Posted on October 18, 2016
Islamic State flag Qayyara, Iraq. Photo: Rudaw
Lukman Salih | Special to Ekurd.net
It’s clear to every one of us that the terrorist organization of ISIS or as it’s called “Da’ash” by people in the Islamic world, is becoming a worldwide problem. It is threatening large populations of the Middle East and the Islamic world, causing a lot of fears for Europe and US. It’s also threatening security and stability throughout the world. This makes it a necessity to have a clear and long term strategy to defeat it and ultimately root it out in the longer term. Such a strategy and work must be agreed on among the countries whom are now participating in the Coalition against ISIS, this Coalition which is lead by the US, have started an air campaign against the group ever since August 2014 and later on in Syria. Although this campaign was able to stop ISIS from taking more grounds in Iraq, but in my opinion this action alone will not be enough to defeat and eradicate this terror group.
I should briefly mention that ISIS’s ideology is based on a radical interpretation of Islam and Quran verses. Some scholars say that such an ideology surfaced right after Prophet Mohammed’s death, but it was confronted back then by the other Muslims and defeated, although the majority of them agree that it’s based on a branch of Islam called “Wahhabism”, this was masterminded by a scholar called Muhammad Abdulwahab who lived in the eighteenth century in the Arab peninsula – currently Saudi Arabia – and it’s a branch of Islam that does not deviate from Sharia law in any way.
The strategy I am talking about here should be implemented on multi levels along side with the current military operations against the group. Firstly, a clarification should be made that separates the majority of Muslims and Islam from this group. More than 99% of Muslims don’t believe and agree with ISIS and what it’s doing; this should be clearly mentioned and addressed by US, Europeans and UN Officials when addressing the issue and should be reflected in the policies of their parties. I think President Obama has been playing a positive role in making this distinction especially in his speeches. ISIS wants to involve as many Muslims with the group, so that it is able to tell the world that it’s representing the majority of Muslims.
I think, ISIS wants the Muslim communities in the west, and especially in Europe to be alienated and marginalized and discriminated against so that it can take advantage of their alienation and anger. The terror group lately stepped up its attacks in Europe, analysts are saying it’s doing so because it has lost grounds in Iraq and Syria, that is true but I think the other reason is because the group wants to provoke the Europeans the most. It knows that this action in the end will lead to the empowerment of right wing European parties. ISIS knows if these parties seize power in their countries, they will make changes in policies against Muslim communities, and this will further alienate them, in the end this may help the terror group to radicalize and recruit more Muslim members from those communities.
The other very important part of the strategy should aim for much more participation from main Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and others in the fight against ISIS. As we know, the group is always using Islam’s main logo and Prophet Muhammad’s flag in its activities and operations, in some ways they hijacked Islam and it’s the responsibility of all true Muslims and Islamic countries to fight them, I think that US should push the major Sunni Islamic countries to form a mutual military force for that purpose and deploy the force against ISIS wherever and whenever needed.
Currently the only boots on ground fighting ISIS are Kurdish Peshmerga forces from Iraq and Syria, and some small elements from Iraqi army and Shiite militias supported by Iran. ISIS should be confronted militarily on the ground mainly by Sunni forces; the Sunni countries should be ready to do this if they want to show the world, especially the western population that the Islamic world and its population are fully distinct from this terror group, and ultimately I think ISIS must be defeated by Muslim forces and not ground forces from western countries. The west can help by providing arms, intelligence, training, logistics and air cover.
Historically, Muslim nations have been sensitive to existence of foreign troops on their lands, using any large scale of western ground troops will be looked at as an occupation by the local population and could complicate effort in the fight against the terror group.
Another step of the work is about fighting this poisoned ideology of ISIS which finds its way through many societies in the Islamic nations, of course this part is not fully achievable without peace and stability in the Middle East countries especially Iraq, Syria Libya and Afghanistan, I think this part of the work will be the most difficult one. The West, especially US can use its diplomacy and leverage to pressure the parties for peace and reconciliation; it should also include mitigating the sectarian tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the region and stopping their war in Yemen.
We should start on this front now, while the military campaign is going on against ISIS. The ultimate defeat of ISIS and other “Salafist Jihadi” terrorist groups, doesn’t come without eradication of this ideology, of course this will be an uneasy job and it may take decades, this should be done solely by Islamic nations themselves through their religion scholars, it should be aiming at teaching all Muslims especially the young ones already in education process the moderate values of Islam. The process should also include steps that decrease the chance for radical ideologies to thrive, the steps should include: policies that reduce poverty, fighting corruption, spreading social justice, increasing the level of freedom of speech and associations, and providing more of these rights which the Citizens has always been asking for from their rulers.
As these steps been taken to defeat ISIS, global war against terrorism must be continued by hunting their networks and drying their financial resources by mutual global efforts.
Let’s not forget that ISIS and other Al-Qaeda affiliated terror organizations, which are often labeled as “Radical Islamic Terror Groups” are always thriving in Muslim societies during wars and chaos, or when there is systematic injustice, corruption and poverty, oppression and discrimination by the regimes in the Islamic countries.
These groups take advantage of frustrated and hopeless young people to get their words out and recruit more people.
In Europe and the West, in general the policies of alienating and marginalizing Muslim populations will also play in to the advantage of these groups. So in Europe especially, the governments need to do a better job in the longer term to adjust Muslims into the society, and providing them with equal opportunities.