By Ameer Ali –
The carnage in Paris yet again demonstrates how professionally organised the IS criminal enterprise is. The fact that it was able to penetrate Paris undetected by the nation’s security radar speaks volumes about IS’s intelligence and global reach. No decent human being can remain emotionally undisturbed by the horror of the satanic ritual that IS has displayed in Paris. It should be universally condemned in the strongest of words in any language.
In the aftermath of the Parisian infamy the crucial questions to answer are firstly, why did this happen, and what is the long term solution to this menace?
Had the Bush administration taken the most obvious and rational decision in 2001 to make Saudi Arabia accountable for what happened in S11 and continued to monitor and prevent the export of its Wahhabi ideology, instead of bombing and destroying Afghanistan and Iraq, the world today would have been spared of the murderous IS caliphate and the Parisians like others before them need not have fallen prey to IS’s sword. Bush’s soul mate Tony Blair’s mea culpa is too little too late to repair the damage.
Once again the world leaders while focusing on military retribution, which has already started and killing even more civilians who will not be counted because they are Muslims, and political solution to the Syrian chaos, which is yet to materialize, are about to make the same error of ignoring the fundamental problem of a fast spreading pernicious ideology.
No doubt the IS criminal enterprise must be eliminated, but is that possible having allowed it to become a virtual state with a sizeable territory of approximately 90,000 square kilometres with around six million people, a highly trained army with sophisticated weapons, ample economic resources, and a welfare administrative structure?
The collective disbandment of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni but secular Pretorian Guard by Bush’s US envoy to Iraq Paul Bremer, and after that the continued harassment, imprisonment and economic deprivation of the disbanded soldiers by Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia Government drove these military men into the arms of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the self-declared caliph of IS. Even though many of them are now in their mid and late fifties or early sixties they are providing valuable security intelligence and military advice to IS. Given this situation aerial bombing alone by France and other Western powers is not going to wipe IS out of existence. To make the offensive effective the West needs boots on the ground but that would be a nightmare even to contemplate after what the U.S. and its allies experienced in the quagmire of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Given the proxy wars that had been going on in Syria won’t IS with behind the scene support from the Sunni Gulf regimes be a stakeholder in any political solution? In spite of all the rhetoric about destroying IS, it is now an inconvenient reality which the West has to contend with.
Optimistically even if IS were to be obliterated what is the guarantee that some other Islamist group will not crop up elsewhere in the region with even more venomous a brand of Jihadism?
What needs to be confronted is not the IS Jihadists per se but their ideology of Jihad which, with a strange twist of shariah interpretation has been franchised by Al-Qaeda and IS to each and every individual Muslim. This explains the lone wolf phenomenon that some countries are confronting. Where does the ideology of Jihad against the Shias, Christians, Jews, Alawites, Ismailis, Sufis, and infidels come from? What is the ideology that motivates the jihadists to destroy all tombs and historical monuments like the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan? What is the source of the Jihadists’ philistinism that suppresses all aesthetic aspects of life like dance, music and art?
This pernicious ideology is the common denominator of all extremists Islamist movements such as Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jamaa Islamiyya, IS and so on. Although the intellectual origins of this extremism go back to the writings of a thirteenth-fourteenth century scholar from Harran in Turkey, Ibn-Taymiyya, it was the ideas of his seventeenth century disciple and preacher from Saudi Arabia, Abd al-Wahhab that is now winning the hearts and minds of the new generation of Islamists. Taymiyya did not father his own school of thought but Wahhab did and Wahhabism is now the national religious ideology of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism with its Salafist blend is the most conservative and exclusivist of all interpretations of Islam’s Holy Texts.
Saudi Arabia with its petrodollars and through its publications and institutions is the sole exporter of this ideology. All but one of the attackers in the S11 was a Saudi citizen. Almost all Islamist leaders have spent some part of their life in Saudi Arabia either working or studying; or, have received their education and training in Saudi backed institutions in their own countries. Even expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia have been indoctrinated with Wahhabism. This indoctrination is producing a new generation of Muslims who are dedicated to the establishment of an Islamic state with the Shariah law. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a product of this ideology.
It is this ideology that is now challenging the rest of the world and the only way to counter it is to propagate the other side of Islam which produced one of if not the most glorious civilization in the world. This Islam was rational, discursive, tolerant, and inclusivist. It was this Islam that was the refuge for persecuted Jews in Christendom; it was this Islam that preserved and promoted the Graeco-Roman legacy and handed it back to Europe to enjoy its Renaissance and Enlightenment; and it was this Islam gave the world some of the brilliant scientists, philosophers, astronomers, mathematicians, geographers, historians and mystics. It is time that this Islam is brought back to the frontal stage. It is in the interest of the West to invest heavily in the propagation of this alternate Islam.
Military response to the Parisian barbarity may be politically popular and even economically rewarding to the military-industrial complex but will be counter-productive as it has been so far. It is time to declare a war on Jihadism.
*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Management and Governance, Murdoch University