Events in Paris this Friday past have reminded us in the starkest of terms that we are in the midst of a serious global war, and the threat to life and security is real. Media treatment of Daesh – or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) – has presented a caricature of a mindless and barbaric terrorist organisation of religious fanatics which is both grossly inaccurate and unhelpful. In reality the self-styled Caliphate has and continues to function with a sophisticated state apparatus; with a leadership, a governing cabinet, and regional administrations over a territory with a population of some eight million people.
It is already well known that ISIS – sometimes ISIL – has successful international recruitment, bringing volunteer combatants and non-combatants from around the world with the promise of fighting an eschatological holy war to restore the glory of political Islam. The increasing radicalisation of Muslims in the West since the beginning of the United States’ War on Terror has played a significant role in the funding and manning of the organisation.
What has emerged from the wreckage of the US invasion of Iraq is a dedicated and statist form of militant and extremist Islamism which has the resources, the intelligence, and the commitment to pose a real and serious threat to world peace. This having been said, it is crucial to our understanding of this threat to note that the primary target of ISIS’ violence is the Islamic World itself. Muslims who do not accept Daesh’s interpretation of Islam – that is the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims – have been and remain the principle focus of its campaign of terror.
On Friday night the whole world was reminded that any city, anywhere in the world, can be made a frontline conflict zone in this new internationalised and highly ideological war. It is now no longer reasonable to assume that this war is a distant event, and nor is it useful – as the Western media would have us believe – to imagine that the present violence in Iraq and Syria is unrelated to acts of terrorism in Western cities. These are all theatres in the same global war.
Intrinsic to the right wing Western media’s version is that we are in the throes of a clash of civilisations (Huntington, 1992); a meeting of two incompatible ideologies – that of the West (“the universal values that we share” – Barak Obama, 13 November 2015) and Islam. With regard to this sentiment, it can only be pointed out that both narratives; that of the politico-economic right in the West and extremist Islamism, are the only truly competing fundamentalist ideologies. Islam and Muslims are not the enemy, and attempts by either of these two sides to make them such are playing to the tune of this fictitious clash of civilisations, and runs the risk of drawing the whole world into an apocalyptic cataclysm.
In fact, the words of John Dunne are of immeasurable value to us at this time. Our Western way of life is not an island unto itself. It is merely a way of life among others, and whose continued existence can be assured only by the preservation of peace and harmony with the others around it. Our struggle against the violence of ISIS is a common struggle – one which unites all ideologies in the West (for we are all equally its prey), and one which unites the West with the interests of Muslims in the West and globally. It is beyond all doubt that in striking at the heart of Europe ISIS hopes to provoke an already growing Islamophobic hysteria; a fire Europe’s right is only too happy to stoke, in order to further accelerate the alienation and victimisation of Muslims in the West, and so engender more radicalisation.
Turning on our Muslim friends and neighbours, or shifting the blame for this most recent terror attack to refugees fleeing Daesh terror in the Middle East, is counterproductive in the extreme and can only work against our hopes for an end to ISIS and the restoration of peace and security. It is precisely at times like this that we must do our clearest thinking on what is going on. Our failure to invest in all humanity right now will only ensure that terror becomes routine everywhere; and Donne’s bell will toll for us and all our precious ideologies.