Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

‘It’s a clash of ignorance’: ISIS atrocities continue

Abigail Johnson-Ruscansky | The Free Press

Posted on March 02, 2015 in News
By Francis Flisiuk

ISIS, the group of fundamentalist Sunni muslims that have brutally conquered chunks of land in Northern Iraq and Syria under the banner of an “Islamic State,” has dominated headlines of numerous national and international news agencies. And with new reports of kidnappings, air-strikes, vandalism and acts of public torture and execution pour in from the Middle East on a weekly basis, most USM students interviewed said they consider ISIS to be one of the most important news stories to follow.

Just last week the ISIS army, which according to CBC news boasts around 20,000 people willing to die for God and country, has shocked the world with even more acts of senseless violence and destruction.

According to the Fiscal Times, last Monday ISIS militants burned down the public library in Mosul which housed over 8,000 rare manuscripts and books from the Ottoman era. Two days before that they kidnapped 262 Assyrian Christians from the Syrian town of Hasaka, and threatened to slice their throats if Obama doesn’t stop his airstrikes. Since then the U.S. led coalition has backed the Kurdish and Assyrian forces in their defense against ISIS, with more airstrikes. Last Thursday, the Jerusalem Post reported that in a seperate U.S. led airstrike,17 prominent Islamic state militants were killed, but the fate of the Christian hostages is still unknown.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 1,465 ISIS members were killed by American air strikes, as well 1,000 civilians, since September 23, 2014.

Some student veterans, like Samuel Kingsley, a political science major and former U.S. Army infantrymen, believe that military action will do little to quell the rise of Islamic militancy. According to him, after the recent situations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States can’t afford to involve itself in another middle eastern war.

“ISIS is something that only Muslim countries can hope to deal with,” said Kingsley. “The best possible outcome is that the United States will reevaluate its support of these repressive dictatorships [Egypt Jordan Bahrain] and that Islamdom in general will be able to address its own fractionalization and political disunity.”

Kingsley is referring to the fact that ISIS is mostly composed of Sunni muslims, while most government bodies in the middle east have a Shia majority, a population with a different view of Islam and how society should be run. Kingsley predicts that if the U.S. slows its involvement combating ISIS, civil wars will spring up in the middle east and several dictators will rise and fall like during the Arab Spring.

“ISIS arose from a deep-seated mistrust between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq,” said Austin Toothaker, a student veteran and sophomore geography major. “The withdrawal of U.S. troops may have led to the inability of the Iraqi government to contain threats such as ISIS.”

On top of not having the support of the government in Baghdad and the Kurdish people in Northern Iraq and Syria, ISIS is making a laundry list of international enemies. Some 40 countries have joined a coalition against ISIS, including Australia, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Turkey and the U.K.

According to Reza Jalali, the multicultural affairs coordinator at USM, ISIS has been doing surprisingly well in attracting foreign fighters and young muslims to their cause despite the opposition. Over 1,700 Russians alone are reportedly said to be fighting alongside ISIS.

“There are some muslims in western society around the world that feel alienated, marginalized and silenced,” said Jalali. “A charming ISIS recruiter attracts them with messages of hope. He might say, ‘come with us, we’ll give you a gun and change the racist system.’ It takes you from being a nobody, a faceless, nameless, invisible person, to this person who has power and can actually be part of a growing army.”

Jalali also believes that when it comes to stopping ISIS, there’s no military solution. He thinks U.S. diplomats need to convince Sunni governments to stop supporting ISIS.

“The can of worms have been opened,” said Jalali. “ISIS is more dangerous than they [Sunni majority governments] think. Name calling all Muslims actually encourages youths to join militant groups.”

While Jalali isn’t necessarily opposed to the creation of an Islamic State, it would have to be under the auspices of peaceful and diplomatic practices. Jalali considers what ISIS is doing completely criminal.

According to Jalali, ISIS kills more muslims than non-muslims, but doesn’t discriminate when it searches for beheading or crucifiction victims. ISIS has killed Christians and Jews that have been living in Syrian towns in complete harmony with Muslims. Beyond the grief and horror of losing a loved one under the knife of a radical fundamentalist, Jalali believes that ISIS’s level of violence has another negative impact; the stereotyping and demonization of what a peaceful religion of 1.6 billion diverse members.

“As a modern Muslim I will say they have very little to do with the Islamic faith,” said Jalali. “They are not the real version of Islam, they are un-Islamic. They’re a group of criminals using the religion to mobilize support for their political cause. They want to restore the state to its former glory under the Caliphate.”

Jalali read one quote from the Koran, noting that ISIS is very selective in which quotes they justify their “sick actions” with from the holy book. “If you kill one, you’ve killed humanity. If you’ve saved one, you’ve saved the entire humanity,” the passage reads.

Kingsley said that Islam has always had a bad reputation in Western nations, but that it stems mostly from ignorance and lack of education.

“People don’t understand the fractionalization, political dynamics and history of Islamic culture so it makes it easy to group all Muslims in together as ‘terrorists,’” said Jalali.

“They’re called a rebel group for a reason,” said Howa Mohamed, a  muslim student and health sciences major. “They’ve rebelled against Islam’s commandments of peace and understanding. Does the KKK represent the religion of Christianity?”

Mohamed said that of course she thinks ISIS contributes to casting Islam in a bad light, but that she wishes practicing Muslims didn’t have to constantly defend themselves.

During Kingsley’s five-year career in the Army, he’s heard many of his leaders express anti-Islamic sentiments and cites it as an Army tactic to motivate troops to combat.

“It could be calling them ‘goat fuckers,’ or referring to civilians in a war zone as ‘local nationals,’ which is somewhat cold and impersonal,” said Kingsley. “Although on the surface the Army expresses official concern for civilian casualties, in reality, at my level, there was zero concern for civilians. The only concern was that you may get prosecuted if you accidentally killed a civilian, but in reality there is very little chance of that actually happening.  Many of my leaders told stories about how they would kill civilians and carry ‘drop weapons’ (AK’s or other common enemy weapons that were liberated in previous operations) to give the appearance they were in fact killing a combatant.”

While it’s easy to condemn violence done in the name of Islam, Jalali reminds us that all major religions have had atrocities committed in their name, and that the majority of Muslims don’t support ISIS.

“This is not a clash of civilizations,” said Jalali. “It’s a clash of ignorance.”


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