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Religion Alone Not Responsible for Suicide Bombings

Three countries suffering from the scourge of terrorism -- Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan -- are expressing concern over the spread of extremism in their regions, saying terrorism cannot be defeated just by force alone. They say the international community must also focus on eradicating poverty and illiteracy. VOA's Ravi Khanna has more

Recent events in Pakistan have caused grave concern in many parts of the world. Its neighbor, Afghanistan, also has suffered a rise of suicide bombings and other attacks over the past year. And Iraq has been victimized by terrorist attacks on almost a daily basis for some time now.

The leaders and top officials of these three nations were thrown together this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai rejected the notion that there is a link between religion and the wave of suicide bombings in his country. Rather, he said, suicide bombings are becoming a business in which terrorists are paying families to recruit suicide bombers. These kinds of criminal activities, he said, must be vigorously combated. "While Afghanistan is still a crucial battlefield, a rapidly spreading war is engulfing the wider region. Terrorist attacks have evolved in number, tactics and brutality. New battlefronts are opened up each day. Our strategies in this war have often been short-changed by a host of deceptive rhetoric or due to lingering misconceptions about the nature of the enemy."

The long Afghan war, sparked by the Soviet Union's invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, helped give rise to extremism, according to Mr. Karzai. He said, "The rise of extremism and the consequence of terrorism as a result of that is not because of religious extremism alone or because of an ideology or because of the much propagated 'clash of civilizations' as we see around the press today. Extremism was given room and was promoted by a certain environment of rivalry between the communist Soviet and the rest of the world."

Iraq's representative at Davos, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, presented a different perspective. He said the Islamic world at large is suffering from poverty, disenchanted communities, and deteriorating education standards. "Dealing with terrorism and dealing with this phenomena of suicide bombings cannot be dealt with just by security means. It can be dealt with through development, job creation and definitely improving the standards of education in our countries."

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also blamed the spread of terrorism on poverty -- and also warned that it may not be possible to fully contain terrorism. "We must carry on the fight against terrorism and extremism, which is a scourge which is disturbing our environment. It will have an impact even in the streets of Europe," he added.

All the speakers agreed that if terrorism is to be rooted out, the international community will have to do more to address poverty and illiteracy in the Islamic world.