Book Review: The future of ISIS, by former jihadists

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Friday 24 Apr 2015

The importance of the book is that its two authors were members of the jihadist group Gamaa Islamiya, who have since renounced violence

Nageh Ibrahim
Nageh Ibrahim (Photo: Nageh Ibrahim’s Facebook page)

Da'aish: Al-Sakeen Alaty Tazbeh Al-Islam (ISIS: The Knife Slaughters Islam) by Dr Nageh Ibrahim and Hesham Al-Naggar, Al-Shurouq Publishing, Cairo, 2014. pp.150

Perhaps the hurried publishing of this book before the guns of Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS) fall silent and the airplanes of the coalition stop bombarding its positions is not as noticeable as the fact that its authors belong to the political Islam current (formerly jihadist).

According to the book’s cover, Nageh Ibrahim “was one of the most important advocates and educators at Assiut University in the seventies who transferred advocacy from Assiut to most of Upper Egyptian governorates with his companions who founded Gamaa Islamiya.”

It is well-known that Ibrahim was convicted over President Anwar Sadat’s assassination and spent almost two decades in prison until he was released after renouncing his ideas in what was known as the Nonviolence Initiative.

As for the second author, Hesham Al-Naggar, according to the publisher he is “a former Islamist leader and currently an Islamist researcher and a political analyst. He resigned from Gamaa Islamiya and the Building and Development Party's Media Bureau after his reconciliation initiative wasn’t put through.” The book's significance lies in that its authors belong to the Islamist current which has renounced violence, as both authors assert.

Anyway, the beginnings of ISIS go back to what has become of Al-Qaeda organisation after 11 September 2001, “where it has become a general inspiring idea and a non-centralised organisation where cells are formed in a spontaneous way.”

At the time when the Syrian Revolution was taking serious regional and international dimensions, the Assad regime started to utilise calls for fighting terrorism and confronting Al-Qaeda and jihadist groups.

The situation began to deteriorate and fierce infighting intensified and this climate allowed jihadist and takfirist organisations to take prominent positions, receiving logistical, human and financial support from neighbouring and distant countries, which the book does not name.

From among those groups, Al-Nusra group (The Support Front), Ahrar Al-Sham (Freemen of the Levant) and ISIS came to the fore. Between ISIS and other Sunni jihadist groups fierce battles raged in order to claim absolute supremacy over all jihadist groups.

On another field, other groups adopting Al-Qaeda tactics became widespread without having any direct organisational links with it. Several groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis in Sinai, Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in Algeria, the Mujahideen Youth Movement in Somalia and Al-Nusra in Syria.

What complicated the scene were the crimes and discrimination activities committed by the US, heavily-supported by the Maliki government, against Iraqi Sunnis.

This in turn provided a favourable climate for such groups to emerge. ISIS, which managed to control border areas between Iraq and Syria, exploited this Sunni anger for its own benefit. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is currently ISIS’s third leader after Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was killed and also the killing of his successor Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi.

ISIS embraces a takfiri approach, considering anyone who does not belong to their group and their state as unbeliever which they view as the State of Muslims. They also see that he who does not announce his loyalty to this state and his allegiance to its head an unbeliever and it is religiously legitimate to cut his head off.

In this context, they consider democracy, political participation and power rotation religiously illegitimate as well. They do not perceive liberals, secularists, Arab nationalists and socialists only as unbelievers, but they regard all other Islamist movements which do not swear allegiance to ISIS as unbelievers as well. 

During a short time, the organisation achieved successive victories due to generous financing "which came from parties benefitting from this situation," i.e. some Arabian Gulf countries.

The savagery and bloodiness which the organisation’s fighters mastered practising and spreading through notorious video clips succeeded in disseminating horror and panic in the hearts of both members of the Iraqi army and inhabitants in surrounding areas.

The authors quoted what the Guardian mentioned that 300,000 Iraqi soldier fled in the face of 800 ISIS fighter. Thus the organisation captured Mosul, the second biggest Iraqi city.

It is known that a great number of commanders in the Iraqi army – which was disbanded after the American invasion – joined ISIS. As for the surrender of the Iraqi soldiers, this is due to the sectarian governance, biased towards the Shias during Al-Maliki’s term.

They quoted as well from the Economist that the organisation now controls an area similar to the area and number of inhabitants of the state of Jordan. In this area, about eight million Syrians and Iraqis live and around 11,000 people from 70 countries fight for ISIS.

On another level, this organisation is considered the richest terrorist group in the world through the oil royalties from oil fields in Syria and seizing approximately half billion dollars from the Central Bank in Mosul.

The authors raised the following question: can ISIS establish a state? The answer is that any organisation that embraces takfiri thought will be unable to do this. In Islamic history, the Kharijites armies continued for long years then declined without achieving their objectives and this kind of thought has never establish a state.

According to the book’s description, such an organisation is able to destroy countries but not establish one because the thought it uses as a launch pad is antagonistic to everybody, condemning them as unbelievers. Hence, Al-Qaeda organisation failed in establishing a state in Afghanistan as well as in Somalia or the Yemen.

Despite all this, the authors committed an atrocious error when they mention, in the second chapter, titled “The Economic and Strategic Dimensions of ISIS,” that the power balance in the region was disturbed after the Arab Spring uprisings and plans were set up for dividing the region geographically on the basis of sectarian affiliation.

Accordingly, Western intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, gave instructions to the staunchly takfirist organisations to get rid of security apparatuses and the regions’ armies. As we can see such talk is not logical because Western intelligence agencies did not found these organisations in the first place so as to command it to execute such acts.

Even if it ignored the matter intentionally and left it to grow and strengthen and get armed in order to use it afterwards in dismantling the region for the benefit of the Western influence and Israeli dominance.

There is also a far greater error made by the authors when they mention, in the same context, that the traditional Islamist movement fell in the trap of the communist movements collaborating with Zionist organisations which in its turn used the Islamists as a tool in exhausting the Egyptian army.

The least that can be said is that this kind of talk is hollow and trivial. They assert that there is “information supported with documents” that calls, support and financing by Egyptian communist leaders were traced to create infighting within the Egyptian army but they did not name their source despite the fact that such accusations amount to high treason.

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