The true intention of the insurgent group running rampant over Syria and Iraq was made known a few days ago when it declared the areas it currently controlled as been under a CALIPHATE that it had created.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Syria), ISIL or ISIS first came to the fore in Syria where it joined opposition efforts in an attempt to oust Bashar Al-Assad’s government in power. It soon became notorious for the indiscriminate manner it began to go about the job, though their activities appeared to be the most effective of all the opposition groups against the mighty Assad army. Even the Al-Nusra Front which once supported the activities of the group began to denounce some of it’s activities, while Al-Qaeda from which many Islamic hardline groups drew inspiration from released a statement condemning the group.
Assad’s army soon began making inroads into areas formerly held by opposition and rebel groups mainly due to the infighting between the opposition groups, especially of the moderate Free Syrian Army, FSA and their allies against the hardliners chief of which was the ISIL/ISIS. Many people were beginning to question the aims of the revolution, when areas under ISIS control were placed under the strictest form of the Shari’a. Defaulters were punished severely, even capital punishment in full glare of the public wasn’t ruled out.
Shias, Christians, even moderate Sunnis had to flee areas under their control to avoid persecution and all of a sudden it began to appear as if President Assad was right all along when he claimed that terrorists were behind the revolution in his country and not a genuine quest for change as demonstrators in the early days would love the world to believe. Unfortunately, maybe this wouldn’t have been the case if the Americans and Western powers had quit pussyfooting earlier and provided all the necessary support for the moderate Free Syrian Army at the time the Syrian government was been bouyed heavily by the Russian government.
In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s refusal to form an all inclusive government before and after the last elections a few months ago, further increased Sunni discontent, providing the nidus and fertile ground for ISIS to enter and proliferate. They took the festering Sunni insurgency up several notches knocking off city after city, and town after town from Iraqi government control, leading to mass exodus of citizens that are Shia, moderate Sunni, Christian as well as other indigenous minorities in the areas under their control. The world was thrown into a state of shock and bewilderment when images of the coldblooded murder of members of the Iraqi army in a location under ISIS control came to light. That show of acts of brutality left no one in doubt about ISIS’ intent and how far they were willing to go to achieve their goals. Again, America already war weary appeared to be leaving the initiative to others, even those whose intention they view with suspicion, like Iran who promised to send elite Presidential Guard troops to Iraq to advice and boost military efforts of the Shia-led government in Iraq, while the Russians sent to Iraq just this week five fairly used fighter jets to complement Iraqi airforce aerial activities, while those promised by the Americans are still been expected though the Americans claim that the timeline for the delivery of the planes was for sometime in the future and was never planned for now, not even while Iraq faces one of it’s fiercest security challenges of all time, with the capability of splitting the country into its constituent parts (with the Kurds taking the lead on that one) and with the potential of redrawing the map of the Middle East forever. Interestingly, the Iraqi Prime Minister is now considering the formation of what is to bê called a SALVATION GOVERNMENT, in a bid to save Iraq from the hand of extremists in what many see as an effort that’s come a little too late.
ISIS may be the most extreme Islamist group around for now, but many abound that appear less extreme and in so doing become so popular amongst several Arab populations, but as soon as some power, political or otherwise presents they begin to exhibit their true colour and intention, which may not be far from those espoused by ISIS and other extremist groups in like manner.
Time, and time again, it has been found that when elections, free and fair are allowed in the Middle East, with Islamist Parties allowed to contest, they in more times than not, had won those elections. Hamas did it in Palestinian regions of Gaza and the West Bank, to wide international consternation and discomfort, following which the Palestinian Authority was bouyed by Western powers and Israel to disregard the wish of Palestinians which they resoundingly made in voting Hamas, leading to the balkanization of the areas under Palestinian rule after some skirmishes, and putting a clog in the wheel of progress for a future two-state solution, or the possibility of same without Hamas-controlled Gaza (as Israel remain adamant in meeting on the same table with a group whose aim and aspiration includes the neutralization of Israel).
In Algeria, the Islamic Salvation Front was on its way to winning two-thirds majority of seats required to change the constitution in the early 1990’s, with the possibility of making Algeria an Islamic state, but the military sensing the direction things were going and considering it dangerous in their estimation to allow the situation to spiral out of their control intervened, and cancelled the elections.
The Islamists responded by throwing everything they had at their disposal at the government and people of Algeria, and the initial support they enjoyed amongst the people soon petered down and eventually frittered away. With time the Islamist were defeated, not even the Arab Spring could see them emerge from their cocoon because Algeria was shut out to such shenanigans owing to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s (the main beneficiary of the army intervention in the 1990’s) strong arm tactics against dissent especially of the Islamist variety though a Muslim himself, which it would appear many Algerians didn’t find unfavorable seeing that just some few weeks ago he won by a landslide Presidential elections for which he couldn’t campaign much no thanks to ill health.
The Egyptians opted for the Islamist in the Muslim Brotherhood, after removing President Hosni Mubarak via mob action in the heat of the Arab Spring that swept away many rulers in the Arab world. Though President Morsi didn’t win by a landslide, he ruled like he did. Egyptians watched as most of the rights they enjoyed under Mubarak’s repressive rule, as well as those they demonstrated, got beaten, raped and even killed for at Tahrir Square (the location and symbol of the “Egyptian Spring”) were been eroded in bits with laws the parliament (illegitimate at some point) passed and planned to pass. Coptic Christians who had lived besides their Muslim counterparts all these while, all of a sudden became targets for persecution in their own country. It didn’t take too long for the Egyptians to realize that this wasn’t what they bargained for, and hence they ran back to the streets to voice their discontent. The army were once again thrown into the fray, and in elections recently concluded former army General and minister of defence Abdulfattah Al-Sisi won the presidency by a landslide. The interim government before him had proscribed the Muslim Brotherhood for the second time in the history of the movement (the response of which was a string of bombings and general level of insecurity even along the Sinai) just like the Syrian government of present President Assad’s father had done in the 1970’s. Many of the leaders and their followers are now in jail having been sentenced to death, and long term jail sentences amongst others, for acts the state considered as tantamount to terrorism and treason.
Terrorist groups in Arab and non-Arab states latch on the idea of setting up a true Islamic state in gaining the attention and sympathy (for lack of a better word) of devout Muslims who have become sick of the low level of piety in today’s world, and willing to assist in their own little way of establishing God’s kingdom on earth. Unfortunately, these groups now blow up to become the Boko Haram which seeks to Islamize a multireligious and multiethnic Nigeria, the Al-Shabab working towards the same agenda in Somalia, or even the ISIS that have declared a Caliphate in Iraq.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made Turkey into the modern state, and envy of its peers by knocking off Turkey’s connection with religion. He understood too well the meaning of separation of “Mosque and State”, and the result was evident for all to see, though the gains are currently being eroded by the present government that intends to reverse the norm. Even Iran that can be said to be a model of a religious state leaves political leadership to people who aren’t necessarily the religious leaders though they may have to answer to the Ayatollahs on most if not all of their policies.
And Saudi Arabia? Remove oil from the equation and watch to see if the people will still want to live under such conditions of little or no advancement, as princes jostle for all available executive positions. Isn’t it curious that many notable terrorists are of Saudi origin, besides the fact that the ideology that drives intolerance and radical Islam have roots in that oil rich state.
The Islamic Party under several toga in several states have yet to convince even their most ardent followers that they mean good for the people they intend to rule as well as maintain peace with their neighbours beyond seeking first to punish those who have run foul of scriptural injunctions, for which one could easily envisage a society populated by maimed people. This perception of them needs to change or they will continue to be viewed with suspicion by one and all.