Saturday, March 21, 2015

Winning the battle against Islamist fanaticism

The world needs to support muslim leaders facing attacks by islamic state extremists in the Middle East

The two gunmen were referred to as "knights of the Islamic State" for murdering 20 foreign tourists at a museum in Tunisia. Islamic State (IS) took credit for the attacks and said this was a sign of more things to come. It was the "first drop of the rain", IS said.

Tunisia was not chosen out of the blue. Because of its secular atmosphere and a sense of strong cultural, academic and intellectual history that pre-date Islam, Tunisia is a threat to Islamic State, or the kind of Islamic society ISIS wants to create.

In many ways, Tunisia was a model for the future. It was there where the "Arab springs" had emerged four years ago and it was there where values such as democracy, civil society, peaceful co-existence and human rights have a chance of making it.

The incident was another example of how low IS can sink with its tactics. It was also another wake-up call for the Muslim world to see IS for what it is and to take a stand because, essentially, they are the ones under the IS guns.

In the previous decades, especially when al-Qaeda was making headlines, there was a tendency to dismiss these terrorist acts as part of bigger battle between the West and the East.

But that narrative has taken a back seat to the reality that came about with the emergence of IS. Attacking the West was not an end in itself; the West was a sideshow; the West was attacked because they were backing a different horse.

Experts said it was a 'convenient' way to unite the Muslim world under one single narrative. Radical Islamists wanted to portray the West as the big bad wolf and the Muslim world as the defenceless victims. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reinforced that perception.

Using the West as a stepping-stone to the end-game came about after the Islamists failed to unite the Muslim world by turning their guns on their authoritarian leaders back in the 1970s-80s. Many of those governments were secular politically and most were extremely repressive and dictatorial.

The anti-West campaign worked to some extent as Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, accept the misleading "clash of civilisation" theory. In Thailand, even outspoken non-Muslim intellectuals were telling Muslims that Islam was the only force to counter Western hegemony.

But deep down inside, taking into consideration the historical context and the battle between Islamists and authoritarian Muslim countries since the early 1980s, the real prize for the militant Islamists was control over the respective Muslim state.

The plan is to remove authoritarian governments and replace them with the militant Islamist fighters.

It was largely a Sunni movement but the first country that succeeded in making this transition was the Shiites in Iran.

The repressive nature of Iran under the mullahs was well documented. But it was not long before the mullahs in Iran realised that they could not keep the aspirations and free spirit of the Iranian people caged up. And so over recent years, things began to unravel for the better.

Unlike the clerics in Iran, IS fighters, as seen with their senseless killings, are not interested in norms or decency. So grotesque were their tactics that even groups like al-Qaeda rejected being allies with them.

If al-Qaeda was credited for taking this war against the West, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is trying to finish off the "last stage of the game" by turning their guns to the nations of the Middle East.

The two are part of the same evolution of militant Islam whose aim, as stated earlier, is to dissolve these modern Arab nation states and replace them with a classical community romanticised by these fanatics.

What's alarming for governments around the world is that the fanatic romantic notion of IS has lured many Muslims men and some women from around the globe to their hideous ways and means.

The East vs West narrative no longer holds water. At stake now is the fate and sustainability of the socio-political future of the Arab world. Muslims will have to take the lead on this fight and the world needs to stand by them. The Nation Bangkok


1 comment:

  1. Take heed - the IS threat goes beyond religion
    No one can deny the threat posed by the Islamic State movement. It is no longer an issue that we leave solely to the security forces to handle.
    The revelation by home minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that 61 Malaysians had been identified by the police for fighting alongside IS militants in Syria and Iraq, and that 10 of them have been killed, is indeed a wake-up call.

    And that is not counting the suspects detained here for IS-related offences, including students, academics and civil servants, as well as those on transit here who were caught and deported back to their countries.

    Numerous reports have emerged about the tactics the IS uses to recruit members from around the globe. Our intelligence forces appear to be well connected and successful operations have been carried out.

    But the fight goes beyond that. As rightfully pointed out by Malaysian Chinese Association president Liow Tiong Lai at the party's 66th anniversary celebrations on Sunday, there must be a nationwide response from all Malaysians to embrace modera-tion and reject extremism to help check the spread of the IS propaganda.

    "There is definitely no room for any form of extremism, especially religious extremism, in a multi-racial and multi-religious country," he said. "We absolutely cannot tolerate the rise of religious extremism."

    The IS threat goes beyond any specific religion. We must not be blinded by the fact that only Muslims are being recruited. Any form of ideology that taps into the ideals and vulnerabilities of the people can have the potential to spread its influence further.

    We also cannot take comfort that attacks carried out by IS against fellow Muslims as well as people of other faiths are far away in foreign lands.

    And we definitely cannot discount the possibility that these militants, hardened and trained in real battles, will eventually return home and spawn their own terror here.

    Liow, who is transport minister, reminded us about the importance of moderation, which has been the key foundation of our nation from its birth.

    The founding fathers knew that moderation would always play a key role in ironing out political

    differences and were well aware of the danger of those who use religion to further their political aspirations.

    We are a multi-racial and multi-religious country where our diversity is our strength.

    We can see from the IS threat, and also in other examples of extremism in other faiths, that terror in the name of religion, once ignited, will be very hard to contain.

    And such terror is not always about armed violence, but terror that can permeate various aspects of society because of overzealous officials and citizens who want to enforce religious laws based on their interpretations not only on adherents of their faith, but also on others. The Star Asia News Network