ISIS our favorite talking point of the moment, is enshrined in American politic as the quintessential threat that all must address. They’re more dangerous than gun violence, mass killing, poverty, unemployment, and lack of affordable healthcare and education. We’re told by the punditry in the media, that if we don’t do something decisive about them now, Western Civilization as we know it will collapse. As a result, the President and anyone vying for The White House in 2016, are putting out plans that have just enough red meat to appease the unknown masses.
Unfortunately, Americans with our longstanding tradition of cowboy antics, are not in the mood to hear knowledgeable, nuanced discussion on what is necessary to defeat ISIS. Instead, we eagerly size up the President and Presidential candidates based on how tough their language is and how willing they are to send troops into yet another Middle East quagmire. Though it seems hard to believe, talking tough, will not be enough to stop the rise and spread of ISIS.
Nearly every plan offered from all the candidates as well as the President himself, involve some variation of increased military action, along with platitudes about homeland security, much of which dangerously walks the line of giving up freedoms as a necessity of security. What you will not hear is the obvious, which is that ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other like-minded groups exist based on an ideology of hate. This ideology helps them recruit, it’s in their messaging and in their branding. ISIS has a social media and online presence that rivals many Fortune 500 companies.
Therefore, the question that no one seems to be asking, is how can sending troops into Syria/Iraq or dropping more bombs, stop the ideology from spreading? It can also be argued, that the increased destruction and murder of innocent women and children due to drone strikes and bombing campaigns, help ISIS far more than harming them. In other words, you can’t bomb an ideology into submission. If that were so, we would have ended the so-called General War On Terror (GWOT) during the George W. Bush era.
The greatest weapon ISIS has is it’s ability to spread it’s message. Any plan to destroy ISIS that doesn’t include a comprehensive strategy that addresses ISIS ideology, should be ignored as yet another attempt at politics and or a plan paid for by the Military Industrial Complex. The best way to isolate and hurt ISIS is to delegitimize them as an entity.
What’s In A Name?
ISIS or ISIL stands for the Islamic State in Syria or Islamic State in the Levant (region). This terrorist group calls themselves an Islamic State. There is a specific reason why they chose to do that. By calling themselves an Islamic State complete with a Caliph, means that they are trying to convince Muslims that they should be accepted as a legit state that must be accepted and supported as the entity for all Muslims ordained by God. Many Muslims long for a legit Islamic State, with a religious head, the Caliph. The Caliph would be the supreme leader for all the world’s Muslims. It’s a big deal.
However, the so-called Islamic State doesn’t follow or behave in any way Muslims would expect as taught in a basic Islamic Studies class. They kill innocents, they destroy religious buildings, and they openly defy Islamic law. However, potential recruits aren’t aware of these things, because the counter arguments are not reaching them. In fact, ISIS can claim that it’s all Western propaganda.
Furthermore, when we call them an Islamic State, we give credence to the name. Our media outlets and politicians are so eager to connect their actions with Islam, that instead of calling them a name they hate Daesh, which means ISIL in Arabic, but sounds familiar to words that mean one who sows discord, we persist in calling them a name they love. This is important because in calling them what they love we simultaneously do the will of Daesh and make them seem like a viable, real, Islamic State. We backhandedly do their will and aid in their propaganda. We also alienate Muslims worldwide on our insistence on referring to anything they do as Islamic.
Muslims Our Unused Ally
Speaking of Muslims in general, it seems that politicians are falling over themselves to turn their greatest ally against Daesh into the greatest recruits for them. Politicians eager to appease their anti-Muslim base, openly joke that any attempt to use terms that don’t anger Muslims is political correctness. They laugh, joke, and even increase the rhetoric because it’s red meat for the base. However, what they dismiss as being too PC is actually the appropriate way to marginalize Daesh. Every time the word Islam or Islamic is used in association with any terrorist group, we reinforce their message that they are acting according to Islamic teachings, principles, and values which is incorrect. Even if you hate Islam as a religion, one should not be so eager to do what the terrorists want. If a terrorist main way of gaining recruits is to convince them that they are doing Islam’s work, why would we want to validate that claim? Why would we support the terrorists?
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Nearly 7 million live in the US according to some estimates. When it comes to domestic terrorism even in the last 50 years, according to the FBI crime statistics, Muslims accounted for less than 4% of domestic terror. It should be obvious that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists. As such, we should do whatever we can to deny Daesh potential recruits by bolstering our support of Muslims and enlisting them to help fight Daesh. It does not help when major media outlets, politicians, and others with a platform go out of their way to treat otherwise loyal Muslim citizens as outsiders and the proverbial other, and even going so far as to connect their beliefs and ideals with those of terrorists. When Daesh and other terrorists, as part of their recruiting pitch tell Muslims that the West is at war with Islam and are vehemently anti-Muslim, all they have to do is look to our media for evidence.
If we were truly serious about defeating Daesh instead of good soundbites, appeasing an anti-Muslim base, or doing the bidding of those who stand to make billions off perpetual war in the Middle East, we should embrace, enlist, and promote Muslim scholars, activists, leaders, and others who could contradict the message of hate that Daesh and others spread. By reiterating what Islam actually is, versus what it is not, and with the full backing of those concerned with defeating the terrorists, Muslims could be our greatest weapon against them.
In this war against ideology, the only way to defeat the ideas spread by Daesh and other terrorists, is to put forward a better ideology that people of conscious could readily embrace. We have to defeat evil with what is better.