorism, because ‘Islamic’ covers all the Muslims yet Al Qaeda is a marginal group. The US has to separate very well the terrorists and the ordinary Muslims. Even ‘Islamist’ is a name of a group which is bigger than terrorists. Islamism is a political movement and all members of the Islamist group are not violent or terrorist. ‘Extremism’ or ‘radicalism’ also cannot reflect the real threat. A Muslim could be radical or extremist in one dimension of the religion yet he has not to be a terrorist or violent. Likewise ‘jihad’ is not the right word for naming the terrorists. What the US does not know that ‘jihad’ is a good term for almost all Muslims and does not mean ‘armed war’. ‘Jihad’ according to Islamic sources means ‘struggle against the evil’’ and this struggle could be done by any tools, peaceful tools or arms. Even when it is used as ‘armed conflict’ it means ‘legitimate war’ not terrorism. The US and its allies have to name terrorists ‘terrorist’ without mentioning any religion. This will be the first step in overcoming terrorism. Otherwise the front would be enlarged. In Turkey, Turkish security authorities name terrorists as terrorist and blame them of abusing religion. They cannot get support from the mosques and respected religious authorities. Turkey has tried to get public Muslim support in its fight against the religionist terrorists.
Second, the US’ terrorism combat is mainly based on fear caused by 9/11, and the struggle became a ‘revenge campaign’ in the eyes of many experts and layman. Many Americans told me that “the US would not have occupied Iraq and Afghanistan if there was no 9/11”. It means that the terrorists can harm anyone but the Americans. If the terrorists declare that they will not attack the Americans but the others, we understand that the US will not fight against terrorism. It is unfortunate that the perception of the US among the Muslim peoples is not good enough to get their support in fighting against global terrorism.
Third, the US security forces do not respect enough the holly Muslim places in operation areas. They arrogantly enter the mosques and houses of the Muslims. Each terrorist killed or arrested in these holly and special places by the US soldiers create more and more terrorists. In Turkey’s struggle against religionist Hezbollah case however the Turkish police decided not to make any security operation in the holy places, like mosques. No police was allowed to enter the mosques even to arrest or capture Hezbollah members, although the police officers time to time knew some of the militants hid among the cemaat (mosque community). The aim was not to alienate the ordinary religious people from the State and security authorities. The Hezbollah was propagandizing that Turkish State was atheist and against Islam, and an operation in a mosque would may strengthen this propaganda. The police was careful not to be seen as anti-Islam during these operations. Unfortunately the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan provide abundant evidences to be abused by the Al Qaeda. When some of the American politicians suggest to occupy the holiest Muslim places like Mecca and Medina, Al Qaeda need no more poof to prove the US’ anti-Islam stance.
Fourth, the US has no close partner in the Muslim world in its combat. Strangely the US politicians do not give enough importance to the ideas of the legitimate Muslim leaders. As a result, US is alone in its combat and its anti-terror campaign has been perceived as an anti-Islamic attack against the Muslim peoples. As a matter of fact that Al Qaeda foremost challenges the Muslim states including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt etc. There is no Islamic State in the world has good relations with the Al Qaeda. So, if the US cannot find a close partner in this picture, it means that there is some problem with the US anti-terror strategy.
Another problem is that the US aims to change the borders, leaders and regimes in the Middle East, heart of the global terror according to the US. However the main target should have been the terrorists’ ideological challenge and the environment causing terrorism. The Iraq case vividly showed that changing the leaders do not put an end to terrorism, but nourishing and spreading terrorist movements.
The US needs a combat philosophy and internal partners in its struggle. Turkish Islam provides the needed ideological tools and the Turkish security forces could be the insider partner for the Americans in their global terror ‘war’. Even Muslim Turkey searched partnership of the religious authorities. For instance one of the measures taken by the police against the religionist terrorists in Turkey was co-operation with Turkish Department of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). The religious experts analyzed the Hezbollah’s claims and prepared the anti-dote of these arguments. All these documents were put on the educational web sites of the Diyanet. The imams were trained to face the Hezbollah challenge. No Hezbollah name was mentioned in the anti-Hezbollah training materials.
Fundamentals of political democracy (separation of Mosque and State, and the political sovereignty of the people) have roots in some Muslim countries. The Muslim intellectuals in Istanbul, Damascus etc. have long struggled to co-exist Islam and modernity. Progressive political reform is actually within the tradition of the whole region. But encouragement and co-operation between the US and the Middle Eastern countries needed for success stories. In order to encourage the moderate and peaceful Islam the security men have to be in co-operation with the religious authorities and they should get internal support.
Turkey also may lead the anti-terror campaign at institutional level too. Turkish security forces, in co-operation with the US, may train the police and special departments in other Muslim countries. As a matter of fact that Turkish, Egyptian, Pakistani etc. police can overcome the terrorist movements if the Western financial and technical supports are provided. The leading actors in combating terrorism should be the Muslim police not the ‘Christian American soldiers’. Turkey attempts to open police offices in Pakistan and Afghanistan, yet the financial problems slow down the initiative. Turkish Police Academy and security institutions also give training and anti-terrorism courses to high-ranked police officers from the Balkans, Middle East and the Central Asia. However the financial limits again do not allow greater projects on combating religionist terrorism.
25 August 2007
Sedat LACINER: Assoc. Prof. Dr. of International Relations. BA (Ankara U.), MA (University of Sheffield), PhD (King’s College London)