By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
24 April 2017
Thursday’s attack in Champs Elysees of central Paris was the third most recent jihadist atrocity in France. The global outfit of radical Islamism, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed the responsibility for the slaying of at least one police officer and the wounding of two others in this attack. This claim has come much in the same way as in the Bataclan massacre in November 2015 and in the truck rampage in Nice that left 84 people dead. From Bataclan to Nice to Champs Elysees, an acute ideological stimulus is strongly at play in the unceasing spade of jihadist violence in France.
However, unlike the previous incidents, the ISIS latest terror plan in Champs Elysees did not seem a lone-wolf attack. It was rather an “actual operation, planned and executed’’, as Andrew Peek, a strategic adviser to the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, points out in his article for Fox News. However, what remains common in this terror attack in France is the jihadists’ attempt to strike the country’s democratic and moderate values that the French citizens pride themselves in. Thus, this is a repeated reminder for us all to call a spade a spade. ISIS terror in the Middle East or in the European countries is not only a geopolitical problem. It is more about an ideological movement that has direct roots in an exclusivist theology of political Islam. As long as the radical preachers of political Islam keep cherry-picking the references from the medieval Islamic jurisprudence, the entire edifice of the so-called global Islamic caliphate or Khilafah Al-Alamiyah will withstand in a section of the community. Therefore, any military strike, without an ideological counter-narrative, to stem the tide of the violent extremism will merely turn out to be a mirage.
Contrary to the syncretic Muslim culture in Europe which prides itself in the pluralistic ethos of the modern nation states, the ISIS has worked out an exclusivist theology which is on the rampage in the Western world. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi basically theorised that “Islam has never been a religion of peace, not even for a day,” and that “it has always been a religion of war and conflict”. (Source: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3082114/ISIS-execute-26-civilians-fighters-reach-gates-ancient-Palmyra-Syria.html).
Inevitably, those who paid allegiance to the self-imposed Islamic caliph keep playing havoc across the Western world. Now, though the ISIS has been apparently eliminated in its two major strongholds in Iraq and Syria, Baghdadi’s ideological adherents and sympathizers continue to expand their mission. The Paris attack again evidences that merely destroying the ISIS strongholds will not reduce the global threat of Jihadism in the near future. European government as well as the local Muslims should put the nail right on the head. They need to seriously curb those who are reducing Islam to a cult of political ideology, peddling violent extremism and exclusivism in the Muslim localities.
The entire edifice of the political Islam is based on the postulate that the democratic and multicultural values of the western countries are antithetical to the ‘puritan’ Islam or what is known as Salafism. All countries epitomizing the principles of individual liberty, freedom of expression, liberality and democracy are places of shirk (paganism) in the view of the ISIS theological masters. Therefore, ISIS launched both lone-wolf and well-planned attacks in France in its bid to target the ‘western principles’, thanks to France’s constant onslaughts on the radical Islamist militias in Western Africa.
In fact, there are two major reasons why the ISIS has systematically and consistently targeted France. First, it prominently figures among the European countries which advocate the civilisational values of a democratic, liberal and pluralistic world. Second, the French policies emerged as an affront to the ISIS radicalization. It curbed the ISIS not only its own land but also in the West African region. In the earlier Paris attack, French President Francois Hollande issued an unequivocally hard stance against the radical Islamist war on the composite and progressive values of the country, clearly identifying the ideology as the root-cause of the terror.
More to the point, the French government also sought to anchor the Muslims of the country in its liberal, democratic and egalitarian ethos. This proved a hard blow to the ideologues of the Islamic State. Remarkably, Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls was reported to have stated: “We seek to establish a model of Islam that is fully integrated, fully compatible with the values of the Republic.”
Common Muslims living in the democratic countries like France embrace the liberal values and secular ethos by intermingling with other citizens including the Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and adherents of other faith traditions. Thus, they find themselves inclined towards an inclusivist Islamic narrative focused on a spiritual synergy with the people of all faiths and creeds. But this greatly worries the radical preachers of political Islam who aim to purge the religion of its age-old tradition of pluralism, universalism and egalitarianism. Thus, the fresh ISIS attack in Paris was actually an ideological onslaught on the pluralistic values that Muslims in the European countries try to emulate. It is not difficult to fathom why ISIS launched several terror incidents of retaliation against the moderate European Muslims after they denounced the attacks in Paris in April, 2015.
Going by the ISIS statement in its propaganda news agency Al-A’amaq, the perpetrator of this attack in central Paris was Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki, also called Abu Yusuf the Belgian, one of the ISIS militants. He used a weapon like the ones Islamic State used to carry out the last Paris attack in November 2015. In most of the recent terror attacks in France, the killers previously belonged to a normal background, but were later transformed into the IS sympathisers. Researchers and analysts have identified various reasons and stimulus that catapult a common Muslim from being a sane citizen to a perpetrator of mindless violence. But not many tend to explore the deeper ideological underpinnings of the violent Jihadism.
Undeniably, Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki was captivated by the theology which calls for a permanent war against all the ‘un-Islamic’ forms of governance, particularly in the Western world.
Interestingly, in the New Year’s address to her country, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel laminated that the threat of radical Islamism was the “most difficult test” the Europeans faced in the last year. Merkel’s speech underlined the gravity of the blood-spattered year 2016 when three ISIS-related terror attacks took place consecutively in Germany. She said: “It is a bitter reckoning – and a despicable one, when terror attacks are committed by people who came here ostensibly to seek safe haven and then received help and support”, as reported in Independent.
But more remarkably, in the Munich Security Conference which was held on 17-19 February, Merkel gave a reference to the ‘peaceful Islam’ and disapproved of the idea that terrorism emanates from the core of Islam. This was in a clear contrast to the rhetoric of those who conflate Islam per se into extremism. She made it explicitly clear in it statement: “I expect from religious authorities of Islam to find strong language in order to delimitate peaceful Islam from terrorism committed in the name of Islam. We as non-Muslims cannot do this; it should be done by Islamic clergy and authorities", as reported in Al-Jazeera.
But the crucial question is whether the Islamic clergy and authorities are genuinely seeking to ‘delimitate’ the peaceful Islam from the terror ideologies. To a casual observer, they have been staging raucous protests and massive processions carrying fanciful banners of ‘peaceful Islam’ and shouting slogans against ISIS. This has been seen across much of the world for the last decade. But a close study apprises us of the fact that they have done nothing much to outlaw the ISIS theology, which if continues to go unchallenged, will give rise to another global terrorist group claiming to fight for Islam.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a regular columnist with www.newageislam.com , scholar of classical Arabic and Islamic Sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia.
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