by Hummam Sheikh Ali
DAMASCUS, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- Military means alone cannot root out the religious extremism that has become rampant in the Middle East; genuine knowledge and proper education are indispensable to any long-term solution.
The so-called Islamic State (IS), an al-Qaida splinter group, has made notable advances in Iraq and Syria, forcing thousands of people, mainly from minority communities, to flee their homes.
Last week, the IS captured dozens of Syrian government soldiers in the al-Raqqa province. Many of them were later executed, with their bodies being tossed on the main squares of the IS-controlled province.
The followers of the IS and other like-minded groups are mostly young men who have been driven to the ranks of such groups with a belief that their existence actually means something and they can finally achieve a "divine" goal.
Iraq and Syria have tried all possible means to put an end to the IS' frightening expansion, and fears have arisen that its influence would reach other parts of the world and plunge more countries into chaos.
The United States has also recently launched airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq. However, the U.S. strikes have reportedly prompted more extremists who belonged to al-Qaida to defect and help the IS.
Therefore, besides military means, battling terrorism needs a worldwide consensus that could result in a unified decision to fight the radicals with more means, as the threat of such groups emanates not only from their military might, but their ability to control their followers by mind manipulations and false propaganda.
Many Muslim imams appear on Syrian televisions, rebuking the false claims of the radical groups and their hidden intentions on using the religion as a means for achieving political and territorial gains.
Still, more efforts are needed. There should be a wide-scale, carefully-prepared campaign to explain to the young, who have followed those radical groups out of ignorance and shallow experience, the true teachings and interpretations of the religion.
Also, the Middle Eastern countries should pay more attention to arm their young generations with proper education, and create job opportunities for those mired in poverty, who might do whatever possible to get rid of the miserable situation.
Spreading knowledge could spare the world more bloodletting, which has become ferocious in the Arab world as a result of the sectarian-motivated conflicts.
Unfortunately, up till now, with all of the horrendous and condemned actions of the extremist groups, the world has not yet joined together to battle these groups, let alone to work on spreading genuine knowledge and proper education to fight the extremism in the long run.
With so much innocent blood already shed, the time to act is now.