Is ISIS the new global menace?
by Abdul Cader Asmal
While the crises in Gaza and Ukraine captured the focus of the world, the carnage by ISIS (Islamic State in Syria and Iraq), remained very much off the radar. Few cared to understand its role in Syria as an opportunist in the fratricidal conflict between the legitimate opposition and the Assad regime. In Iraq it was able to galvanize tacit support amongst the Sunnis, crushed and humiliated by ‘shock and awe’ and marginalized by the Shia-led Iraqi regime. In short time it was able to devastate large swaths of land in both countries and butcher and maim countless innocent civilians. It was even able to declare a so-called Islamic state and a bogus caliphate without raising much of a murmur of protest. It was not until ISIS diverted its abomination against the Christian and Yazidi minorities that the world woke up to its potentially global menace.
ISIS is the product of our spurious ‘showdown with Saddam’, the dismantling of Iraq, and the radicalization of a faction of Sunni heretics taking their lead from Bin Laden. The ubiquity of Al Qaeda, and its many clones (including ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al Shebab), is a legacy of Bin Laden’s fascist ideology. The term “Binladenism” has been used to depict the architect whose unifying call was hate, whose target was the current world order, whose modus operandi was the terrorization of innocent civilians, and whose fascist ideology directly contravened the basic principles of the religion it claimed to espouse. As a product of ‘Binladenism’ Al Qaeda the prototype of today’s ISIS was the most mindless, unpredictable and deliberately merciless band of terrorists. Driven by motives or grievances that they may have legitimately shared with countless other Muslims, they had devised their own demonic modus operandi that almost all other Muslims abhorred.
It is hard to imagine that Al Qaeda could have been surpassed for its savagery. But ISIS has done it. It slaughters in cold blood anyone who disagrees with its totally heretical interpretation of Islam and its totalitarian view of the world order, whether they be Sunni or Shia Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, or any unnamed dissidents. It is essential to point out that in the internecine carnage in Syria and Iraq, the overwhelming majority of the victims of ISIS have been Muslims. No one seemed especially perturbed by this Muslim on Muslim violence. It was only when Christians and the Yazidis were targeted that an international outrage (rightly so) was expressed. To stop the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shia that had triggered the rise of ISIS, a government that was more representative of all the sects in Iraq was recommended. The supreme irony is that before we demolished a flourishing pluralistic Iraq, a Christian, Tariq Aziz, was its Foreign Minister.
The menace of ISIS is inherent in its extremist ideology and amplified by its sophisticated organization, its financial resources, its military successes, and its proclaimed ‘caliphate’. These are enticing attractions for potential ‘jihadist’ recruits, especially from those disenchanted by their perceived marginalization in the ‘West’; they are no less an attraction for the remnants of Saddam’s ‘Republican Guards’ in pursuit of vengeance. How to contain this cancer (in the words of President Obama in addressing the grisly slaughter of James Foley) is the challenge. If it is a threat to non-Muslims it is a far greater menace to the Muslim world which it plans to turn on its head. Various Muslim leaders from diverse backgrounds have condemned the claims of ISIS and have strongly repudiated their atrocities.
It will take more than random condemnations to derail this terror consortium and its megalomaniacal leader. It demands a concerted effort by all, especially Muslims who must be viewed as part of the solution rather as a part of the problem. This is what was implied in the Report of the 911 Commission which defined terrorism specifically as “Islamist”. This pejorative label sent a chilling message to Muslims worldwide that terrorism is a hallmark of Islam. To co-opt their engagement in this potentially real ‘global war on terror’ Islamophobes must also be reined in so that Muslims feel empowered rather than stigmatized.
For their part Muslims must make an unconditional commitment to expunge the heresy of Binladenism from the doctrine of Islam and let would-be terrorists unequivocally understand that the murder of innocent persons is no act of martyrdom but a direct path to purgatory. Only the extirpation of Binladenism from its stranglehold on Islam and the malleable minds of disenchanted, or reactionary vengeful adherents, by Muslims themselves, will halt the future proliferation of metastatic Al Qaeda, ISIS and similar clones. The clones are merely symptomatic of the underlying pathology of Binladenism. Whether ISIS is a global threat remains to be seen. It is certainly the most dangerous menace to the US mainland thanks to the ‘cakewalk’ that the ‘neocons’ with their penchant ’ for ‘shock and awe’, the pulverization of a civilized nation into the 13th century, ’regime change’, and ‘nation–building’, had predicted at the time of their connived invasion of Iraq.