Modern Muslim dilemma

BOMB blasts rocking Algeria’s capital bear the finger prints of the country’s notorious Islamist rebel group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), now re-named the Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb. As news reports confirm 17 dead and many more injured, the incident underscores the deadly threat posed by extremist groups right across the Muslim world.

At the risk of repetition, the responsibility for the increased potency of these groups must in large part be placed on the West’s misadventures stemming from the so called war against terrorism. Emboldened by similar groups’ successes in Afghanistan and Iraq, these hardliners have moved to practically take the law in their own hands in their respective fields of operations. And as is being presently proved in Pakistan, the state often struggles to rein them in even when its writ is blatantly rubbished. Last Friday, the leader of a hardline group there openly threatened the government with reprisal suicide attacks if they are targeted by state-force.

Of course such violence is not entirely new to Algeria. The attack is reminiscent of the series of bomb blasts in February that targeted police stations. Among other things, such assaults also show the ineffective nature of government offerings, like the six-month amnesty accorded to the hardliners by the Algerian government, on condition of surrender.

As capitals from Islamabad to Riyadh to Algiers struggle to find ways of arresting this menace, the only solution all are unanimous on is for the long-run. And that requires an inspired multi-pronged effort at raising education and enlightenment levels throughout the Muslim world, where they are arguably on one of the worst declines in its rich history.

But there hardly seems any practical solution in the short-run, which is cause for mounting concern. Whereas it is a proven case that these heavily indoctrinated people will not come round to listening to voice of reason, experience also suggests that they will respond to use of force with fearsome violence and agitation. This, therefore, is the dilemma for modern Muslim governments. Perhaps a prudent step towards dealing with it is addressing the social and civil impoverishment to less extreme classes. In the greater scheme of things, they play a large role in countering extremist tendencies.

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