by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS – Stressing that terrorism “can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach” involving the active participation and collaboration of all States, the UN Security Council hosted an open debate on developing a counter-narrative campaign to in effect dissuade, discourage and ultimately defuse this widening global threat which is increasingly disseminated through the internet and social media. The meeting was held amid the deadly backdrop of two massive car bombs in Baghdad which killed nearly 100 civilians.
The Security Council clearly stated “the urgent need to globally counter the activities of ISIL, Al Qaida and associated individuals, who craft distorted narratives that are based on the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religion to justify violence.”
Speaking as one of the debate sponsors, Egypt, a country victimized by terrorist violence, outlined the challenge. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry warned of the “exploitation of the technological leap in means of communication and social media by terrorist groups” which has enabled such groups to spread their hateful ideologies. Egypt’s secular government has long been confronted by Islamic fundamentalism and increasing militancy.
Archbishop Bernardino Auza, representing the Observer Mission of the Holy See, stressed, “Countering the narrative and ideologies of terrorist groups is a grave responsibility of all…Religious authorities, therefore have a particular responsibility to refute the falsehoods and condemn the blasphemy of terrorist narratives and ideologies.” He added, “Religious leaders and people of faith must be at the forefront in delegitimizing the manipulation of faith and the distortion of sacred texts as a justification for violence.”
The Vatican representative added, “the more religion is manipulated to justify acts of terror and violence, the more religious leaders must be engaged in the overall effort to defeat the terrorist that hijacks it.”
Yet, Archbishop Auza conceded, “Certain terrorist groups have excelled in the art of cyber recruitment, giving them transnational and borderless reach.”
It’s the misuse of social media which offers extremists a high tech platform. New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully admitted, “Sadly, we now live in a world where terrorism is a global enterprise, exported through modern technology and sophisticated social media.”
Speaking on behalf of Malaysia, a Muslim majority state, Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican stated bluntly, “Terrorism and violent extremism are global threats that transcend cultures, religions and geo-political boundaries. They have no religion.”
Yet Minister Merican added, “However, as Muslims, we should not be in denial. We should be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that there is a critical need for us to address the exploitation of Islam by terrorist groups, that led to the perceived link between terrorism and Islam or Muslims.”
Referring to the most heinous perpetrators of terrorism which include Al-Qaida, the Taliban, Al Nusra, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIL, the Minister stated, “They all have one thing in common, they rely on Islam, or more accurately, their twisted interpretation of Islam, to legitimize their causes, justify their criminal actions, and attract followers.”
He called on religious and community leaders to counter the extremist narrative.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft advised, “Microsoft is a brand that we all recognize, that we all understand. The same could be said of our brand, the United Nations. But sadly, the same can also be said of Da’esh. (Islamic State).”
He added, “To the disaffected, the disillusioned and the vulnerable, the Da’esh brand has a terrifying ability to connect and persuade. It offers the false promise of empowerment, of identity of belonging.”
“To defeat a network, we need a network,” the United Kingdom’s Rycroft asserted.
During the debate in the fifteen member Security Council, rarely were the specific state sponsors of terror cited. Israel however chose to name names.
“Global terror is promoted, financed and supplied by state sponsors,” warned Ambassador Danny Danon, “And the largest shareholder in the terrorist enterprise is Iran.” Continuing, Israel’s delegate added, “Iran funds death and destruction across the region and beyond. It bankrolls fear, instability and chaos around the globe.”
Ambassador Danon viewed the wider angle, “Israel, like France, and Belgium, and too many others, is not attacked because of what we do, but because of what we represent.” So very true.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.