By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
02 July, 2015
Strict legislative and security measures against extremist groups, even if they have not committed violent acts, are in the interest of Islam and Muslims in the West. This is the only way to save millions of Muslims and protect Islam from Muslims who distort the religion.
When Western governments expel extremist preachers, shut down suspicious institutions or pursue religious groups, they are protecting Muslims from extremists among them, and from the anger of the non-Muslim majority.
We must not look at such measures as racist, despite the presence of racism in the West. We must also not underestimate the magnitude of the expected clash with society in the West, which is adopting more hatred and hostility toward Muslims due to the hideous crimes that Muslims commit in the name of Islam.
The battle in the West is on multiple fronts. In France, the number of Muslims is estimated at 5 million, and France is the European country that has suffered the most from terror attacks in the name of Islam. France, like other European countries, is confronting several religious, security, political and legal problems when dealing with Muslims. Since the threat is related to both security and culture, the state must use its authority to protect society.
So how can it expel extremists if they are citizens? How can it deport legal residents if it is proven that they are engaged in extremist activity but have not taken up arms? The most important question is how can tens of thousands of Muslim youths in France be protected from extremists who want to turn them into enemies of the state that has become their home?
The controversy is heating up in most European countries as citizens who fear for their countries and for themselves accuse their governments of inaction. However, these countries’ law-abiding Muslim citizens refuse discriminatory laws and government practises that target them due to popular pressure.
Despite that, more strict laws are expected that will target extremist groups, and we hope these laws distinguish between the latter and the majority of Muslims, even if this will be at the expense of some rights and freedoms.
The situation is not so different from that faced by Arab governments, which are forced to pursue extremists and try to convince citizens that exceptional situations require exceptional measures.
Tunisia will lose its tourism industry due to last week’s attack, which succeeded in harming the government’s major financial resource as tourists worldwide will now boycott the country. Therefore, Tunis has had to announce a series of decisions, such as shutting down mosques affiliated with extremist groups and carrying out multiple arrests.
Meanwhile, Morocco has requested those working in the field of religion not to be involved in partisan and political work. Egypt has said it will confiscate extremist publications and only support moderate religion.
Some Gulf countries have begun restraining activity on extremist podiums, and are expected to close inciting TV channels such as Wesal. Hesitant Arabs will follow suit as we will witness more crimes, and it is evident that there is a strong relation between extremism and terrorism.
There is a lot of pressure on the French government as society there has been shaken by a series of crimes committed in the name of Islam. The most recent is that of Yassine Salhi in Lyon, who beheaded his boss. People were shocked by this horrific crime as they felt that France has become like Syria. The crime made them protest in front of mosques, blaming Islam rather than Salhi or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The interior minister tried to reassure people, saying: “Since 2012 [when Francois Hollande became president] we expelled 40 hate preachers and imams, while in the previous five years only 15 were expelled. We are currently investigating 22 other cases.” He also said they are in the process of shutting down many suspicious Islamic associations.
This is a normal result of extremist ideology, which thought that tolerant societies in the West were fertile ground to reside, produce more extremists and change society. Instead of hurting the West, however, extremists have harmed moderate Muslims and Islam, which found itself a great status outside its original home.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.