Religious extremism, this is not just about Daesh

The world is going crazy over religion at the moment. People have finally come to understand that Daesh (ISIS) want the nations of the world to send in ground troops so as to trigger the ‘end of time’ prophecy. This leaves the governments with a major problem, they are not able to defeat Daesh just from the air and sending in ground troops would be a major boost to Daesh as they would use it to show the prophecy is coming true. What to do?

Then there was the spectacle of Donald Trump saying he would ban all Muslims from entering the USA. Basically tarring them all with the same brush of suspicion after the San Bernadino shootings by two people who had pledged allegiance to Daesh. But we must also not forget the role of far-right ‘Christians’, they too believe they can hasten the return of Jesus and the final great battle of Armageddon. For Daesh it is about provoking the return of the Mahdi and the final great war. Spot the similarities? We have a situation where people, so called Christians and so called Muslims actually believe they can make God change his timing. That has to be the height of arrogance.

While we are talking about religion I should also mention Israel. The Jews too are awaiting Messiah and believe it can only happen when the biblical borders of Israel have been re-established and the land inhabited only by Jews. The number of Orthodox Jews is increasing rapidly, as is their political power and is the reason why they don’t care what the world thinks about their treatment of Palestinians. They are determined to have their way, no matter what. They also have the support of many in the USA, many of whom hold positions of power, so called ‘Christians’ who also believe that the full borders of Israel must be re-established and all the Jews collected to the Holy Land before the end can come.

When it comes down to it, at the heart of many of the dangers facing the world today, the cause can be summed up in one word, Religion. People using what has been written to fit their own world view. It isn’t only in the MIddle East and the West that we have this problem, In India and other parts of Asia we are seeing a rise in Hindu extremism, which is responsible for growing violence and murders. This problem will not solve itself and will only become worse as the world becomes more divided.

What can the solution be? A time is coming when the governments of the world will decide enough is enough and close down all organised religion, but more than that, they will dismantle the apparatus which permits those organizations to function, stripping out everything of value. This will be done in the belief that in doing so the reasons for all the dangers we face today will vanish. If there is no central religion or place of worship, there can be no return of a Messiah or Mahdi, the main cause of much of the religious extremism today, whether it be Islamic, Christian or Jewish.

If you think I exaggerate the danger posed by those who follow a ‘Christianity’ which is about as far away from the bible as it is possible to be, I suggest you check the religious beliefs of those in the US government who took us to war in Iraq as they wanted to shape the world in a way that fitted with their world view based on a twisted belief of what is written in the bible. On a smaller scale but no less extremist, are all those so called ‘Christians’ who commit acts of violence at abortion clinics and those who quietly support them. True, the bible forbids abortion, but it also says that God is the judge, not humans, by attacking women who abort their children they are setting themselves up as judge,  saying they are doing God’s will. They are not. We have no right to judge anybody.

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Losing the war on terror?

Like the war on drugs, the war on terror against groups such as Islamic State (Daesh) simply isn’t working. Fighting these groups is trying to deal with the symptoms rather than get to the cause of why extremism has grown so rapidly this century.

There are several reasons for this, the first is religious and political ideology supported by a belief that the only way to bring change is with the use of force and revolution. History is littered with examples, the French revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, the English civil war. All happened because of deep dissatisfaction with the existing ruling classes who thought only of themselves and not of the common people. Yet in each example after the overthrow of an unjust political system, all led to further bloodshed, in France many innocent people were sent to the guillotine, after the Bolshevik revolution Stalin ruled by fear and had many thousands executed for no good reason, Oliver Cromwell increased persecution against catholics after the protestant “Rounheads” won the English civil war. So we come to today, the “Arab Spring” the revolutions to overthrow unjust and power crazy rulers in north Africa and most notably Syria have created so much bloodshed and allowed new power crazy and religious groups to enter the vacuum, which is invariably created after a revolution. The question has to be, why and how relatively small numbers of those with extremist ideology are able to gather so much support?

Take Nazi Germany as an example, Hitler was able to come to power because so many ordinary people were suffering terrible financial hardship and unemployment, here was someone who promised to rebuild their country and give them a sense of pride and identity once again. Groups such as IS (Daesh) work along similar lines. They appeal to many who feel abandoned, using very slick propaganda to create a sense of identity, somewhere they can belong. The mistake is made that this is just about religion, it is not, it is about creating a sense of being part of something bigger where they can play a part, religion is just one of the tools used. The real motivation of Daesh is power. They would also not be where they are today if they didn’t have money or if other countries didn’t find Daesh useful in the international game of geo-politics.

Then there is the fact that these groups are good for business, as they create regional wars, the arms manufactures rub their hands together in glee, war is good for business so long as it is contained to a region far away. Like the war on drugs, so the war on terror is very good for business, ethics don’t even come into the equation.

Now with the terrorist attack in France and the shooting of tourists in Tunisia we witness what is surely the beginning of a far greater threat to what we consider the western way of life. Global political malfeasance, the purely self interested interference in the middle east, the rulers of middle eastern countries who have never taken care to give opportunities for education and work to large minority groups. All together allowed the development of Daesh. Now Daesh want to spread fear around the world as payback. Finally governments are waking up to this very real threat, which is ironic as they helped create the threat in the first place by their playing of geo-political games.

So what might happen next? For a start, more intense blocking of refugees trying to escape from these troubled lands for fear that some among them could be terrorists. Tunisia is closing a large number of mosques in the wake of the shooting of tourists as these mosques are said to be a source of hate preaching, I think we will see this trend increase over time, more mosques will be closed in many countries around the world. The result of that will be many muslims including the majority who are against violence as seeing this as a direct attack on their faith, which could also have unintended consequences.

This has become a global problem and one which needs a global solution, personally I think it is too late, Pandora’s Box has been opened. If action had been taken earlier to stop injustice and inequality, if governments had cared about people rather than power then there would have been a chance and groups such as Daesh would not have the power they have today. In a way, every bomb dropped on Daesh makes them stronger, they have become like the mythical Hydra, cut off a head and two more grow in its place as young ideological muslims conditioned by slick propaganda join the group to defend their religion against attacks from the corrupt west and equally corrupt arab rulers.

The world is now entering a time of great danger, not since the end of Second World War has such an existential threat existed and to be honest our politicians have no real idea of how to deal with it. Before, wars were between countries, now we face a war against an idea which has become international. Bombing an idea out of existence once it becomes deep seating among many people in many countries is simply not possible. Politicians are going to have to come up with new ideas and think very carefully about the potential consequences of those ideas, not something at which they have ever been very good.

Political Impotence and ISIS

President Obama’s recent statement that, “we don’t have a strategy yet” with regard to confronting ISIS or Islamic State, is a clear demonstration of the impotence of the West.

A large part of this is down to the sheer disunity of all of all the different groups in Iraq. Some Sunni tribes support ISIS while others don’t. All the talk is about arming the Kurds and letting them fight ISIS, however I think too much importance is being given to this. The Kurds are obviously interested in defending their territory but they are also asking the question why they should have to shoulder the bulk of the battle against ISIS when this is an Iraqi problem more than a Kurdish problem, Baghdad should be taking more of a lead. The simple fact is that the Kurds are fighting more for their independence than anything else and they have no real desire to fight well away from their own territory. In Baghdad they are still trying to put together a broad-based government which will address the issues of minorities, particularly the Sunni, they are certainly taking their time about it. Until that happens it is difficult for there to be any really coordinated government policy on how to address the ISIS crisis. It also keeps the hands of the USA tied, there really isn’t anybody in Iraq at the moment who is in a position of authority to unite all the tribes and coordinate with the USA.

It is ironic that the first country to supply weapons to the Kurds was not one of the Sunni Arab countries in the region but rather the Persian Shia of Iran. This demonstrates again the lack of unity in approach of the Arab world to the ISIS threat. The Arab world all talk about the threat but to be honest they couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery when it comes to working together on a regional level. Not that they would organize a piss up in a brewery, that would be haram (forbidden) A perfect example of this lack of unity of purpose is Syria, instead of working together they funded different moderate groups of fighters that are more in competition for personal glory rather than all uniting together, this is also part of the reason why ISIS has been successful in Syria, they took advantage of all the divisions. ISIS is essentially an Arab problem and until the Arabs unite there is very little that the USA or anybody else can do to help.

Estimates put the number of ISIS fighters in Iraq at about 15,000, a concerted regional effort could severely diminish their strength. While ISIS are on a winning streak they are attracting Jihadi fighters from around world to the cause of Islamic State. A few serious blows against ISIS would have a huge psychological impact and reduce the attractiveness of the cause. It is well known that Jihadi fighters are more likely to join a cause they think they can win rather than one they can’t. At the moment they think they can win.

The current situation in Iraq is very fluid, after massive gains ISIS are now having to fight to hold and gain territory, with some wins and losses it seems now is the crucial moment when a concerted regional effort could break the back of ISIS. Will it happen? I doubt it. In the meantime Iraqi Shia militia groups funded by Iran are playing a larger role in the battle. These militia are also turning on Iraqi Sunni. The threat to Iraq is not only ISIS but also the increasing danger of conflict between Sunni and Shia in the capital Baghdad and beyond.

With all this in mind it is understandable when President Obama said, “we don’t have a strategy yet”, the whole thing is a mess. In the meantime our glorious politicians in the UK are talking about existential threats and the risk of terror attacks on home soil, ramping up security powers of the police and state. There is so much talk from them of how the world should be united in dealing with the threat of ISIS but in reality they know there is very little they can actually do. For all the hot air, they are actually demonstrating how powerless they really are.

Add to this the Russia/Ukraine situation, which will become far worse, with a real risk of spreading to other countries, and it shows just how useless the global political system is at dealing with serious problems.

USA being sucked into confrontation with Islamic State

Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL or Da’ish as it is known in arabic  is doing a good job of drawing the West into the quagmire of conflict in the Middle East. A year ago, after chemical gas attacks on civilians in Syria, it seemed for a brief moment the USA and UK would approve missile strikes against the Syrian regime and try to bring an end to the conflict. That has not happened and the death toll in Syria now stands at over 190,000 people, mostly civilians. As always, it is the innocent who suffer most in war.

A year later and and here we are again, IS (Islamic State) attacked Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, and then there was the execution of James Foley by a probably British member of IS. This time, the USA is carrying out airstrikes against IS positions to help local Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces on the ground. It seems inevitable that at some point there will be a USA led armed force entering Iraq, “boots on the ground” Not only this but maybe also airstrikes against IS targets inside Syria. It is a slippery slope lined with many dangers.

If this happens, many more young muslims from around the world will flock to Iraq and Syria to take up the fight. As is often reported, there is support around the world by disenfranchised young muslims, not only in the UK, USA and Europe but also in Indonesia and other countries with muslim populations, IS has a global network. This network is funding the travel of those who want to join the Islamic State and has been preparing for a long time for this situation

One question, why are Russia and Iran, who support Bashar al Assad of Syria, not also talking about taking the fight to IS in Syria? They seem happy to allow the USA to get sucked into this situation. It seems to me that once the West gets involved, it will be very hard to extricate itself. It was Assad who allowed ISIS to build up in Syria, the Syrian government even buys oil from them. Assad wanted the war to become sectarian and extremist and in so doing put himself in the position of being the only person left in Syria who can work with the West against IS in Syria, thereby regaining international legitimacy, a clever and callous tactic that has so far cost the lives of over 190,000 Syrians and created millions of refugees.

As for Iraq, they don’t seem to be able to form any sort of unified government which shares power evenly between the Shia, Sunni and Kurds. If the West were to go into Iraq without the agreement of a newly formed and unified government, it will be seen as western imperialism, which will drive even more Iraqi’s into the arms of IS. The Shia of Iraq are forming many militia groups and they seem to be well equipped and trained, many of them spent time in Lebanon in Hezbollah training camps. The scene is very much set for there to be general conflict between Sunni and Shia, not only with IS.

Into all this the West is talking about becoming more deeply involved, citing the threat of IS terrorists targeting the USA and UK etc.This is an unwinnable war and one that involvement can only make worse. The West is trying to win a war against an idea, a perverted idea but one with very deep roots, an idea which appeals to large numbers, millions of disenfranchised young muslims around the world.

ISIS and Islamic State

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has chosen an interesting time to declare that it is now simply called “Islamic State”, covering the territory it holds in Syria and Iraq. Its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi has been declared Caliph of the new Islamic Caliphate.

Abubakar Al Baghdadi

Abubakar Al Baghdadi. Leader of ISIS

That this has happened so soon after the beginning of Ramadan, a time most holy to Muslims, when many go on Haj, that is go on pilgrimage to Mecca, has several implications. The first is that by declaring the Caliphate with Baghdadi as Caliph, they are saying that only they have the authority from Allah to say what can and can not be done. This is a direct challenge to the authority of Saudi Arabia, which took on the role of leader of the Muslim world after the fall of the Ottoman empire. Because the area held by ISIS is transnational, covering parts of Syria and Iraq, they believe they are on the way to rebuilding the Muslim empire of old, which stretched from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. With this declaration, Sunni Muslims are being asked to decide where they stand. If they don’t side with ISIS, they will be seen as traitors and enemies of the Muslim faith, wherever they are. The declaration of “Islamic State” at this time acts as a clarion call to many young Muslims who have long been searching for an identity and a cause. That it has happened at Ramadan will encourage many more to join the cause. It has been reported that many Muslim families in Europe are extremely worried about the seductive effect of ISIS propaganda on their young men. To the point that some will not allow their sons out of sight for fear they will run away to join ISIS. Another question has to be asked, who gives them the money to travel? There must already be a large underground organization in Europe which helps them get away and join ISIS.

Another effect of the declaration of “Islamic State” is to force other Jihadist groups to decide where they stand. In particular this is aimed at Al Qaeda and its supporters. It is being given a choice to join with ISIS or to be seen as heretical, worthy of destruction. ISIS obviously feel they can take on Al Qaeda if need be, they certainly are not short of money, weapons and infrastructure. In fact this is one of the curious things about ISIS, its level of organization and bureaucracy, it has been established that central control of even the tiniest details is very important to the running of the organization. They demand receipts for even the smallest expenses. Why is this interesting? Arab culture does not place much importance on the idea of institutions and deep organisation, yet here we have ISIS very quickly organizing not only the running of a war down to the last detail but also the running of their ‘Islamic State’. While they are known principally for being very bloodthirsty and ruthless in battle and the application of their version of Sharia, (there are several versions), they have also been very quick to manage the practical realities of running towns and cities, the schools, hospitals and social services etc. This is another reason why I do not believe ISIS is being backed by an Arab country such as Saudi Arabia, culturally it would not be something they could get organized in such a short time. One has to ask the question, which country or countries benefit from there being chaos in the Sunni Muslim world and also know(s) how to set up and run institutions along with the bureaucracy needed to manage those institutions? I leave that for you to ponder.

As it is now Ramadan, you can expect to see an increase in the level of fighting, part of the reason for this is due to the fact that ISIS fighters believe that if they are killed fighting in the name of Allah during this period they will be extra blessed in heaven. A fighter in Syria once told me that one time he was fighting alongside a another fighter from Jabhat al Nusra against a Syrian army position. It was Ramadan, the fighter from Al Nusra was shot but his radio stopped the bullet, I think most people would be happy to have a lucky escape, not this Al Nusra fighter, he was sad and felt he must have done something to offend Allah that he didn’t let him die during Ramadan. This is the mentality of ISIS fighters, not only are they very well trained and battle hardened, they are virtually unstoppable. The desire to meet Allah during Ramadan can only mean one thing. If you think ISIS have been pushing hard in Iraq so far, it is nothing compared to what is coming in the next days and weeks.

ISIS has a hard fight on its hands, at the moment it is collaborating with ex members of Saddam Hussein’s regime as well as certain tribal leaders. After he fell and the Sunni lost power in Iraq these Ba’ath party supporters melted away waiting for the right time to show themselves again, A lot of these are ex Republican Guard, those who have experience of fighting in the Iran-Iraq war, tough fighters. They see the situation in Iraq now as an opportunity to re-establish the Sunni Ba’ath party in Baghdad. So for the moment they are collaborating with ISIS. However, it won’t last, ideologically ISIS and the Ba’athists are totally different. It will lead to internecine war in Iraq. Add Al Qaeda into the equation, which is unlikely to accept the spiritual leadership of ISIS and what is brewing is something that could make even the situation in Syria look better compared to Iraq.

Talking of Syria, members of Jabhat Al Nusra are joining ISIS, even with all their funding from Saudi Arabia they know they can’t defeat ISIS as it consolidates its hold in the north and east of the country. Saying this, it could be that Al Qaeda will open up new fronts against ISIS in Syria. As for the moderate rebels, whose revolution has been hijacked, honestly they don’t stand a chance. In the areas held by ISIS they are too weak, fragmented and under resourced. President Obama stating he now wants to aid moderates with $550 million of weapons and equipment is simply words, too little and far too late to do anything about reducing the power of ISIS in the north and east of Syria. In the south it will only help the moderate rebels to secure territory in Syria along the borders of Israel and Jordan, a buffer zone against ISIS.

While the foot soldiers of ISIS really believe that they are helping to create an “Islamic State”, Baghdadi and the country(s) that back him know that the only result will be perpetual war in Sunni regions of the Middle East, no one side, ISIS, Ba’athists or Al Qaeda will be able to win an outright victory. It seems the intention all along is to create a conflagration in the Middle East as fundamentalists, not only Muslim, want to try and bring about the “End of Days”

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