The most significant ways—both short and long term—to deal with the sources of terrorism will emerge more from within the circles that are close to it rather than from sources that depend upon it from outside. This requires us to work at a change process that mobilizes, supports, and gives face to people from within the sectors who may be in the best position to affect both the perception and the specificity of people that are using extremism.
Within Islam there are internal debates among those who share many of the perspectives on some of the mandates and the threats to Islam, but do not share the view that militant extremism in a violent form against innocent civilian populations, and even against other religious traditions, is a part of what the Islamic prophet has left as the pathway of a believer. That debate is a significant one, and it requires us to reconsider fundamentalism as not exclusively a threat, but that fundamentalism is about people who take seriously the expressions of their faith. From within that, a debate over the use of violence is possible and may have a greater impact on changing the nature of where these particular forces have risen from in the Middle East than anything we would do from outside.
John Paul Lederach is professor of international peacebuilding at the Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at Notre Dame and author of Building Peace, Preparing for Peace, and The Journey Toward Reconciliation.