On Terrorists and the Need to Hear their Stories

“To look beyond their despicable actions, we need to focus on the cycle of oppression that creates them, a cycle that our governments are responsible for and must be held accountable for perpetuating. A blogger on Facebook, after the video of ISIS members killing 21 Christian Egyptians, writes how our governments indirectly bring extremist groups into existence, and even sponsors them and creates the perfect environment that breeds them, noting that: “For every terrorist the military kills in Sinaa’, twenty terrorists emerge in Cairo and other cities, not because a terrorist was killed, but because someone who was not a terrorist was wrongly killed.”

This cycle starts with an unjust murder of a peaceful religious opposition, creating a hateful response seeking revenge, which in turn propels the government into more prosecution, leading to brutal aftermaths, ones that could have been avoided.

Our governments are oppressive, following a tactic of brutal elimination of any opposing factions, especially ones with a religious basis, offering no chance of even an agreement to fair and honorable competition, and this leads a largely religious population to believe that the government seeks to destroy religion, one of the few things people hold into as a form of whatever identity they had left after years of colonization and western domination.

To fix the problem, we must go to the root. Contrary to those who say this root is religion, it’s not; it’s the young men carrying terrorist actions. Religion is merely a cover for the hundreds of ways those men were betrayed by their governments. They need to be heard, their stories need to be told, and their narrative needs to be known, because they are the key to solving the phenomena of Islamic extremism.”

وهذا الربُّ لفي ضلالٍ مبين

A month ago, I’ve read an article on Al Ahram, written by an Egyptian journalist who, among covering the situation in Syria, had also conducted interviews with men who were previously members of terrorist groups.

What struck me the most is that many of those terrorists were young men; even boys.

Another account from a former resident of Mosul reveals that many of those young men come from underprivileged, poor, less well-off backgrounds than the people they’re terrorizing.

And this made me rethink my position on the religious aspect of those crimes. Religion is easy. It’s easy to become religious, unlike the mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion it takes to leave it. It’s easy to say a group of Islamists are killing civilians, but it’s hard to say that a group of young men, who are poor, less educated, marginalized, discriminated against, are fighting a mindless war to live…

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