Tackling Islamic State Is Battle Of Minds And Not Just Swords – Analysis


By Jai Kumar Verma*

While the Islamic State (IS), the most dreaded terrorist organization, has lost sizable territory and fighters because of constant bombing by diverse forces, including United States and Russian, but the ideology of this terrorist outfit remains intact.

IS, which is known as Dae’sh in Arabic, claims to establish a Caliphate (Islamic State) which will be governed by the Sharia law. It flourishes because of the rule of undemocratic and oppressive figures in many parts of the volatile Middle East and instability they have created in that part of the world. It also gains strength because of religious and sectarian tensions created to achieve petty gains.

Although several countries are working against IS, but there is no cohesion between them. Both US and Russia are vigorously bombarding territories controlled by IS, but with different aims and objectives.

IS which uses the internet and social media cogently, propagates that in Jihad ( Holy War), whosoever attains martyrdom would straight way go to heaven where all desires would be fulfilled. Several fanatics who are thoroughly brainwashed readily act as suicide bombers and there is no dearth of terrorists who are ready to sacrifice their lives in the name of holy war.

According to analysts, in less than two years from the announcement of the establishment of the Islamic State, more than 27000 foreign fighters from about 86 countries joined the terrorist outfit for Jihad. It indicates that the formidable use of internet and social media by the outfit on the one hand and on the other hand the propagation of the ideology of IS has managed to attract youth from across the world towards it.

The terrorist attack in Bangladesh by 6 educated, elite Bangladeshi youth on July 2, which had 20 people slaughtered to death and again on July 7 petrol bombs were hurled at Kishoreganj District in Bangladesh where more than 2 Lakh persons had gathered for Eid prayers. Four persons including 2 policemen were killed. Although officially unverified and unconfirmed, these incidents and the apparent claiming of responsibility of these attacks by the IS indicates that its presence is troublingly growing in the South Asian region.

Two blasts within a week in the country indicates the strong footing of IS in what appears to be a moderate Bangladesh. Although the security forces claimed that IS has no presence in the country and it was the handiwork of homegrown terrorists but the analysts feel that the terrorists were locals but were inspired by the ideology of IS.

The IS has threatened of lone wolf attacks which is very dangerous and difficult to control. The recent attack by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen in a night club in Orlando, USA on June 12 in which more than 50 people were massacred proved that it can be very lethal.

Usually the lone wolves are self-radicalized and they carry out terrorist activities without assistance of any terrorist outfit. They are disgruntled people and become extremists after reading inflammatory literature and ideology of organizations such as the Islamic State.

IS is losing ground and its influence is considerably mitigated, its end is not nearby, nevertheless. It still has the capability to strike in several countries of the world, including developed countries.

While the need to vanquish IS in the battlefield is urgent, but what is perhaps more important is that it must be defeated ideologically. The IS propagandists put a minimum of 50 different posts everyday on the website which is widely read by people from different walks of life. Several embittered people, particularly young Muslims, unemployed, dejected and rejected by the society find a sense of usefulness and purpose in the establishment of Islamic State.

Nevertheless, if IS loses its territorial base, its strength and credibility would be considerably reduced, but there is urgent need to address the reasons which created the IS in the first place.

These depressed young people also feel that they can take revenge from the society which has not done justice to them. The IS is killing their opponents with utmost cruelty so as to satisfy the vengeance of their young cadre. Secondly, as this brutality is done in the name of religion, it alienates all Muslims in the society.

The other reason for the constant flow of new recruits to the terrorist outfit is vicious, inefficient and dishonest leadership in several Muslim countries which has enhanced sectarian and tribal divide and several young people became terrorists due to socio-economic reasons. The western world, including Russia, supported these oppressive despots for some trivial gains.

Creation of Israel as an independent country is also an important reason of disenchantment of Muslims all over the world.

Devastation of Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim countries without any legitimate reason was also an important factor to stir animosity within the Muslim world towards the developed world.

Muslim youth from the developed world are joining IS because of discrimination and their wretched condition as most of them are ill-educated, but they blame society for their pitiable condition.

Besides external reasons the sectarian feud within Islam is an important reason behind creation of IS. Several Sunni countries led by Saudi Arabia are deadly against Shia Iran and both parties constantly plot against each other.

There are quite a few sub-sects among Sunnis. Salafism was spreading in Muslim world which made Saudi Arabia uncomfortable. The Saudi rulers who follow and propagate Wahhabi Islam were against moderate Salafism.

There is a need to adopt modern democratic form of Islam, but several Muslim rulers who have lots of petro-dollars do not want a liberal form of Islam. World must get rid of Islamic State as well as all terrorist organizations but unless the totalitarian regimes are overthrown or they liberate the masses, terrorism cannot be eradicated. It is easy to finish any particular terrorist organization, but it is difficult to deracinate the ideology. The world at large must launch vigorous programs to prevent the radicalization of youths, as well as there should also be de-radicalization programs.

Muslim clerics and mass leaders must liberalize the religion and modern education should be imparted to them so that they can get better jobs and status in the society.

*Jai Kumar Verma is an independent strategic analyst. He can be reached at: [email protected]

South Asia Monitor

To create a more credible and empathetic knowledge bank on the South Asian region, SPS curates the South Asia Monitor (www.southasiamonitor.org), an independent web journal and online resource dealing with strategic, political, security, cultural and economic issues about, pertaining to and of consequence to South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Developed for South Asia watchers across the globe or those looking for in-depth knowledge, reliable resource and documentation on this region, the site features exclusive commentaries, insightful analyses, interviews and reviews contributed by strategic experts, diplomats, journalists, analysts, researchers and students from not only this region but all over the world. It also aggregates news, views commentary content related to the region and the extended neighbourhood.

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