Is­lamic State a threat to the world

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

It would be im­pre­cise to re­fer to the ter­ror­ist “regime” led by its self-pro­claimed Khal­i­fah “Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi” as the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (ISIS). In June the dreaded leader re­moved the ge­o­graph­i­cal re­stric­tion of his “state”, re­plac­ing it with just “Is­lamic State” and com­mand­ingMus­lims across the world to pledge loy­alty to the new “ISIS”.

The cold-blooded Is­lamic State ji­hadists re­leased a video onWed­nes­day show­ing the be­head­ing of a man, re­sem­bling free­lance Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist James Fo­ley, who was kid­napped in Syria two years ago. At the end of the video footage, the ji­hadists threaten to kill an­other Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist if the US-led strikes against them don’t stop.

Al­though al-Qaida led by Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US strike in 2011, claimed to lead the Is­lamic “war against the US”, the out­fit didn’t re­ceive much as­sis­tance from the Mus­lim world. Nei­ther Shi’ite Iran and Syria, which the US con­sid­ers its “real en­e­mies”, nor Sunni-ledMus­lim coun­tries, showed much sup­port for al-Qaida. As a re­sult, its lead­ers spent most of their days hid­ing in places rang­ing from East Africa to Afghanistan be­fore bin Laden’s death.

But “ISIS” which gre­wout of al-Qaida holds a mas­sive amount of land in north­ern Iraq and east­ern Syria, and even neigh­bor­ing Jor­dan and Le­banon feel threat­ened be­cause the out­fit’s fa­natic ac­tivists could cross over their bor­ders any­time.

Would bin Laden, had he been alive, be de­lighted by the devel­op­ment? Not at all. To be­gin with, IS leader Abu Du’a has called up­onMus­lims to smash the Black Stone in the east­ern cor­ner of Kaaba, the cuboid build­ing which is the most sa­cred point in Is­lam and to which al­lMus­lims turn while pray­ing. By dis­cred­it­ing the sa­cred­ness of the Black Stone, he has vi­o­lated one of the most fun­da­men­tal creeds of Is­lam.

De­spite the re­sem­blance and con­nec­tion between the IS and al-Qaida (both are Sunni out­fits), the for­mer should not be seen merely as an “up­dated ver­sion” of the lat­ter, es­pe­cially be­cause of the mil­i­tary con­flict between the two in Syria. IS mem­bers have butchered not only un­armed civil­ians, but also their com­rades-in­arms. The mo­ti­va­tion is bru­tally sim­ple: there can only be one leader of Is­lamic ex­trem­ists in the world.

In­trin­si­cally, the clash be­tween­these two groups of Is­lamic ex­trem­ists is a strug­gle for­power. But the ISan­dal-Qaidaare fight­ing for­some­thing­morethan power, be­cause their ap­proach to ex­pand­ing ex­trem­ism dif­fers.

Since al-Qaida ac­cords top pri­or­ity to the “war against the US”, dis­putes between/among re­li­gious sects were never its ma­jor con­cern. Al-Qaida’s newleader Ay­man al-Zawahri has even asked fol­low­ers to avoid un­nec­es­sary clashes with oth­erMus­lim sects in or­der to pro­tect the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s “im­age” and save its limited re­sources. What al-Qaida has fo­cused on is tar­get­ing US “agents” in­Mid­dle East and South Asia, namely the puppet gov­ern­ments such as the one led by Nouri al-Ma­liki in Iraq.

In con­trast, ex­pan­sion has been the driv­ing force of the “ISIS” right since its birth. Apart from the Nouri al-Ma­liki gov­ern­ment, which iron­i­cally is the least fa­vorite ofWash­ing­ton, the Bashar al-As­sad gov­ern­ment in Syria, which is a real US “en­emy”, ap­peared to be the ma­jor tar­get of most IS-led ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Even more ab­surd is the IS’ bru­tal on­slaught on Iraqi Yazidis, a Kur­dish eth­nic group which has noth­ing to do with the US-ledMid­dle East or­der.

All this shows that the IS is hell-bent on re­draw­ing the geopo­lit­i­cal map of theMid­dle East and cre­at­ing a caliphate based on “pure Is­lam” in the re­gion and be­yond un­der the pre­text of “war against the US”.

Such “as­pi­ra­tions”, if re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion can be called so, will serve as a mag­net for ter­ror­ists and Is­lamic mer­ce­nar­ies across the globe. Com­pared with the al-Qaida’s un­re­al­iz­able “goal” of “de­feat­ing” Wash­ing­ton, the “as­pi­ra­tions” of the IS, built on the blood and suf­fer­ing of in­no­cents, seem within eas­ier reach. That is why a num­ber ofWestern ex­trem­ists have pre­ferred to join the ruth­less IS rather than the al-Qaida.

To put it bluntly, mem­bers of al-Qaida are sheer ter­ror­ists, while those of the IS are a mix of ter­ror­ists, thugs, ban­dits and ca­reer mer­ce­nar­ies. So those liv­ing un­der the delu­sion that they are im­mune to “IS”-re­lated trou­bles by as­sum­ing that the out­fit is other coun­tries’ prob­lem are sim­ply kid­ding them­selves. No place will be safe from the IS if coun­tries across the world don’t come to­gether to end the men­ace. The au­thor is a re­searcher of the South Asian stud­ies un­der the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.


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