History will record that the Islamic State
caliphate—a bizarre pseudo-state founded on illusory goals, created by a
global horde of jihadis, and enforced with perverted
viciousness—survived for three years, three months and some eighteen
days.” —The New Yorker (October 17, 2017)
In that period the self-proclaimed Islamic State “conducted or inspired”
over 70 terrorist attacks in 20 countries not including Syria and Iraq.
The fight against Isis reportedly cost Baghdad more than US$100 billion.
In recent months Isis lost huge swathes of
territory including oil wealthy Musul, which financed its global terror,
Raqqa, the nominal IS capital, and on November 9, the Syrian Army
liberated the city of Abu Kamal destroying the last Islamic State in
And so the world breathed a collective sigh of relief. Not so fast.
In May 2017, an Al Jazeera documentary
produced by investigative filmmaker Juliana Rhufus revealed that T&T had
the highest recruits of IS per capita in the Western
Hemisphere—officially 130, estimated higher, at 400, including women and
The documentary titled Caribbean to
Caliphate mirrored us in a way that, we, in our practiced
self-deception, murder fatigued selves couldn’t see.
Photos of blood splattered pavements,
murderers defected to Isis, descriptions of the brutality of
assassination; men in combat gear, assault rifles, practicing to kill;
clips of people “wining” gormlessly; inebriated, people sitting
enervated outside tatty rum shops; interviews in shabby mosques with the
reporter, her head covered respectfully, with inchoate bearded gang
members speaking with the self importance of men with big guns on tiny
It was the great footage: classic cringe
worthy, intellectually impoverished island of dumbed down brutality
described by V S Naipaul in Guerrillas. Humiliating. Indelibly Third
The journalist saw, in plain view, that we
have among the highest murder rates worldwide in a non-warring country.
(By October 30 this year the murder toll in T&T was 405)
Rhufus asked the disingenuous question:
“Why are young Muslims from the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago
being drawn to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq?”
Imam Abu Bakr’s view was the murder rate
was spiralling out of control because the men are “going to a pool of
unemployment. They sit in the ghetto and do nothing. The drugs come in.
The guns are in.”
A gang member said the problem was not
localised. “Politicians try to minimise the issue and say that it’s a
small group of people who are criminally oriented who get involved in
these things, and that is not true.”
The former national security minister Gary
Griffith said local IS recruits “were in it for financial, mercenary
gain,” rather than ideological conviction.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi dismissed
the documentary as “poor journalism” lacking in “balance and content,” a
“slap in the face,” a pre-written script, his own two-hour interview
with the journalist omitted.
A National Security source had a third
view. He said the threat is real because these men will be coming home
with knowledge of terror and need somewhere to put it.
“It’s not a question of if, it’s a
question of ‘when’.”
He said the gangs in this country were a conveyor belt straight into IS.
Many came out of schools where the illiteracy rate was as high as 30 per
“They join gangs for respect, a
livelihood, to belong somewhere, for a purpose. They want to be seen.
They have nothing to lose, so they join a gang.”
Why did so many join IS? His answer was
simple. “They got all this and one more thing—Heaven.”
Al Jazeera ended the documentary with the
caveat that “even if T&T refuses to allow IS recruits back in, issues at
home need to be addressed.”
We’ve had an insurrection, an attempted
coup: the end of IS in the Middle East is a call to action in a war here
that can only be won with hearts and minds.
We’ve already lost the war on guns.