The Islamic State — global impact on Muslims

It is probable that ISIS will eventually collapse even if the Americans do not intervene militarily.


Najmuddin A Shaikh July 06, 2014

Following their stunning victories in Iraq and simultaneous consolidation of control in parts of Syria, Mr Abu Bakr Baghdadi has renamed his movement as the ‘Islamic State’ in place of the previously used names of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant). He has also proclaimed himself ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ and demanded the loyalty of all Muslims. In our region, this claim will probably run up against the counter-claim of Mullah Omar who having donned the prophet’s cloak in Kandahar proclaimed himself ‘Amirul Momineen’, and deemed himself the leader not only of the now defunct Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan but of all Muslims. Both claims can be dismissed as nonsensical. The chances of any such Caliphate emerging or of the resurrection in any recognisable form of the Caliphate of Haroun-ur Rashid are less than zero.

It is probable that despite the dithering in the Iraqi parliament and the abysmal failure of the Iraqi armed forces that ISIS, which could not have managed its present success without the support of such Sunni groups as the Naqshbandis led by the late Saddam Hussain’s deputy Izzat Ibrahim alDourie and other Sunni groups, will eventually collapse even if the Americans do not intervene militarily. (The prospects for such intervention are dim. American public opinion is tired of foreign entanglements and wants no repetition of the 2001 and 2003 fiascos). But it will, unless the Iraqi Shias elect a leader who can offer power sharing to the Sunnis, lead to the disintegration of Iraq and the creation of a space in the Sunni majority provinces of Iraq and bordering provinces of Syria, where Sunni extremism fuelled by looted funds and donations from extremist millionaires from the Gulf states can flourish.

The resources are formidable; a vast array of sophisticated American supplied weaponry abandoned by the Iraqi army, reportedly some $500 million in cash looted from banks in Mosul and other cities and hundreds of millions of dollars from private and public donations from the Gulf states. They also draw upon manpower resources from around the world. Current estimates show that about 12,000 fighters from around the world, primarily from Muslim countries, are now participating in the fighting in Syria and Iraq.

A recent poll by the Pew Global Attitudes project shows that concern about religious extremism is high in the Muslim countries — 92 per cent in Lebanon, 50 per cent in Turkey and 66 per cent in Pakistan. Admittedly, the poll was based on only slightly more than 14,000 respondents and did not cover all OIC members but it seems to be an accurate reflection of the prevailing sentiment and suggests that those participating in the fighting will not be welcome when they come home.

It is, however, the 3,000 or so fighters who have come from the West that will exacerbate the suspicion and distrust with which the minority Muslim communities are viewed in these countries. A particular furore was created in these countries when a militant website carried an ISIS recruitment video featuring three Britons fighting in Syria as members of ISIS and calling for jihad against the West.

The British prime minister has said that insurgents in other countries must be dealt with or the “problems will come back and hit us at home”. Even more alarmingly the former chief of defence staff, Lord Richards a veteran of the Afghan conflict, maintains that ‘militant jihadism’ is the biggest threat facing the world and needs a global response.

One counter-insurgency expert in the UK has determined on the basis of extensive research that one of every nine participants in the conflict will return to his home country to carry out terrorist attacks and will, because of his experience, be better equipped to achieve his objective. Whether this research is accurate or not, it suggests that from the 500 or so Britons who are said to be or have been in the war zone, some 35 will have to be identified and surveilled. A former head of counterterrorism at MI6 deems tracking returning jihadis an ‘impossible task’.

Presumably at government urging, leaders of the Islamic community in the UK have, in an open letter on a website, called upon young Muslims not to get involved in the civil wars in Syria and Iraq and not to fall prey to any form of sectarian divisions or social discord.

In the US, officials have said that dozens of fighters have travelled to Syria and then returned home. Other officials have surmised that if wanted to make a name for itself the best way would be to mount a major attack on a Western target and to use returnees for this purpose. Yet others have conceded that currently, the ISIS is focused on Iraq but believe it will shift attention to identifying, recruiting and training Western individuals to return to their homelands to mount extremist attacks.

A couple of days ago, the American Homeland Security Department asked for additional surveillance and checking at airports that have direct flights to US destinations, possibly because they believe explosives experts now safely ensconced in ISIS-controlled territory are developing difficult-to-detect bombs that some American citizens now in Syria can carry on to planes.

Given these circumstances,the Muslim minorities in all these countries will have a tough time finding jobs or acceptance in an increasingly suspicious society.

After 9/11, I had predicted that terrorism would be the issue that will dominate American policy for the next decade. The many mistakes made have ensured that this will now remain the focus for another decade and that in this decade what will also be called into question will be the much extolled secularism and tolerance of other beliefs and attitudes in the West. Perhaps President Obama’s proposal to Congress for a $5 billion fund to finance counter-insurgency in the affected countries, which in our region would include Pakistan and Afghanistan and in the Middle East would focus on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, may seek to address the underlying causes of terrorism.

There is also, perhaps, the forlorn hope that Saudi Arabia and Iran will forswear the current policies that are exacerbating the sectarian divide.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2014.

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COMMENTS (46)

Gurion | 8 years ago | Reply

@Rex Minor:

@Gurion: Your case is a hopeless one!

Coming from you, I take that as a compliment.

Rex Minor | 8 years ago | Reply

@Gurion: Your case is a hopeless one! Those who disbelieve, it is all the same for them whether you warn them or not they will not believe- Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and over their vision is a veil .........!!! The enlighened ones are not super humans but regular humans who do good and wrong, the only difference being that they know when they do wrong is a SIN, with consequences after death, whereas the man from the antique does it without being conscious of the SIN. Now what is your complaint aial bout Saudi Arabia? They supply energy to foreign lndustry, invests its wealth in foreign countries, provides employment to jobs foreign workers and above all has an open line credit for the USA, who without this support would go bankrupt. The hoh use of Saud is very generous in providing aid to the needy, but personaly lives a conservative life style. There is a prohibition on Kiff and alcohal which is no different than what the amish people observe in the bible belt counties of the USA.

Rex Minor

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