On November 13, Middle East Forum Radio cohost Gregg Roman interviewed Romany Shaker, Arabic language senior research analyst at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), about the fight against Islamic extremism in the region.
The problem is that Arab governments "adopt only the security approach" in fighting ISIS and other jihadist groups, said Shaker, who closely monitors local media outlets. "I haven't seen any Arab country that is ... tackling the Islamist ideology that produces these [groups]."
Media outlets commonly write off these groups as "khawarij," an early Islamic sect that revolted against the authority of Caliph Ali, to discredit them, rather than addressing "the [Quranic] verses, the codes, the traditions that these groups ... are using to recruit," he explained "The other thing that I don't see is tackling local grievances ... freedoms, democracy do not exist in these communities."
Both trends are evident in Egypt. "The Egyptian government has largely succeeded in countering the Islamist groups from a security perspective, but not from an ideological perspective," says Shaker. And it has allowed legitimate grievances to fester. "We have cases ... of people who are being arrested or [who] disappear because of voicing their opinions." Moreover, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi hasn't sought to combat widespread preaching against non-Sunnis and Christians by approved religious scholars and media personalities.
The Trump administration has been effective in providing Egypt with the security assistance necessary to fight these groups. "The joint military drills ... the intelligence exchange of information ... [are] wonderful," he says, but Washington doesn't "promote freedom and democracy." Above all it must "promote religious freedom." U.S. officials "should encourage their Egyptian counterparts [to] dismantle the Islamist ideology" that fuels violent jihadism.
Marilyn Stern is the producer of Middle East Forum Radio.