EUROPE is on edge following Tuesday’s suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station which killed 31 people and injured 270 others. Two brothers — Ibrahim El-Bakraoui, 30, a Belgian national who blew himself up at the Zaventem airport and Khalid, who detonated explosives at the Maelbeek Metro station near the European Union headquarters, carried out the devastating attacks which came in the wake of the capture of Paris attack mastermind Salah Abdeslam by Belgian police last week.
Abdeslam, one of the key suspects in the November 13 Paris attacks which left 130 people dead, was wounded in a police raid last Friday in Brussels. The attacks in Brussels are thought to be linked to the Paris attacks network and Abdeslam’s arrest.
In both the Paris and Brussels attacks, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility — sending a clear message to the West of the organisation’s reach and potential to strike at the heart of their communities. Since the rise of IS — which is fighting to building a so-called caliphate (an area ruled by strict Islamist laws) — in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, the world has witnessed a steady rise in terrorism and an extremist form of Islam.
IS has been able to use modern methods of recruitment, reaching as far as the United States and Western Europe where it has managed to indoctrinate impressionable young people and convince them into joining the organisation. Using the internet as its foremost recruitment tool, IS has penetrated into the homes of Western communities and spread its extreme brand of Islam.
Hordes of youths have found their way to Syria — the stronghold of IS — where they have been schooled to believe in the organisation’s ideals and values. The widespread use of social media has enhanced the effectiveness of jihadist propaganda.
IS holds the Koran to be its constitution, and uses ruthless tactics, including summary executions and suicide bombers, to assert its authority and achieve its goals of ending the “partitioning of Muslim lands” and uniting “the Muslims under one Imam carrying the banner of truth.” Its message appeals to disaffected Muslims around the world, particularly those in the West who feel rejected by the communities they live in and thus find succor in this extreme form of their religion.
While the rise in terrorism in the West can be linked directly to the growth of IS, foreign policies of these countries have also contributed to the ill-feeling Muslims have towards the likes of the US, France, Britain and Germany. There are large Muslim immigrant communities in Paris, Brussels and London who live in squalid conditions devoid of social amenities.
Muslim are often racially profiled and prone to harassment by law enforcement agencies. Mosques and other places of worship are often raided and this angers Muslims who find it hard to integrate into the Western way of life. This creates a fertile ground for recruitment of jihadists who find the message from organisation such as IS appealing.
Wars in the Middle East have been linked to the desire by the US and other Western powers to control the oil wealth in that region and this has angered Muslims who have vented their fury through joining groups such as IS whose twisted interpretation of the Koran is causing mayhem the world over. So as the Western world grapples with answers to the latest carnage on its shores, it should introspect and review its policies towards the Muslim community.
Dangerous rhetoric such as that coming from Republican front runner Donald Trump in the US is not helpful as it only serves to inflame tensions which are already running sky high. What makes people like Trump even more of a liability to their country is that they are isolating the Muslim community in the US which can be useful in stopping groups like IS and decimating its propaganda.
While we commiserate with the families who lost loved ones in the Brussels tragedy, we can’t help but find the governments of EU countries and their US counterparts culpable for the spread of terrorism right on their doorsteps.
The instability in Libya, Iraq, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries can be traced right to the Western capitals who instigated the fall of regimes they deemed undesirable. The toppling of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for instance, removed a bulwark against migration to the EU and opened the floodgates for thousands of refugees to seek a better life in mainland Europe.
Jihadists have found this a convenient gateway to the heart of Europe where they are now wrecking havoc. The big brother mentality and propensity to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations is fanning terrorism and heightening anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East. This should stop if the fight against Islamic extremism is to be won.