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March 25, 2015

Terrorists: The good, the bad … and some ugly truths

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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As long as the US supports some terrorist organizations and condemns others in order to advance its own political agenda, humanity will be plagued by a persistent evil that beheads, kills, maims, terrorizes and destroys everything in its path.

Boko Haram, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Fajr Libya, Jamaat al-Islamiyya, the Al-Nusra Front, Houthi, Ansar al-Sharia and the infamous ISIS (more accurately, Daesh, an acronym for its convoluted Arabic name) are all terrorist groups.

Some are familiar names the world over, repeated hundreds of thousands of times by the media in a single year alone. Others are linked more closely with specific localities and regions. But they all have one horrific trait in common – the use of violence, anywhere and everywhere, as the primary means of furthering their causes.

Regardless of how long each has formally existed, their entire individual and collective history has been marked by suicide bombings, torture, the mass murder of innocent populations, the subjugation of women, and globally documented atrocities such as the beheading and live-burning of prisoners, especially Western captives.

To anyone with a grain of morality and common sense, distinguishing between terrorists and terrorists verges on dangerous insanity. Yet that is exactly what the West – and the US in particular – is doing. Those groups classified as “good” terrorists are apparently furthering Western political interests, while “bad” terrorists are not.

In February of this year, President Barack Obama hosted a three-day summit on “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE). Its noble-sounding title is used 12 times in a fact sheet released by the Obama administration, while the companion phrase “violent extremism” appears no fewer than 20 times. But how many times were the words “Islam” or “Muslim terrorist organizations” mentioned? Zero. Even the ubiquitous “Islamic State” that makes it into virtually every newscast every day was referred to as “ISIL.”

Why the semantic diligence? It’s all part of Washington’s strategy to appease Muslims, American and worldwide, with constant verbal assurances that the US is not at war with Islam.

But the tactic is doomed to failure. Listing some extremist organizations as terrorist and others as not, harms not only Muslims everywhere, but also the victims and potential victims of these organizations.

The Muslim Brotherhood International, for example, is listed as a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. The US not only refused to list the MBI as such, but arranged to have Obama meet their leaders. And to accentuate the inconsistency even further, the Brotherhood’s Gaza branch, Hamas, is on the US “bad” terrorist list as a result of pressure from Israel.

But the messy ironies do not end there. According to General Wesley Clark, ISIS (or ISIL, or IS, or Daesh, however one wishes to label it) was created and funded by America’s “closest allies” in order “… to fight to the death against Hezbollah.”

For those violent extremist organizations on America’s “good” list there is an ample flow of overt and covert support from both the US and its Middle East allies, Turkey and Qatar, who organize, recruit, train, finance, and militarily supply them. This activity is “laundered” by buying oil, giving them the veneer of economic trade partners and by extension, political cover and media support.

Tiny but influential Qatar has long been a financial backer of Middle East terrorism, continuing to bankroll Hamas in Gaza, as well as terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. It shelters leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood International within its borders, ignoring multiple Interpol requests for their arrest. Its intelligence agency maintains active communication channels with most terrorist groups.

In yet another little-known act of strange logic, the US sends “bad” terrorists to Qatar, where they are supposedly transformed into “good” terrorists; this program is apparently designed to filter out Al-Qaeda and Taliban elements (they are “bad” terrorists, in case you’re keeping score).

Some Canadian media are finally reporting what watchful Arab media have known for at least the past four years.

According to a recent Toronto Sun story, “Turkish authorities say they have detained a spy for helping three British girls join Islamic State, and reports say the detainee worked for Canada’s spy agency (CSIS).”

Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16 – all considered minors in Western nations – easily crossed into Syria from Turkey after leaving Britain in February without parental permission or knowledge. It is not known if they were planning to fight as military volunteers, or had signed up to be “brides of ISIS.”

The Sun report adds that Turkey’s Office of Public Diplomacy also released a statement on the matter, saying the capture of the intelligence officer showcased a “complex problem involving intelligence wars.”

The Turkish statement continues: “This incident should be a message to those always blaming Turkey … on the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and shows it is a problem more complicated than a mere border security issue … Turkey will continue its call for stronger intelligence sharing, and is worried about the lack of intelligence sharing in a matter involving the lives of three young girls.”

At the recent Washington CVE summit President Obama declared that “all of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam, because that is falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative.”

I only hope Barack Obama’s “all of us” includes those who continue to create, recruit, train, finance, support, and give cover to terrorists – the good, the bad and in-between. And that, Mr. President, starts with the United States of America.

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, an Egyptian-born Canadian, is Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He can be reached at

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