It was the second week of the 1972 Summer Olympics held in the German city of Munich. The Israeli athletes had just enjoyed a night out watching a performance of ”Fiddler on the Roof” by Shmuel Rhodensky and dined with the star of the play prior to heading back to the Olympic Village. At exactly 4:30am local time on September 5, while the athletes were sound asleep, terror struck with the highest dose of savagery. A Palestinian terror cell nicknamed the Black September with help from the German neo-Nazis, murdered two members of the Israeli Olympic team in cold blood and took nine others hostage. The group demanded the immediate release of 234 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails as well as two leaders of a German militant organisation, Rote Armee Fraktion.
In the end, a total of 17 lives were lost including six Israeli coaches, five Israeli athletes, five Black September members and one West German police officer.
Two days later, the Jewish state responded by bombing 10 bases belonging to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The then Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, went a step further and authorised Mossad to launch a broad covert revenge mission code-named Operation Wrath of God. The dare-devil operations would seek out and assassinate anyone remotely involved with the planning or execution of the Munich massacre in any part of the globe. Since then, the State of Israel and many other nations have continued to battle the proliferation of terror franchise all over the world.
Late last year, the US and the rest of the civilized world celebrated with pomp, the eventual capture and killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the once elusive leader of ISIS. As symbolic as that singular act was, no one was under the illusion that somehow the death of the famed Caliph signaled the end of ISIS. His successor was named less than a week after.
ISIS would make a propaganda video about his “martyrdom” to inspire the next generation of fighters. For whereas we were dealing with the symptoms at the battlefields of Aleppo and Borno, the culprit virus is meticulously grown daily in the Wahhabi laboratories of far away Saudi Arabia.
In February 2004, long before he founded the Caliphate, Al Baghdadi was captured as part of resistance against US-led war on terror and was placed under custody in Iraq. He was detained at Abu Graib and Camp Bucca prison facilities but later released as a ‘low level’ operative. At the time ,no one could have predicted what he would do or what was to happen later. Little did the world know he was going to be the arrowhead of the most depraved and dare devil murderous terrorist group that would makes Al Qaeda look like a charitable organization. Though Al-Baghdadi was already a member of the Muslim Brotherhood way before his imprisonment, his full scale indoctrination into extremism may have taken place while being housed in prison together with other future leaders of ISIS.
There exist a thousand and one reasons why extremist groups abound and terrorism thrives. It’s however, easier to understand Middle Eastern politics and International diplomacy than trying to piece together all the intrigues and power play that birth extremist groups.
It may be created to further certain political objective (Boko Haram) or maintain an old political order (the pact between Wahhabis and the House of Saud). It can also be organic with the feeling of social alienation and politico-economic injustice (Israeli-Palestinian conflict). Whatever the cause is, the world is losing this fight that poses an existential threat to humanity. To be successful in this fight we have to be sincere. We should identify both friends and foe, even though sometimes the dividing line gets pretty blurry.
The US calls Saudi Arabia a reliable partner in the fight against terror, yet 11 of the 19 September 11 highjackers were from the kingdom. The Saudi Government and the so-called Moslem charities backed by Saudi billionaires channel funds to establish Madrassa across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. These outposts have been known to be the breeding grounds for terrorists ranging from Al Qaeda, Al Shabbab, Boko Haram and ISIS. Yet, Western civilization led by the US who have all it takes, refuse to hold Saudi Arabia to account and would rather deal with the fall out of the kingdom’s recklessness. It’s hard to imagine any other reason for turning such a blind eye other than economics.
On May 20, 2017, President Trump and the Saudi King, Salman Al Saud signed a series of letters of intent for the Kingdom to purchase next generation weapon systems from the US totaling $110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over a 10 years period. You can then understand why America is unwilling to adopt strong-arm tactics in dealing with the infractions of the oil-rich nation. Such are the complexities of the fight against extremism.
The smartest way to fight a terrible ideology goes beyond talking tough and deploying military hardware though. If threat of violence and intimidation alone worked, then the whole idea that birthed ISIS would have died many centuries ago with Ibn Taymiyyah. The persecution and torture of this Turkey born ideological grandfather of ISIS did nothing to stop the teaching of his warped interpretation of puritanical Islam from spreading like wide fire, long after his demise. Many years later, falafism spread from his mosque in the medieval city of Damascus to other cities around the world. Mohammed Ibn Wahhab then adopted his ultra-conservative Islamic ideology that would become the official state religion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
But this discussion is not just about Islamic extremism or any single religion, race or group. It’s about intolerant Christian doctrine, White supremacy, the Khu Klux Klan. It’s about the metastatic cancer of extremist ideology. The ideology that gave us ISIS, Al Qaeda, Nazism, Boko Haram and a host of other societal fringes.
As we continue to morn all victims of terror, the world needs to learn to treat not only the symptoms but most importantly tackle the disease. That disease is the ideology that form the bedrock of extremism.
Dr Agbo is the Coordinator of African Center for Transparency and writes from USA. Email: [email protected]