This week world news was dominated by President #Donald Trump’s executive order to ban Moslem refugees from seven “at risk” countries in the Middle East. The ostensible reason for this decision was the need to fight terrorists who may be hiding amongst the refugees. Yet two other news items remind us that the War on terror is not as black and white as some depict it and that its perpetrators do not follow a set pattern.

From Quebec to London

On Sunday January 29th in Quebec in Canada a lone gunman attacked a Mosque killing six people at their prayers and injuring many others.

Despite reports circulating in certain media naming Moroccan refugees the gunman arrested was identified as 27 year old Alexandre Bissonnette from Quebec. In a follow up to the news Canadian President formally protested to FOX News Fox on Thursday continuing to identify the attacker as refugees even after the formal identification and arrest.

Yesterday at the Old Bailey in London British Marine Ciaran Maxwell pleaded guilty to offences related to the dissident republican terrorism in Northern Ireland which also included making bombs and storing stolen military weapons. This arrest was a strong reminder of the decades of “Troubles” concentrated in Belfast which saw many attacks in Britain, including the assassination of war hero Lord Louis Mountbatten.

The arrest confirms fears that the potential for terrorism still exists in the troubled British region.

Terror does not exist on its own

The battle against terror inspired by ISIS in the Middle East and which led to many deadly attacks in Europe has so occupied the world’s attention that many have the impression that terrorists can only be Moslem and involve religious war.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Europe saw waves of politically inspired terrorism as a result of the 1968 revolts. Germany suffered at the hands of the Red Army Faction or Baader-Meinhof gang before the arrest of those responsible for a number of assassinations. In Italy many assassinations and bombings were carried out by both left and right wing terrorist groups which culminated in the kidnapping and murder of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the most famous of these groups, the Red Brigades.

Spain was also the subject of a terror campaign by ETA who were seeking the secession of the Basque Regions from Spain to form a country of their own . Without forgetting the politically inspired 2011 mass murder by Anders Breivik in Norway who killed 77 members of the local Workers’ Youth movement.

All continents have had terrorist activities which would fill many pages, but this small list shows that terrorism has many faces and nationalities and cannot be fought simply by pointing fingers at one particular group.

Root causes

Terrorists can only be fought effectively by eliminating the reasons that men and women take up arms to fight their leaders, or other groups. If governments around the world do not address the root causes for these activities the elimination or arrest of terrorists will only create martyrs for the rebels and not lead to the end of the terrorism.

Italy and Germany resolved their problems by addressing the base support of the terrorists and the problems that led to the armed revolts. In the end the various groups surrendered or disappeared. In each country that suffered terrorism resolutions were found that removed the need for armed conflict and deaths.

The ban on Moslems from the Middle East seeking refuge in the United States will not resolve the issues that created ISIS and which inspire foreign fighters from many countries to join it. Indeed, many moderate world leaders, including those from countries hit by terrorism protested against the ban for this very reason. It will not disappear with bans, it will only disappear when there is no cause for which to fight. This is the real challenge in fighting ISIS.