Friday the 26th 2015, 9th of Ramadhan, monsters we have come to know as IS struck across three countries – Tunisia, France and Kuwait – Britain could have been on the list (God Forbid) if not for our intelligence services or the lack of intelligence on IS member, Junaid Hussain’s part (Hallelujah for the lack of grey cells in his genetic makeup).
Whilst many were quick to blame the security and intelligence services in letting down their guards none so far have questioned the prevalent approach employed to counter the spread of extremism.
In Kuwait, a suicide bomber flew in from Saudi Arabia and carried out an attack on a mosque killing 27 people within hours of landing in Kuwait city (an impossible feat without an extensive local support network). In Tunisia, a lone gunman killed 38+ tourists at a seaside resort most of them Britons (once again not possible without an extensive local support network creating violent extremists out of disenfranchised youth). In France, a Frenchman was beheaded by a Frenchman (an Algerian or Moroccan lone wolf radicalised either at home or in North Africa). The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait whilst the French terrorist’s affiliation is yet to be determined.
Each of these attacks demonstrated systemic planning and radicalisation of indigenous individuals
by IS. It is time we seriously considered an alternative approach to ensure IS and its ilk have fewer and fewer individuals to radicalise both at home and abroad. It is time to win hearts and minds at the grassroots, to engage with marginalised and alienated individuals to ensure they have good reasons to turn their backs on radicalisation and violent extremism, to condemn such acts rather than glorify them and their perpetrators. Just as IS is able to exploit moments when we let our guard down we must exploit the opportunities before us to alienate IS in its own environment from the indigenous population.
We did not get peace in Northern Ireland because the terrorists wanted peace! we got peace because the indigenous population got sick of the cycle of violence which had no gain for either side in sight, the populous was convinced of the loose-loose outcome of the status quo. People the world over want a life of prosperity, progress and peace not jihad.
The only way to end this cycle of violence is for governments to invest on empowering the local indigenous population be it uneducated marginalised street merchants that may provide an extensive support infrastructure or disenfranchised graduates who are willing and able fodder for attacks on home soil and abroad.
This is a common sense approach, IS is entrenched and playing the long game, they are building a state out of chaos and we too must play the long game if we are to ensure these monsters can never carve out a nation state from the chaos in the Levant and North Africa.
Countering IS radicalisation at an individual level in Africa and Asia is less than the cost of a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG), it costs US$470 over a 10 month period to transform an individual at risk of radicalisation in a marginalised neighbourhood both materially and psychologically, to take them from someone who may condone violent extremism as a means for social transformation to someone who condemns it and has other means to transform themselves, their family and community. It costs US$500 to purchase an RPG grenade and a shed load more for the RAF bombs Mr Cameron wants to drop on Syria and Iraq.
Whilst we invest in ever more sophisticated surveillance technologies and infringe even more individual rights to keep ourselves and our society safe why not invest in the ‘right’ programs at the other end too and see what results social transformation bear upon our security at home.
The results of a pilot project targeting 214 marginalised individuals from seven radicalised neighbourhoods in Karachi, Pakistan proves that the alternative approach works. Providing marginalised individuals the tools and skills to take charge of their future, become financially independent has a direct relationship with their view of the world as their enemy, their view of licit and illicit vehicles for social transformation.
You can read all about it here and if you agree with this alternative approach perhaps you can poke your MP or Congressman/woman to wake up to the fact that security of our towns and cities begins abroad… with Agile designed and delivered programs that are low cost and deliver immediate and lasting impact on the individuals, their family and community.
The program referred to in the post above is run by Peace Through Prosperity a charity co-founded by the author to address violent extremism. You can learn more about the charity and its work here;