Challenges linked to Islamic extremism

Security. After the 11 September bombing of the Twin Towers, the world has become extra security conscious. This can be noted in airports, train stations and other places. Security has become an issue in countries which have armed Islamic extremist groups.

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Such is the case for Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria and others. Even in countries where there are no guerilla groups, small so called ‘terrorist cells’ are a security threat. European countries are faced with this reality especially in France, Belgium, Great Britain and Germany. Kidnapping and piracy have become important sources of income for armed extremist groups.
Displacement of populations.   With the upsurge of operations carried out by the Boko Haram in Nigeria, the number of internally displaced people (in Nigeria) is estimated  to be 650,000. As for the war carried out by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the number of refugees is believed to have reached 1.500,000. The same trend can be traced elsewhere.

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Displacement of large numbers of people due to violent attacks by extremist groups has this in particular in common: some of the displaced especially in Iraq are minority communities (Christians and Yazidis) whose future existence is in balance.
Social disintegration and alienation.  This is a phenomenon which goes beyond a displacement of populations. Certain populations have lived together regardless of their religious differences. With religious extremism, marked by a clear discrimination against non-Muslims (for example in ‘salafi’ Islam), people who were once good neighbors begin to be suspicious of each other. This is the case in Zanzibar, Iraq, Pakistan and other countries where extremism has drawn a wedge between Christian and Muslim communities.
In Africa, where the extended family is still an important social institution, a new phenomenon is appearing: people who were once joined by family ties become as if they are unrelated. The salafis are supposed to limit their contacts with infidels even if they are of their kin. Cultural celebrations such as last funeral rites are not allowed by salafis and they have to avoid such gatherings.
Social cohesion goes hand in hand with certain aspects of culture such as  the way people present themselves in public. Extremist Muslims are introducing something that is culturally alienating and this is the strict exclusion of women from public presence. This is done by the adoption of the Burka (Afghan type of Islamic dress which covers the whole body of the woman allowing her to see through a net) or the complete veil (Saudi style crudely referred to as ‘Ninja style’), which leaves just a small opening for the eyes. In an African setting, these are the realities which shock!

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Loss of cultural heritage and treasures. The world remained dumbfounded in 2001 when the Taliban destroyed the 1700-year old Buddha statues in Afghanistan. The reality has been the same where the fighters of the Islamic State have passed. Monuments treasured by Sufi Muslims have been razed to the ground, not to speak of monasteries, which have been ransacked.
Beyond ravaging monuments and manuscripts (as happened in Mali), extremists have also been hostile to certain cultural treasures such as traditional dances, music, theatre and games. In brief, Islamic extremism has been, in modern times, one of the greatest forces acting against culture and civilization.

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Economic challenges.  Given the fact that economic growth is closely linked with security, it is to be noted that certain countries have seen their economies crumble due to the activities of economic extremists. Kenya, Egypt, Yemen and Nigeria are some of the countries whose tourist industries have been greatly affected. While the effects of extremism on economies can be looked at from the point of view of security, another area is also worth mentioning: that of freedom. Where extremists have tried to impose strict sharia law, it is evident that the result has been a serious drop in tourists, thereby notably affecting the economy.

Achilles Kasozi




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