Al Qadea is like a cancerous growth. You can put it into remission, surgically remove parts of it, or try to blast it out of existence, but it simply regroups and either comes back in a different place or strain. In order to successfully “treat” this phenomenon the ideas and beliefs that lie at the root of their movement must be uncovered and attacked, otherwise their cancerous belief system will continue to “create” new cells no matter how many bombs, guns and bullets will be used.
Many political leaders have often referred to the fight against al Qaeda and like-minded terrorist groups as a “battle of ideas,” but what ideas are we exactly battling against, and what weapons can be used to counter them? The usual explanation is that many young Muslims are disaffected, in that they live in poverty, hate the West, (especially America) and are indoctrinated into the movement through what are called madrassas, otherwise known as religious schools.
While some of these factors certainly contribute to the process, we should dig a little deeper into the mindset of an extremist before the conventional book of wisdom is closed on this topic. Many of the 911 suicide attackers were not from poor families, in fact quite the opposite. Their upbringings were more from middle class lifestyles, not to mention Osama bin Laden himself, who as we all know came from quite a wealthy background.
What is it then that turns a regular person into a fanatic? Individuals don’t just happen to be attracted to extremist ideologies. They don’t just wake up one day, decide to strap a bomb around their waists, make their way down to the local bazaar, and then blow themselves up after breakfast. The process is one of the development of a body of beliefs that becomes cancerous, so to speak. This core body of beliefs then generates certain behavior and an attraction to fanatical ideologies.
All extremists “carry” this set of beliefs, albeit to varying degrees. What are some of these beliefs? Fanatics paradoxically believe that God or Allah is powerless in the world, and that evil’s dominion on earth is manifestly stronger. They also believe that life has little or no meaning, the end justifies the means, killing for the sake of an ideal is justified, the soul is inherently evil, the intuitions cannot be trusted, and that society in and of itself is against them.
These beliefs and others lie at the root of extremism. Despite all appearances, exterior conditions do not cause individuals to become extremists. Beliefs come first–events come second. In order to win the “battle of ideas” the most effective weapons are other ideas that are in direct opposition to these beliefs and act as natural “weapons” against extremism–guns, bombs, tanks and planes can only dart around the outside of the problem and are at best temporary “solutions.”
Steve Boston is an author and television producer. For more information on related articles and his book, “How to Defeat al Qaeda and Win the War on Terror” visit this site: http://www.conflictofbeliefs.com/