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Islamic State or Islamic Fascism?


By Salam Saadi

21 August, 2014

American airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS/ISIS), its military and humanitarian aid to the Kurds that coincided with the removal of Nouri al-Maliki from office and the quick international reception to his resignation all sound like a concerted effort to pull Iraq out of its deep, decade-long crisis.

The United States is still intent on seeing Iraq through, so that the lives of more than 4,000 US soldiers killed in the war and billions of dollars spent on it do not become meaningless. It was partly for this effort that Washington persuaded the Kurds to reenter Iraq’s political process and seek to solve their disputes with Baghdad.

But all this is happening when Sunni Arabs have chosen a totally different path: the moderate Sunnis who joined Iraq’s political process 10 years ago were isolated and banished by Maliki, and as a result they left the playground for a brutal and fascist force that is the Islamic State.

This force is not interested in dialogue with anyone and there is no hope of pulling it into the political process. A recent statement by the group is telling of its nature.

In that statement, the IS claims it attacked Kurdistan because the Kurds had extended their legs beyond their britches, after Erbil sent forces into Kurdish-populated territories beyond its official borders to fill the vacuum left by retreating Iraqi troops. IS sees it as its duty to push the Kurds back to the autonomous borders recognized under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

What this illustrates is that the creators of the Islamic State are not a group of crazy armed men who have read too much into their religious texts. Their brief statement shows that nationalism is as deeply rooted in the Islamic State as religion.

If the foreign jihadis are taken out of IS, what is left are former Baathist security and army officers who fled to Syria after Saddam’s fall in 2003.

These are the same Iraqi officers who in the 1990s turned to religion and began beheading prostitutes and cutting off the tongues and noses of their opponents and proudly documenting the atrocities on camera.

The Islamic State is nothing but a blend of Islamic fatalism and radical nationalism that tries to compensate for all the past humiliations of the Arab nation. This makes IS a fascist state.

The fascination of Islamic radicalism with fascism is not new. Hassan Banna, the Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, said in a book in 1935 that Italian fascist and dictator Benito Mussolini was practicing one of the principles of Islam.

The relationship between Islamic extremism and fascism is historical. The extremists have used the Koran to look down on and degrade non-Arabs, boasting that God sent his latest revelation in their language.

The book separates humanity into two: Muslims and non-Muslims. The Koran describes infields “as animals or even worse.” That is why IS militants place their knives on people’s throats without hesitation.

This group has all the means necessary for the rise and propagation of fascism, the prime mover being a feeling of humiliation. That is the feeling that you are great but the world is acting against you, and that you have a glorious past and need to revive it.

Then comes the task of finding the enemy, both domestic and foreign. In the case of the Islamic State the list of domestic enemies is quite long. And the foreign enemy is constantly seen to be “plotting” to destroy their nation (Ummah).

A fascist state cannot tolerate differences. That is why, as soon as IS gained a foothold, it set upon Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks and Shiites. This movement has no regard for those outside itself. That is why its fighters kill other men, enslave other women and demolish their temples.

In light of these facts, the question is how to deal with this group? It seems that American airstrikes are not intended to destroy the group. Even if the bombs are intended to eradicate the IS, that is impossible to do. The reason is that this is no longer the ideology of a group of militants, but the ideology of a state.

This group has already established a state within two states, Iraq and Syria. It is unclear what they will do to millions of Kurds, Christians and Shiites if they one day rule Iraq.

I see this group as the guarantee of many more years of war and killings, in the region in general and Iraq in particular. The same way Germans and Italians paid a heavy price for their fascism, the people of Iraq, especially the Sunnis, are in for a similar deal, unless they get their act together and find a moderate alternative to the Islamic State.

Salam Saadi is the editor-in-chief of Rudaw Kurdish.