For those seeking decisive verdicts on ISIS it is improbable that they’ll quickly attain one; this reticence is in no way indicative of concurrence with the group but simply because scholastic verdicts are issued on the back of substantiated facts, which are lacking in the current situation. Many will attempt to paint this restraint as revealing of the Muslim community’s Islamist designs to forcibly takeover Britain; an imbecilic attitude that merely portrays both the prejudice inherent in such detractors and the Nazi-like need to scapegoat Muslims rather than robustly deal with society’s problems. The culpability with which British Muslims are treated precariously serves to ostracise citizens fully participant in society – we are ordered to condemn this menace as if those ordering us are in a position of moral authority or that we and ISIS are acquaintances merely by virtue of some shared theism, and that those planning to join ISIS will for some reason heed our disapproval. This farce is simply xenophobia, it goes against logic that all people should bear collective responsibility for the actions of an unconnected group elsewhere on the planet. Even if a few Brits go off to join ISIS, so too do some to fight for the nefarious IDF, and in no way does that warrant an association between all British Jews and the actions of a Jewish government abroad. But let’s be clear, for such cynics no amount of pandering will assuage their unfounded criticisms, it is seldom that the world unites on a common position, yet on the denunciation of ISIS it is known that there seems to be a resounding consensus. Many Muslim organisations have exhibited their ‘moderation’ disparaging ISIS with full force to no avail, and the vigor with which such organisations seem to almost side particularly with a government narrative that demonises scores of others caught up in the attack of Cameron’s muscular liberalism can be fairly disquieting.
How the media help ISIS
What we have been offered by the government and Western media about ISIS seems largely superficial – a careful appraisal of the hysteria surrounding the group shows that beyond the hyperbole much of the panic revolves around the group’s swift advance and capture of new territory. What will palpably concern Western leaders is the group’s rigidity and insistence on keeping foreign powers out of the region. The disturbing news concerning religious minorities has been contingent on media reports; it is known that many have fled ISIS held territory which is worrying, but the group conveniently asserts that minorities have chosen to leave. The greatest factor that undermines media reports is its reputation for mendacities, and given the government’s continual manipulation of citizens to generate approval for Western intervention abroad, the view that we might not be privy to the entire truth is rather valid. For example we were told that ISIS fighters were enforcing FGM on young girls only for it to later emerge that the report was completely unfounded. We were told that they are a universally hated bunch yet most Sunni groups in the region, whether religious or tribal, have joined them in some form of alliance. Thus a number of examples exist, which suggest that the prevailing narrative put forward regarding ISIS is partly contaminated with sensationalism and lacks the necessary depth.
My point isn’t to justify support for ISIS, nor in any way to validate their claims, but to cursorily explore where and how we (as a society) are quite simply not up to scratch at robustly challenging them. The media and government continue to strengthen ISIS at times inadvertently expediting radicalisation, and in the context of establishing a robust bulwark against the group’s convictions, we must accept that religious voices have lacked a firmly persuasive intellectual response. Various sections of the community have offered their contentions, all of which fall short of conclusively countering the ISIS narrative (these responses are to be further explored in a second article).
Challenging ISIS – Preserving Human Rights or Protecting Oil Interests?
Now one of the frustrating occurrences that continue to help bolster the ISIS agenda is the insistence of the national media on presenting us with uneducated and uncultured jihadist juveniles who are offered the opportunity to spout infantile articulations across the country. Rather than being ignored as they are within the Muslim community, they are treated as ambassadors for the Islamic State, as if they articulate the somber sentiment of a foreign nation. They are opportunely used to grip the nation with fear; men in Saracen garb who want to kill us, enslave our women and appropriate our wealth, although their threats of taking over the country are really as serious as an infant with a toy gun planning a bank heist. Irrespective of their inanity and the idea that we mustn’t take them too seriously, the approaches employed to either educate those susceptible to such hype or refute the narrative put out by ISIS have been tragic; in fact the reactions to ISIS have actually offered them most credence. For example, it cannot be lost on any semi-informed citizen that sadly, far from the plight of the Yazidis, protecting oil-rich cities has been the primary motive for foreign military intervention. If we were so concerned about groups of people being massacred, we would mobilise our entire army given the common occurrence of transgressions across the continent of Africa and Asia. But instead we continue to help train Kenyan anti-terror units that stand accused of kidnappings and disappearances, or fund Nigerian death squads. ‘#NigeriasHiddenWar laid out a damning report condemning the government and its support for violent militias as video footage laid facts bare. The documentary included video evidence of government forces rounding up hundreds of men and waited for the army to arrive to shoot them down, along with men accused of being Boko Haram having their throats cut as though they were being sacrificed. Men with their hands and legs tied behind them and beaten in the sun, a woman being beaten to the ground whilst cradling her baby, this militia receive training, weapons, powers to detain and wages from their government, one even receiving funding from ours.’
ISIS and western military interventions – two sides of the same coin?
Apparently it’s ‘un-British’ to concur with Isis and their sorts yet the very British former Prime Minister Tony Blair has been advising Kazakhstan’s autocratic President on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime. Clearly ISIS have taken this British thing very seriously: kill whoever you must for control of resources, money and power, and subsequently utilise all forms of media at your disposal to misinform the masses, galvanise support and manufacture consent. For us to disregard the similarity between Isis and Western States with imperialistic designs is ultimately acquiescence to one’s rule of subjugation and slaughter while inconsistently eschewing the other.
We look to our own governments as being beyond such barbarism only because they are intelligent enough not to publically celebrate their savagery. We must not discount the various killing campaigns that industrialised states are engaged in, including the United Kingdom, who through the use of unmanned drones and exploding ordnances (effectively metal shrapnel that serves as pick knives), behead or dismember groups of civilians in one go. Our prejudice is one based on economic means; that ISIS fail to slaughter people in the way rich industrialised nations do. Ironically, it seems that the failure of groups such as ISIS is not in their depraved killings but absurdly in their inefficiency, as well as the strange need to declare their sadism rather than deviously feign the moral high ground like their industrialised counterparts.
A misguided approach to extremism
These parallels emphasise the double standards with which we operate, a fact not lost on those on the precipice of radicalisation. A great factor that regrettably strengthens the ISIS narrative has been a government that fails to effectively address the radicalisation issue – rather than resolve it they seem to exacerbate the situation with reckless tactics that appease the belligerent on the political right and simultaneously entrench the misconceived views of those they should be endeavoring to engage. They treat those on the path to radicalisation with contempt rather than members of society who have been marginalised by societal processes. That’s not to say that information on the internet doesn’t readily offer disgruntled young people an aberrant bearing, but by failing to address the concerns of citizens, refusing to engage with opposition and discontentment, and dismissing voices that do not concur with the opinion of the establishment, the government is just as culpable. Predictably, our Prime Minister rejects all of this, saying: “This threat cannot be solved simply by dealing with perceived grievances over Western foreign policy. Nor can it be dealt with by addressing poverty, dictatorship or instability in the region,” and offers us a deeply astute and absolutely brilliant reason: “The root cause of this threat to our security is quite clear. It is a poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism…” So their extremism comes from the fact that they’re extreme – does that even make sense?
While for the sake of political expediency Mr Cameron offers us the ‘Islam is a peaceful religion’ sentiment, there seems to be a subdued pleasure in the terming of these groups and their ideologies Islamic, something British Muslims have continuously struggled with, not least because the word ‘Islamic’ conveniently suggests that Islam must have something to do with it. Add to this terms such as poisonous (used by Cameron) which continue to feed into the set of misbeliefs perpetuated about Islam and it is ensured that everything associated with Islam is viewed as being surreptitiously villainous: a scheme to takeover, implement, and subjugate.
Reasonably, it may be asserted that ISIS claim to have an Islamic cause, so the association isn’t unfounded. The irony of this line of reasoning is that when ISIS (and other groups of similar ilk) reason their barbarism with a religious belief we are meant to accept it at face value, yet when they claim to be reacting to Western foreign policy and military intervention, the government deceitfully skirts around their assertions looking for insight into their barbarism and looking for ulterior motives. Disappointingly, the policy for the government is to view such people as the Muslim community’s problem – “it’s actually their faith, or at least the extreme bits” rather than treating radicalised citizens as disenfranchised members of society who need to be empowered to take advantage of meaningful ways to pursue political objectives.
While we must strongly challenge the rise of ISIS and the apparently oppressive system of governance they seem to be employing in Iraq and Syria, in the end what equally seems to be making our world unsafe is the madness we repeatedly hear from Western leaders eager to pacify the dissent of foreign serfs who threaten the Western elite’s interests. The opportunity to embed a long-term campaign in the public psyche hasn’t been lost on the Prime Minister, his references to a “generational struggle” for the UK and other Western countries suggests that all sorts will be justified in the name of Isis and others for quite some time.
The fact that this is then followed with a carte blanche approach is particularly disturbing – the ‘threat’ will warrant anything: “I have said to the Home Secretary that we stand ready to work with the Government on any measures that may be needed to respond to the threat.” How many times must we fall for the same embellishments that create enemies (who then threaten our wellbeing) as well as conveniently legitimise the establishment’s creeping hold on civic life through various policies supposedly meant to make us safe from terrorists? If Isis actually do come for our cities they won’t distinguish between Muslims and others, they simply won’t care. They’ll attack us for being Brits. They’ll want to kill us all for the actions of Cameron and Obama just as those before them did because of Bush and Blair.