OPINION

Three years on

Three years after the terrorist blitz in New York and at the Pentagon, the whole world finds itself mired in insecurity. The nightmare of terrorism continues to reappear with terrifying frequency. The globe has not experienced an attack of the same magnitude, but terrorism’s death toll since then has been devastating. Islamic terrorism is no longer a regional problem. As the long chain of attacks against a wide range of targets including Indonesia, Turkey, Russia and Spain demonstrates, terrorism constitutes an asymmetrical threat on a global scale. Each new strike comes as a dramatic reminder of two facts: First, Islamist terror knows no moral constrains when it comes to murdering civilians, a fact which, on the one hand, facilitates its operations and, on the other, magnifies the political impact and increases insecurity among the public. Second, the anti-terrorism campaign of the United States and Moscow has done nothing but pour more oil on the flames. There is no question that blind violence and the cultivation of fear cannot be politically legitimized. The international community has a vital interest and moral duty to uproot the Al Qaeda network. Police investigation and military action are necessary but not sufficient measures. However high our security walls, terrorists will always find a crack to squeeze through. Most importantly, people across the world cannot live in a constant state of fear. They cannot be expected to compromise their quality of life by sacrificing their democratic rights and individual freedoms in the name of security. The fight against terrorism will only bear fruit if it is coupled with political initiatives aimed at unraveling the ideological and political causes which fan Islamic extremism. The yawning wounds in Palestine, Iraq and Chechnya demand political solutions. Only then will the relentless fanatics be stripped of their martyr status in the eyes of the angry Islamic masses. Only then will the theories about clashes of religions and civilizations lose their charm. US President George W. Bush, on the other hand, has tried to play upon public insecurities at home and abroad. He has used the war on terror as a weapon in the US presidential race. However, as the Iraq invasion demonstrated, 9/11 has also been used as a pretext for the settling of old scores. Washington thus undermined its own strategy. Instead of eliminating terrorism, it played into the extremists’ hands, endowing them with political legitimacy. Washington reinforced America’s image as an evil power seeking to humiliate Islam. It became the incubator of tomorrow’s terrorists.