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Many people in the Middle East and abroad are rightly concerned about the rise and impact of hard-line Salafist-takfiri Islamist groups that have recently proliferated and controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. Groups like the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Nusra Front, and many other smaller ones represent perhaps the fastest growing ideological sector in the region – in some cases attracting tens of thousands of adherents. Al-Qaeda itself and its offshoots have tried for decades to mobilize popular support across the Arab world, playing on the same grievances (Palestine, corruption, foreign aggressions, domestic injustices and disparities) that have brought millions of adherents to other, nonviolent and locally anchored Islamist movements such the Muslim Brotherhood or the Nour movement in Egypt. ISIS and other Al-Qaeda-like groups have totally and repeatedly failed the test of popular legitimacy. Salafist-takfiri groups are a passing symptom of our countries' problems and deficiencies, not a harbinger of our future. They can be partly contained by military action in the short run, but in the long run they can only be countered by better governance and more equitable socio-economic development and citizen rights.
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