Wednesday, September 02, 2015

John Jenkins in the New Statesman on "The Islamist Zero Hour"

John Jenkins, whose very extensive diplomatic CV includes terms as British Ambassador to Iraq and Syria, has written a very interesting article on DA'ESH in this week's New Statesman called

The Islamist Zero hour

which I can recommend. The opening sentences of the article are as follows:

"Living under the rule of Da’esh (the self-described Islamic State) would undoubtedly be horrific.
 
Even if you accept that some of those apparent enthusiasts for the Rule of the Saints whom Da’esh interviews in Mosul, Raqqa or Deir az-Zour for its ­sequence of video postings do mean it – and aren’t just worrying about the guys in the background with beards, AK-47s and hunting knives – you have to assume that most people do not want to live in a world where every cigarette, every tune that springs to the lips, every morning shave, every slip of the veil, any expression of disgust at the dropping of helpless men from tall buildings, the enslavement of minorities or a flicker of aberrant sexual desire could lead to instant execution."

John Jenkins discusses the history of Da'esh, the similarities and differences from previous Islamist groups ...

"... nothing Da’esh does is individually new. We’ve seen theatrical brutality before. We’ve seen claims to resurrect the caliphate before: by one count, 19 jihadi proto-states (mostly short-lived) between 1989 and 2015.

We’ve seen transnationalism and, at the same time, attempts to expand specific territorial control before. We’ve seen takfirism and religiously inspired eschatological nihilism before. We’ve seen the popular use of social media to spread violent jihad and disaffection from society before.

But we haven’t seen these features combined and directed with the clarity, speed and tactical adaptiveness of Da’esh. It has internalised and acted on all the lessons radical jihadi groups have learned, certainly since 1979 and probably since Nasser’s suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s. The Da’esh forces are market leaders in a form of savage ideological puritanism"

And the contradictions:

"... they display it in their lived paradoxes: a state that is not a state, the godly who murder and steal at will, self-proclaimed champions of women who keep women as sexual chattels, instruments of the divine who practise a theology of rape, paladins of the oppressed who oppress in plain view, advocates of God’s freedom who enslave for the sake of true liberation."

He argues that Da'esh can be militarily defeated but it will have to be by fellow muslims including adherents of Sunni Islam. His other important points include:

1) "We need to recognise that Libya is not a sideshow: in many ways it is a fallback location for Da’esh if it loses ground in the Levant."

and 2) The West should avoid trying to make allies against Da'esh of groups who espouse similar versions of the same poisonous ideology:

"We also need to guard against thinking that my enemy’s Sunni enemy is also my friend. Any policy that supposes that Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, Ansar al-Sharia anywhere, loose affiliates of al-Qaeda in Yemen or the Shura Council of Mujahedin in Derna are appropriate allies in this fight is insane. In the end, these groups represent differing forms of the same ideological deformation as Da’esh. That challenge, in the end, can only be met by stable states, lawful governments and open societies."

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