KUWAIT CITY, Nov 19, (KUNA): Distinguishing between religious extremist groups is crucial to understanding rise of terrorism, a menace knows no faith or ethnicity when striking public, a prominent US academic said Wednesday, while addressing Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) students. In a video conference event organized by Public Affairs section at US Embassy in Kuwait, Professor of International Affairs and head of the International Affairs department at the Bush School of Government and Public Service in Texas, Dr Gregory Gause III tackled the phenomenon of religious extremism, giving the audience insight into the spread of the scourge of terrorism. “It is imperative that we comprehend the difference between major and minor religious extremist groups in order to explain the spread of extremist violence,” Dr Gause noted. In the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and horrified millions around the globe, political and social analysts are scrambling to uncover the root of such widespread atrocities.
Dr Gause classified extremist groups into major and minor ones, classifying Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the former and Al-Qaeda as the latter. Calling ISIL a “scaled up version of Al-Qaeda,” Dr Gause asserted that no sociological element is behind the formation of minor religious extremist groups. The US academic ruled out poverty and religion as possible reasons behind the formation of minor extremist groups, underscoring the fact that these minor groups have political aims. Moreover, Dr Gause pinpointed psychological reasons as the path to understand why people join minor extremist groups. After the 9/11 attacks in the US, “It became common consensus amongst Americans that authoritarianism leads to terrorism”, he noted.
When speaking about major extremist groups such as ISIL, Dr Gause stated that the political context is the most important factor behind why people join the major groups. “An atmosphere of civil conflict facilitates the rise of major extremist groups. When asked to name the key factor behind the rise of ISIL, the US academic blamed the collapse of state in Middle Eastern nations. “Middle Eastern history is dotted with instances of total collapse of authority,” he said. Naming Yemen and Lebanon as examples, Dr Gause stressed that when central authority falls apart, sub-state actors begin to rise, which is in essence, the explanation for ISIL.
Another crucial factor behind the formation of major extremist groups is the existence of civil conflict. “Whenever civil conflict abounds, people feel threatened, which prompts them to join major groups to look for protection”, the academic said. “ISIL’s rise is also partly caused by widespread agreement with their ideologies,” he added. As world leaders vow to step up anti-terror efforts in the aftermath of the ISIL-claimed Paris terror attacks, one has to question what would it take to rid the world of the phenomenon of terrorism.