ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Underestimating the Islamist State

Underestimating the Islamist State

25 August 2014

By Yisrael Ne'eman.

Recently Zvi Yehezkeli, one of Israel's most talented and daring reporters presented a five part mini-series about the Islamic State for Channel 10 as part of their "magazine." He emphasized the barbaric behavior, the recruiting methods, the dangers posed to the Middle East and the West and the amount of religious/ideological support enjoyed by ISIL (or ISIS). In some countries like Saudi Arabia the numbers are said to soar to over 90% and in others like Jordan the kingdom could totter on the brink of collapse as demands for King Abdullah's demise increase. However when asked by the news anchor about his conclusions he explained that many people were overly worried since the ideal of a caliphate is really just a "dream" held by the Muslim masses, but essentially an unobtainable objective. Yehezkeli works in depth to seriously educate the public but like many other journalists is not fully aware of the historical and social context of revolutionary movements. They all began as unobtainable "dreams" where most never realized their final goals, however a very potent minority do become reality.

A short survey of the past 250 years of revolution should be a good indication of what can happen. It usually begins with a powerful ideal riding the wave of popular dissatisfaction demanding the demise of a long standing oppressive, corrupt and exploitive regime. Five years before they declared victory who expected any of the following revolutions to succeed: The American, the French, the Bolshevik, the Maoist, and closer to home - the Arab nationalist of Egyptian Nasserism and the Syrian/Iraqi Baath or for that matter even the Jewish nationalist/Zionist success in establishing the State of Israel, just to name a few. Dreams certainly can become reality.
In the case of the Arab/Muslim World we are speaking in the plural when surveying western Asia and the possibilities for a revolutionary caliphate defying borders. The lands under discussion are Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Gulf States, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. In this article we will not focus on Egypt and North Africa, which themselves continue to undergo Islamist challenges, but their regional situation is somewhat different. The "dream" includes Muslim superiority as embodied in Sharia law, the coerced conversion or slaughter of heretics and infidels such as the Yazidis, Alawites or Shiites for example and the enforcement of the dhimmi second class status on Jews and Christians. Such is the resurrected 21st century caliphate as envisioned by millions of Islamic State advocates. One returns to the sacred path of Allah implemented by the Messenger/Prophet Mohammed and later by the caliphs in the 7th century. All is contained in the Koran and Hadiths.
Secularism, democracy and western liberal lifestyles are all enemies of the Islamic State. Drawing on its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood these enlightenment values are deemed elements of pagan religions. The infidel religion is "secular humanism" or the "worship" of humankind where people make laws and decisions concerning their societies and individual behavior. Anthropocentric law replaces the sacred diocentric strictures of the Koran. This is the imperative cause for Jihad, especially against secular regimes in Muslim societies. In general there are three identifiable humanistic religions. Evolutionary humanism where race and/or nationalism are the overwhelmingly dominant factor, socialist humanism as was practiced in the Eastern Bloc until the early 1990s and liberal humanism as identified with capitalism in the West. The first was destroyed in its most extreme form during WWII with the demise of Germany and Japan but is making a comeback in certain extreme right wing circles, the second exists in a more moderate democratic context after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the last is seen as the greatest threat as posed by the US and its NATO allies. Today's democracies are in general moderately nationalist and contain political parties advocating socialism, capitalism or a mixed economy. The evils of democracy present the harshest challenge to Islamists because humans believe they rule themselves and deny Allah's divine commands (Sharia law) rejecting His statutes as unfitting in today's modern world or relegating them to personal belief secondary to man-made legislation.
The only answer is a never ending Jihad should these societies reject accepting Islamic dominance through peaceful means. The Islamic State in all probability will be physically defeated even if the Arab-NATO alliance will endure a rocky relationship. Arab distrust of the Obama administration as a vacillating and not particularly reliable ally may make the physical defeat of the Islamic State more difficult but victory is obtainable.
But how does one destroy the ideals of the Islamic State Jihadi fanatics? One can expect them to return even if in a slightly different form. Wahhabism, Salafism, al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamist groups are gaining increasing support in the Muslim World, Europe and possibly even North America. The West must realize this is a global conflict over principles, values, lifestyle, equality, individual human rights and the ultimate definition of freedom (Enlightenment vs. Sharia law). Fundamentally it does NOT concern class gaps, socio-economic development and the usual philosophical materialist discussions pitting capitalist and socialist solutions against each other.

Lack of material well being and the 50-60 year socio-political failure of secular Arab nationalism are contributing factors in Islamist extremism but not the heart of the matter. Let us not forget the 9/11 hijackers were from economically solid backgrounds, three quarters of whom were Saudi nationals. Thirteen years later the wealthy indigenous populations in the oil rich Arab Gulf States do not appear adverse to overall Islamist ideals. Belief and ideology are the central factors; western values and their penetration into the Muslim World are particularly reviled by Islamists. Cleansing the Muslim World of western ideals is just the first shot - Islamists of whatever stripe constantly declare their intent of global conquest. There is no reason not to believe them.

Unfortunately this promises conflict for decades, not a few years. One can expect many setbacks in the future, including terror attacks inside western nations by their own citizens. The faster the West cleans up the Islamist threat in its own back yard, the better. Only western unity and resilience in the face of Islamic fanaticism at home and abroad can bring victory. Democracy is important but allowing Islamists freedom of incitement and action within one's own society, all in the name of liberal values will lead to the elimination of such principles and ultimately self-destruction.

The western battle is not only military but ideological. Wherever extremist Islamism appears it must be confronted whether on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria or in the intellectual and ideological arenas. Islamist advocates do not believe in pluralism, in this specific case neither should the West.