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Terror wave in Africa

Published Jul 03, 2012 12:05am


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THE wave of religious extremism in large parts of Africa from the Horn to the Atlantic has assumed dangerous proportions and threatens to destabilise a number of states, including the continent’s most populous country. From Nigeria to Somalia, Islamist extremists, some of them well-armed, are on the rampage, attacking Sufi shrines, blowing up churches and bombing civilian targets. In Mali, on two successive days, religious extremists attacked shrines in Timbuktu, one of non-Arab Muslim Africa’s most prized cultural assets, and destroyed them. Armed with pickaxes, supporters of Ansar Dine, Mali’s armed Islamist movement, which controls the country’s northern part, demolished a number of mausoleums over the weekend and have vowed to destroy more. The rampage did not stop there; on Monday, there were reports that the extremists had attacked a 15th-century mosque in Timbuktu to prove wrong a legend associated with the place of worship. The Mali attacks immediately bring to mind the growing intolerance within Pakistan, which has seen extremists, subscribing to orthodox ideologies, target symbols representing the softer face of Islam and at variance with their own views. Sufi shrines have increasingly been attacked all over the country by hardliners.

The fanatical elements among those subscribing to the Salafist movement may or may not have links with Al Qaeda. But there is no doubt that their extremist philosophy, often translating into militant movements, have sprouted across the Islamic world from Indonesia to Morocco. What is unfortunate is that efforts to tackle their bigoted stance have been piecemeal in the Muslim world. There is no wide-ranging counter-narrative to challenge the discourse that sees Islam in monolithic terms. And in its absence a narrow interpretation of religion is bound to dominate. Those countries battling militant Islam today should also realise that extremist thought cannot be countered through drone attacks or state force. In fact, these have an opposite effect and end up creating more space and sympathy for the extremists. The only response to those who advocate an extremist position on religion is greater openness and sustained democratic processes in Islamic countries where the discourse on religious tolerance and pluralism must also be encouraged.

Comments (7) Closed

Cyrus Howell Jul 03, 2012 05:30am
Let Nigeria get it over with. They have no leadership and the Muslims are more than ready for civil war. So long as there are tribes in Nigeria, Islam not withstanding. That is one country where they sweep the generals out of power. They will retire to their London luxury apartments.
Anuj Jul 03, 2012 05:34am
why is it that a particular religion continues to inflame people to become extremists, globally?
Nouman Dar Jul 03, 2012 04:50pm
why do your eyes go blind on death toll of 20,000 Burmese muslims in just one week?
Asim Noor Jul 03, 2012 01:33pm
nationalism must be induced and inculcated in the Nations through political unison and religious tolerance,because nationalism is an overwhelming factor to bring them under one umbrella of islam. Moreover,we should avoid over self by galvanising western influence
@PaxTolerans Jul 03, 2012 10:58am
You need to take a closer look at things, extremism is & never has been exclusive to Islam.
junaid Jul 03, 2012 02:58pm
Anuj, Its not the religion its the people, Islam is the best religion and but the followers are bad, most importantly we are bounded with the media what it shows we have to believe, whole media is controlled and its a big conspiracy which make world slave. so wake up and do find the truth. junaid
Ali Jul 03, 2012 10:38pm
It's not a particular religion, it is the issue of states failing to perform the most basic of duties, including law enforcement. Barbarism is not preached by any religion. I disagree on one point with the editorial. A democratic response will probably not work as we can see in Pakistan because democracy requires basic understanding of democratic principles, including tolerance of another's views. Good governance which includes economic opportunities, education and justice is needed as part of a political system that, above all, upholds the law.