The Arab Spring has now degenerated into a brutal Arab Winter, the political vacuum created by hopes for democratic rule have been filled by fundamentalist regimes. And we can only look on in horror as ‘Extremistan’ comes to the Middle East. Western journalists and aid workers are kidnapped (because they supposedly represent the oppressive forces of the west). Put on screen (via YouTube), and then beheaded whilst a jihadist presents his intellectual justifications for each murder in impeccable English. Such psychotic behaviour should make people think twice about joining up with these extreme ‘Islamic freedom’ fighters. But conversely, the number of people travelling from the West to Syria is surpassing those who turned up in Afghanistan.
An extraordinary Jihadi recruitment process is taking place in U.S, France, Belgium, Netherlands, U.K, Germany, South Asia, Africa & Austrailia. With people from more than 57 nations now taking part in the Syrian war. YouTube & Twitter & Facebook accounts encouraging people to join the jihad and talking about the beauty of being a jihadi, abound. The seductive draw is such that it is possible to wave your child off to University one minute, and find that they’ve travelled out to join ISIS the next. The reported total of Britons killed in the conflict now stands at 25. With the most notable case being that of three brothers, two of whom aged 17 and 18 years respectively, have died in Syria,in the past year. The third son, refuses to return home to his family stating that,’he was praying for his ending to be the best martyrdom in the front lines’. The whole world is supposed to believe that this is what espousing Islamic beliefs is all about, not family, not the care of parents and especially not the protection of women and children, just this obsessive and inevitably nihilistic jihad.
Is there a moral imperative for jihadists to hide behind? Well yes, Assad has slaughtered his citizens with chemical weapons, starvation sieges and the onslaughts of his soldiers on the ground, civilians have needed to take up arms. 9.3 million Syrians are refugees in other countries, the majority of them are refugees in their own country and those who have left the country count themselves lucky to be alive. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah could use their influence as allies of Assad to nudge him towards negotiations with some of his more moderate opponents. But, neither Assad or his opponents are battle fatigued, and then there is the problematic emergence of ‘the state of ISIS’.
Iraq has experienced violence within the country since 2003 but they have experienced nothing like ISIS, who have emerged as a potent force within Iraq’s borders, flying in the face of all political rationality. They are not indigenous citizens whose grass roots work in Syria or Iraq has given them a military and political mandate. They are not the product of the disaffection of a political or military elite. Supposedly a religious order, with the weaponry to back up the creation of their ‘Caliphate’, they have a military strategy that is working in the midst of the chaos that has been wrought by both the Iraq war and the Syrian civil war.
Their Islamic beliefs are simplistic, straight down the line and highly attractive to all those who aren’t Christian, secular Muslims, moderate Muslims, liberated women, gay or espousing the values of the west. Ironically, it is believed by some western analysts that sooner or later there is bound to be an uprising against the fanaticism of ISIS. But they’re forgetting how reassuringly welcome even a harsh caliphate can seem, in the face of despotic oppression and social anarchy.