Fighting extremism

Wasimul Haque
Edmonton Journal, February 21, 2010

Re: " Education a potent weapon in fight against Islamic extremists; Decline of Yemeni school system creates breeding ground for al-Qaida," by Thomas L. Friedman, Opinion, Feb. 16.

Thomas Friedman quotes from an article in Beirut Daily written by May Yamani, the daughter of former Saudi oil minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani. She writes: "Saudi Arabia exported both its Wahhabism and al-Qaida to Yemen by funding thousands of madrassas where fanaticism is taught."

Saudi petrodollars to support their own religious brand, coupled with the legacy of American foreign policies in the region, have made Pakistan, Yemen and other Islamic countries a breeding ground for Islamic extremism.

Wahhabism has become the tool of anger against the colonial West and has now grassroots support among younger Muslims living at home or in the West.

Friedman has either forgotten or ignored history; we find similar arguments for the funding of Islamic extremists and madrassas in Pakistan by the Americans and Pakistani governments.

Have the Americans not helped the wave of Wahhabi extremism in Pakistan, which has rejected all aspects of civility -- the cardinal principle of civilized society?

Ordinary Pakistanis may now be asking this important question.

Will American forces go home and allow Pakistanis to live under the banner of freedom, liberty and justice in their own country?

To answer these questions, one has to understand the political history of American military intervention in the Middle East and South Asia.

The Americans' rush to go to Iraq without first adhering to the task of nation-building in Afghanistan has created an international predicament.

It is true that education will help reduce this wave of extremism, and this can only be done if Muslims re-read the contribution of their intellectuals and scholars like Averroes, Avicenna, Al-Farabi and Omar Khayyam, who have emphasized reason and faith as the founding principles of development of human civilization.

There are voices in resurgent Islam that can help educate ordinary Muslims to shun the path of Wahhabi theocracy.