Recent terror attacks throughout the world, from Australia to Canada, along with those in France, by so-called ‘Lone Wolves’ have their roots in the rise of Islamist terror post-2011 in the Middle East, especially Syria.
Syria is a study in self-destruction. A middle-income, developing country with high Human Development Index scores, able to withstand the pressure of a belligerent neighbour in the form of Israel, and develop a formidable military capability, has been reduced to ruins. Its people have been divided along every possible line, be it regional (Kurds vs Arabs), political (Baathists vs Democrats), religious (Sunnis vs Shias), and many more. The only winner in the whole affair? Israel.
There is a historical example of what dictatorial rule can do to a proud nation: Spain of the 1930s, a time of great social upheaval and the Spanish Civil War. It was the romantic equivalent of Syria, with many Westerners, free-thinking, democrats and proponents of free-speech, making the arduous journey to Spain to fight alongside the peasants against the brutal dictatorship of General Franco – romanticized in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Afghanistan and Syria have been products of a similar plot – a dictator, foreign-backed, with an alienated population of rebels, of whom some are foreign-backed, and then encouraged factionalism within the resistance, leading ultimately to all-out civil war. Afghanistan would give us the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, which engineered the 9/11 attacks in New York, plunging the world into an effective World War against Terror, and Syria has given us the Islamic State, which has engineered attacks in Sydney, Ottawa and Paris.
We have an irreconcilable position – the division of Islam and the use of political Islam for personal and political gain, with catastrophic consequences for the whole world. In the very genesis and growth of political Islam lies the cause of its limitations – exclusivist tendencies within each faction or sect, a recipe for quick fame and temporary gain, being the noose around their necks.
Tendencies such as these are bound to bring Islam in conflict both within and without, and the proponents of such ideologies are playing with fire. No doubt, there are local and international problems of Muslim-majority countries, dictatorships, unresponsive Royals, and strict religious ideologues, all of which exist in various quantities and qualities in the Muslim world. But one only needs to ask a simple question – which conflict in the recent past was ever won by the use of terror attacks? None. Instead, the use of ‘suicide squads’ as a weapon has only led to tremendous loss of human life.
On the other hand, one can point to the only peaceful creation of a Muslim state in recent memory, Pakistan, which was the product of a decaying Empire’s desire to leave, and a strong faith in the system of democracy that to the Partition of India on the strength of the Muslim vote. The fact remains that Muslims who were gifted Pakistan threw it away due to narrow-mindedness and selfish interests.
Democracy faces many obstacles in replacing totalitarian systems but social media and the relative freedom of the internet, where ideas and ideologies combat each other on a daily basis, can be used as a tool for reform. We saw this in Tunisia and Egypt, where in the face of the most repressive regimes Muslims could hold peaceful protests and bring about change.
The very people who use the appeal of political Islam to misguide youth in ‘free’ countries such as in Europe and Australia, are inflicting more damage on Islam then all the enemies of Islam combined. At present, it is in the interests of Islam to garner more support amongst the world for its causes , in Kashmir and Palestine for example, rather than open new fronts of a needless and pointless Clash of Civilisations that has its roots in the worlds’ intolerance of Islam in the first place.