As Friday prayers came to a close in Egypt, a mosque in Sinai became a target for yet another horrifying terror attack.
The Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, 40km from the North Sinai capital of el-Arish was rocked, as a bomb exploded in its vicinity. Chaos ensued, with gunmen in Jeeps positioning themselves outside the mosque, and opening fire as civilians desperately tried to escape. Emergency services were soon dispatched to rescue the victims. However, ambush locations were set up and ambulances were forced to turn away as gunmen opened fire once more. Egypt’s public prosecutors office state that 235 individuals died, with over a 100 more injured.
“No one got out of the mosque,” one witness claimed.
Following the attack, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched airstrikes – targeting vehicles supposed to have carried out the attack, and terrorist outposts containing weapons and ammunition.
“Justice will be served against all those who participated, contributed, supported, funded, or instigated this cowardly attack,” President al-Sisi affirmed in a state wide address.
This attack is the latest in a string of attacks carried out within the region including suicide bombings at two mosques in Afghanistan last month, and a bombing at a mosque in the Nigerian town of Mubi last week. These attacks have become increasingly brazen, targeting civilians – causing the needless loss of innocent lives; men, women and children alike.
These events make one-thing clear, that radical Islam impacts Muslims in an increasingly disproportionate way. Ignoring the fact that after major terror events around the world, hate crimes increase dramatically – pig heads being thrown into mosques for example – it is the local populations on the ground that continue to fight the real ideological battle.
Jihad – contemporarily associated with Islamic radicalism – is literally translated as ‘struggle.’ That is, the human condition of struggle for self-improvement.
“Religiously, jihad is the expending of utmost effort in upholding and defending justice,” explains Sheikh Jaafar Idris of the Saudi Arabian Embassy.
It is within the sphere of upholding and defending justice that local Muslim populations continue to fight; to fight not only for the true tenants of their faith but to fight for their innocence within the eyes of wider society.
After the attack in Egypt, US President Donald Trump took to twitter – as he often does – to condemn the actions of the radicals in Sinai:
“The world cannot tolerate terrorism, we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!?”
And for once, it is with great confusion that I say, I agree with President Trump.
The fight of everyday Muslims is our fight – to discredit and dismantle the foundations of extremist ideology. Instead of getting swept up in the divisive political rhetoric that dominates our social conversations, we have to embrace each other in our times of need and our times of struggle.
Beneath our ideology, beliefs and melanin, we must realise that we have more in common than different. That is, our human commonality is entrenched in a collective struggle; to be the best that we can be, to be better for one another.
It is true, the world cannot tolerate terrorism – but the answer is not in putting boots on the ground or drones in the air. Neither does it exist in implementing travel restrictions or banning the burqa.
No, real change begins when we start becoming more tolerant of each other.