Sri Lankan Christians take part in a remembrance ceremony in the capital Colombo on June 21, two months after the Easter Sunday bombings that targeted churches and luxury hotels, killing 258 people. (Ishara. S. Kara/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lanka and the Hundred-year Battle

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, April 23

Here we are again, coming to terms with yet another ghastly terror attack waged against innocent civilians. This time, terrorism struck Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka. Prior to that, it struck worshippers in New Zealand. And beforehand, it struck Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Europe, America and a wide host of other countries. I am convinced that this battle – the battle to eradicate terrorism – is going to be a long one, spanning maybe even an entire century. The world has been combatting terrorism for over three decades, yet the problem persists. Every time we defeat one organization, another one rears its head. The wars of terrorism are more dangerous than tribal and state wars because they are rooted in deep-seated ideology. They are the product of antiquated doctrines that have been reinvigorated in distorted ways and make their way into modern society. The weapons of this war are quotations from holy books, propagated using modern technology that enables these ideas to be published at nearly no cost. Sadly, without an international coalition fighting terrorism in its ideological roots – nipping it in the bud – radical ideas will continue to spread around the world, threatening the entire future of mankind. The way we have been confronting terrorist organizations is by trying to defeat them militarily or financially. We destroy their secret hideouts or restrict their ability to pay for their operations. But the strongest fuel that feeds the terrorist engine is the scores of people who promote their radical agendas. Terrorism, therefore, lives in the minds of people. The problem is that we live in denial. In the aftermath of the attacks last week, Islamist organizations were quick to deny their involvement. They attempted to sow confusion about the perpetrators. Then they sought to justify the attack. Then they claimed responsibility. Throughout the process, they used the same old explanations and excuses: “Islamic State never had a physical foothold in Sri Lanka”; “The attacks must have been foreign nationals”; etc. However, Islamic State does not require a physical infrastructure in Sri Lanka in order to carry out an attack. It simply needs to live in the minds of people. The battle on the ground may continue, but the ideological battle is just beginning. Unless we change our mindset, new organizations will come to life as soon as their predecessors are destroyed. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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