President Masum: Stopping ISIL a global duty

USA Today
Wed, Sep 24, 2014

by President Fuad Masum

Once again, Iraq is the theater of a savage war that threatens the whole region and the modern world. To fight this war, Iraq must enter into a new partnership with the international community. A historic partnership to end evil, brutality and savagery. In doing so, we are adopting a comprehensive approach to fight this threat that all of us have come to understand too well.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has transformed from a loose terror network to a state with an army, weapons, revenues and a steady supply of fighters who will stop at nothing to institute a rule from the dark ages in a region already shattered by wars, dictatorship and internal strife.

The countless crimes committed by this thuggish group are too many to list. They systematically kill all those who oppose them, expel civilians from their homelands, force non-Muslims to convert or die. They have committed crimes of genocide against the Yazidis and Christians and expelled them from their ancestral homeland.

At first, it seemed that only Iraq is facing this enemy, but soon, the whole world realized that this is not an ordinary enemy with small ambitions. ISIL is a cancer that can spread very quickly.

Eradicating ISIL is the duty of the whole international community, the fast expansion of their ideology imposes an extra duty on every state that wants to protect its people and its land from this cancer.

ISIL uses very sophisticated tools to spread its venomous ideology. ISIL is exploiting cultural, social and educational shortcomings in our societies.

More dangerously, they are able to exploit young and disillusioned people in the West. It is no secret that there are thousands of foreign fighters from Europe and U.S. who joined the ranks of ISIL.

This is an indication of their dangerous ability to brainwash youth using modern technology, such the internet and social media.

Every country concerned has to look into the social, political, educational and cultural factors that led to the growing of such ideology and enabled the recruitment of its young people into this network of terror. Every country has to look into what made committing such acts of brutality acceptable by some of its people.

In Iraq, they used the political, sectarian and security gap that existed as a result of our political crisis, they took advantage of these differences to occupy large territories of our country and tried to expand it further.

We responded by setting our differences aside, forming a new government that is representative and inclusive of all in order to face the threat with unity.

But this is not enough, we are aware that we have to create solidarity that turns everyone in our country against ISIL and its crimes.

When some parts of Iraq including the Kurdistan Region came under threat of ISIL, countries such as the United States, France, other members of the European Union, some of the neighboring countries and others realized the danger and came to the rescue. Some contributed with humanitarian aid while others intervened militarily.

Here I want to thank all those who helped us through these difficult times. We will not forget.

The campaign to help Iraq needs to continue in a systematic way, ISIL should be chased and killed wherever they exist because they don't recognize borders when they commit crimes, neither in Iraq, nor in the regional countries or in Europe and United States.

The military campaign on its own will halt their advance but a more long-term, sustainable plan is needed to completely eradicate them. We need to look at criminalizing their ideology, new legislation need to be passed to criminalize incitement and the spreading of such ideology in our societies.

Religious, cultural and social programs need to be adopted by our countries to promote tolerance and cross-cultural and inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogue and understanding.

All of this need to be backed by strong educational and public awareness campaigns to highlight the dangers of such ideology and make it immoral to belong to these groups or condone their actions.

As a scholar of Islamic philosophy, as a secular and keen student of history, I can confidently say that the phenomenon of extremism in this manner is new to our society and it is the responsibility of all of us to end it soon.

This imposes a great responsibility on politicians, the media, clergymen and educators, wherever they are East or West, to take extra care in avoiding saying or doing anything that could divide our societies and create gaps between the people. Such gaps could be exploited by extremist groups or ideologies.

As the president of one of the key countries in the front line against terror, I hope that this new alliance to end this evil will be the foundation of new world that is both free from extremism and has a place for all.

Fuad Masum is President of Iraq.

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