13 February 2013

North Africa: Global Approach Needed to Fight Terrorism

Rabat — A security-only approach is not enough to put an end to the threat of terrorism and extremism in Morocco, experts say.

Expressing concerns about a possible terrorist attack, experts agree that Morocco is correctly adopting a more comprehensive security strategy.

Awareness-raising, education and development are now seen as valuable adjuncts to traditional security measures.

Attacks are all the more unpredictable following recent events in Mali, political analyst Sami Achor told Magharebia.

Although Morocco recently stepped up security at its southern borders and hunted down terrorist cells, he argued, the risk remains.

"Terrorism is unpredictable in a country upon which al-Qaeda has set its sights. Up to now the security strategy has been more or less a success. But it cannot protect us altogether from danger, because terrorism changes its strategies and methods," he said.

"Aware of the situation, Morocco has increased its co-operation with Western nations on the exchange of information and training. This is a good initiative," he added.

In addition to the security strategy, solving social problems, particularly youth unemployment, must be seen as one of the central battlegrounds in the fight against extremism and terrorism, sociologist Hicham Chatibi told Magharebia.

Protecting young people from indoctrination could be achieved through economic and human development, Chatibi said, adding that the Moroccan government was conscious of that need.

Efforts should be redoubled not just in Morocco but across all countries in the Maghreb to thwart the rise of terrorism in the region, the sociologist added.

Last June, Moroccan Foreign Affairs Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, told the Global Counterterrorism Forum that he was pleased with the Moroccan counter-terrorism strategy.

The approach was "basically centred on strengthening the fabric of society, protecting it against all forms of extremism, introducing political and religious reforms and launching citizen-centred structural development projects", the minister said.

Many people advocate tackling the problem from the roots up, through education.

Sociologist Siham Cherrati told Magharebia that awareness-raising programmes should be put in place to benefit parents and pupils.

"The values of tolerance, acceptance of others and the acceptance of diversity must be instilled in children at an early age. That way, as children grow up, they will be protected against the radical message being put about by certain areas of the media or any other party," she said.

She added that school syllabi did not touch upon that area, despite it being of the greatest importance. In addition to passing on scientific and literary knowledge, education has a duty to adapt to the needs of the present age, which requires the younger generations to be imbued with a critical spirit.

"Unfortunately, some young people are easily manipulated. The state bears a huge responsibility in terms of education and raising awareness. The fight against unemployment is equally necessary so as to block any way in for the obscurantists," she said.

Farah Tamir, a management assistant and mother of two teenagers, told Magharebia that parents have a huge responsibility to watch over their children and prevent them from falling victim to extremist messages.

Awareness campaigns should be organised so that everyone can join the fight against extremism, she said.

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