Of­fen­sive against Daesh (IS)

Pakistan Observer - - FRONT PAGE - Shahid M Amin

Syria dur­ing 2015. There are sev­eral mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in these ar­eas. As ev­i­dence of its bru­tal­ity, ISIS has re­leased videos show­ing de­cap­i­ta­tion of hostages from US, Ja­pan and other coun­tries, some­times by young ex­e­cu­tion­ers. It has been ac­cused of killing nu­mer­ous peo­ple be­long­ing to non-Mus­lim mi­nori­ties like Yazidis and Chris­tians, and bru­tal­i­ties against women and oth­ers. IS has de­stroyed an­cient mon­u­ments and relics of re­li­gious or cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance. It has won al­le­giance of some ex­trem­ist groups in Libya, Nige­ria and else­where. In fact, it claims al­le­giance of Mus­lims all over the world by virtue of be­ing the Khi­lafat. How­ever, no Mus­lim coun­try has ac­cepted this claim and all of them have strongly con­demned the atroc­i­ties of IS.

It is no­table that IS has at­tracted vol­un­teers from coun­tries in many parts of world, in­clud­ing US and European coun­tries. Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics of a Western think tank, ISIS has 5,000 vol­un­teers from Tu­nisia, 2,500 from Saudi Ara­bia, 2,400 from Rus­sia, and 2,000 each from France and Jor­dan. There are said to be 500 re­cruits from Pak­istan. Some of them are young men and women, at­tracted ei­ther by mes­sage of IS or hav­ing a per­sonal revo­lu­tion­ary agenda of their own. Is­lam­o­pho­bia in West is par­tially re­spon­si­ble for join­ing of IS by a num­ber of Mus­lims in those coun­tries.

His­tor­i­cally speak­ing, Islamist ex­trem­ism has had sev­eral causes. Over the cen­turies, go­ing back to the Kh­warij who fought against Hazrat Ali (RA), there have been fun­da­men­tal­ist groups in Mus­lim so­ci­eties, in­sist­ing on reestab­lish­ing ‘pu­rity’ of the orig­i­nal Is­lamic model, by re­ject­ing Email:shahid_m_amin@hot­mail.com ‘cor­rupt­ing in­flu­ences’. The word ‘as­sas­sin’ traces its ori­gin to the ter­ror­ist group of Has­san-I Sabah in the Mid­dle Ages, who used as­sas­sins to kill lead­ing Mus­lims of the day. Most such groups have ex­hib­ited a fa­nat­i­cal, self-right­eous at­ti­tude and have sought to im­pose their nar­row point of view by vi­o­lent means.

Some ex­trem­ist groups at the present time are Sunni Mus­lims in­spired by Wah­habism, which emerged in 18th cen­tury Ara­bia and, its off­shoot, the Salafi move­ment. Mus­lim Brother­hood (Ikhwan) in Egypt had some sim­i­lar views. In the 1980s, the Afghan Ji­had against the Soviet mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion brought vol­un­teers from Arab coun­tries and else­where. The US, which was mo­ti­vated by its anti-Soviet agenda, pro­vided them mil­i­tary sup­port and train­ing. In this con­text, Pak­istan be­came the main con­duit. The end prod­uct was that thou­sands of Afghan Ji­hadists were rad­i­cal­ized and mil­i­ta­rized. They have evolved into vi­o­lent mil­i­tant groups of var­i­ous kinds in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Al-Qaeda be­came the most promi­nent amongst them af­ter 9/11. More re­cently, IS has emerged as the most vi­o­lent of these mil­i­tant groups.

The Mo­sul mil­i­tary of­fen­sive mainly in­volves Iraqi troops, backed by US mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers, and the Iraqi Kur­dish Pesh­merga, with some sup­port of other coun­tries in the re­gion and be­yond, who see IS as an en­emy and threat. The of­fen­sive has made slow but steady progress, par­tially be­cause the ISIS fight­ers are well dug in and have planted ex­plo­sives all over. They are highly-mo­ti­vated and also have many sui­cide bombers in their ranks. More­over, the sit­u­a­tion is com­pli­cated be­cause Mo­sul is a key city with a ma­jor­ity Arab, Sunni pop­u­la­tion. The Shia-led Iraqi gov­ern­ment is wary that if Kurd forces get inside the city, they might seek to make it part of Kur­dish ter­ri­tory. Turkey also has some his­tor­i­cal claims to this area, which cre­ates anx­i­ety in Iraq. All of them are against IS but have mu­tual is­sues be­tween them.

The Mo­sul of­fen­sive should suc­ceed in the near fu­ture but IS will con­tinue to con­trol large ar­eas. It is a ben­e­fi­ciary of the pro­longed civil war in Syria in which re­gional and world pow­ers have been sup­port­ing op­po­site sides. In the re­sul­tant chaos, IS has flour­ished, par­tic­u­larly in the less pop­u­lated desert ar­eas of Syria. In­ci­den­tally, many IS mem­bers were pro­fes­sional sol­diers in Sad­dam’s army. There are also re­ports that IS has re­ceived fi­nan­cial and other help from wealthy sup­port­ers in Gulf States.

The more fun­da­men­tal ques­tion is how to tackle the phe­nom­e­non of ex­trem­ism in Mus­lim so­ci­eties, which has led to emer­gence of IS and other mil­i­tant groups. Apart from a de­sire to im­pose their fa­nat­i­cal ver­sion of Is­lam on other Mus­lims, such ex­trem­ist groups have also fed on some ex­ter­nal fac­tors viz. the per­cep­tion that Mus­lims have been de­nied their due rights, e.g. in Pales­tine, Kash­mir, Chech­nya, etc. Western back­ing for Is­raeli ag­gres­sion against Arabs has out­raged Mus­lim opin­ion. Also, in re­cent years, sev­eral Mus­lim coun­tries have been the vic­tim of ag­gres­sion by non-Mus­lim states. Some Mus­lim groups are also re­act­ing to Is­lam­o­pho­bia in Western coun­tries. A holis­tic ap­proach has to be adopted to erad­i­cate ex­trem­ism in Mus­lim so­ci­eties, to re­move both its in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal causes. — The writer served as Pak­istan’s Am­bas­sador to Saudi Ara­bia, the ex-Soviet Union, France, Nige­ria and Libya.

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