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Violent Islamism: Our amazing disgrace

The defeat of Islamic State needs the simple recognition that all of us have a stake in the battle against it

Nervana Mahmoud , Wednesday 1 Jul 2015
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Friday’s carnage on three continents, in which scores of people died in Tunisia, Kuwait, and France has appalled the global community and reinforced international condemnation of the Islamic State (IS), which has claimed responsibility for them.

Yet in spite of the global horror over the sheer brutality and senselessness of these murders, deep differences exist among intellectuals concerning the causes of such terror and how to confront it. There is even disagreement over whether the term “Islamism” can be ascribed to the context of such acts of terror.

This lack of global consensus is one reason why such acts prevail, and is the simplest explanation for why groups like the Islamic State continue to gain ground in the Middle East. Barbarism that is countered by weak, unharmonious resistance is bound to spread with increasing brutality.

In France, according to a source involved in the police investigation, the man suspected of decapitating his boss and pinning his head to the gates of a gas factory posted a "selfie" showing him with the head he severed. In Kuwait, the killer stood among Shia worshippers during their prayers in a mosque before he murdered them. In Tunisia, peaceful sunbathers were butchered en masse in cold blood.

These three stories highlight not just the sheer ruthlessness of the murderers, but also how the reasons advanced for the rise of Jihadism are not necessarily applicable. 

Some top pundits warned people against condemning the attacks without acknowledging that injustice, oppression, and marginalisation are root causes behind them. However, they conveniently ignores how Tunisia is not an autocracy as other Arab states are, and its Islamists are included in the government; the victims in France were not journalists who had published offensive cartoons, as in the case of the Charlie Hebdo massacre; and the Shia community of Kuwait has no record of revolting against Sunni rulers in order to trigger the anger of Sunni radicals.

All the classic justifications that have been used in the past to try to rationalise previous heinous crimes do not even exist this time.

The Islamic State recruits disenfranchised individuals who are struggling to cope with the injustices and burdens of our harsh, often cruel, lonely life. Nasser Weddady, who is preparing a research paper on combating extremist propaganda, gave his insights in a gripping New York Times piece by Rukmini Callimachi: “All of us have a natural firewall in our brain that keeps us from bad ideas. They look for weaknesses in the wall, and then they attack.”

Indeed, lack of democracy, oppression and authoritarianism are common reasons behind the alienation of many youths and they do make some young people easy targets for the Islamic State’s propaganda, but the group is happy to advance a variety of other reasons.

With the world map embossed on its newly minted coins, the Islamic State’s main ambition is clear. The group aspires to dominate the entire world, not just the Middle East. Bearing that context in mind, the group has to use conflicting justifications for the terror it uses to pursue its political aims.

In Egypt, the ousting of Islamists from power is used as a reason; in Tunisia, the inclusive democracy that allowed non-Islamists to rule is also used as a reason. Targeting the tourism industry is a sinister way of undermining the current government in Tunisia and the fragile democratic experience in the country. If tourists are the sole focus of IS, why the group did not attack Morocco for example? Let’s not forget that Tunisia has done nothing to provoke the Islamic State, and it has not participated in US airstrikes against IS in Syria or Iraq.

Without understanding that radicals detest non-Islamist democrats as much as they detest non-Islamist dictators, there is no hope of fighting extremism in the Middle East. A flourishing liberal democracy in the Middle East is, in fact, the radicals’ worst nightmare, because it deprives them of the victimisation they excel at using to serve their political ideology.

On the other hand, a closer look at Syria highlights how IS fought and killed other rebels, including Islamists who were not alien to them. The group disdains non-violent Islamists and does not hesitate to kill even the most conservative Muslims if they dare to challenge their authority.

The Islamic State represents a greater challenge to political Islam than autocracy and dictatorship. With its bloodshed, the Islamic State is killing the concept that Islamism can be civil and non-violent. The stake for moderate Islamists is much higher; hence, they need to realise the danger and join the fight, at least to prove they provide a viable alternative template to barbarism.

Furthermore, some countries, such as Turkey, have opted to ignore the security threat of the Islamic State, despite the fact that the group operates freely near its southern border. In fact, Turkey focuses instead on its fear of the Kurds near its borders. On the same day of last Friday’s carnage, President Erdogan openly stated he would not allow a Kurdish state in Syria. The Turkish president conveniently ignores the fact that the Kurds are not fighting Turkey, but fighting the Islamic State, which slaughtered many innocent civilians in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane near the Turkish border last Thursday.

In addition, conspiracy theories continue to gain currency in the Middle East. The classic response to IS’s atrocities is to blame Israel and America, and claim without reliable evidence that they back the group. Others focus their grievances on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her views, which many Muslims consider Islamophobic, claiming that IS serves only right-wing Western fascists who hate Islam. A third group has ignored the carnage completely and focuses instead on other irrelevant matters. It was so unsettling to see the angry comments of so many Egyptians and Arabs streaming in on social media about the US sanctioning gay marriages following Friday’s terror wave. If America’s tolerance is more unsettling to some than intolerance of IS, then no wonder radicalism will continue to prevail.

The key to fighting IS effectively is to stop our own infighting. Watching different camps exchanging accusations is not the way forward. Postulating conspiracy theories, resenting minorities like the Kurds who bravely fight IS, and complaining about the rise of Islamophobia will not help either.

The defeat of the IS does not need an innovative approach; it needs the simple recognition that all of us have a stake in the battle, and we need to do our part to fight evil, instead of exchanging blame and pointing fingers. The Islamic State continues to win because of our collective "amazing disgrace." If we fail to unite against barbarism, then the ripples of blood will drown us all.

The writer is a blogger and commentator on Middle East issues
 

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6



Daniel Cooper
07-07-2015 06:39pm
334-
3+
Sowing the seeds that are planted
Islamic schools in the "east" have taught for generations that non-believers are lesser people and these infidels can be treated as non-humans, such hate breeds only more hate and ultimately violence. Daesh is simply doing what they believe will purify the world. The solution is a strong democratic government that protects the rights of all people, all beliefs all views of life.
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5



khan
03-07-2015 07:36am
246-
336+
What the unique role of Egypt
I think your Sisi has also contributed double to the situation. The Egyptian example planted poison in the Muslim mind around the world. If democracy is not the solution then there is no solution. No more drama. Let the people decide and not the Klashnicof holder should dictate his democracy.
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4



Ahmed M Ibrahim
02-07-2015 05:39pm
6-
0+
Battle of Badr
Moslems should not ignore the fact that when Prophet Mohammed waged a Battle, it was by divine concurrence. Moreover there was no Islamic world and Moslems were confined to the city of Medina and its environs and their number was also extremely low when compared to the Non-believers. What happened during the Prophet's days need not be compared with the present times, where we have fully independent and strong Moslem governments all around the world. These elements are basically misguided and have least knowledge of Islamic affairs. Blame should not be levelled on madrasas as these institutions are functioning since several centuries, though what they impart does not awaken a society nor electrify its ambitions befitting the modern times. Laying blame on Saudi influence is also self defeating because Saudi traditions are influenced by climate and desert environment while things in Syria and Iraq are quite different.
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3



Farhan
01-07-2015 09:16pm
277-
353+
Islamic state would have not come in power if Assad would have left like Ben Ali
Instead of that he did genocide of people with chemical weapons and this is how people became more brutal, Egypt is also going in same direction because military has been doing massacres of innocent people.
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2



Ahmed M Ibrahim
01-07-2015 06:00pm
1-
282+
The ISIS bankruptcy
While one has to agree with the writer's views, the fact remains that this source of terrorism emerged from the confines of Syria and Iraq, where political barbarism of the worst type crippled the citizens to such an extreme extent, which made possible for the Islamic State to emerge with a viable military force. From where did they get the armament, military vehicles and other paraphernalia to confront the oppressors? Nonetheless what happened in France, Tunisia and Kuwait is most distressing, in the sense that such bloody events happened in Ramadan, which clearly shows they have no regard for religious sensitivity of the Islamic nation. Moreover they have attacked only the soft targets,a fact that is more reprehensible. It clearly indicates their mental and moral bankruptcy and indicates their imminent political collapse as a political force. The fall of Assad and the Iraqi mafia could only spell their(IS)doom.
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expat
02-07-2015 11:52am
3-
11+
you forget some details..
1. Prophet Mohamed undertook his most successful battle during rhamadan, which is the reason,IS is using the same taktik. 2 also without assad and the clowns in iraq they would exist,as they are offspring of the seed grown through the madrassas in the bordertowns of pakistan to afghanistan, put in fertile brains through the saudhi arabia-/Khatar support for the taliban in the 90 of last century. FROM there all this mess took root in all middle east. 3. the civil war in syria emerged and florished,because again saudhi arabia supported the "rebells" from the start with weapons and money,as they hate the shia government there
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democracia
01-07-2015 02:38pm
0-
11+
Bravo!
What a great article!!! Bravo! You are 100 percent right!
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Aly Sadek -Toronto-Canada
01-07-2015 09:16pm
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11+
Egypt..
..MRS. M. MAHMOUD.....CONGRATS.....VERY..VERY WELL SAID
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