To Counter Terrorism, Not Extremism… The Government’s Plan

By: Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Sat 18 June / Jun 2016. 11:31 PM
  • Fahed Khitan

When the chapters of the government’s strategy to counter “extremism”, published by “Al Ghad” some days ago, are reviewed thoroughy, one certain finding is concluded; the strategy was designed to contain the current effect and threats of extremist groups in Syria and Iraqi on Jordanian youth, and prevent their recruitment, as much as possible.

In other words, the strategy is an emergent reaction plan, to face up to a primarily foreign threat, which requires instantaneous response. In this case, it cannot substitute the vitality of outlining internal alternatives and plans to address the issue of extremism internally.

Domestic confrontation of extremism requires first and foremost, a clear and specific description of the task, as an integral part of the holistic reformation, instead of and emergent contingency plan.

However, I think, setting the two frontiers apart, internal and external; is paramount to succeeding in both discourses, on the long term, as well as the mid-term, respectively. But why?

Well, with exception of a limited portion of youth, already integrated in the ranks of extremist fanatics in Jordan, most of Jordan’s youth in Syria and Iraq have joined terrorist groups there willingly, in order to aid in freeing their brethren from the tyranny of sectarian governance, and have no history of terroristic activity in Jordan, at all; many of them are not even religious.

Those would not have thought about joining the battle there, alongside terrorists and extremists abroad, were it not for the development of the situation there in the first place. Otherwise, they would have most probably lived normal lives as any other Jordanian citizen does.

Accordingly, the factors of their recruitment, in this discourse, are mainly foreign, and not domestic. Had it been the other way around, their first choice would have been the formation of terrorist cells here.

Along these lines, a distinction is called to outline the difference between fanatics in Jordan and those in other countries, whom have endured so much tyranny that they have been turned terrorist; to face up to oppression.

When did those become a threat to Jordan?

It started when some of them started coming back home fuelled with extremist though, and seeking implementation, albeit through individual discourses, or via directives of terrorist leaderships in Syria. The Irbid cell and the Baqaa attack, for instance.

The strategy by the government is dedicated, apparently, to containing the phenom of joining ISIS and Nusra in Syria, and limiting these groups’ influence of youth.

However, should the State be thinking these strategies would score any difference or improvement beyond, they would be mistaken.

The published strategy should be exclusive to external preventive measures to address the challenge. But facing extremism domestically requires a totally different approach; one that bases from rooted national necessities that predate the external condition, by far; and have more to do with reforming the relationship between State and religion, as well as the roles of the religious institution in public life, the rights of groups and individuals, in addition to other highlights the strategy does not even touch on; the civil state primarily, which is outlined in the constitution, but is far from applied.

In short, countering extremism domestically is one thing, and fighting off terrorist groups abroad is something else. And the government’s plan is dedicated to counter terrorism, not extremism!