[VIEWPOINT]Extremists do not represent IraqThe Kim Sun-il incident was enough to get the whole nation in hysterics. Some Korean citizens even went to the extreme of showing a desire for revenge by saying, “Dispatch the ranger-commando forces,” or, “Increase the number of combat soldiers.” Extreme hatred toward militant Islamic terrorists is understandable. They definitely need to be punished in the name of the human race.
However, such emotions should not be expressed in the form of attacks aimed at average Iraqis and good Muslims. National rage that mistakenly equates average Iraqi citizens with fanatical Islamic terror groups is wrong and holds a danger of damaging the amicable relations that have been sustained between Korea and the Islamic and Arab world.
The Kim Sun-il incident is one that has nothing to do with the emotions of the majority of Iraqis, but one that is held responsible by a minority of “Islamic terror dealers.” We can confirm this with the condolences that were sent to the Korean government and people by the governor of Kirkuk, a region to which Seoul has considered sending troops, and by many Iraqi people as well as nongovernmental organizations. It was even stated at the Islamic leaders conference in Yemen, shortly after the murder of Kim Sun-il, “Kidnapping and murdering a foreigner is a terror act that is not permissible by Islam, and a barbaric act which damages the image of Islam.”
It has come to our knowledge that Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi’s al-Tawhid and wa’l-Jihad Group were responsible for the murder of Kim Sun-il. This is an extreme terrorist group wearing a mask of religion, not a true Muslim group. It has the same roots as groups like Al Qaeda, which have been carrying out acts of terrorism since the beginning of the 1990s in the Middle East, America and Africa, justifying their acts with the belief that they have to start a holy war against non-Muslims and crusaders.
These groups are also different from Islamic fundamentalism. So-called “militant Islamism” is so diverse that it includes Afganistan’s Taliban, Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Egypt’s Salafiyyah, Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, Morocco’s Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) of the Philippines, and they form an international regimentation among themselves.
These terrorist groups launch cowardly attacks on civilians, relatively weaker targets, because they cannot attack America directly. They say that such indiscriminate attacks will lead to the destruction of America, which rules over and spoils the Muslim world, and other allies of America. That is why some call such militant Islamism “global jihad.” It is “global” because the battlefield has gone beyond just the Muslim world to include the whole world, and “jihad” because they find the mechanisms of sacrifice and justification, which provide a drive and source for combat, in the defense and revival of Islam.
Many big and small acts of terror such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks which walloped the heart of America, the Bali nightclub bombing which took away 200 lives, the Turkey synagogue terror of November 2003 in which 59 people were sacrificed and the beheading of American Nick Berg and Kim Sun-il, were all committed by these groups.
But these combative Islamists and their beliefs are not getting any sympathy, even from the Muslim world. The majority of Muslims hate them. There is no reason to link the Kim Sun-il incident with good Iraqis and Muslim believers of peace. It is also wrong that some high-strung Korean citizens have been misbehaving at mosques and committing verbal abuse toward Muslims.
We need to stop reacting emotionally to the sacrifice of Kim Sun-il, and cope with the situation in a more reasonable and cool-headed manner. Iraq played a central role in the past when the Korean economy achieved rapid development in a short period of time owing largely to the economic boom brought by construction and exports to the Middle East. With Saddam Hussein’s government driven out, another chance for an economic boom through its participation in rehabilitation projects in Iraq awaits Korea.
When the reins of the Iraqi government are turned over and a new administration formally takes its place, a full-scale national rehabilitation project will get under way. It is my hope that the sacrifice of Kim Sun-il provides a beginning for the development of Korean-Iraqi relations, and becomes a key point for new friendship, cooperation and development between Korea and the Middle East.
* The writer is a professor of international relations at Hangook University of Foreign Studies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Hong Wan-suk