Is this the end of Daesh?
The world breathed a collective, but tentative sigh of relief this week as news from Iraq and Syria indicated that the terrorist group Daesh could be near collapse.
This most despicable of terrorist groups has been on the retreat in Mosul — its biggest prize in Iraq — as the Iraqi government continued a weeks-long offensive against it.
Daesh’s supposed capital in Syria, Raqqa, has also been encircled by various forces.
This development should not come as a surprise to anyone. Daesh has brought nothing but death, destruction and misery to the peoples of Iraq and Syria. And while we should all rejoice in what seems like the inevitable defeat of Daesh as a physical entity, we must recognize that humanity will continue to grapple with the group’s mindset and its many different manifestations for some time to come.
It is incumbent on all nations currently seeking to defeat Daesh militarily to redouble their efforts to address the root causes that led to the rise of the terror group and which account for radicalization.
Just as importantly, nations and peace-loving people around the world must do their part to counter narratives that seek to foment fear, hatred and division whether they are propagated by Muslims, Christians, Jews or any other group. The future peace and prosperity of mankind depends on exposing extremists of every strand.
Scholars studying the root causes of terrorism have long reached a consensus that radicalization is a complex and often lengthy process that entails a “confluence of factors.”
Contrary to casual observers who believe that ideology alone explains radicalization, multiple studies suggest that ideology is only one factor and often a small one on the road to radicalization. Political, ethnic and socio-economic factors all play a role.
That means that the international community must come to terms with some of the underlying causes that make youths susceptible to recruitment by terrorist organizations.
Political marginalization, impediments to social integration and economic deprivation are vexing issues that nations have to address to ensure that their youths do not become easy prey for terrorists.
We must recognize that humanity will continue to grapple with the terror group’s mindset and its many different manifestations for some time to come.
At the same time, the international community must also find solutions to a number of civil wars that have been raging for years and which have become a destination for militant foreign fighters from around the world, especially Syria.
I have repeatedly argued that while Daesh might have its roots in the war in Iraq, it is the brutality of the Assad regime in Syria that enabled it to grow like a malignant tumor and to become the destination of foreign fighters from all around the world.
Just as importantly, nations must be weary of voices that seek to spread hatred, fear and division. These forces are at play in the Islamic world, in the West and elsewhere. These voices of division help sustain the Daesh mindset, which views any person who does not adhere to its dark worldview as a mortal enemy that must be destroyed.
This mindset is not endemic to the Islamic world, as some maintain. Those who maintain that the Islamic world is under siege by the West and must be defended abet Daesh directly by lending credence to its false narrative. Those who argue that the West is under attack by Muslims likewise help Daesh by making Muslims in the West feel alienated and more susceptible to recruitment.
In recent weeks, this incitement in the West has also led to numerous deadly attacks against Muslims in Britain, Canada and the US.
Any reasonable person with a rudimentary understanding of history must acknowledge that terrorism and violence are not endemic to a particular religion, ethnicity or nationality. Those who believe otherwise are part of the problem, not the solution.
What the world is facing today is not a clash of civilizations but a clash of narratives. It is between two diametrically opposed views. One stresses what civilizations, nations and human beings have in common.
The other stresses our differences. Fortunately, the voices calling for peaceful coexistence, cooperation and even integration vastly outnumber those who view conflict, war, competition and disintegration as inevitable.
Daesh as a physical entity was bound to perish because its cult of death and destruction offered people no hope. Those adhering to its hateful mindset likewise have nothing to offer but fear. Time will prove that they too, were on the wrong side of history.
• Fahad Nazer is an international affairs fellow with the National Council on US-Arab Relations. He is also a consultant to the Saudi embassy in Washington, but does not represent it or speak on its behalf. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, CNN, The Hill and Newsweek, among others.