Islamic State Versus The World: Two Extremes Clash – OpEd


The Islamic State is so extreme that it makes its ancestor, Al-Qaeda seem benign. The relentless suicide bombings, the beheadings, and mass executions are just a few of its loathsome actions. While IS’ actions can shake the hardest of men, we know that those actions are but a means to an end. The world is not going to war against the Jihadists simply because they beheaded journalists and executed hundreds of people. There are other factors at work.

A world run by IS is a threat to what the world holds dear. An IS world is a world with a dress code. Not only is that a threat to people’s wish to dress as they please, an IS world means goodbye to the fashion industry. Imagine a London or New York that doesn’t allow skimpy or tight attire; one where alcohol and promiscuity is punished by lashing and stoning. That world definitely would be challenged by all means necessary; A world without music? No way. The IS wants a world with no fun, and the world wants a lot of fun; those are the two extremes at war with each other.

A system that has no leniency to drug abuse, adultery, alcohol consumption, music, romance, promiscuity will undoubtedly be challenged by the majority of humanity. How did the IS miss that obvious eventuality? How it didn’t foresee a world-round coalition to challenge it?

The fact of the matter is that the Islamic State knew exactly that the world, especially the West, would not allow it to expand and to spread its “dangerous” ideology. Therefore, they must have been preparing and the world is likely to witness a long brutal encounter that will be a historical milestone.

The Americans and their allies are headed to Syria and Iraq to attempt to annihilate a number of targets including the eventual removal of Bashar Al-Assad, but this time it is true what they claim, the IS is their major target.

They know very well that even though the majority in the world don’t want such a strict lifestyle which the IS is aspiring for, it is not the group(s) that must be fought against, it is the ideology. It was the ideology that kept the Taliban going for the past thirteen years and Al Qaeda for a very long time and North Korea for even longer.

To understand that this is going to be a war with no end, one needs to understand the people sympathizing with the Jihadi movements to the extent of providing them with material support. The Islamic State, like it or not, has a significant number of sympathizers who, unlike the majority of humanity, have grown weary of a world that is living in “moral anarchy”.

The very freedoms that the war is waged to protect are the very reason the IS is well funded and people flock to its ranks. IS supporters are a people who want to halt the world at its tracks and if possible reverse its direction completely. On the other extreme, the world wants to push ahead where it has been headed and is ready to accept anything that has enough people wanting it.

Members of the IS are a people whose brutality might be sickening, but that need not mean that they lack intelligence or commitment, look at their magazine Dabiq and you will get that point very clearly. As a strategy, the territories they have occupied are ones with a system that accepts people of all nationalities and ethnicities and that must be a plus for them.

Recruitment under a spiritual banner knows no color, border or citizenship; theirs is the only known system where belief is the only prerequisite for citizenship. That is to say, anyone who doesn’t like where the world is headed is welcomed and there are millions who don’t like where the world is and where it is headed and that’s exactly why the IS has reached a point of claiming massive territory. The estimates that the IS is between 10 to 30 thousand men is a massive underestimate. Policing Mosul alone needs a few thousands men.

While would-be fighters going into Iraq and Syria to join Jihadists groups are motivated by their wishes to introduce a new moral code to the world, the end game of democracy as seen by ultra conservatives is anarchy-moral anarchy. While the world sees Jihadists as extreme, Jihadists look at the world and see something that is dangerously deviant.

Jihadists believe that politicians are by nature a people who are not so much guided by morality as much as by votes and that assertion holds a great deal of truth. Politicians, especially Western politicians, have only one major aim and that is to win as many votes as possible in the next election. In doing so, they have, for decades, been supporting any group or any movement that would propel their political ambitions.

The newest victims of this struggle between the two extremes are likely to be the  Arab countries that have largely remained peaceful thus far, the Gulf States. One hopes that the GCC doesn’t become the new Kenya which got dragged into an anti-Jihadists war only to suffer brutal and ongoing consequences.

Provided that a significant sum of Jihadists and money comes from the Gulf, the region is truly going into unchartered waters. The advantages that the US and Europe have, the Gulf doesn’t.

Geography has been the major ally for the West, especially the US; Jihadists must travel thousands of miles and pass through tens of checkpoints before reaching the US soil. But the Gulf will have to constantly patrol thousands of miles to ensure that it remains safe from people literally living within it.

The former arrangement was more of a muted agreement: don’t interfere with our affairs and we will do likewise. That silent pact is about to be broken. The Gulf has largely remained peaceful amidst an unmatched cycle of violence in the Arab. Apart from Saudi Arabia, none of the GCC countries has been targeted before by Jihadists, but this will be the first time the GCC is openly and actively anti-Islamist and the ramification of that remain to be seen.

As far as the confrontation is concerned, apart from dropping a nuclear bomb onto IS strongholds such as Mosul and Al Reqqah, defeating Jihadists can only be done by blocking their capacity to recruit. Blocking that capacity would require changes that the world doesn’t want. It is an eternal struggle that would require the introduction of a system that is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes that are a reality in today’s world.

No matter how big the coalition is going to be, the same fate suffered in Afghanistan is the most likely outcome; a long war that might well result in economic disasters down the road and make the world even more violent than it is now.

The war could be made far bloodier if other Jihadi groups decide to join forces with the Islamic State. Given that Al-Zawahiri is driven by ideology, if he has to choose sides, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t choose Obama’s side. The possibility that Al-Qaeda and other Jihadi groups fighting alongside each other should never be ruled out.

This war is between a side that wants to control everything; what people can say, what books they can read, what they can eat and drink, how they should dress and a side that wants to virtually allow people to say and do as they please. What remains to be seen is which side’s brutality will triumph? In the short term, the size of the “coalition” would overwhelm the IS but what the past few decades have confirmed is that these groups do survive and when they come back they come back stronger not weaker.

As long as moderate voices are not loud enough violence will be the prevailing reality. There will not be defeat for the Islamic State nor will there be victory for the “coalition”. Only mayhem!

Zaher Mahruqi

Zaher Mahruqi follows world events, and seeks to shed light on the Arab and Muslim perspectives on regional and world events. The author can be contacted at [email protected].

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