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Bombing Campaigns Can't Stop Franchise Terrorism

10/26/2015 12:04 EDT | Updated 10/26/2016 05:12 EDT
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
KIRKUK, IRAQ - AUGUST 17: Smoke rises after the air craft belonging to the US-led coalition bombed the areas according to the coordinates given by the Peshmerga forces in the village of Elbunecm, 44km south of Kirkuk, Iraq on August 17, 2015. The distance between Peshmerga forces and Daesh became 900m. (Photo by Hazar Rashd Hameed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. And it is history that has shown us you may be able to bomb and kill your enemy -- but your enemies' ideas can never die.

In fact, this could result in popularizing the ideas and harden its believers. Current Islamists extremists know this well, that is why they have developed a business model that is fuelled by reacting to the actions of the West.

It's called franchise terrorism and here is how it works.

You don't need to be ordered to commit an act of terror. You don't need formal links with the terrorist organization either. You don't even need their funding or support -- all you need is a gun, a video camera, and the will to commit an act of terror in the name of Islam. Black flag with Arabic calligraphy optional.

With those tools at your disposal, you become a franchised Islamic terrorist. The barriers to entry are minimal, so are the costs. Trademarks like ISIS and Al-Qaeda are free. Any ragtag group of radicalized men can affiliate themselves with these trademarks and become part of an ever growing franchise network. The franchiser's costs and responsibilities are low. All they need to do is continue to push out propaganda through social media and the internet. Once a person has the intent to commit an act of terror in the name of Islam, the rest falls into place for the franchiser. The franchisee organizes and commits an act of terror in the name of the franchiser and business continues to grow.

Your returns? You can make international news, shutdown capitals of nations, get people to change their display pictures and start twitter campaigns. You can force world leaders to fly from the four corners of the world to make passionate speeches and march in solidarity against such killings.

After a terror attack, newspapers and television networks are in a tizzy with coverage, citizens are outraged, and politicians are pressured to act. They might tighten immigration, bomb a foreign nation, pass laws that strip citizens of rights and freedoms, or even decide to restrict the use of a female garment.

Such actions create divisions within societies; they increase racism, tension, and mistrust between Muslim/Arab immigrants and the host population, and between Muslim/Arab countries and Western nations.

Thus, "us vs. them" identities are created, and this is where the ideas of Islamist fundamentalism thrive. Young Arabs and Muslims, and even disenfranchised members of society will find anecdotal evidence to support the extremist narrative fundamentalist's peddle. And just like that, another franchise is created, and more terror is committed.

The main problem here is that the actions of Western nations' usually assist fundamentalist narratives.

In Canada's case, Harper was guilty on many fronts. His enthusiasm to enter into bombing campaigns in Middle-Eastern countries to combat Un-Islamic State (UIS) and Gaddafi but not Al-Assad and Al-Sissi illustrate that Canada is willing to engage in "sky justice" as long as it meets Western interests.

At home, his attacks on a women's right to choose to cover her face or not and his Minister of Immigration's comments equating a niqab to terrorism only help to create these "us vs. them" identities that support the UIS narrative. The only kind of hate crime that increased in 2015 are hate crimes against Muslims; a clear indication of the underlying social tension these narratives perpetuate.

Bombs and air campaigns cannot stop these social phenomena that lead to the expansion of UIS; we need a sustained counter narrative to defeat this new form of terrorism.

We need to show respect and vocalize how our diversity is our strength; fostering a narrative of inclusivity. Case in point, after the Ottawa shootings, which we mourned its first anniversary last week, the three leaders of the main political parties spoke of very different things. Stephen Harper spoke about justice and combating the enemies of Canada. Mr. Mulcair spoke of mental illness. By contrast, Justin Trudeau spoke directly to Arab and Muslim Canadians. He told us that Islamic extremism is not Islam and does not represent the community at large, that the causes of this phenomenon are neither religious nor cultural but are political, and that Muslims will forever belong to the Canadian family. Many of my Arab and Muslim friends watched his speech, and it resonated with all of us in a profound way. Counter narratives like that will halt the spread of terrorism via the franchise model, and over time might even lead to the death of an idea.

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