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Islam and the West ( 17 Nov 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

ISIL and the Illusion of a Clash of Civilisations: New Age Islam’s Selection from World Press, 18 November 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

18November 2015

ISIL and the Illusion of a Clash of Civilisations

By Khaled Diab

World Must Act To Destroy This Terrorist Disease

By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

A New Cold War in the Middle East?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

Vienna Communiqué on Syria Needs Additions

By Raed Omari

Marine Le Pen Is Playing Into ISIL's Hands

By Remi Piet

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


ISIL and the Illusion of a Clash of Civilisations

By Khaled Diab

16 Nov 2015

Two women light candles during an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Paris attacks in London, UK [REUTERS]

When the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) reportedly claimed responsibility for the atrocities in Paris, its message was sprinkled with references to "a faithful group of the soldiers of the caliphate" who attacked "crusaders" in Paris, a city described as the "the carrier of the banner of the Cross".

This has heightened the notion that a monumental battle between Islamism, or even Islam, and the West is under way.

"Islamist fundamentalism must be annihilated," said the far-right Front National's leader Marine Le Pen, who is previously alleged to have compared Muslims praying on the street to the Nazi occupation of France.

Almost inevitably, with the precision of a Swiss timepiece, some evoked the late Samuel P Huntington.

Analysis on France's response to the Paris attacks

"This is not a grievance-based conflict," opined the Republican presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio. "This is a clash of civilisations, for they do not hate us because we have military assets in the Middle East."

Clashes of Interests

Although ISIL undoubtedly hates Christians and other non-Muslims with a passion and believes in just such a clash, buried amid its jihadist rhetoric of fighting the "infidel" is a clear indication that the choice of Paris as a target was largely motivated by France's "military assets" in Syria.

"The smell of death will never leave their noses as long as they lead the convoy of the crusader campaign ... and are proud of fighting Islam in France and striking the Muslims in the land of the caliphate with their planes," ISIL's statement mentioned above expressed explicitly.

This highlights how clashes of interests, far more than ideology, inform "foreign policy", even of a fanatical, ideologically driven group such as ISIL.

ISIL's 'jihad' has been about territory politically, resources, economically, and, ideologically, its main enemy has been what it regards as errant Muslims who are worse than the 'infidel', in ISIL's reckoning...

Since its inception, ISIL's "jihad" has been about territory politically, resources, economically, and, ideologically, its main enemy has been what it regards as errant Muslims who are worse than the "infidel", in ISIL's reckoning, because they claim to belong to Islam but walk the path of "kufr" or "unbelief".

Despite ISIL's horrendous and merciless persecution and ethnic cleansing of minorities, such as Yazidis and Christians, in numerical terms, its main victims, like those of most jihadist and violent Islamist groups, have been fellow Muslims.

In fact, a kind of global war is in motion, both in Syria and elsewhere, between ISIL, al-Qaeda and other jihadist outfits, each of which considers the others to be godless and not true to Islam, whereas their real motivation is greed for power and influence, and envy of one another’s 'successes'.

This was illustrated in the assassination by the al-Qaeda-allied al-Nusra Front of Abu Ali al-Baridi, the commander of the ISIL-affiliated al-Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades. In a statement about the killing, Nusra placed Baridi firmly outside the community of believers.

Jihadist Rivalry

In a similar vein, the latest attack in Paris may have partly been spurred by the rivalry between the world's two leading jihadist groups. With al-Qaeda claiming the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, ISIL may have been seeking to one-up its bitter rival's grim record.

To my mind, this highlights the oft-overlooked clash within civilisations, which I believe far outweighs, in terms of ferocity, intensity, passion, and sheer carnage the clash between Islam and Christendom. This can be witnessed in the conflicts in the contemporary Middle East, as well as the traditional Sunni-Shia schism.

In Europe, this is visible in how, despite the fears of this or that society or culture bringing down the West (or Christendom before it), the two occasions in which European civilisation came close to annihilation - World War I and II - was due to internal ruptures and rivalries.

Ideologically, it is apparent in the numerous schisms within Christianity - between the Western and Eastern churches, or between Catholics and Protestants. These schisms enabled the early Islamic conquerors to easily overcome the Byzantines who were hated in, for example, Egypt, because Copts were regarded as "heretics". During the Dutch Revolt, Protestants used the slogan "Liever Turksch dan Paus" (Rather Turkish than Pope).

In fact, despite the headlines, ideological conflict between Islam and Christendom, pragmatic and even friendly alliances have, for centuries, been forged across this divide. This can be seen in the long-lasting alliances the Ottomans forged with France and, later, Germany. This was also visible everywhere from Andalusia to the crusader kingdoms to the Arab alliance with the British against the Turks.

'Mash of Civilisations'

Perhaps most significantly of all, and what gets left bleeding by the wayside in these polarised times, is what I like to call the "mash of civilisations". Judaism, Christianity and Islam have so influenced each other, over the centuries, and been influenced by the same traditions, including Greco-Roman and Mesopotamian, that it is impossible to speak of them as separate civilisations.

They are sub-groups of a single civilisation, and the diversity within each is greater than the differences between them. And it is by recognising and highlighting this mash of cultures that we can combat the divisive ideologies propagated by the fanatics in our midst.

The Middle East and the West belong to the same Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, which is merely a subset of human civilisation.

Khaled Diab is an award-winning Egyptian-Belgian journalist, writer and blogger. He is the author of Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land. He blogs at


World Must Act To Destroy This Terrorist Disease

By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

17 November 2015

Paris is in mourning. We are all in mourning for those who thronged the glorious French capital on Friday evening little knowing it would be their last. All except the terrorists and their brain-diseased following who have taken to social media to gleefully celebrate the deaths of 129 innocent people and 300 who have been injured, many critically.

My heart goes out to all Parisians and foreign visitors whose lives will for ever be impacted by the actions of evil creatures who have forfeited the right to be called humans let alone Muslims.

The stories of survivors are pure horror. An eyewitness who managed to escape from the Bataclan concert venue where over 100 were held hostage by four gunmen wielding Kalashnikovs said: “They were shooting at us as if we were birds.”

Predictions based on volleys of threats have come true. Terror nurtured in the war-torn Middle East has infected European soil causing France to declare lockdown, a move unprecedented since the end of World War II. Still reeling from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, French authorities were well prepared for a repeat performance. The country was placed on the highest alert.

French intelligence has already thwarted five similar plots but, as we have seen, even a state with a highly efficient security apparatus can be helpless in preventing extremists wearing suicide belts from striking ‘soft targets’ selected for maximum kill. Experts say it is only a matter of time before other European countries share France’s fate. The U.S. is tightening up its own security in its major cities.

Many thousands of European nationals have joined ISIS and other terror organizations in Iraq and Syria. Thousands are believed to have returned home battle-hardened and eager to continue their killing spree in their own countries.

President Obama could have and should have cut this disease at its roots while in its infancy but he blinked over and over again

Another concern is that ISIS fighters have infiltrated the floods of refugees fleeing bombs and barbarians and the fear is that those desperate people will be penalized as countries that once welcomed them are now pulling down the shutters on their own borders. Who can blame them when they are duty-bound to put their own citizens first!

The international community is rallying around the French President Francois Hollande. President Barack Obama, who earlier that same day had praised the demise of ‘Jihadi John’ while announcing that the ISIS was now contained. He was one of the first world leaders to go on camera to express his condolences.

“This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share. We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance the people of France need to respond,” he said.

Negligent Approach To Iraq And Syria

But even as I heard the American president utter those comforting words, I could not help but contrast his willingness to help protect France with his negligent approach to Iraq and Syria where hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered.

Firstly, although the U.S. broke Iraq in 2003, pitting Shiites against Sunnis, Obama has made no efforts to fix it. Instead of negotiating with the Iraqi government to leave a residual U.S. force in country in a serious fashion, he was out to beat a hasty retreat.

When just 10,000 or so ISIS terrorists took Mosul, the then Iraqi leader, Nouri al-Maliki practically begged the West to come to his country’s aid and was rebuffed. Kurdish Peshmerga forces pleaded for weapons which were refused. By the time an air campaign was launched the ISIS had grown into a ruthless unstoppable force. And despite coalition bombs and a contingent of U.S. military advisers, this devil’s spawn hiding under the banner of Islam, controls almost a third of Iraq to this day.

Adding Insult to Injury

Libya has turned out to be yet another fiasco. Thanks to the U.S., France and Britain, Muammar Qaddafi was removed but nothing was done to assist the Libyan people to rid the country of feuding militias or ISIS terrorists posing a direct threat to Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. Worse, the Egyptian government was rapped on the knuckles for bombing the ISIS in Libya in retaliation for its beheading of Coptic Christians and the U.S. still bars the recognized government from importing heavy weapons.

Adding insult to injury, not only has the U.S. and its European allies done nothing to free Lebanon from the boot of Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah, earlier this year it, along with its Iranian influencers, was removed from America’s terrorist threat list!

The U.S. administration’s approach to the carnage in Syria, where the regime has turned cities into rivers of blood and its country into a haven for terrorists, has been hopeless in the extreme. Obama erased his own “red line” on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons going back on his pledge to bomb regime targets at the nth minute sending opposition plans to gain an advantage up in smoke.

Since then, efforts by the CIA and the Pentagon to train and arm ‘moderate’ opposition elements was an embarrassing failure. Almost all either joined terrorist groups or handed over their American-made weapons in return for safe passage.

For over a year, the U.S. and its coalition partners have supposedly been bombing ISIS strongholds with little result; that is until Russia joined the fray on the side of Assad. I am strongly against the Russian involvement to prop up Assad, but there is no getting away from the truth. Russia has wrought more damage on the ISIS in just a few months than the U.S.-led coalition achieved during a far longer period.

And now it appears that the U.S. and its Western partners have done a deal with Moscow to leave Assad temporarily in place with the promise of eventual safe passage out, which the majority of Syrians view as a betrayal of everything they have fought so valiantly to achieve over the past four and a half years.

President Obama could have and should have cut this disease at its roots while in its infancy but he blinked over and over again allowing the cancer to spread all over the Middle East and North Africa, until it reached Europe’s shores.

EU states are now paying a very heavy price for his hesitancy in terms of refugees straining their finances and infrastructure as well as their increased vulnerability to terror attacks. Russia has accused the U.S. of knowing exactly where the terrorists are but were not bombing them. We must take that with a pinch of salt but it is possible.

Europe is on edge. Britain worries its cities will be next. I am sad to say that the UK has possibly allowed itself to be at risk of such attacks with news last year of extremists marching in London’s streets, shouting threats and handing out recruitment leaflets. To this day, Prime Minister David Cameron has declined to place a terrorist label on what I believe to be the mother ship of just about all Takfiris, the Muslim Brotherhood – under the pretext that as long as they remain law-abiding there is no problem.

He is tempting fate and I strongly believe his words will come back to bite him sooner rather than later, if attacks happen in Britain that are proven to have links with the Brotherhood.

Will Paris be a game changer? Will major western powers be galvanized to erase this menace from the face of the earth? Will Arab leaderships show their mettle as they are now doing to save Yemen? If not, as much as I hate to say this, the world, as we have always known it, is staring at its doom.

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.


A New Cold War in the Middle East?

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

17 November 2015

When Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, commentators gingerly raised the prospect of a new Cold War between Russia and the West. In 2014, when Russia’s client in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was toppled from power by the popular uprising at the Euromaidan, a move warmly received by the West especially as the new regime sought integration in the EU and NATO, Russia responded by annexing Crimea and waging a covert war in the east of the country that is going on to this day – and that too intensified talk of a new Cold War. But somehow, Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War has not invited the same analysis.

Analysts are perhaps understandably weary of using the phrase “Cold War”, for fear that perhaps that will increase the likelihood that this is what will actually happen. What perhaps they fail to appreciate is the fact that we are in fact in the full swing of a Cold War. Russia believes it is locked in a new Cold War with the U.S. and its NATO allies so it behaves accordingly. And so long as that remains true, we are in a Cold War – however reluctant Western media and politicians might be to acknowledge the fact.

Historic Rivals

Here is a short summary of the facts. Russia sees its survival as a state as dependent on being able to control the territories which allow for easy access into the Russian heartland in the eastern Great European Plain. The geography of Russia is such that if a large enough military force has the ability to assemble on any part of this plain, that force can quickly and swiftly go all the way to Moscow. Between the plains of Poland, Ukraine or Georgia, to Moscow, there is nothing to stop a would-be attacker. Hence why Moscow has been attacked and even captured many times throughout Russian history.

This may not be the Cuban Missile Crisis just yet, but it is very much the Cold War all over again

In order to control access to the Plain, Russia needs to control all the countries who used to belong to the U.S.SR and most of the countries who used to belong to the Warsaw pact. And as far as Russia is concerned, the U.S. remains its main rival, and NATO remains the prime strategic threat. The fact that Poland and the Baltic states have been absorbed into NATO in the 90s when Russia was imploding is bad enough. But the idea that NATO will be allowed to expand into Georgia and Ukraine when Russia is strong enough to do anything about it is, to Moscow, anathema. When Georgia signalled its intention to join the alliance, Russia invaded under a semi-arbitrary pretext, and has since frozen the conflict. The exact same scenario is playing out in Ukraine right now. These countries are thus caught in limbo and unable to exercise an independent foreign policy – as was the original strategic aim of the Russians.

For its part, the U.S. and the EU have had to respond to the Ukraine crisis with an economic embargo, not much unlike the economic Iron Curtain in place during the Cold War. And trade routes are already reconfiguring accordingly, with the EU working double-speed to wean itself off its dependence on Russian energy imports.

If this isn’t enough to call this a Cold War, well perhaps a proxy war in some far-away “strategic” country will be enough to convince you. Enter the Syrian civil war. The Russians and the West ostensibly have the same objectives and goals in Syria: fighting and destroying ISIS. Except for the reality on the ground. The real conflict they are both interested in is that between the Assad government and what are euphemistically called “the moderate opposition.” Russia on the other hand, and Iran for that matter, are hugely invested in their client in the region, the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Bombs are occasionally dropped on ISIS targets, but the fight against ISIS has been largely left to the Kurds and the Iran-Iraq Shiite militias. The phony war that everyone is currently interested in is between the non-ISIS combatants in the Syrian civil war, and this is a situation not really that removed from Vietnam. It certainly has every potential to head that way.

So there we have it: geopolitical alignments, trade politics and proxy wars over client states. Oh, and of course, reinforced NATO deployment in Poland and the Baltics. And Putin building 40 more nuclear missiles this year. This may not be the Cuban Missile Crisis just yet, but it is very much the Cold War all over again.

Azeem Ibrahim is an RAI Fellow at Mansfield College, University of Oxford and Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He tweets @AzeemIbrahim


Vienna Communiqué On Syria Needs Additions

By Raed Omari

17 November 2015

For many observers, the outcome of the second Vienna conference on Syria was in favor of Russia’s stance because its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, was not condemned or even mentioned in the final communiqué.

Moscow has succeeded in framing the conflict in terms of terrorism, as embodied by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The heavy Russian presence on the ground in Syria has also given Moscow a greater say in the war, as the manager rather than just a key player.

The Vienna talks agreed that a gradual political process is the only way to resolve the conflict. This framework puts an end to talk of training and arming Syrian rebels, and makes the regime immune to military action against it.


Assad’s fate is still the central issue. Including him in any transition is a nightmare scenario for most Syrians, who have paid such a high price in blood. The Vienna communiqué could have been well-received by the Syrian opposition if it was worded to stipulate at least a face-saving formula for Assad’s departure.

A supplementary attachment to the Vienna communiqué, detailing Assad’s fate and opposition representatives, would add more realism to diplomatic efforts

The communiqué has also not made clear which opposition groups will negotiate and cooperate with the regime. The West has not done enough to enable a fully-fledged Syrian opposition to rival the Russian-backed regime, not only militarily but politically as well. This is not helped by the fractious nature of the opposition both inside and outside Syria.

Except perhaps for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), all other armed opposition forces on the ground might be deprived of a presence at the negotiating table. They are waiting to see if they will be blacklisted in a list of terror groups that will be made and then approved by the U.N. Security Council. Apart from the FSA, there are other moderate parties active on the ground, and if they are not well-represented at peace talks, they may have no reason to abide by a ceasefire.

A lot still needs to be done to push for an end to Syria’s war. A supplementary attachment to the Vienna communiqué, detailing Assad’s fate and opposition representatives, would add more realism to diplomatic efforts.

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English.


Marine Le Pen Is Playing Into ISIL's Hands

By Remi Piet

17 Nov 2015

France has been struck a second time this year by terrorism, but this time political reactions are vastly different from the national unity that had followed the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January. While opposition party leaders had shown restraint in their criticism and mostly rallied behind President Francois Hollande in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the tone and postures adopted by Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen are significantly different today.

This defection from the spirit of national unity in comparison with the political cohesion of January is paradoxical in itself. Charlie Hebdo was a satirical newspaper that Sarkozy had tried to shut down for many years. The constant attacks from its authors on political and religious establishments made the right-wing leaders' compassion appear quite hypocritical.

The fallen caricaturists used to point out Le Pen's amateurism and xenophobia as well as Sarkozy's obsession with money and power much more often than it criticised religion. Watching Sarkozy suddenly transformed into a champion of press freedom after he tried to muzzle dissident voices smacked of irony.

Political Calculations

The attacks last Friday on Parisian youth, on the very basis of French "art de vivre" (cafe terraces, music concerts, restaurants) should have eased political consensus over a period of grief and the definition of coordinated answers.

Yet, less than 24 hours after barbarous terrorism claimed 129 innocent lives, the initial shock quickly dissolved and left the way open to political calculations and individual interests.

Also read: ISIL and the illusion of a clash of civilisations

The political context today is markedly different from in January. Regional elections are scheduled for early December and although a handful of candidates suspended their campaigns in grief, many on the right wing are hoping to build on the momentum and French anger to amplify what was already expected to be a swing in votes towards the opposition. Political unity in the wake of the atrocious incidents thus quickly drifted towards electoral cacophony.

Many on the right wing are hoping to build on the momentum and French anger to amplify what was already expected to be a swing in votes towards the opposition.

Sarkozy does have a point. National unity beyond grief only makes sense if it backs an effective domestic and foreign policy strategy. Yet when Sarkozy asks for "major inflexion in French security and foreign policy", educated analysts can only shake their head in disbelief.

On the domestic scene, Sarkozy pointed out the unacceptable fact that one of the terrorists had been charged eight times for smaller crimes without spending a single day in prison. Yet those verdicts were delivered between 2004 and 2010 during the administration of Sarkozy himself. His laws were the cause of the judicial bottleneck which failed to identify future terrorists.

Similarly, the foreign policy agenda implemented under Sarkozy's administration, supportive of the ruthless Syrian regime - making Bashar al-Assad a guest of honour at the French National Day celebrations in 2008 - are part of the causes of the Syrian civil war.

These inconsistencies are highlighted within the Sarkozy party itself as the former president tries to secure his party's nomination for the presidential elections in 2017.

Martial Rhetoric

The current front runner, former Prime Minister Alain Juppe, chose a much different and respectful attitude by supporting political unity, while suggesting adaptations to the republican society model that failed to ensure the integration of some French minorities.

Similarly, Dominique de Villepin wisely warned against the martial rhetoric used by Sarkozy, underlining that this only further legitimises and echoes ISIL rhetoric.

France's President Francois Hollande greets former President Nicolas Sarkozy [AP]

What this political attitude denotes is a regular drift of Sarkozy towards extreme-right rhetoric in a desperate attempt to limit Marine Le Pen's rise in the polls.

However, what it fails to realise is that it plays right into ISIL's hands by further polarising French society. Irresponsibly blowing on the ashes of Islamophobia, failing to strengthen the republican pact and to address the deeper roots of radicalisation only ensures the success of ISIL propaganda and the likelihood of future attacks.

Instead of encouraging the proud reaffirmation of a French model of secular republicanism where the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe live in peace, Le Pen and Sarkozy cave in to the very objective of ISIL: to destroy the basis of a fragile multicultural interfaith dialogue - defended by a huge majority of French citizens - that makes France an example for so many countries plagued by communitarianism.

As for Le Pen, like every extreme-right leader she is thriving on this environment of fear. Fascist movements affiliated to her party have staged several demonstrations over the past few days to stir the scapegoating of immigrant communities, the very basis of her political platform.

So far only a few of these have degenerated and in many cases, such as in Lille, the very city where she is running for elections in December, the peaceful demonstrators honoured the very values of France - Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite - by routing the fascist troublemakers.

If the French population can remain united and prevent the republican model from crumbling as a result of the irresponsible behaviour of (extreme) right leaders, then terrorists will eventually be defeated.

If not, then the number of isolated fundamentalists feeding the ranks of ISIL will grow and the rate of terrorist attacks will increase.

Remi Piet is assistant professor of public policy, diplomacy and international political economy at Qatar University.