Mosque attack in Egypt demands mature response
The horrific bombing and mass shooting inside a packed Sinai mosque last Friday stands out as the worst terrorist attack on civilians in the history of modern Egypt.
It also stands out as the first major militant attack on a Muslim congregation. Perhaps more poignantly, it also underscores the multidimensional complexity of terrorism and the frustrating difficulty in quelling it.
According to initial media reports, a group of about 30 attackers in four off-road vehicles planted two bombs at the mosque. After their detonation, they launched rocket-propelled grenades and opened fire on worshipers during the crowded service in Bir al-Abed.
When ambulances arrived to transport the wounded to hospitals, the heartless attackers opened fire on them as well. In the end, the wretched bloodbath claimed at least 305 lives and injured about 130 others. Many of the victims were children.
Collectively they were victims of religious hate. The targeted mosque catered to the Sufi order of the Muslim religion, which engages in ritual chanting and dancing to draw the faithful closer to God. Some Muslim extremists view the practices as akin to sorcery and witchery.
Such intra-religious intolerance is believed to have fueled Friday’s attack that most attribute to Islamic State militants. One can add that brand of intolerance-fueled terror to the laundry list of terror motives and acts that have unleashed madness, destroyed lives and damaged peace and security throughout the world particularly hard over the past two decades.
Among them, consider state-sponsored terrorism, the likes of which former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein used to subjugate his people. Consider political terrorism such as that used by militant anti-abortion demonstrators and those that vilify virtually all Western sociopolitical values. Then there’s pathological “lone wolf” terrorism, examples of which likely lie behind two of this nation’s most gruesome and deadly attacks in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 and Las Vegas last month.
TRUMP’S MISGUIDED RESPONSE
In short, there is no “one-size-fits-all” brand of international or domestic terrorism. Nor can there by one monolithic response.
But don’t try telling that to American President and Tweeter-in-chief Donald J. Trump. As has been the case in other recent cases of international terrorism in the world, the president rolled out his standard template once again over the weekend to respond to Friday’s grisly and inhumane attack:
“Will be calling the President of Egypt in a short while to discuss the tragic terrorist attack, with so much loss of life. We have to get TOUGHER AND SMARTER than ever before, and we will. Need the WALL, need the BAN! God bless the people of Egypt.”
Once again, the president’s message focused heavily on currying favor with his alt-right base by using the bloodshed in the North Sinai mosque as his latest political prop. We’re hard pressed to draw any meaningful parallels between intra-religious extremism in a remote portion of the Egyptian desert and the necessity for a Mexican border wall to block drug smugglers and kingpins entry to the U.S.
We’re also a bit puzzled by Trump’s seeming bromance with repressive Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. In a visit to the White House last summer, Trump said el-Sisi has “done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.” (He also went gaga over the leader’s shiny black boots).
Truth be told, however, since seizing power in a bloody coup against the democratically elected government of Hosni Mubarak in 2013, el-Sisi has ruled over an extremely repressive government. Human-rights groups say up to 60,000 people have been jailed, including thousands of secular activists, journalists and human- rights workers who have no connection to extremism. What’s more, el-Sisi’s militaristic bombings in response to terror have angered many to sign up among the ranks of the extremists.
As we have been arguing for some time now, global terrorism requires a unified global solution.
The United Nations has condemned the mosque attack and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
As it continues to investigate the tragedy, we’d hope U.N. officials also would reach out to el-Sisi to explore means other than bombs and death squads for securing peace and stability in his nation of about 100 million people.
We’d also encourage Trump to dial down his rhetoric and not use tragedy elsewhere in the world to bolster his political cred at home. Such simplistic responses will do little to craft mature solutions to the complexities of domestic and international terrorism.