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Europe hasn't faced up to 'new terror'

Europe hasn't faced up to 'new terror'

Author:
Publication: The Strait Times
Date: November 25, 2003

Al-Qaeda is not like other terror groups Europeans are familiar with, says SM; its reach to fanatical Muslims is unique

The Europeans have got it wrong in thinking the terrorist threat can be contained by taking a localised, kid-gloved approach.

What the world is grappling with now is a new, globalised menace, one that has to be fought jointly by developed countries and moderate Muslims, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said in an interview with Newsweek.

'The Europeans underestimate the problem of Al-Qaeda-style terrorism,' he said. 'They compare it to their own many experiences with terror - the IRA, the Red Brigade, the Baader-Meinhof, ETA. But they are wrong.'

Describing Al-Qaeda-style terrorism as 'new and unique', he noted that an event in faraway Morocco was capable of provoking extremist groups in Indonesia.

'There is a shared fanatical zealousness among these different extremists around the world. Many Europeans think they can finesse the problem, that if they don't upset Muslim countries and treat Muslims well, the terrorists won't target them.'

But that is a fallacy, he said, bringing up the terror threat in South-east Asia as a case in point: 'Muslims have prospered here. But still, Muslim terrorism and militancy have infected them.'

He told Newsweek that both Singapore and Thailand had been targeted in recent years, even though neither had mistreated its Muslims.

The more forceful American approach had its shortcomings too. 'You must use force. But force will only deal with the tip of the problem. In killing the terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees.'

What is needed, he said, is to get at the 'queen bees' - the clerics who spread their twisted ideas of Islam, poisoning the minds of the young.

SM Lee contrasted the case of Amrozi Nurhasyim - sentenced to death for plotting the Bali bombing - with that of cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiah, who was given four years for relatively minor offences.

'Men like Bashir are the real force behind the terror,' he said. 'It is Bashir who churns out these kinds of people.'

To win the war against terrorism, he said, the United States and its allies must give full backing, with their resources and other forms of support, to moderate, modernising Muslims.

'Only Muslims can win this struggle,' he said.

'Moderate, modernising Muslims, political, religious, civic leaders together have to make the case against the fundamentalists.

'America can't do it alone,' he explained.

'You can't go into the mosques, Islamic centres and madrasahs. We don't have any standing as non-Muslims. Barging in will create havoc.'

Assessing the results so far, he warned of the dangers of a divided alliance - with the US and Europe at loggerheads over Iraq and Japan hesitant about committing its troops following the escalating violence in the country.

'When America and Europe are divided, when Japan is hesitant, the extremists are emboldened,' he said.

'The terrorists' tactics for the time being are to hit only Americans, Jews and America's strong supporters, the British, the Italians, the Turks, warning the Japanese but leaving others alone. They intend to divide and conquer.'

He said Iraq had become a test of US perseverance, but he believed the Americans would see it through.

'It is related to the larger struggle. You must put in place moderates who can create a modern society,' he said.

'If you walk away from Iraq, the jihadis will follow you wherever you go. You may think you've left them behind, but they will pursue you.'
 


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