HASSAN: 19 years after 9/11, where do we stand?


One World Trade Center and the lower Manhattan skyline are seen shortly after sunset, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from the Rockaway section of Queens in New York City, U.S., May 20, 2020.

Brendan McDermid / REUTERS

The horrifying legacy of 9/11 has just entered its 20th year, and it is natural to wonder if the world has beaten the scourge of Islamist terror. This year’s news has been dominated by the upcoming American election, the Canadian standoff with China, unrest in Hong Kong and, most prominently, the global COVID-19 tally. All this may give the false impression that Islamist terror is a thing of the past.

Certainly ISIS strength has been undermined, as losing their caliphate has hamstrung their ability to raise funds. Al-Qaida has been in the shadows ever since the ISIS brand gained greater notoriety. But now the two leading groups in the world of terror have changed track to take advantage of the pandemic.

Many economies in the developing nations where terrorists thrive are shattered, leaving more disaffected people vulnerable to recruitment. Both ISIS and al-Qaida are making use of social media and the internet to draw such people in.

They have used the COVID-19 crisis as a propaganda tool, suggesting it is God’s revenge on the West. They can sell their own ideology by insisting it’s validated by the infectious spread of the disease. Now that people face near starvation in many parts of the Middle East, conditions are ideal for further recruitment.

Time reports Rita Katz, director of the SITE intelligence group, as saying, “Since the pandemic started, and weakened the capacity of law and security enforcement around the world, ISIS has persisted in operations across Afghanistan, West Africa, Central Africa, the Sahel, Egypt and Yemen.”

New developments in the Middle East, especially the reconciliation between the U.A.E. and Israel, have also angered many. Two gas cylinder explosions appear suspicious: three people were killed as a result in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The explosions may be coincidental and they have been portrayed by the Emirati government as accidents and downplayed by Jared Kushner, but they may be more sinister. A definite terrorist attack took place at a maternity ward in Afghanistan, killing at least 13 people.

An optimist assumes that people of all persuasions value peace as a common human goal, that years of fighting would exhaust even the most hardened Islamist, but there is little sign of this. Have the terrorists learned any lessons at all from their futile barbarism in the past two decades?

Perhaps unwittingly, they have brought the religion of Islam under intense scrutiny. The result has been far from what they were hoping for. Because of the spirit of inquiry so prevalent in the West, and because of Muslim exposure to new theories about the origins of Islam and the many doctrines associated with its history, many — especially among the young generations of Muslims — are questioning their faith. They are probing many of the controversial interpretations, some eventually abandoning the faith altogether. Islamic apologetics are fighting a losing battle against this growing skepticism.

There is a palpable trend of introspection in the Islamic world. But this trend needs to be widened to include the Salafists and other diehards. Whether this introspection will be enough eventually to drain the terrorist recruitment pool remains to be seen. Such paradigm shifts take years to blossom. For now, the threat of terror is still real, and complacency among western nations is hardly an option.

© 2020 Gananoque Reporter. All rights reserved.
A member of Sun Media Community Newspapers part of Postmedia Network.

SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com/news/hassan-19-years-after-9-11-where-do-we-stand/?remotepost=266501

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