Owning Up To Our Mess
By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
04 Jul 2014
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is emulating the al Qaeda, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Boko Haram and pretty much every single Sunni Islamist militant organisation in the world by taking up arms vying to establish a regional – and eventually global – caliphate. The liberal left of the West and the lion’s share of the Muslim intelligentsia, meanwhile, are relentlessly filling column spaces putting almost the entire blame for the Iraq crisis on George W Bush and Tony Blair.
Had Bush and Blair not decided to invade Iraq in 2003, would ISIS be wreaking havoc right now? Of course not. Health permitting, it would be Saddam Hussein who would be taking care of the wreaking bit. And, with Saddam at the helm, why would there be any need for a Sunni militant reactionary movement? Plus Saddam wasn’t a fan of militancy that wasn’t orchestrated via his command.
If Barack Obama had not hastily removed the US forces in 2007, would we witness the ongoing crisis? That might be slightly more difficult to answer; but it is hard to imagine any amount of sectarian diplomacy bridging the Shia-Sunni divide in Iraq in the last seven years.
The sectarian conflict has been there for 14 centuries. And if history, and the rest of the Middle East, is anything to go by, the odds are that a Shia prime minister like Nuri al-Maliki is not keeping his nose to the grindstone endeavouring to create an inclusive government or military.
While it would be ridiculous to allow the West the moral high ground that it is hankering after ever since ISIS began flexing its muscles, it is even more absurd for the Muslim world to transfer the responsibility for our own mess on to the West. Lethally absurdity one might add. Because the problem isn’t the US adhering to its national self-interests; the issue is that most Muslim countries don’t pay much heed to theirs.
Had Bush and Blair not decided to invade Iraq in 2003, would ISIS be wreaking havoc right now?
It is always amusing to witness opinion makers in the Muslim world clamouring for the US to take responsibility for creating disharmony in their states, laying the burden of rectification on the Americans, all while bellowing about their sovereignty being breached. It is even more amusing to witness the Pakistani intelligentsia that has finally warmed up to the idea of owning its own war against the Taliban, preferring to blame the US for the mess in Iraq.
The roots of the ongoing conflict in Iraq predate the American invasion. They actually predate Christopher Columbus discovering America by seven odd centuries. The roots are sectarian and the war over who is the true follower of Islam began when the first caliph of Islam was taking oath. The ‘true and false’ sectarian fault lines were established in 680 AD at Karbala. The fault lines have since been branching out, causing religious quivers for the past 1400 years.
Sectarian fault lines are more conspicuous than any nationalistic unity in almost every Muslim state. It is no coincidence that sectarian demographics are at the heart of the various crises in the Middle East. It is no coincidence that ISIS, TTP, Boko Haram, et al are following an identical ideology wherein outlawing and massacring everyone who disagrees with you has been god sanctioned. It is no coincidence that Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan, countries that are so different in everything barring their religious identity, are facing a common predicament. And it is not a coincidence at all that the Muslim world hasn’t managed to solve its problems while ignoring the elephant in the room.
It is a no brainer then that tracing the commonalities among ISIS, TTP and Boko Haram, might give us all a ‘hint’ as to what that elephant in the room is.
When a religion’s political doctrine is being used as the rationale behind nationwide terrorism in a country, it is suicidal to incorporate said religion in politics. The political policy of the religion bolsters the religion’s inherent superiority complex, leading to antediluvian modes of suppression for the ‘wrong’ followers and non-believers. Outlawing and butchering over ideological differences is as medieval as actions get, and the modern day solution to this particular problem is making religion irrelevant as a political entity. Sectarianism and religious extremist in turn are nipped in the bud.
Sectarianism and Takfir is at the heart of the quagmire that the Muslim world is precipitously sinking into. Any attempts to look elsewhere for either the problem or the solution will throw us into the vicious circle that we have hogged for almost a millennia and a half.