Islamic Extremism : America’s new best friend !

The media seems occupied lately with a term that is being repeated in every piece of news: “Islamic Extremism”. It has been associated with radical groups like Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria and recently ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Few people think about the motives behind all these media campaigns. Few think about the truth of “extremism” and whether it was truly “Islamic” or not.

In my opinion, “extremism” is overrated and is being used for political goals.

Is there truly “Islamic Extremism”?

It does not exist. There’s no such thing as an “extreme” stream of Islam. Islam has come in one shape. It didn’t come in many versions: the “extreme version” or the “moderate version” or the “liberal version”. Any modulation of the Islamic religion was done for political purposes only. This is a misconception people are falling for. No religion is “extreme”. No religion advocated terrorism and killing other people for different opinions or beliefs, whether it was Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

Although “extremism” has its roots, it is a human “trait” and not a characteristic of any religion. Extremism is caused by people. It means “pushing over the edge”. Many reasons or acts can result in having people think in a “closed” or “divergent” manner.

“Islamic Extremism” was emphasized and “propagated” by media campaigns for political benefits. Otherwise, how would one describe the link between “terrorism” and “Muslims”? They have become so deeply attached, artificially, that it has become a stereotype: A Muslim is a terrorist.

Islam has never encouraged the killing of other people for whatever reason. In fact, it advocates peace and compels “Muslims” not to initiate a fight with anyone (an atheist or a wrongdoer) unless people start fighting them. Just take a look at these verses from Surat Al Baqarah (in the Quran):

“Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors” (Al Baqarah, 190)

“Fight them until there is no {more} fitnah and {until} worship is {acknowledged to be} for Allag. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.” (Al Baqarah, 193)

And if critics would search thoroughly, they would take examples from Prophet Muhammed’s (pbuh) life and the ways he solved disputes, especially with non-believers and those who meant to harm him physically. In fact, many historians agree that the Prophet and his caliphs were almost unique in building empires more by diplomacy than by violence.

In my opinion, “Religion” refers to a whole way of life. Religion is not separated from politics; nor should it be. “separation” is an “imported” process. But it was a total failure. The Western colonial powers of the Middle East tried to create secular governments. However, as soon as they left the region, these trials “retaliated” against the country itself. This left no choice for authoritarian regimes but to manipulate the idea of “religion” and associate it with force to control the mass of people.

Extremism in our region, the Middle East, has risen in recent years. It has almost become an “intellectual stream”. It means owning extreme or non-negotiable ideas or principles. Just like it may be in politics, it can be in religion as well. This is why one may find an “extremist Christian” or an “extremist Muslim”.

There are two main pillars that seemed to intertwine and coexist, and acted as stimulation to the rise of religious extremism. The first one is the attempt of some Arab Regimes to “secularize” their countries, by the use of force. This led many innocent people, who have committed nothing wrong, other than maybe attending classes for Islamic Clerics or sheikhs, to be jailed and humiliated in prisons. This arbitrary imprisonment led people to refer to Radical Clerics who represented the “peaceful” alternative, at that time, of an authoritarian regime. At all times, this was a “western” model being copied in Arab countries. If secularism worked in Europe, it doesn’t mean it will certainly work in the Middle East region due to many political, social and religious obstacles. Furthermore, these regimes did not give much attention to religion and that it should be interpreted and applied in accordance with the circumstances we are living in. They adopted old-school fundamentals just as they are. Their primary concern was public security, maintenance of public order and saving their “powerful seats”. They used religion to enhance their own personal status and control people, rather than using it as a means to elevate their countries to better levels of living and ruling.

The second one is the Western disdain of Arabs, and Muslims in particular. At every open opportunity, the West never failed to promote, show and express words degrading Arabs and Muslims. Think of the Western complete and undoubted support of Israel. There is an element of disdain here, the little sustained outcry against the massive number of casualties in Gaza last summer. This portrays a figure or fact to Muslims that the lives of Palestinian women, children and elderly are not as valuable as the lives of American or European citizens.

All of this piling up throughout the years resulted in a “Radical” view of Islam or codes of Shariaa. The truth is that Islam has never been “extremist” or “radical”.

Those who refer to the verses of the Quran that might point out to the use of force or swords have obviously interpreted these verses wrong or maybe missed out on the surrounding historic facts and circumstances that existed at that time and the need for Islam to spread quickly. These facts or circumstances are to be put in the correct context.

Though things have changed, one fact remains true: since the “birth” of Islam, Quran verses have never inspired or called for terrorist activities.

Can any historian or scholar deny the fact that every empire, that previously existed, has not relied on the use of force to grow and survive? The Indian Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Roman Empire, the Hellenistic Empire and the British Empire all used force. They certainly did not refer to “diplomatic solutions” to protect their existence.

The United States and the Middle East

Facts are that are that all this chaos we’re witnessing in our region is the direct result of almost half a century of U.S. military interventions and covert operations in the Middle East. Those who wish not to accept these facts might be shortsighted or have other political reasons to deny a blinding truth. It is about time to admit, courageously and bluntly, that peace cannot be restored by bombing, or that changing existing regimes in order to have stability also does not apply, and most importantly, that a mistake cannot be fixed by being repeated over and over again. An important rule no one needs to forget: If you commit to change an existing regime, an alternative should be ready to be put in place. Otherwise, it is complete chaos. And that is exactly what the United States failed to do after its invasion of Iraq.

It all started after the Second World War ended. Back in 1947, the United Nations, upon request from the Truman administration, adopted resolution 181 (known as the partition resolution) to divide Palestine (which was under the British mandate at the time) into two states: An Arab State and a Jewish State. Disregarding the opposition, President Truman pushed towards the implementation of the UN resolution. In 1948, the state of Israel came into existence. And the region has been “agitated” since.

The United States interference did not end here. It reached all neighboring countries of Israel: Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Even Iran had a share of the interventions.

In Egypt, the United States’ relation with Abdel Nasser started “cooling off” due to many reasons. Some related to Nasser being fed up with the US intervention and other related to the good bond that liaised Nasser to the USSR (the primary rival of the United States at the time). As a consequence, the United States backed Israel, France and Britain in their war against Egypt in 1956, and then again in the 1967 war (known as the Six-Day war).

In Syria, the United States has always had good relations with Army Chief of staff Hussain Al Zai’m. In addition to approving the construction of an American oil pipeline, Al Zai’m has allied with Israel and Turkey (major US allies) and signed and armistice with Israel.

In Lebanon, the US intervention happened more than once. Despite the constant diplomatic interventions through its ambassadors (which still happen until this day), the United States has deployed American Amry on Lebanese soils twice: the first time in late 1950’s to support the uprisings against President Chamoun. It is said that 14,000 Americans were sent to Lebanon. The second time was during the Lebanese Civil war. It happened in 1982 when US marines were deployed in Beirut to help Israel with the invasion, under the pretense of fighting the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization).

In Iran, the United States played, through the CIA, a major role in overthrowing General Musaddeq after he decided to nationalize the Iranian Oil Industry. After that, the CIA helped the Shah obtain power and rule Iran. It is widely known that the Shah was one of the biggest allies of the United States in the region.

But it was Iraq that received the lion’s share of these interventions.

It all started in 1963 when the CIA helped put Saddam Hussein in power.

Then, came the Gulf War I in 1980 which lasted for 7 years between Iraq and Iran. This war drained the capabilities (political and economic) of both countries. The United States could not have asked for a better solution for the Islamic Revolution rising one year before the war. Reagan provided Saddam Hussein with every possible help he can receive and pushed other Gulf countries, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, to help fund Iraq.

In the Gulf War II in 1991, Iraq invaded Kuwait. This time the United States stood against Saddam Hussein and invaded Iraq in 1991. Back then, April Glaspie, the US Ambassador to Iraq, tricked Saddam Hussein into believing that he has the United States’ backing to invade Kuwait. He was wrong. The US invasion destroyed critical infrastructure like water treatment plants, hospitals, roads and bridges. Iraq was decimated, torn into shreds. Iraq was further placed under the sanction regime which made it very difficult for food and medicine to flow in. Saddam failed to build the critical infrastructure again. But the United States left Saddam in power!!!

It wasn’t until 2003 that the United States actually invaded Iraq. But this time, it was to take down Saddam Hussein’s regime under false pretenses. Based on false pretenses and inaccurate CIA reports, the United States claimed that Saddam Hussein owned Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and was planning on using them, despite the fact that the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) clearly stated that it found “no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq”.

It is obvious now that the United States has been “tinkering” in the region for a long time. For half a century, the United States has been interfering in other countries in the Middle East, dictating its policies and “appointing” rulers who ally with the US administration, mainly by the use of force. The force used left thousands of people dead, tumbled down regimes and rulers as if it was a game. Such acts do not usually pass by without consequences. The major consequence is the feeling of hate Arabs and Muslims have developed since. It is The same hate the United States manipulated to benefit from it and continue its interference in the most atrocious ways.

Uproars started increasing more and more, internally and internationally, disapproving of the constant American interference in the region. Despite the presence of strong oppressing regimes in most of the Arab countries, the public has started sensing a feeling of disdain from the West. The West, the United States in particular, always had this attitude that it could intervene and use force in the region without being actually punished or condemned.

Now, a major country with huge military capabilities and “greedy” interests in the region’s various natural resources, what would it do?

Create a “monster” the region would fear. It’s the classic formula Problem, Reaction, Solution.

Voilà “Islamic Extremism”!

Voilà “Terrorism”!

Two concepts created only by media. But they almost constituted a milestone that gave the United States the “audacity” to ask for public and international support to set the plan of “taking-out” the Middle East Region on course. How?

The “war on terrorism” and the 9/11 scam!

Remember 9/11? Who doesn’t?

Prior to September 2001, the actual term “war on terrorism” was rarely used. Even though the United States had fought in different areas in the Middle East, it rarely referred to the term “war on terrorism”. It was George Bush who launched this term when he said that “this crusade is going to take a while”.

A “crusade”, you say? Definitely no blunder here! And what a coincidence that “terrorism” happens to be “residing” in most Islamic countries!

In another statement, Bush said: “our ‘war on terror’ begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated”. And the “monster” was unleashed: Al Qaeda!

The origins of Al Qaeda can be traced back to the Soviet war in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. Islamic Jihadists were supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and China to defeat the Soviet Army.

The United States funded the creation of a beast, soon to turn against its will and attack it. Osama Bin Laden leading a Jihadi Front, later named Al Qaeda, took Afghanistan as a base for operations against the United States and Israel.

Osama Bin Laden started filling the “emptiness” among the Sunnis of the Arab world that regimes failed to fill. He confronted Israel, Muslims’ number one enemy. Therefore, there was a need to take him out of the picture. An Islamic Sunni figure that was rising quickly in the Arab can cause serious damage to America’s interests in the Middle East in addition to threatening ruling regimes.

Here come the two planes!

Suspicions still roam over the whole attack of the twin towers in 2001. There are those who have prepared videos and analyzed the attack scientifically. Analysts, of different educational backgrounds, raised questions of doubts regarding the consequences of such an attack. They came to a conclusion that by principles of science, a lot of results that should have existed did not. This conclusion, increased doubts related to the “9/11” attacks; some even suspected it was all a scam to be exploited by the US government to have a legitimate alibi to implement its foreign policies and the law to use American Forces wherever it deems necessary.

This was confirmed with the decision to invade Iraq two years later. In fact, the decision has been already made in 2001, but the actual invasion happened in 2003. General Wesley Clark recites an incident where he was visiting friends in the Pentagon when a Military General called up him urgently for a word. He informed him that the government has taken the decision to go to war with Iraq (please note that this was a couple of days after the 9/11 attack as General Clark says). And when he asked why, the Military General answered: “I don’t know”. He continued to say that he met the same Military General a few weeks later and asked him whether the plan to go to war with Iraq was still in place. By that time, the United States was already bombing Afghanistan. The General answered: “Oh, it’s worse than that”.  He reached over on his desk, picked up a piece of paper and said: “I just got this down from upstairs (meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office) today. This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran”.

So, George Bush, prior to the invasion in 2003, “recruited” media channels to promote campaigns to convince the public of the “necessity” behind his war on Iraq. They falsified facts. They even claimed that Saddam Hussein supported Terrorism in order to gain approval for the invasion. However, the Bush administration knew, without the slightest doubt, that this would not end well.

Let’s go back a little to 1994. In an interview with Dick Cheney, the reporter asked whether it was possible for the United States to march towards Baghdad in the invasion of 1991. Cheney strongly denied. As to why, he literally answered: “Because if we’d gone to Baghdad we would’ve been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would’ve been a US occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Baghdad. Once you got to Iraq and took it over and took down Saddam Hussein’s government then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world; and if you take down the central government in Iraq, you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. The Syrians would like to have the West; Part of Eastern Iraq, the Iranians would like to claim; fought over it for eight years. And in the North you’ve got the Kurds. And if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey then you’ve threatened the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq”.

Strange isn’t it?!

These words, said back in 1994, describe precisely what has been happening in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government. It’s funny because Cheney predicted, in a very acute and accurate way, what would happen far more than those who campaigned against the invasion. Yet, Bush invaded Iraq in 2003!

ISIS: The new «boogie-man»!

 Meanwhile, the United States was tracking down Osama Bin Laden thinking that it can “disable” Al Qaeda powers if it lost its “leader”. This way, the “War on Terror” would be a success story! And for a short while it was. Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011 by the United States Special Forces in Pakistan.

This greatly praised Operation left Al Qaeda unhinged. Later that year, the United States completed its withdrawal of armed forces from Iraq.

The US invasion of Iraq and disbanding of the Iraqi Army forces resulted in a huge “vacuum” of power that made it easy for “rebel” militants to easily fill it and form an authority on the ground. This gave Al Qaeda, and its affiliates, the chance to dominate and rule people. It is hard not to notice that the invasions the United States made in Afghanistan and Iraq failed to achieve the intended goals. Each proved to be a complete disaster.

This chaos has been causing the United States a lot of internal trouble. Republicans were influencing how Obama failed to leave a “stable” Iraq behind. Charged with the negativity from the quickly decreasing polls of Obama’s popularity, the Obama administration tried to find another quest that could save face.

By that time, Syria was drowning in fights between the Assad Regime and the Free Syrian Army. The United States stand was very clear from the beginning. Assad should step aside otherwise it will arm and fund the Free Syrian Army (though it was already doing that indirectly through some of the Gulf countries, mainly Saudi Arabia).

However, the majority of the funds and weapons from the United States and other Western Countries (such as France and England) and Gulf Countries were ending up in the hands of Islamic Jihadists. U.S. officials have been aware of this since 2012. This led to another wave of disapproval inside the United States pushing Obama’s polls even further down when it came to International Policies. The American people were growing a strong opinion against direct US army involvement in Syria.

Suddenly, ISIS mounted the stage.

Amid all this chaos, and out of nowhere, came a group of radical, atrocious, cold-blooded killers, led by a person called Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, later to be the Islamic Caliph on top of an Islamic State.

ISIS feeds on blood. As dark as this might sound, yet it is factual and true. It’s an extremist and brutal group. It has brought back crucifying, beheading, amputation and all sorts of savage ways of killings and torture. ISIS is referred to as a splinter group, rejected by Al Qaeda due to its brutal tactics.

ISIS is now, without a doubt, the newest “boogie-man” of the Middle East.

ISIS used terror, force and religion to urge people to join. Those who did not were simply killed. That is why Christians, Kurds, Shiaas and Yazidis were tormented and prosecuted for not being Muslims, or to be more precise, Sunnis. They were all, in the eye of ISIS, non-believers.

Many of the fighters with ISIS now were prisoners in American camps in Iraq. They have been detained in Iraq since 2004 and then freed to cross the border and enter Syria. An insurgent, who now holds a significant role with ISIS, met Al Baghdadi in the same camp he was in; camp Bucca. He recalls in an interview that the Americans saw Al Baghdadi as “a conciliatory and calming influence in an environment short on certainty, and turned to him to help resolve conflicts among the inmates“. This same Baghdadi was detained in Fallujah after leading a militant group. This same insurgent continues to say that “by December 2004, Baghdadi was deemed by his jailers to pose no further risk and his release was authorized”. He further says that Baghdadi “was respected very much by the US army. If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology“.

It would be odd to believe that American officers had not suspected anything, especially that the detainee were fighting the US army all over Iraq. And how would such a big country, as the United States, with all the military capabilities and intelligence forces, not know that a big coalition of insurgents was building up “under their noses”? This same country that can provide intel information if needed from any part of the world. Were the American officers that naive to fall for the “angelic” behaviors of Al Baghdadi when he was imprisoned?

It would be very hard for us to believe this. This would destroy the whole credibility and reputation of the US army being the strongest and most well-equipped army force in the world. There’s no other explanation than that the United States had really known what was going on. It was preparing another “Jihadi” group, just like it once did in Afghanistan, to defeat the Assad Regime in Syria.

In other words, the United States sponsored ISIS and when it was time, it pushed it to center stage, with media campaigns that played an essential and helpful role in spreading the “aggressive” face of ISIS.

The same question arises regarding the US drones that are participating in the war against ISIS. How can these drones hit exact targets in Afghanistan and kill the terrorists while they are merely “scratching” the militants of ISIS in Syria? In the first Gulf War between Iraq and Iran, the United States was helping Saddam Hussein by providing him with coordinates and exact locations of targets to hit. This was back in 1980. Are we supposed to be convinced that, with all the sophisticated technologies and satellites, the United States is not able to locate the place of the militants of ISIS?

The only “reasonable” answer is that the United States does not wish to hit ISIS.

“Collateral Damage”

But a dangerous collateral damage was building up.

ISIS did not just jump out of nowhere. The foundations and beliefs for such radical criminal minds were laid years back by invading powers. The aggression that Western Countries exercised in the Levant paved the way for most people, especially the poor ones, to show allegiance to radical religious clerics (Islamic in most cases) under the pretense of insurgency.

It is true that ISIS is a form of “extremism”. But for some it is also a form of social revenge. ISIS has raided houses and stolen all the furniture and belongings of wealthy Iraqi people who fled in fear of being killed. An Iraqi witness narrates that all the stylish furniture was either shipped to the ISIS leadership in Syria or to the largest homes the Iraqi ISIS leadership has decided to claim. This prevailing power and the illusion of “social justice” between the poor and the rich are driving a big number of volunteers to join ISIS from the underprivileged class.

It is a revenge of the underdog.

They simply want to own what the rich had. This is a sociological phenomenon that exists in countries where societies are “severely” split and “cruel” differentiation divides the poor from the rich. With time, hatred will grow inside poor minds. They always look for power and when the opportunity comes, they will rise to avenge their long felt discrimination from the wealthy communities and authoritarian regimes.

This is why it is no surprise that ISIS was able to easily spread its authority in areas where poor people resided.

This also explains why people found their “sanctuary” in pledging allegiance to ISIS. The latter presented itself as the better powerful alternative that can protect people and implement Shariaa laws. What better can a “simple”, uneducated poor Sunni person, living in Iraq and Syria, ask for?

ISIS killed every person who is not willing to comply. While the minorities were the target of constant prosecution, Christians were forced out of their homes. They fought with the Kurds. They killed Shiaas and Yazidis.

This is a very dangerous side effect of strengthening ISIS and its violence: an “ethnic cleansing”. It is obvious to see that every “religious” sect is looking for a source of arms to start defending itself and existence. Those who fail to have a sponsor leave their cities and land to become refugees in other countries. During such circumstances, minorities tend to flee towards their safeguard areas to protect themselves: minorities like Kurds, Alawites, Christians and Yazidis.

Now imagine the flow of these groups, each in the direction of their safety nets.

A historical example is still present for us to look at. It happened after the World War II ended. People were “re-grouped”. For example, thirteen million Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1947. They had lived in countries like Poland, Ukraine and Romania for hundreds of years. The unlucky minorities, such as the Gypsies, were exterminated.

ISIS, has sparked the flame for a long “ethnic” war in the region. And if it gained more power, its atrocities would push Muslim people towards form extremism: atheism.

In fact, over the past six months, a new discourse has surfaced; one that leads “moderate Muslims” to re-think or assess their position towards Islam. Their argument is “Allah is not doing anything”. Such a phrase is considered a complete heresy in Islam. But the truth is that ISIS religious fanatics are creating, gradually, agnostics and atheists at an alarming rate. The danger that awaits will not dissect Syria or Iraq only. It will re-shape the whole region by force.

The danger lies here: ethnic wars. No one can control or predict the actions of people who are charged with hate against each other. Even if it was the plan for major countries to spark ethnic wars in the Middle East to dismantle its countries and dissect the region, it can never predict the outcomes. Moreover, it can never control the course of actions, especially that people are being armed.

The US invasion of Iraq sparked a civil war between Sunnis and Shiaas. The United States manipulated both sects back then. It helped the “historically” oppressed Shiaas by Saddam Hussein’s regime to have power and start their revenge against the Sunnis. Since then, everyday on the news, there are reports about suicide bombings in both areas and innocent people are dying.

Syria is executing this ethnic war even deeper. It is also dragging, usually peaceful, ethnic groups into this draining war. The Kurds are an example.

The Syrian war is far more dangerous than what happened in Iraq. It is linked to international players, or shall we say, an international cold war. This means none of the major powers or players want their allies to lose. But at the same time, none of these players is willing to spend enough money to tip the balance in favor of their allies. It is obvious that the Assad regime is not capable of ending this war militarily. So do ISIS and its international sponsors who are not willing to keep arming “terrorists”.

We are stuck in a long and grinding war. It is a vicious war that will destroy Syria completely, not to mention the millions of Syrians who would be left without a home and forced to seek refuge in other countries.

The longer this war lasts the harder it will be to end it. And in the interim, the fear of ethnic cleansing will remain present!

We have been witnessing destructive wars since a half decade, which prevented us from exploring all our natural resources, our richnesses, to build strong developed countries. All this is happening while the West is after these same natural resources.

If we got back and check the countries General Wesley Clark mentioned, they are: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. They all have one thing in common… oil!