Conversation with Chairman of the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee

Director of Freemuslim’s Center for De-radicalization & Extremism Prevention attended an event organized by the Atlantic Council conversing with Honorable Congressman Gregory Meeks regarding multi-lateral approach in defeating extremist groups globally and specifically in the African continent. Congressman Gregory Meeks also serves as the Chairman of the United State’s House Foreign Affairs Committee. In this interactive meeting Congressman suggested dealing with extremist groups requires a multi-level approach to become effective and successful. He emphasized the United States should not become the occupier of any country and instead utilize its relationship to involve local governments in the process.

Mr. Akhwand, director of Freemuslim believes there is a necessity to change the approach to make effective change. Involvement of external influence leads to short term gain but long term loss. External influence usually has external agenda plus its own perspective about what should be the change a country goes through, and since it does not understand the local conflict nor it shares a common history, it tends to suggest changes that may work elsewhere but not in the intended country. For example; what may needed for Somalia may not work for Nigeria. What may work for Guinea may not be suitable for Ethiopia.

Regarding counter terrorism against terrorist groups; Mr. Akhwand believes there should be a platform for opposition groups to voice their opinions and demand the changes they have in mind publicly and openly. This leaves us with groups who are criminals and/or groups who are higher by neighboring governments in addition to other external factors to disrupt the peace in a society. Those groups need to be faced by military confrontation and face legal consequences to their actions. Terrorizing people of a country prevents people to conduct their daily transactions in peace of mind, pushes away local investment which directly effects the economic gains within the country and prevents the youth population from obtaining higher education and becoming elements of positive change in the society.

Introducing change from outside of a country leads has reverse effect on natives to that country, and it allows for terrorist groups to gain trust of locals in fighting any and all external influence in order to save the country from changes that does not effect lives of people internally. What is normal in Europe is different than basic needs in Africa. Advocacy for equal pay in Europe or the United States may be best approach for gender equality rights but in Africa, preserving a woman’s basic human rights becomes a priority and then after establishing basic rights, other rights like equal pay can be discussed. When a country lacks basic rights and women and children are being abducted by terrorist groups like Boko Haram, advocating for rights that effect what a woman gets paid in a work environment is meaningless and that woman’s safety becomes a priority. Freemuslim asks African governments to build culture of tolerance, advocate for change from within, and facilitate opportunities for internal educational advancement which leads to self sustainability.