Fighting the Battle; Missing the War: The Root of Islamist Violence

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The world is undoubtedly at a critical juncture dealing with the grotesque violence of the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS). The Islamic State is hell bent on punishing the West for attacking their occupied lands in Iraq and Syria while the West wants to put an end to the Islamic State’s barbarity and have declared war on them in retribution to Paris atrocity.

The West is rightly outraged by the Islamic State’s heinous crime of attacking and killing innocent civilians who were going about in their normal day-to-day lives. But the Islamic State thinks it is doing exactly what their religion asks them to do. Admittedly there are strong elements of visceral antipathy of the Islamic State operatives towards the West, but the main driving force comes from the scriptures of the religious book of Islam, the Quran.

There are numerous specific verses in Quran where Allah’s directives are defined clearly. Verse 2:191 prescribes: Kill disbelievers wherever you find them. If they attack you, you kill them. Such is the reward for disbelievers. Verse 4:89 says: Do not take any of your disbelievers as allies. If these disbelievers turn away, kill them. Verse 5:33 says: Those who ‘spread corruption’ (a vague term widely believed to include blasphemy and apostasy) should be killed or crucified. Verse 5:33 states: The thieves, male or female, should have their hands cut off.  Verse 47:4 prescribes beheading of disbelievers encountered in jihad. Verse 2:193 reads: Allah says that you keep fighting until there is no more persecution and everyone on earth is a Muslim. Then you can stop killing people. There are numerous other exultations of grotesque violence and killing in Quran.

Although many religious scholars claim that most of these verses are metaphorical and should not be taken literally, the adherents of fundamentalist ideology (Salafists/Wahhabists) reject these scholars as revisionists. If the Quran is the message from Allah, why would He give the message in metaphoric terms, they argue? Indeed, why would He prescribe killing and beheading people when He simply meant treating them firmly?

Dismissing all these interpretations (or re-interpretations) of Quranic verses, Salafism/Wahhabism (a particularly virulent version of Sunni ideology) clung on to fundamentalist ideology of Islam as it existed at the time when Islam came into existence.

Saudi Arabia, for political purposes, is the strongest advocate of Wahhabism. The kingdom has spent more than $50 billion over the past 50 or so years promoting Wahhabism, not only in Saudi Arabia but throughout the world. From financing mosques, madrassahs, Islamic Centres, etc. worldwide, Saudi Arabia and its cohorts of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been funding terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda, al-Nusra and the Islamic State and so forth to promote and propagate Wahhabism.

It should be remembered that Saudi Arabia is the land where Islam came into being in its own language and culture and, hence, the country rightfully takes the proprietary role for this religion.

The standpoint of the fundamentalist Salafism/Wahhabism is that Islam is the last and final message from the ‘Almighty’ Allah; it is immutable and sacrosanct. In other words, whatever is there in the holy book, it is the final word from Allah and no human beings can change it.

Islamic fundamentalists thus adopt forceful and aggressive positions to silence any dissent (especially when confronted with modern scientific refutations or differences of opinions). Killing of humanists, secularists and, bloggers in general, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan and in other countries by vicious and barbaric Islamists show this attitude.

The atrocity in Paris is a clear indication of the Islamic State’s opposition to Western values, Western culture. The West at long last has woken up to realising and facing this existential threat from the Islamic State.

But it must be realised that the Islamic State is only the symptom, the messenger, not the originator of this depraved ideology. The Islamic State can be bombed out, its jihadists can be evaporated by the West, but until and unless the root which created and nourished this ideology and spawned the Islamic State is taken out, the Islamic State in a new form, in a new name, in a new place will keep popping up.

The French President has declared war on the Islamic State. But unless this war is extended to fighting the corrupt ideology of Wahhabism, his war will be no more than a mere battle. The West may have to fight such battles many times, in many places and for many years. But the source which nourishes the root must be taken out, otherwise the green shoots of the Islamic State will keep popping up everywhere leading to the recurrence of this gratuitous violence.

A Rahman is an author and a columnist.     

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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