Part of the ISIS Explained series.
ISIS have taken responsibility for several attacks across Paris, Baghdad and Beirut that occurred within a few days of each other. This is the first in a series of explainers on ISIS, this lays the foundations of what those four letters mean.
According to Wikipedia, ISIS/ISIL/ Daesh is a Wahhabi/Salafi jihadist extremist militant group and self-proclaimed Islamic State and caliphate. What’s not to understand?
One word at a time.
ISIS are an armed group, they use violent and coercive methods to achieve their goals.
This word is often translated as “holy war”, but is more accurately translated as “struggle in the way of God/Allah.” It is a religious duty to defend Islam and to seek self improvement as a Muslim. The word has become associated with the violent tactics of a minority of Muslim groups like ISIS, but many Muslims want to reclaim the word and take it back to its nicer origins.
Salafi and Wahhabi are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing. Wahhabism is an interpretation of Islam that ISIS has been strongly influenced by. Wahhabi Islam started with the founder Mohammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab in the 1700s who thought that, rather than listening to what religious leaders of the day thought about Islam, we should live more closely in line with the original religious texts. This approach to Islam now has a very bad rep these days, as being a version of the faith that is used to justify the very graphic forms of execution and control of women used by ISIS (and also Saudi Arabia). People have very strong and varying views on its relation to the broader faith and whether the way ISIS practise it is representative of the Muslim faith. While Sharia law, an Islamic version of law, does allow the death penalty under very specific circumstances, it should be emphasised that many feel ISIS distorts what the Islamic texts say to the point that they are no longer practising a kind of Islam that most Muslims would recognise as their faith. “Wahhabi” is considered by some who practise this form of Islam to be insulting, preferring “Salafi” instead. “Wahhabi” emphasises the name of the guy who started the movement, whereas “Salafi” emphasises the earlier Muslims and their practices whom the Salafist movement aims to emulate.
It’s important to mention that ISIS should not simply be described as Wahhabi/Salafi but as Wahhabi/Salafi jihadists. This refers to a specific movement from within Wahhabi/Salafis which emerged in the 1990s in the context of Afghanistan’s US-backed war with the Soviet Union. In a nutshell, some members of the Salafist movement came to feel that violence was a necessary means to achieve their political goals. These political goals essentially included leading a return to a society based on a “purer” form of Islam, which did not include democracy and which rejected the Shia political rule that had dominated parts of the region. So not all Wahhabi/Salafists are violent Wahhabi/Salafi jihadists. Early Salafi jihadist groups include Al Qaeda.
What should be understood by the word “extremism” really depends on your point of view. When this word is used in conjunction with Islam, people might be talking about a strict and conservative approach to interpreting religious texts and practising religion. However, people using the word “extremist” might be talking about people who think grisly violence is a reasonable way to get what they want, in which case they actually mean militant. Words are tricky things, so it’s best to be sure we know what we mean.
ISIS want to set up an Islamic State: a country run according to laws drawn directly from the Islamic faith. A caliphate is an Islamic state. It’s led by a caliph, a person considered to be a political religious successor to the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The laws of Western countries draw heavily on Christian morality, and Israel was set up as a Jewish state. ISIS control large areas of Syria and Iraq, and claim to have already set up an Islamic State there, and are running it according to a very controversial interpretation of Islam. Plus, the aim doesn’t stop at turning the current occupied territories into a full on Islamic State. To say that ISIS want world domination sounds like fear mongering, but they did say in their Dabiq magazine that they want to “expand” until their “blessed flag…covers all eastern and western extents of the Earth.”
All these names refer to the same organisation and they’re all based on the same thing. However, ISIS has had even more different names in the past. The group used to be a chummy affiliate with Al Qaeda, and so were known to us as Al Qaeda in Iraq. The group became known as ISIS after they split off from Al Qaeda. They had aggressively taken over large areas of Iraq and had stopped being a team player. Al Qaeda cut ties with them, fearing they were giving them a bad name. Declaring itself a country of its own in northern Iraq around 2006, the organization began calling itself Islamic State in Iraq. Then they took a bunch of territory in Syria in 2013. This is when they became ISIS – which stands for Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shām.
Some people translate al-Shām to mean “the Levant”, which is a loose term for a large region in the Middle East . This gets you the name ISIL. Others go for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which gets you ISIS. Daesh is another name for ISIL used by a bunch of state leaders and media outlets, but ISIS have banned the use of this name. It comes from taking the first letters of the full Arabic name for ISIS: al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq we al-Sham, which gives you DAIISH. ISIS take this acronym as an insult, because it sounds a lot like the Arabic word “dahes”, which can be translated to mean “one who sows discord”.
“So-called Islamic State” is how the BBC choose to refer to the group. This is a way to sass them on the regular by refusing to recognise Islamic State as a legitimate country.
ISIS Explained: Islamic State in Iraq and al-Shām are an armed group who use violence to achieve the goals they have set themselves based on their controversial interpretations of the Muslim faith and the religious duty to defend the faith.
Reports of hate crimes have been rising in the UK for the past three years. Anti-Muslim crimes will now be recorded as a separate category of hate crime, like anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) crimes have been for a good while. So what actually is a hate crime, and why does it seem to be increasing? Scenes of Reason had a look-see to find out.
It does what it says on the tin. It’s a crime which is perceived by the victim or anyone else to be motivated by hate – that’s the UK Home Office definition.
Hate: Hostility towards someone based on a personal characteristic. The five types of personal characteristics hate crimes can be recorded under are (1) race or ethnicity (2) religion or beliefs (3) sexual orientation (4) disability and (5) transgender identity.
Crime: A criminal offence. Specifically assault, harassment, causing public alarm and criminal damage.
A woman was arrested October 2015 after she aired her views on a London bus.
Just days later, this ever worse video came out.
Home Office stats tell us that nearly 53,000 hate crimes were recorded by the police between 2014 and 2015. That’s an 18% increase from the year before. 82% of these were race hate crimes. 11% were against sexual orientation, 6% against religion, 5% against disability and 1% against transgender identity.
Hate crimes can be motivated by more than one kind of hatred. Haters got a lot of hate in their hearts. This is why these stats add up to more than 100%. Just in case you thought we couldn’t add up 😉
The number of Anti-Semitic hate crimes and Islamophobic hate crimes – like the ones in the videos above – are getting scary high.
The London Met police reported that hate crimes against Jewish people increased by 138% in 2014 – from 208 to 495.
In the same period, Islamophobic hate crimes increased by over 47%, from 529 to 778.
So anti-Semitic crimes have increased by the most, and Islamophobic crimes were higher to begin with and remain higher now. FYI This is obviously not a competition! We just wanted you to know what’s actually going on.
This is not just a London thing either. UK police have reported that anti-Semitic crimes have increased UK-wide by around 50%. In the year following the attack on Lee Rigby – a British soldier murdered by two men “because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers” – government-backed Islamic group Tell Mama report that Islamophobic incidents have increased by 20%.
The most recent Home Office statistics don’t only show that Muslim adults are the most likely to be a victim of religious hate crime, but also that Muslim adults are among those most likely to be a victim of a racist hate crime.
Anti-Semitic hate crimes have for a good while been recorded as a separate category of hate crime. The same goes for anti-Muslim and Islamophobic hate crimes for the London Met police. PM David Cameron is now encouraging all UK police to record anti-Muslim crime as its own separate category.
Some newspapers are reporting it as anti-Muslim crimes to be “taken as seriously” as anti-Semitic crimes — is that not how it was before?
Stats don’t tell you everything. These are the numbers of crimes being reported to the police, and the police and government reckon that the number of crimes being reported is increasing literally because more people are reporting them, not because there are more crimes than there were before. Yay?
We can’t break out the belly dancing and the oom-pah band to celebrate though. The London Met police also reckon that the anti-Semitic and Islamophobic crime is on the up because of the Israel’s attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014 and the rise of so-called Islamic State.
These are classic cases of large and seriously diverse communities of people getting a bad reputation from small but high-profile minorities within that community. By minorities we mean ISIS and extremist terror groups in the case of the Muslim faith. In terms of the Jewish faith we mean the policies of the Jewish-state of Israel, about which many people counting themselves among the Jewish community have numerous diverse, complex and deeply-considered views. Problem is, these details, disagreements and diverse views often get lost within media representation of the world’s ongoing conflicts.
This video explores the impact of the media representation of Muslims. Has ‘Muslim’ become unfairly synonymous with ‘terrorist’ in many people’s minds?
Here is a list of ways in which people who want to publicly criticise Israel’s violence against Palestine can end up bad-mouthing the entire Jewish faith. Bit of a leap there.
Want to dig deeper? Watch Mehdi Hassan’s eyes flicker with the flame of eternal knowledge in this debate on Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, then come back to us with more questions for us to answer.
Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old-school feel. The threat of nuclear Armageddon is what our parents grew up with, not us. It is not something we tend to think about from day to day. We did some research, though, and were surprised to find the likelihood of nuclear war today is higher than we might think.
The closest the world ever came to nuclear devastation was completely by accident. On September 26th 1983 Soviet Russia picked up signals that a US ballistic missile was heading their way. The poor sod in charge, Stanislav Petrov, had to make the call whether or not to retaliate with their own missiles. Refusing to be ‘that guy’ who started World War III, Petrov decided it was a false alarm and did nothing. Luckily he was right – and the world was spared millions of deaths. Neat. Close call though.
And now for something completely obvious: This would not have happened if nuclear weapons didn’t exist.
Well duh-doy. Donald Trump wouldn’t keep happening if he didn’t exist. Then again, the world’s nations haven’t signed a treaty promising to rid the planet of him, like they have with nuclear weapons.
Ever since 1970 with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or NPT, the whole world, including Britain, has been officially committed to global nuclear disarmament. If we all agree with the UN party line: getting rid of nuclear weapons makes the world a safer place.
Meanwhile, in Britain, senior members of every major political party insist that Britain should keep and update its own nuclear weapons in order to make Britain a safer place. Members of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have even said they would resign if the new Labour leader did not support the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident. [What is Trident?] A Telegraph column stated recently that possessing nuclear weapons is what keeps European countries protected and free.
Hang on just a tick. How can eliminating nuclear weapons make the world safer while at the same time Britain needs nuclear weapons in order to be safe?
The logic that solves this conundrum is called deterrence theory.
Deterrence theory is very simple: Take two enemy countries: Country X and Country Y. If Country X possesses nuclear weapons, they are capable of inflicting such enormous damage that Country Y wouldn’t dare attack them.
If both countries have nuclear weapons, their early-warning systems mean that if they are attacked, they will have time to retaliate with their own missile before they are hit. If Country Y was to launch a nuclear missile on country X, deterrence theory suggests that they can expect to have a missile launched right back at them.
The result is that no one dares do anything.
So – according to this theory – possessing nuclear weapons deters other countries from making aggressive moves. A recipe for everlasting peace?
Perhaps, except when false alarms very nearly lead to nuclear war like it did in 1983. Since we’re only human and liable to make mistakes from time to time, would it not still be safer for the world to get rid of all these weapons of mass destruction? Keep Out of Reach of Humans?
The problem with this: now that nuclear weapons exist, we can never un-exist them. They are out there now, like the bad smell of a cooking experiment gone wrong. And like bad smells, not everyone wants to own up to making them.
There are 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Here is a map to show you where those bombs are. Five of the eight countries who possess nuclear weapons have signed the non-proliferation treaty, recognising that any aggressive use of their nuclear weapons would be illegal under international law and stating that they will take concrete steps towards worldwide disarmament. These countries are Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.
Meanwhile, Israel is believed to have been developing nuclear weapons since the 1950s and there has been major diplomatic work in the last year to ensure Iran is not making nuclear weapons on the sly.
The key word here is uncertainty. Some reckon that nuclear states like Britain would be mad to get rid of their nuclear deterrents at a time like this. This is because no one can be 100% certain which other countries may or may not possess weapons of mass destruction, and how they intend to use them. Better safe than sorry?
But uncertainty can easily turn into scaremongering: rogue states like North Korea are not the number one threat the UK faces. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament points out that the UK government’s National Security Strategy sees international terrorism, cyber-attacks and climate change are greater threats than nuclear war. These problems cannot be solved with a nuclear deterrent. As the old saying goes, you can’t nuke a terrorist.
What does this mean for the UK’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident? (Tell me again, what’s Trident?). The programme, funding and nuclear technology are outdated and due for renewal – and the House of Commons will vote next year on how, and if, this should be done.
Every major political party, except the Scottish National Party, supports Trident renewal in principal. So Trident = good?
Not everyone thinks so. The No to Trident campaign argues that the £100 billion needed to renew the programme would be better spent on other methods of national defence, seeing as the threats Britain faces like terrorism and climate change cannot be tackled with nuclear weapons.
This £100 billion cost for renewing the Trident programme is disputed.
According to the Guardian, the Commons library estimates the cost of renewing the programme to be closer to £25 billion.
Whichever estimate convinces you, it’s a lot of monies.
Is Trident an expensive but necessary investment in UK security, or is it a very pricey safety net that we do not need?
The safety of the nation is not the only thing in question. Britain’s status in the world as a nuclear power is what guarantees it a place on the Security Council.
It’s not all or nothing. Britain does have the option of remaining a nuclear power, but reducing its stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The UK has in fact been gradually dismantling its own nuclear warheads from 225 to a goal of 180 by the mid 2020s. This may not seem like much, but it is similar to the agreed joint-reduction of nuclear warheads by the US and Russia that earned President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize.
Are these the concrete steps towards global nuclear disarmament the UK has signed up to under the non-proliferation treaty? Are they enough? Would renewing Trident negate these actions, or is it still a necessary part of Britain’s defence?
Nuclear weapons explained: When nuclear weapons were invented, we opened a Pandora’s box that cannot be shut.
We now live in a world where we cannot be certain who does and does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Because of this, some would argue that it is better to be safe than sorry, and to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent: the most deadly defence mechanism ever. The counterargument is that nuclear weapons are not what we need to tackle the problems we actually face today, and that they are an unnecessary, expensive and potentially deadly safety net. It is difficult to face the ugly truth of how peace works now, and there are decisions and judgement calls we have to make that we wish would go away, but won’t.
Take Action as part of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, makes a state visit to the United Kingdom this week and some people want to see him arrested.
A parliamentary petition has been signed by over 100,000 people in the UK and is now being considered for debate in parliament.
The petition, created by Damian Moran, aims to “shine a spotlight” on Israel’s military action on the Gaza strip in 2014 and calls for the arrest of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Supporters of the petition argue that the death of approximately 1,462 Palestinian civilians during the 50-day war should mean that Netanyahu be arrested and tried for war crimes.
Israel isn’t the only one to be accused of breaking international law in this way.
A United Nations investigation into the 2014 Gaza war concluded that both Hamas (governing political and military body in charge of the Gaza strip) and Israel were guilty of committing war crimes during this war. Both sides stand accused of breaking international humanitarian and international human rights laws.
Mr Netanyahu is reportedly travelling to the UK to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss both Israel’s strong opposition to the recent Iran nuclear deal and issues of mutual interest with the UK.
Military action on the Gaza strip in 2014 dubbed ‘Operation Protective Edge’ by the Israeli military, started for a number of reasons. It’s vital that this petition is put in context.
The Gaza strip is a 360km2 area of land located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it shares borders with Israel and Egypt.
It has a population of 1.8 million people and forms part of the Palestinian Territories along with the occupied West Bank (which is not governed by Hamas).
Gaza’s population is 99% Sunni Muslim with the other 1% being Christian. Israel’s population is 75% Jewish, 17.5% Muslim, 2% Christian and 1.5% Druze.
Note: Israel and Palestine have a longstanding and extremely complex geo-political and religious relationship.
This most recent military confrontation between Israel and Hamas began on July 8th 2014 and ended on the 27th August 2014. This is the third war between Israel and Hamas in six years.
Given the long history between the two sides there is inevitable dispute about the trigger for the war. Israel claims that it began in response to rocket attacks from Hamas – starting with the Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip and followed by a land invasion.
Hamas claims their rocket attacks were a response to Israeli air attacks that followed the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the Occupied West Bank. Which the Palestinians in turn have argued was in response to Israel’s earlier shooting of two Palestinian youths in May 2014. Confused much?
During and since the war of summer 2014, Israel has defended its actions in Gaza on the basis of two factors; the threat Hamas rockets posed on Israeli citizens and the network of tunnel’s built between Gaza and Israel leaving Israel vulnerable to infiltration.
The United Nations estimate that 2,104 (a large proportion of which were civilians) Palestinians from the Gaza strip were killed, 66 Israeli soldiers and seven Israeli civilians were killed during the 50-day military conflict between Israel and Hamas.
As war continued there was international pressure for the fighting to stop and endless rounds of ceasefire agreements didn’t come to reality until August 27th 2014.
The Israeli military known as the Israel Defence Force (IDF) has estimated that their air strikes and ground invasion killed 1000 terrorists in Gaza, people they deem threatened the state of Israel.
In a nutshell: the International Criminal Court (ICC) was created in July 1998 at a conference attended by 160 states. They established a permanent international criminal court in the Netherlands and adopted a treaty called the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Rome Statue sets out crimes that fall within the control of the ICC.
The Geneva Conventions are a set of guidelines that form the core of international humanitarian law which regulates the conduct of armed conflict. The original guidelines were written up in the 1860s, these were updated and signed after WWII. They basically protect people who are not part of the military conflict.
War crimes are committed when innocent people are targeted when they are not involved in the armed conflict and this is what both Hamas and Israel are being accused of.
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is never far from the front pages, but it’s been back in the news due to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his upcoming trip to London.
During and since ‘Operation Protective Edge’ international support for Palestine has grown. Awareness of the Palestine-Israeli conflict has increased both in the UK and around the world attracting rising numbers of pro Palestine supporters. Over the past year Palestine has joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) in an effort to make Israel accountable for its actions in Gaza. Palestine has also been formally recognised by a number of countries including France and Sweden. Israel is also a member of the ICC.
Supporters of Palestine see this as an opportunity for Mr Netanyahu to take responsibility for his actions.
The process of a petition works like this, it’s online and anyone can start one. If a parliamentary petition gets 100,000 signatures or over, the issue being petitioned is almost always debated in the Houses of Parliament.
The petition created by Damian Moran states;
“Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in London this September. Under International Law he should be arrested for war crimes on his arrival in the UK for the massacre of over 200 civilians in 2014”.
However, the petition is proving divisive. Those in opposition argue that Mr Netanyahu has the right to defend his nation like any other Prime Minister or President. Some have accused those in support of the petition of being linked to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which, amongst other goals, seeks to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza through boycotting, divesting funds and sanctions against Israel. A movement which in itself has been gaining support since the Gaza war of 2014.
The Israeli Embassy has described the petition as a “meaningless publicity stunt” and stated that UK-Israel relations have “never been closer” and that trade between the UK and Israel has “doubled over recent years, while academic, scientific and cultural cooperation is constantly growing”.
The petition has over 100,000 signatures but Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrest won’t happen. If a parliamentary petition gains just 10,000 signatures the UK government is required to give an official response. They stated:
“Under UK and international law, visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process and cannot be arrested or detained”.
Now that the petition has over 100,000 the UK government has to consider this petition for a debate in Parliament. Mr Moran has said of the petition that it’s a clear message to Benjamin Netanyahu that there are significant numbers of people who don’t want him in the UK.
This isn’t the first time Israeli diplomats visiting the UK have been threatened with being arrested. Back in 2009 the Foreign Office had to confirm “special mission” status for Tzipi Livni, then one of Israel’s leading opposition politicians, prior to a visit to the UK.
Lawyers representing the relatives of a Palestinian killed in the bombing of a police compound during Israel’s military action in Gaza in 2008 sought Livni’s arrest.
In June 2015, former IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz did not arrange diplomatic immunity prior to his trip to London. Lawyers representing pro Palestinian groups in the UK tried to have him arrested on the basis of alleged breaches of international law. Swift action by the Israeli embassy in London and the British embassy in Israel meant that arrests were avoided.
Well, economically things are looking pretty good for both Israel and the UK. Annual trade between the two countries often exceeds £5.5 billion dollars. The UK is Israel’s second largest trading partner after America.
The UK’s main exports to Israel include vehicles, pharmaceuticals, general machinery, chemicals and plastics. Israel’s exports to the UK include pharmaceuticals, gems and precious metals, plastics and machines, engines and pumps. Despite considerable efforts from the BDS movement to place economic and political pressure on Israel, UK-Israeli trade relations reached record levels between January and August 2014.
The UK government’s official policy on Israel & Palestine is to promote a two state solution, this means two different states for the two different groups of people; an independent State of Israel and an independent State of Palestine.
Despite there being no possibility of Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrest, the petition highlights the nature of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It’s complicated and divides opinion both within Israel, in the UK and around the world. The petitions debate in Parliament is being considered, this is another step in the road and it’s not going to end here.
Should Benjamin Netanyahu be arrested? Sign the petition if you agree.