Dean Obeidallah on anti-ISIS strategies that engage Islamic leaders and precepts to counter the ISIS narrative and acts:
Will this work? It is addressing ISIS’s very sales pitch, as documented in its online magazine, that invokes Islamic principles to lure people to join. And I can tell you this—it’s a much better approach than the State Department’s recently released video designed to dissuade Muslims from joining ISIS. That video simply showed images of violence, but its fatal flaw is that it didn’t use Islamic values to counter ISIS.
I’m sure some are asking: Why didn’t we see Muslim scholars do this before? Bedier responded that the Muslim community has become better organized in recent years and can now respond in a more united way. Plus there’s an understanding by Muslim leaders that many people of other faiths see only negative images of Muslims in the media, thus, making it important to not allow the extremists to define the faith.
I also believe there’s another reason why we are seeing this and why some Muslim nations have joined the military campaign versus ISIS. While ISIS potentially poses a threat to the United States, to many Muslims living in the Middle East, ISIS is a clear, present, and immediate threat. ISIS’s philosophy is in reality not “submit to Islam or die”; after all the group is slaughtering Muslims daily. It’s “submit to ISIS or die.” Nothing is a greater motivator than self-preservation.
The fight against groups like ISIS will likely be with us for years. No doubt that a military component must be part of this approach. But to really cut off ISISs pipeline of recruits and financial support from Muslims, it requires that we not view Islam as the problem, but actually as a big part of the solution.
In the Fight Against ISIS, Islam Is Part of the Solution – The Daily Beast.
Sheema Khan takes a similar bent, drawing upon the history of a 7th century fanatical Islamic-inspired cult, the Khawarij:
Today, theologians are warning Muslims about the dangers of the Islamic State by pointing to the movement’s similar theological underpinnings. Don’t be fooled by the flowery language, the invocation of God and the Koran, the readiness for martyrdom or the call to sharia – this is a fanatical cult that has deviated from the path of Islam, and its actions belie its adherents’ professed faith.
As with the Khawarij, the Islamic State has attracted misguided youth with “foolish dreams.” The Khawarij declared those with theological differences as “disbelievers” warranting death; the Islamic State has killed thousands of Muslims – Sunni and Shia – during its takeover of villages in Iraq and Syria. The Khawarij demanded the enslavement of women and children during the battle of Siffin (the Caliph Ali refused); the Islamic State has carried out this abominable practice. Both groups are willing to die in a heartbeat for their “beliefs.” Like the Khawarij, Islamic State members believe they are the only “true Muslims” while the rest are disbelievers, worthy of death. It has threatened all opponents, including Muslim theologians warning against its fanatical ways. Their self-professed piety is built on a foundation of arrogance.
If history is any lesson, this fight will not be for the faint of heart. Nonetheless, for Muslims, it will be a necessary battle for the very soul of their faith.
Another battle with Islam’s ‘true believers’
David Motadel provides a useful history of previous Islamic-inspired revivalist rebel movements and state-builders:
At the same time, Islam was at the center of these movements. Their leaders were religious authorities, most of them assuming the title “commander of the faithful”; their states were theocratically organized. Islam helped unite fractured tribal societies and served as a source of absolute, divine authority to enhance social discipline and political order, and to legitimize war. They all preached militant Islamic revivalism, calling for the purification of their faith, while denouncing traditional Islamic society, with its more heterodox forms of Islam, as superstitious, corrupt and backward.
Today’s jihadist states share many of these features. They emerged at a time of crisis, and ruthlessly confront internal and external enemies. They oppress women. Despite the groups’ ferocity, they have all succeeded in using Islam to build broad coalitions with local tribes and communities. They provide social services and run strict Shariah courts; they use advanced propaganda methods.
If anything, they differ from the 19th-century states in that they are more radical and sophisticated. The Islamic State is perhaps the most elaborate and militant jihad polity in modern history. It uses modern state structures, including a hierarchically organized bureaucracy, a judicial system, madrasas, a vast propaganda apparatus and a financial network that allows it to sell oil on the black market. It uses violence — mass executions, kidnapping and looting, following a rationale of suppression and wealth accumulation — to an extent unknown in previous Islamic polities. And unlike its antecedents, its leaders have global aspirations, fantasizing about overrunning St. Peter’s in Rome.
And yet those differences are a matter of degree, rather than kind. Islamic rebel states are overall strikingly similar. They should be seen as one phenomenon; and this phenomenon has a history.
Created under wartime conditions, and operating in a constant atmosphere of internal and external pressure, these states have been unstable and never fully functional. Forming a state makes Islamists vulnerable: While jihadist networks or guerrilla groups are difficult to fight, a state, which can be invaded, is far easier to confront. And once there is a theocratic state, it often becomes clear that its rulers are incapable of providing sufficient social and political solutions, gradually alienating its subjects.
David Motadel: Why Islamic rebel states always fail