Middle East and African states must help Europe fight terror

Muslim states must try and talk to conservative clerics, not jail or torture them

One of the Borough Market attackers: Governments in the Middle East and North Africa must engage the conservative Muslim clerics within their own borders – the individuals responsible for filling young people’s heads with hatred. Photograph: Gabriele Sciotto/AP

One of the Borough Market attackers: Governments in the Middle East and North Africa must engage the conservative Muslim clerics within their own borders – the individuals responsible for filling young people’s heads with hatred. Photograph: Gabriele Sciotto/AP

Europe’s ties with governments in the Middle East and North Africa are commonly viewed through the prism of multimillion-euro arms deals or criticism of the latter’s collective human rights records. If Europe wants to end the terrorist threat that has shocked the continent, however, a new relationship, one that pushes for deradicalisation in the Middle East, must be forged.

It is both worrying and undeniable that several perpetrators of the Paris, Brussels and recent UK terrorist attacks were young men of North African origin. A number had familial links to Morocco, a relatively secure and peaceful though autocratic state that has struggled with extremism. Until recently, Morocco isolated its incarcerated Islamist radicals from the general prison population, but quickly found that course of action served only to allow them to establish closer ties.

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