Last updated: 2 March, 2015

Iran thinks the West needs ‘soul-searching’ on home-grown extremists

Western democracies should ask themselves some tough questions about why they have produced some of the extremists wreaking havoc in the world today, Iran's foreign minister said Monday.

In a speech before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the West of “selectivity and double standards” in its dealings with the Muslim world, suggesting a bit of “soul-searching” would be in order.

Western democracies, he said, should ponder “why quite a sizable number of individuals and groups espousing extremist ideologies and engaged in acts of brutal terror and heinous violence… happen to be second generation citizens of Western democracies.”

“It is frightening that Daesh terrorists, beheading innocent civilians, speak European languages with a native accent,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS) group.

Widespread recruitment of radicalised youths fighting with IS and other extremists groups, he warned, is a consequence of “a systematic failure, which has led to marginalisation, alienation and disenfranchisement of individuals and groups born, raised and educated in Western democracies.”

Observers say some 20,000 foreign fighters have left their homelands to join extremist groups in the past few years — including an estimated 4,000 since 2012 from western Europe.

Zarif also insisted that the “organisations of mass murder” terrorising the Middle East had initially emerged as “freedom fighters” to counter foreign interventions in a range of countries in the region.

“These groups owe their inception and growth to the shortsightedly defined security and strategic interests of certain regional and global players,” he said.

In a veiled swipe at the United States and its allies, he charged that countries had used human rights as a “disguise for broad social, political and strategic engineering to transform the region and undermine governments deemed to be unfriendly.”

“Make no mistake, the so-called Islamic State of today, which is neither Islamic nor a state by the way, is composed of the so-called freedom fighters of only a couple of years ago,” he said.

Zarif, who was meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry later Monday for a new round of talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, also accused the West of double standards when it comes to discrimination.

“While racism and anti-Semitism are rightly condemned and even penalised, widespread instances of Islamophobia and blatant disregard for the values, beliefs and sanctities of Muslim citizens of many societies are not only tolerated but even publicly glorified as freedom of expression,” he said.

“And we all see the catastrophic consequence,” he added, in an apparent reference to the deadly attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices in January.