Isis, or the Islamic State, is the
latest scourge facing the world today. Its mission as a self-proclaimed
caliphate is to bring most Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under
its political control, beginning with the Levant, which covers Syria,
Jordan, Isreal/Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus and southern Turkey. The
organisation claims religious authority over all Muslims worldwide. No
country is immune. Everyone who is not a follower of Isis is its enemy.
Muslims in Trinidad have said to me that
they view the selfdeclared Islamic State (previously known as the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) or the Islamic State of Iraq
and Syria (Isis) as un-Islamic. They say Islamic State is an
organisation with political intent under the guise of religious
I did an interview with Lawrence Joffe,
author of Keesing’s Guide to the Mid-East Peace Process. Over four
hours, when I was able to only get to the tip of this complicated
region, I learned this: That Isis, which grew out of the Al-Qaeda
movement, is incredibly clever. It has expertly manipulated the media to
create a global climate of fear against the mindless that surpasses the
aftermath of 9/11.
How? Lawrence asked me to consider this
commentary, which was accompanied with a photograph of Alan Henning
holding a Syrian baby in his hands. His was the third beheading of a
westerner in as many months. “Isis militants have released a video
showing the murder of Alan Henning, who went to Syria to help people
displaced by the terror of Assad. The video is short and brutal, with
his severed head placed on top of his body.
The fact that Henning went to help the
people of Syria is irrelevant to them—Isis hates anyone who doesn’t
follow their ideology.”
I got a crucial history lesson. In the
early seventh century AD in present-day Saudi Arabia, the Prophet
Mohammed founded Islam, which his followers considered a community as
well as a religion. As they spread across the Arabian Peninsula, they
became an empire which expanded just as the neighbouring Persian and
Byzantine empires were ready to collapse. In an astonishingly short
time—from Mohammed’s death in 632 to 652 AD—they managed to conquer the
entire Middle East, North Africa, Persia, and parts of southern Europe.
They spread Islam, the Arabic language, and the idea of a shared Middle
Eastern identity—all of which still define the region today. Isis wants
a return to this time.
I asked Joffe what Isis wants. The brief
answer is that Isis is claiming that ever since 1924, when the western
world drew artificial borders, for the first time in Muslim history in
1,500 years there was no caliphate.
They said the Muslim world had been
orphaned and everything went wrong because of that, including the
creation of the state of Israel. They claimed that Islam took a wrong
turn after the death of the Prophet Mohammed and they want to take it
back to the “pure” version of Islam. This means innovation is
As are philosophy, jurisprudence,
development, architecture, education, women’s rights. They hate the Shia
Muslims. They hate Sufis. They denounce all non-Muslims. They denounce
democracy as un-Islamic, denounce anything that doesn’t have to do with
Islam. They reject democracy. They want to knock off all borders till
the world is one massive Islamic State. They claim they are going back
to the fundamentals, the word of Allah, which makes them
How has Isis succeeded in petrifying the
world? This is what Joffe told me: “As long as you terrify people you
win a war against terrorism. After the bombings in London, I was scared
to travel in the Underground.”
People felt anybody with a Muslim name
and a backpack would blow up a Tube station. They play the game of fear
well, as Lawrence reminded me.
“Al-Qaeda killed three-and-a half
thousand people in 9/11. These people have terrified the world by
cutting the heads off two journalists and an aid worker.
“That’s the paradox. On the one hand,
they have an atavistic, backward philosophy. They say they emulate the
“In actual practice, they use social
media, publicity, TV, propaganda techniques of the west, and the
military weapons and techniques created by the west.
“The guy doing the beheading has a South
London accent. They call him Jihadi John, and I doubt he knows the first
thing about Islam. Isis started in Iraq, moved to Syria, and every day
gets new recruits from the west through Facebook, mosques, gyms, boxing
clubs. They currently have an army that’s 30,000 strong.”
We in T&T should find the spread of
Islamic fundamentalism especially alarming because its recruits from
France, from the UK, from the US, are similar to the ones used in the
1990 coup attempt. The west is alarmed because its recruits are young
impressionable boys and girls in the west looking for a reason to live,
and die. Already we hear the whispers of fundamental Islamists in some
corners of our country.
We need to be
vigilant. We need to give our sons and daughters a proper education, the
hope of democracy, a reason to live in peace. We need to see that
fundamentalists have nothing to do with Islam. It has to do with power,
money, ignorance, and inhumanity of a handful of lost souls who are
anything but Islamic.