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Why does the West condemn some terrorism, but condone it on other occasions?

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A protest against Russian attacks on Ukraine in London, UK on 12 March 2022 [Raşid Necati Aslım/Anadolu Agency]

Dr Mustafa B Mheta

News that Syrian terrorists groups such as Tahrir Al-Sham, the former Jabhat Al-Nusra outfit, have entered Ukraine to fight the Russian Army on behalf of the neo-Nazi Ukrainian Army, is very confusing. We have been led to believe for years that the western powers led by the US are fighting terrorism across the globe, and yet here we have a bunch of known terrorists basically joining the West on the side of Ukraine against Russia.

Groups demonised by the US, such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda, are the most hated and dangerous terrorist outfits in the world; the common understanding is that the "free world" must fight and destroy them. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the then US President George W Bush declared to the world that, "You are either with us or with the terrorists"; one or the other; no middle ground. Designated terrorist groups became Public Enemy Number One overnight.

Now we see the US and its Western allies giving designated terrorists free passage to go to Ukraine to fight the Russians. Why aren't these fighters being detained and hauled off to the International Criminal Court? Hypocrisy is not too harsh a word to describe what is happening, which discredits the whole "war on terror" mantra that the West has been chanting for two decades.

It defies logic to fight terrorists when it suits you, and use them when it suits you. Such groups as Daesh and Jabhat Al-Nusra are well known for their cruelty in Syria, to the extent that their claim to be representative of the faith of Islam is doubted by Muslims. They have been disowned by almost all Muslim leaders, regardless of which branch of Islam they belong to. They need to be apprehended and taken before the ICC in The Hague; there is no reason or excuse for this not to happen. And yet… there they are in Ukraine, fighting on the same side as the West.


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This reinforces the argument put forward by many Muslim academics that the US and the West created Al-Qaeda and Daesh to do their dirty work in the Muslim world. Seeing Jabhat Al-Nusra in Ukraine gives credence to this hypothesis, and the belief that the group has little, if anything, to do with Islam. This view itself has also been given some credence by reports that when one of its camps was overrun, alcohol, drugs and other subversive materials were found, all of which are "haram" — forbidden — in Islam.

One day the truth will come out, and the world will wake up to the fact that we have been fooled all along into believing that these terrorist organisations are "Islamic". That will be the day when the state-sponsored international Islamophobia project will crumble and be exposed for what it really is.

What are the Jabhat Al-Nusra terrorists fighting for in Ukraine? Do they envisage setting up a caliphate alongside the neo-Nazis there? It all gives the appearance that those who established such groups, which have been used extensively in Libya, Iraq and Syria to effect regime change, are running out of ideas and no longer know what to do with their terrorist offspring. The likely prediction is that these fighters will eventually settle in the heart of Europe and become a thorn in the side of the self-same European governments which were behind their creation in the first place. The chickens will have well and truly come home to roost.

As has been argued widely since the Russians went into Ukraine, Western hypocrisy has been exposed in Eastern Europe. Palestinians resisting Israel's brutal military occupation are routinely described as "terrorists" by the same countries which are praising the resistance of Ukrainian citizens against the Russian forces. Indeed, the Western states are even encouraging their own citizens to go to Ukraine to support the resistance. Racist and anti-Islamic rhetoric is now mainstream, unashamedly so.

Now we have terrorist groups being granted safe passage by countries that should be arresting them. This pours scorn on international law and justice. How can anyone expect to see justice on the world stage when the West pulls the strings and shifts the goalposts when and where it suits its own interests to do so? When "terrorist" designations are being used arbitrarily, and everyone who this government or that regime doesn't like is dismissed as a "terrorist" individual or group, then the word loses its meaning and impact. When everyone is a terrorist, nobody is.

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The world is shocked at the West's failure to distinguish between right and wrong; good and bad. Confidence and trust in the international justice system has been damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Look how quickly sanctions have been imposed on Russia and Russian individuals, taking a matter of days to be enforced, and yet seven decades down the line from the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and Israel's ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity, sanctions on the apartheid state have never even been on the agenda, never mind imposed.

Western condemnation of terrorism no longer has any real meaning; it is pure vanity to assuage increasingly gullible citizens. A luta continua; the struggle goes on.