Demolishing the ISIS’s Dogma: A Strategic Analysis in the Light of Recent Events

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“One refused to recite the verses despite knowing them by heart.

For two, who knew none.”

As Terribly Tiny Tales, a social media group, rightly puts it in the most appropriate language possible, it deeply saddens me to the core of my heart when something of this sort happens. It was just a matter of time, that after the Paris attacks, the international community had to face something so horrific, again. The recent attacks in Brussels, Orlando, Medina, Dhaka and several other places portray the existence of a strong and illegitimate ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The lines stated above depict a situation that happened in Dhaka attacks recently, where the ISIS militants were alleged to have tortured the hostages who weren’t able to recite verses from the Quran. Given a choice to walk free, Faraaz Hossain, 20 year old, decided to remain hostage along with his two friends, Tarishi Jain and Abinta Kabir. His bravery and courage were eventually rewarded with death but it certainly gave us the hope we all need in the face of terrorism, that acts of courage never lose their ground. In this writing, I would first be focusing on certain attacks that took place across the globe and then, I would be talking about strategies & thoughts required to destroy the ISIS’s narrative.

July 1, 2016 brought something very horrific to Dhaka, Bangladesh. It couldn’t have been more tragic than a few gunmen entering into Holey Artisan Bakery, where people were enjoying with their families, having just broken their Ramadan fasts. A large number of tables were, obviously, occupied by the expatriates, and there were Italians, Indians, Sri Lankans and a few Japanese people. But all the happiness was to be shattered that night. 20 foreigners were brutally killed by the ISIS gunmen, leaving all those who were able to recite verses from the Quran.

The carnage that took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh clearly depicts the crucial aspects as to how these globally spread extremist groups like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, recruiting in post colonial states, are able to adapt and indigenize their global campaigns and spread their narrative to the perspective of local populations. It also portrays the cinematography and the measure of theatrics that surround the modern extremist attack, its subtexts, its multiple meanings, and its performativity charged to delivering differing meanings to different populations across the globe.

Apart from Dhaka, the biggest shock to the international community came in the form of suicide bombs in Saudi Arabia. A few suicide bombers murdered 4 Saudi security forces in an attack outside the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, one of the two holiest sites in Islam. The bombings took place near a car parked outside the sprawling mosque complex just a day before Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. There was no one who claimed  responsibility for the attack, but the modus operandi used in carrying out these attacks is consistent with that of ISIS in its targeting of Shia Muslims.

Out of all the attacks that have taken place recently, the Dhaka attack was a typical outsourced & a franchised strike with no direct ISIS role. The Orlando attacks were also a part of the franchise model in which lone wolf terror attacks are not directed by ISIS but inspired by their venal ideology. In fact, these attacks also demonstrate as to how radical Islamist ideology has been successful in penetrating socio-economic barriers. This statement gets strengthened by the fact that all the militants in the Dhaka attack were educated, young and wealthy. This brings us to the most concerned area of the discussion, i.e. how to destroy the false Islamic narrative that is being propagated by the ISIS.

First of all, when we talk about ISIS, we need to understand that it is a product of two civil wars, one between Sunnis and Shiites, and the other one between Moderate & Extremist Sunnis. The most crucial way to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is to minimize the struggle between Shiites and Sunnis and afterwards, strengthening the fighting capacity of Moderate Sunnis against the extremist ones. This particular fight has to be  led by the Arabs and all the Muslims, but on the other hand, it needs to be strongly backed by certain powerful entities such as the United States of America, Russian Federation and the European Union.

The US-led coalition is doing a tremendous job in taking down ISIS at various levels. Since 2014, ISIS’s momentum as a flexible, brutal and rapid military force seemed unstoppable. But in the past several months, the Islamic State has lost a lot of its territory and strategic towns.

It was driven out of Sinjar and Tikrit in  northern Iraq, the oil refinery town of Baiji in central Iraq, and Ramadi west of Baghdad in Anbar province. In Northern Syria, US allied Kurdish militia of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been successfully able to take a vital territory and border crossings below the frontier with Turkey, after breaking a long Islamic State siege at Kobani. The US-led coalition has been successful in taking away 6 strategic roads out of 7 between Iraq and Syria.

But again, it would be very wrong on our part to say that ISIS can only be defeated through military solutions. ISIS is more about an ideology which needs to stop. It is an extreme case of religious radicalisation. For this to stop, Saudi Arabia and other leading Sunni religious countries should  aggressively start delegitimizing the false  Islamist narrative of the ISIS.

At the same time, the Islamic Republic of Iraq should encourage and influence the Shiite ruled government in Baghdad in order to create a semi-autonomous Sunnistan in all those areas which are held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This would provide the Moderate Sunnis of Iraq with the same  powers as those devolved on Kurds in Kurdistan, so that they have a political alternative to the ISIS. This, in order to work, would also require Iran’s agreement for a political transition in Syrian Arab Republic that would replace Assad eventually.

It is also necessary to motivate and encourage moderate Islamic forces to play a more effective role in this global strategy, to deny extremism any chance of gaining legitimacy or power in these safe havens. Institutions such as Egyptian Al-Azhar and Dar El-Ifta can provide ideological assistance. The heads of both these institutions are widely respected among Muslims all over the world. In fact, Professor Ali Goma, the Egyptian Grand Mufti, is willing and able to participate in this whole process.

So, it is evident that there has to be a complete blend of both long term and short term solutions available. It is now just a matter of perspective as to how we approach these solutions. As of now, foreign policies, ideologies and a lot of other things are at stake. However, the need of the hour is to defeat ISIS and that is only possible if all the countries keep aside their personal interests and join hands for a consolidated fight against the ISIS.

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