The world has been witnessing a rapidly growing and fast spreading phenomenon of extremism and radicalization. All peace-loving people across the world regardless of faith, origin, race or color stand unequivocally against extremism that is seen as a global threat. No doubt extremism has become a universal challenge that recognizes no borders. It utilizes violence to prove its existence and to impose its presence. The victims are innocent people who are targeted irrespective of their faith, race, color, national origin or nationality. It is driven by blind hate and it violates all norms of basic human decency.

There is a long list of horrific crimes committed by extremists. From the Paris attacks to the continued Islamic State murders in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Lebanon, the victims are different but it is the same extremists. Most recently the cold blooded hate crime that claimed the lives of three University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students was nothing but part of a series of dangers threatening our world. All are crimes against humanity and all are a reflection of the language of hate.

No logic, no religion, no atheist doctrine, condones or justifies these crimes against humanity. Despite that obvious fact, many intentionally continue to shift the blame on the faith of Islam and people of Muslim faith. This intentional strategy is meant not only to defame Islam and Muslims but also to be used a platform to gain fame and recognition. These advocates of hate are not willing to recognize the facts regardless what the vast majority of Muslims across the world may say or do.

Beyond the condemnation of violent acts, the question that is before the free world is: how can this threat be contained, defeated and eventually eliminated? The nature of these crimes demands asking tough questions. Defeating our common enemy, terrorism, cannot be achieved by limiting our action and reaction to political grand standing or military responses. It is a deep- rooted challenge that requires a strategy of winning the hearts and the minds before anything else. It’s the strategy that provides hope and opportunities to those influenced by it. It’s through securing the peace and stability that others being deprived from.

Political unity and common will are a must, but the nature of this enemy requires an agreed-upon definition of the threat. We need to define the root causes of terror. The key contributing factors must be recognized, they include the state of despair of many people in the Middle East. The world’s double political standards and selective approach to condemnation of human rights violations only worsen the crisis. The world must recognize that as long as people are left to despair and as long as wars are allowed fester for years, this challenge will continue to exist.

Yesterday it was al-Qaida. Today it is the Islamic State. One can only wonder who would be its successor. Extremism is the symptom of a deeper problem. Once we deal with the original problem, we neutralize the symptoms.

Imad Hamad is executive director of the American Human Rights Council.

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