Saudi-led coalition needs to adopt holistic approach
The quickly produced Saudi-led 34-country coalition against radicalism is a good and long-awaited move. However, this move will not yield the needed results if it is not executed in a holistic way that includes both the military and ideological battles against the scourge of religious fundamentalism that has taken the world by a violent storm.
A military defeat of the likes of Daesh is necessary to cut off its leaders’ ability to plan and direct acts of violence in Syria, Iraq and Libya. But as has been seen in San Bernardino, some followers of this radical group are willing to take up arms without having a direct connection to the so-called Islamic Caliphate.
The ideological battle requires an honest and courageous internal look into the way some are using Islam to justify atrocities.
A number of Muslim leaders accurately argued that what is needed is an effort towards a religious reformation. Such reformation should include a serious process of delinking religion from state administration.
Religious texts are extremely important as a value source for legislation, but when religion plays a monopolising role, it gives radicals a chance to turn important and valuable values toxic.
The need for some sort of separation between religion and the running of the state should be an important part of this process.
Religion in its core component is absolute and non negotiable. The running of a state is based on the principle that politics is the art of the possible.
Attempting to enforce religion in the day-to-day affairs in the 21st century is a formula for self-destruction.
Debate on this issue is not new or restricted to any specific religion. Europe went through a similar situation during the 16th century. At the time, the only religion was the Roman Catholic, which controlled both religion and politics. The protestant reformation that followed brought enlightenment and tolerance, benefiting the entire population and not just those who followed a specific religion.
In addition to the need for the separation of religion from the state, it is important that majority populated states take an internal look at the way they run their own societies.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for countries such as Saudi Arabia to convince anyone of the importance of the fight against Daesh and its ilk if it is unwilling to take into consideration political reform within its own borders.
Such political reform need not reflect the Western model. There are enough liberal reformists in the kingdom, as well as among its coalition members, to be able to begin a home-grown reform process.
The coalition fight against radicalism cannot succeed if the countries leading this struggle are unable to tackle some of the hate speech and intolerance that is spewed from mosques and the airwaves by individuals either directly or indirectly supported and funded by public funding.
No one will take the Saudi effort seriously if it is unable to make serious effort against such hate mongers.
Arab and Muslim efforts to defeat radicalism militarily and ideologically need to be synchronised with a similar effort that it taking place internationally. Such synchronisation must naturally be a two-way street.
Both sides must understand and accept the minimum requirements needed to succeed in this struggle. As the saying goes, a chain is as strong as its weakest link. It is highly important, therefore, to be sure that special effort is given to some of the weaker links in such an effort.
One of the weakest links in the battle against radicalism is the double standard regularly seen in the way certain countries are treated.
The new White House “Daesh Tsar”, Robert Malley, has correctly pointed out that “resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict is necessary to defeating Islamist extremists”.
It is true, as Malley said, that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alone is no magic wand to solve the larger conflict in the Middle East.
Malley explained, however, that solving this conflict “would be a major contribution to stemming the rise of extremism, and to allow the kind of cooperation that is needed [to take on] what should be a common challenge”.
Saudi Arabia has finally made a serious effort to separate itself and what it stands for from those using the name of Islam to preach and carry out atrocities unacceptable today.
However, for this effort to produce results, it is crucially important that a holistic approach be adopted, one that includes serious efforts to challenge warped ideology and to take a serious internal look at one’s own policies and the need to reform them so as to be able to defeat the extremists.