Fight against Is­lamic State is not ‘the strug­gle of our gen­er­a­tion’

Is­lamists hate Western val­ues, but they have big­ger fish to fry at home

Cape Breton Post - - OP-ED - Gwynne Dyer Gwynne Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries.

Last Fri­day, in France, an Is­lamist named Yahya Salhi killed his em­ployer, Herve Cornara. He at­tached the vic­tim’s sev­ered head to the fence around a chem­i­cal plant, to­gether with a cloth say­ing “There is no God but God and Muham­mad is his prophet” – and then rammed his ve­hi­cle into a ware­house full of chem­i­cals hop­ing ( but fail­ing) to cause a mas­sive ex­plo­sion.

In Kuwait two hours later, Fahd Suleiman Ab­dul­mohsen al- Qaba’a, a Saudi citizen, en­tered a Shia mosque and det­o­nated a bomb that killed at least 25 peo­ple. He was pre­sum­ably a Sunni fa­natic sent by ‘ Is­lamic State’ to kill Shias, who they be­lieve are heretics who should be killed.

In Tu­nisia one hour later, 38 Euro­pean tourists, most of them Bri­tish, were mas­sa­cred by a 23- year- old man with a Kalash­nikov on a beach in Sousse. The per­pe­tra­tor, Seifed­dine Rezgui, was study­ing en­gi­neer­ing at a univer­sity in Kairouan, an hour’s drive west of Sousse.

Is­lamic State, which has carved out a ter­ri­tory in Iraq and Syria that has more peo­ple and a big­ger army than half the mem­bers of the United Na­tions, im­me­di­ately claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for all three at­tacks. Yahya Salhi may have been a lone- wolf head case, but in the other two cases the claim was al­most cer­tainly true.

Bri­tain’s prime min­is­ter, David Cameron, re­sponded to the deaths of 30 Bri­tish cit­i­zens in Tu­nisia by trot­ting out the same shop­worn drivel that Western lead­ers have been ped­dling for the past 14 years. The fight against Is­lamic State is “the strug­gle of our gen­er­a­tion,” Cameron de­clared. In­deed, IS poses “an ex­is­ten­tial threat” to the West.

Maybe Cameron doesn’t know what the word “ex­is­ten­tial” means. Could some­body please ex­plain to him that he is say­ing that Is­lamic State poses a threat to the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of the West? Does he re­ally think that is the case?

For­give me for mak­ing a cold- blooded cal­cu­la­tion, but some­times it is nec­es­sary. The pop­u­la­tion of the West (not count­ing the coun­tries of Latin Amer­ica, which don’t play in this league) is about 900 mil­lion. Thirty- nine “Western­ers” have been killed in at­tacks by Is­lamist ter­ror­ists this month. At this rate, the West will have ceased to ex­ist in 1.9 mil­lion years. If this is an ex­is­ten­tial threat, it’s not a very ur­gent one.

In fact, it’s not re­ally about the West at all. The Euro­pean vic­tims on the beach in Sousse were killed in or­der to de­stroy the tourism that pro­vides al­most 15 per cent of Tu­nisia’s na­tional in­come, and thereby desta­bi­lize the only fully demo­cratic coun­try in the Arab world. The ex­trem­ists’ real goal is to seize power in Tu­nisia; the Western vic­tims were just a means to that end.

The bomb­ing of a Shia mosque in Kuwait was in­tended to in­crease ten­sions be­tween the Sunni ma­jor­ity and the large Shia mi­nor­ity in that coun­try, with the ul­ti­mate goal of un­leash­ing a Sunni- Shia civil war in which Is­lamist ex­trem­ists could take over the Sunni side as they have al­ready done in Syria and Iraq.

Only the lone-wolf at­tack in France could be con­ceiv­ably be seen as di­rected at the “West” – although that might also have been just a per­sonal griev­ance wrapped up in an Is­lamist jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The rest of the killing was about who con­trols the Mus­lim coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­dle East, as it has been from the start. Even 9/11 was about that, de­signed not to “bring Amer­ica to its knees” but to lure it into an in­va­sion of Afghanistan that Osama bin Laden be­lieved would stim­u­late Is­lamist rev­o­lu­tions in Mus­lim coun­tries. The Is­lamists do “hate Western val­ues”, but they have big­ger fish to fry at home.

Is­lamic State and the var­i­ous in­car­na­tions of Al Qaeda ( the Nusra Front in Syria, Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, etc,) pose an ex­is­ten­tial threat to the non-Sunni Mus­lim mi­nori­ties of the Mid­dle East, and even to Sunni Mus­lims whose be­liefs di­verge sig­nif­i­cantly from those of the Is­lamists. The West should help gov­ern­ments in the re­gion that pro­tect their mi­nori­ties, and of course it should try to pro­tect its own peo­ple.

But this is not the “strug­gle of our gen­er­a­tion” for the West. It should be nowhere near the top of its own list of pri­or­i­ties.

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