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Experts: Radical Groups Thrive on Popular Discontent

  • Zlatica Hoke

Islamist terrorism is surging in many places worldwide, including in Western societies. Governments are fighting to curb the spread of radical groups in the Arab world, and their influence on mainstream Muslim communities, but the official methods so far have failed to eliminate radical Islamism. Analysts say militant groups offer an attractive alternative for some people, especially disgruntled young men.

The French parliament on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a controversial bill that would legalize broad surveillance of terror suspects in that country.

"I want to say first that I am pleased with this large result, this very large majority in favor of the bill on intelligence. It's a bill that preserves our basic liberties. A bill that is a framework for the activities of our intelligence services, but which gives them additional means so they can be as efficient as possible in the face of the terrorist threat, but also against serious crime and industrial espionage," said Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister.

But while lawmakers from diverse French parties approved the legislation, many others questioned whether it would have a significant effect in fighting terrorism.

Analysts say radical groups are an attractive alternative for young Muslims unhappy with their official leaders.

"And of course, the main reason that was portrayed to all people throughout the region is that the West is trying to control and destroy the Arab and the Muslim nations, and Israel in the region - this is the ultimate enemy. That [message] has always been in the media, in the school, in every social gathering, and charged people with a lot of ideas. And here come all of these radical political parties, radical groups, giving you an answer: 'Well, we are not this government - we take an action instead, and your future is with us,’" said Zainab al-Suwaij of the American Islamic Congress.

International air raids have curbed territorial advances of the heavily armed Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but an older terrorist group, al-Qaida, has made gains. That group lost a lot of its power after its top leaders were captured or killed, and its financial network was disrupted. But analysts say al-Qaida has recovered and made gains in recent months, with financial support from some Arab states.

"Today it seems like al-Qaida is very much back in business in both Syria and Yemen, in terms of getting sponsorship from certain Gulf Arab states. One could see, for example, quite openly that countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are sponsoring an umbrella organization that the Nusra Front, which is al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, is a part of," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Analysts say inflicting military defeats on insurgents and dismantling terrorist cells are temporary measures. Many say Islamist radicalism can be fought more successfully by strengthening moderate Muslim communities and by offering better choices to young Muslims worldwide.

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