The Tale of ISIS

ISISBy Sabena Siddiqui

ISIS was the name of a mythical Egyptian goddess but now, in modern times it is better known as ISIS, the new extremist ‘Islamic’ movement which made its debut this year, one is hard put to really classify them as based on Islamic principles, given their propensity to kill and behead in the name of Islam.

Baghdadi, their leader, when declaring himself Caliph of the entire Muslim world, quoted extensively from the writings of Abul Aala Maududi,the founder of Jamaat Islami. He had visualised the universal citizen, separated from community, nation or history, his interpretation of citizenship in Islam. He was quite impressed with the concept of the French revolution which sought to create a state which created its citizens, with the citizen unthinkable outside the state, so too the Islamic state creates its citizens. This is the basis of Maududi’s unintelligible argument that one can only be a Muslim in an Islamic state. In short, the basis of the Islamic State (IS) is not medieval Islam, but Western concepts like the French revolution.

Baghdadi also tried to use various props to prove his legitimacy,IS declarations are steeped in references to Quranic verses, oral traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, and quotes from classical scholars – a clear attempt to claim to be the leader of all Muslims. Baghdadi’s purported descent from the Prophet’s grandson is debatable, mentioned on purpose to comply with the requirement that a caliph be a member of the Prophet’s Quraish tribe.

In reality, Baghdadi was imprisoned at Camp Bucca after his capture by US forces in 2005 for being part of a Sunni insurgency. Before that , he got a PhD in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad. His five years in prison further radicalised him and later he emerged as leader of ISIS after its leader Omar Al Baghdadi died.

It is a fairly unsettling aspect that Maulana Maududi happens to be Baghdadi,s ideal, Jamaat Islami has been on the wrong side of history at the time of the creation of Pakistan. They simply did not want a separate state for Muslims, this Maududi link is another clue which signifies the IS ultimate thrust towards Pakistan with eventually rapid propagation of its ideologies through Jamaat Islami cadres here. Jamaat Islami has always liked to be different and is a highly organised political party, it could turn into a facilitator for ISIS as they admire their founder so much.

ISIS fighters seek to humiliate when they kill,they seek to dishonour the bodies of their victims, in particular through postmortem manipulations. There is nothing Islamic about this and other practices like mass executions and public crucifixions, which they capture on video or photograph to create a scary reputation which precedes them. Not only this, they have developed a reputation for making a mockery of Islam by mistreating the elderly, oppressing religious minorities and recruiting children to fight. It is unfortunate that they use tyranny to spread Islam whereas Islam is a religion of Peace.

The ISIS phenomenon is only very recent, hardly anyone knew about it even six months ago, they basically made it to the limelight with the fall of Fallujah. Suddenly, their exploits in Iraq hit the headlines in Western media and the world was horrified to see their brutality. They emerged as a Sunni group to challenge the Shia government in Iraq, highly fanatical, killing Shia Muslims and Christians wherever possible, as well as militarily efficient. Former mid level and senior officers in the Baath era Iraqi army are now commanders of IS. By one estimate, IS ranks now include 700 French citizens, 400 Britons and 250 Australians as well as thousands of Arabs. The creation of a sort of proto-Caliphate by extreme jihadis in northern Syria and Iraq has provoked fears in countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey that they could become targets of battle-hardened, brutal Sunni fighters.

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Beheading is the new trend in various regional Islamic extremist groups, it is what the Pakistani Taliban TTP, ISIS and even the UK based Hizb ul Tahrir have in common. This is just one more disguise of Islam,s enemies, aiming to show Islam as a cruel, barbaric religion and also to strike from within.

It is absolutely inevitable that the IS heads towards Pakistan in about a years time, it is spreading rapidly in the Middle East since emerging on the scene and once they have achieved their targets there, they would make attempts to influence parts of Pakistan. There are reports of pro Islamic State graffiti in Baluchistan province. It was in the news recently that a local group by the name of Islami Khilafat distributed pamphlets in Peshawar, the same were also sent to Afghani refugee camps on the outskirts and Eastern Afghanistan. These pamphlets came from Afghanistan’s neighboring Kunar province which is American controlled, a group of Taliban fighters was observed distributing them. The booklet is titled Fatah and is published in Pashto and Dari languages. The logo of the pamphlet has the Kalma and the historical stamp of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and a Kalashnikov assault rifle. ISIS also use the internet for propagating their group, recently a Facebook page ISIS Sindh came into notice.

As it is, nearly 7000 miltants from TTP and other likeminded groups joined IS in Iraq this year, they will return to Pakistan and could spread if facilitated by any remaining TTP or IMU sleeper cells in the country. The presence of these jihadi militants in Iraq and Syria could undermine any success of Pakistan Army’s anti-TTP operations when these experienced fighters return to Pakistan. Zarb e Azb was imperative to destroy TTP bases and infrastructure, still the terrorists who fleed to Afghanistan and further ahead to Central Asia may gang up with IS in the coming year. This may be a regional backlash with unlimited scope to continue onwards to Central Asia, India and even China if IS gets the support of the Uighurs. IS is more of a real threat to the Middle East and this region rather than to Europe and America.

There can be a trickledown of more extremism from Afghanistan as the doctrine is similar, if not more brutal and extreme than that of the Afghan Taliban. The IS definitely want a foothold in Afghanistan and their presence there would only contribute to the chaos and anarchy. Ahrarul Islam is a new faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan which is uncannily similar to ISIS, it has declared support for them and it won’t be surprising if other radical militant and Sunni sectarian groups also declare support. Islamic State fighters have captured large parts of territory in Iraq and Syria to set up their self-declared caliphate. Ahrarul Islam works for the establishment of a network covering South and Central Asian regions. However, this group follows Mullah Omar of the Afghan Taliban,not the Caliph of Daish or Islamic State, Al Baghdadi. Mullah Omar does not even support the Pakistani Taliban, the TTP, it is doubtful that he would support Baghdadi, there is a definite conflict of interest.

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Baghdadi would want Afghanistan as part of his Islamic empire while Mullah Omar wants to free Afghanistan from the American imposed government and establish an Afghan Taliban government. Most militants are Sunni Deobandi and respect Mullah Omar as a Commander or Caliph, this could prevent them from pledging allegiance to Baghdadi, their loyalty still remains to be tested. This conflict could lead to a very destabilised Afghanistan right on Pakistan,s doorstep. The uncertain security and political situation in Afghanistan close to withdrawal of the US led forces provides a favourable environment for IS to win new supporters. Likewise, the political imbroglio in Islamabad and the shrinking authority of the state opens up new opportunities for global terrorist networks to exploit.

There seems to be a perceptible regional shift and IS could overwhelm this region as well as the Middle East if it is not nipped in the bud. It is the latest metamorphosis of AlQaida and its methods are so gruesome that even AlQaida refuses to acknowledge any link with IS. This group could eventually change regional boundaries as its aim is to rule a vast expanse of South Asia and the Middle East. Even if IS manages to gain a foothold in Afghanistan, this could alter the dynamics of the region and endanger Pakistan,s security ultimately.

Pakistani security agencies are quoted saying “We came across IS activities 22 days ago and are aware of their presence here.” Pakistani security agencies working on the Pakistan-Afghan border have arrested a number of Taliban fighters and recovered CDs, maps, literature in Persian, Pashto and Dari. Security analysts are very clear that IS should not be allowed to work in Pakistan and anyone involved should be crushed by the government.

After Baghdadi,s declaration as Caliph, his spokesperson said all boundaries of states are wiped out and people should wait till IS arrives and claims their land, he also said people everywhere should offer their allegiance to Baghdadi. All of it sounds more like a new ploy to control oil rich countries than a genuine madmans dream. It is puzzling the way Western media and thinktanks attaches importance to the crazed scheme from day one. Brookings Institution, said the announcement was likely the ‘most significant development in international jihadism since 9/11’.

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IS spokesman defined their state territory from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala – a vast stretch of land straddling the border that is already largely under ISIS control. A map was widely-shared by ISIS supporters on social media, a five-year plan for how they would like to expand their boundaries beyond Muslim-majority countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan even. The map denoted the Middle East, North Africa, large parts of western Asia, and an expansion in parts of Europe. ISIS regularly makes statements and releases propaganda calling for the return of the geographical boundaries in place before the Great War.

The point remains that IS cannot have achieved such heights of success without some powerful backing, Islam is exploited by vested interests to infiltrate the Muslim world and destroy it from within. Very few such elements are indigenous in nature, only the Afghan Taliban had no backing, they consolidated as a force to expel the US and its allies from their land. Why do such movements emerge in a planned way in a nuclear state like Pakistan ? If we see Pakistan sans its nuclear capability, we see a multi ethnic country, easy to exploit and destabilise if divided on sectarian or ethnic patterns.

Fighters returning to Pakistan after being in the ranks of IS are a major threat, they need to be dealt with effectively before they wreak havoc with the help of other extremist organisations. In fact, there should be strict control on the Pak Afghan border to catch such suspect militants trying to return. It is not far-fetched to say that the IS can create more chaos than envisaged or experienced in the past. As it is, it is a drawback that so many Pakistani militants made it to Iraq and Syria and no monitoring was carried out by Pakistan government.

Pakistan,s policies for de-radicalisation have not been very effective and lack long term strategy. A systematic de-radicalisation provides for countering, reversing or preventing the radicalisation process. Its objective is not to convince a few individuals to give up their radical ideology, demobilise or disengage from violence. It has to undo the radicalisation process gradually, addressing the grievances of the marginalised group, presenting a counter-narrative to neutralise their radical ideology, then demobilising the violent extremists. A series of military operations have been conducted in tribal areas and KPK. Militarily, these operations have been successful as the militants were defeated on the battlefield but militancy re emerged elsewhere. The result is a vicious cycle of violence which is hard to end.

The IS threat is very real and they stand to gain advantage if ignored in the future, they will continue to attract bloodthirsty and unstable people to work for them, enlisting a larger fan base through social media which they know how to work their way. If tackled now, it is possible to deal them a setback, if not then they will set their sights on invading large areas of Pakistan

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