In a global community where faith plays a greater role, qualitatively as well as quantitatively, than ethnicity, a movement cannot hope to succeed unless it has a visible link, true or pretended, with the faith. This tendency predominant in Muslims is used both by their friends as well as their foes. The distinction between claims and counterclaims about the link sometimes becomes so difficult that even the most wise find it hard to make a definitive opinion.
The rise of ISIS too has confused the global Muslim Ummah. Initially, many Muslims particularly the Sunnis welcomed it; as it was largely presented as a movement against the predominant Shia government of Iraq. But soon its appeal began to wither. The situation has now come to appoint where many Muslim governments, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Yemen and Qatar, are engaged in war against it along side United States.
Mass movements that emerge through social, political and ideological campaigns need to be supported. Such movements can fail, but they have certainly the greater chance to succeed. The Islamic Revolution of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah and the Ikhwan Movement in various Arab countries are movements that need to be supported even if with some reservation.
The militant movements, even if their concerns and grievances are genuine, tend to fail often resulting in hugely disastrous consequences for the people as well as their active members. Still more unfortunate is the truth that the global forces of hegemony use them for their own ends. They initially support them, and when their mission is accomplished, they abandon them or support rebels in opposition to destroy them. This happened with al-Qaidah, which came into being as a consequence of West’s proxy war against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Empire disintegrated, and when it started expanding into countries which were of economically or politically strategic importance to West, they invented or found a pretext to destroy these countries. In this process, hundreds of thousands of innocent Afghans and Iraquis lost their lives.
ISIS too was initially used by the US and its regional allies, especially Saudi Arab, to weaken the position of Nurul Maliki, the leader of the democratically elected party in Iraq because of his growing closeness to Iran.
A stretch of land from Iran to Lebanon (including Syria, Iraq and Palestine) and extending to Egypt along with an increasingly Islamic Turkey nearby could spell doom for the state of Israel. The total failure of West in Syria had unnerved the West. The rise of ISIS was therefore initially not as unwelcome as it subsequently became. Its stupendous successes were attributed to the discrimination against Sunnis by Maliki government. Maliki was soon replaced. One major part of the mission was achieved. But in the meantime, ISIS started threatening the cities that were important to West. ISIS was meant for challenging the opponents, not for taking reins of total power in their own hands. Their expansionist campaigns worried the neighbouring countries. Suddenly ISIS were made to look like the villains, of the Muslim world as well as West. Sunni-Shia talks ceased. Videos showing beheading of journalists, were enough to turn them into despicable devils. The international media came into action. Obama turned furious. A coalition was soon assembled primarily involving “Sunni” states. Sunnis fighting Sunnis will help the US to avoid suspicions of larger sinister aims.
Another pretext. Another attack on another Muslim country. The US goes again, pounding targets in Syria, apparently to destroy ISIS, the latest villain created by West. The Nobel Laureate of Peace has done it without even caring to take Congressional approval, and without even proving that there was an “Imminent Threat” from Syria, the technical term used to justify American military engagement in another country without Congressional approval. This is another matter that Bashar-al Assad, the person West had loved to hate for years, must be enjoying. The country, and its regional allies, that sought to destroy him are now set to destroy his opponents.
The arguments stated above are not meant to generate any sympathy for ISIS. On the contrary the events have shown that they have acted not through the call of faith but through the tacit support of the very people who are hurling missiles on them now. They did not learn any lesson from Al-Qaidah which is largely believed to have parented but subsequently abandoned by them.
The lessons for Muslim masses too are unambiguous. Think hard before supporting a militant movement. They may be thoroughly justified in thinking that the West led by the US has caused them enormous harm. But supporting such movements only weakens the Ummah. “Political Islam”, irrespective of what West thinks about it, is surely a part of the comprehensive Islamic system; but militancy has very little if any role in the ideals of political Islam. Political Islam can succeed only through a battle of ideas, an ideological revolution followed by a social revolution.