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Religious extremism to be major concern

Zaigham Ali Mirza
Filed on December 16, 2005

DUBAI — Religious extremism and not terrorism will be the biggest concern for nations worldwide in the coming 10 or 20 years, the president of an India-based think-tank engaged in anticipating and influencing global future, said yesterday.

"It is relatively easier to tackle the issue of terrorism owing to a global consensus (against it) while the same does not apply to religious extremism," said Sundeep Waslekar, President of Strategic Foresight Group, and founder of the NGO, International Centre for Peace.

He explained that terrorism is a visible phenomenon directly affecting society, and people around the world do not sympathise with the perpetrators of horrible acts of terror irrespective of their "cause" or objective.

“There is a difference between terrorism and extremism,” Waslekar said, explaining that the extremists he is referring do not take up arms and do not use violence, making it impossible for the state to act against them. He noted that for 300 years the state had the final say, but religious extremism is aimed at changing that equation.

Citing followers of the Hizbut Tehrir, which started in Central Asia in the mid-90's and has already spread across the continent, and the Evangelical Christians in the West, particularly in the US, as examples of religious extremists, he said that these groups pose a greater danger (than terrorism) because religion is their ideology.

Religious extremism has the potential to create widespread chaos as many extremist groups are known for not recognising the authority of the state, which they want to overthrow and install a religion-based governance.

Waslekar pointed out that religious extremism is gaining ground in many countries and attracting more and more people.

"Another major change that is likely to occur in the next two decades is the economic stature of the US," he said, adding: "America is slowly losing its economic might to upcoming giants such as India and China, and in 10 or 20 years, it would cease to be a superpower."

“The US will still remain the strongest, militarily and technologically, and therefore it will just be a superforce, not the superpower that it is today,” he explained.

Waslekar pointed out that the US, apart from being world leader in terms of might and economics, is also considered “leader of community of values," but it is fast losing that image following the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Also, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is increasing rapidly in the US. In America, some 30 million households out of 112 million live on the poverty line,” he noted.

Strategic and economic priorities are likely to compel long-standing enemies, like the US and Iran, to come together as close allies in the coming years, Waslekar said, citing the cooperation the latter can provide in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran, he added, is a stagnant economy and it needs the US to change that situation. “If someone told us 35 years ago that the US and China would have such close ties as they do today, it would be considered a joke. But the biggest surprise of the next two decades could be the coming together of Iran and the US,” he explained.

Waslekar will be one of the speakers at "In Honour of Africa", a Black Tie Benefit Dinner being held today by Consortium Dubai, Dubai’s premier executive networking club and an initiative of Tecom Investments.

The event will be attended by Sir Bob Geldof, Adel Imam, popular Egyptian actor, Barbara Castek, CEO of Dubai Humanitarian and Aid City, and Anant Singh, producer of Yesterday and the forthcoming biopic of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom starring Morgan Freeman. It will represent the Nelson Mandela Foundation in accepting the donation from Dubai’s corporate community.

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