Part of the ISIS Explained series.
Part 4: 7 Suggested Ways to Fight ISIS // Part 5: ISIS Frequently Asked Questions Explained
A global coalition of 62 countries led by the United States is fighting the terrorist group so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS). Different countries contribute in different ways. What’s the best way to tackle terrorist groups?
The USA loves airstrikes. It has used them on 2,600 ISIS targets since 2014. Many countries including Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France also got involved. The UK is bombing Islamic State in Iraq, but not in Syria. MPs voted against similar action in Syria in 2013. This was mainly because Iraq asked for our help – the Syrian government hasn’t.
A Parliament committee suggested focusing instead on bringing peace to the country. Sensible, no? Despite this David Cameron wants to extend airstrikes to Syria… but won’t risk losing a vote in Parliament.
Let’s face it, there’s only so much you can do from the air. A source within the Armed Forces told us that for every ISIS fighter taken out by airstrikes, another is recruited. Last year it was reported that Drone Strikes in Yemen were causing more people to join extremist groups. Their books are always full.
Air Chief Sir Michael Graydon says airstrikes aren’t enough to stop terrorist groups such as ISIS. We need to send in the army. This view is shared by Colonel Richard Kemp who calls the current US-led airstrikes “half-hearted”. Kemp believes the Special Forces should conduct raids to “kill and strike fear into the hearts of IS fighters.”
It’s unclear how many fighters ISIS has. The CIA estimated around 30,000 people. A senior Kurdish leader says the group has 200,000 fighters. It could be argued that a few SAS raids wouldn’t do much damage. The Iraq War cost the UK £8.4 billion, so sending across an army would be costly. With the size of the British army shrinking to 83,000 by 2020 we’d probably need backup. Russia however, say they are prepared to send 150,000 troops into Syria so we might see a partnership in the making.
The current situation in Syria is a mess. As well as ISIS the country is divided by a civil war between the government and rebel groups. Most countries agree that ISIS need to be abolished, but can’t agree on how Syria should be governed. The UK says Syria’s President Assad can’t stay in power due to his record on human rights. Russia on the other hand supports Assad partly because he buys Russian weapons. Sending soldiers into Syria without a long-term plan might not be the greatest idea and probably why there has been hesitation thus far.
Something you might not know: wars can lead to the creation of terror groups. Foreign Policy Journal describes how ISIS “was born out of the Iraq war”; President Obama calls it an “unintended consequence”.
There are two main types of Muslim: Sunni and Shia. In Iraq, the Sunnis had been in charge since the 1920s. However when the US and the UK entered the country to take out Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, they handed over power to a Shia government. The Sunnis who had mostly boycotted this process, were not happy.
ISIS began as a group called Jam’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. They were a collection of Sunni Muslim resistance fighters fighting in Iraq and Jordan. The group formed in 1999 and became a major force during the 2003 Iraq War. The group joined other Iraqi rebels fighting Western forces. Eventually they joined Islamist group Al-Qaeda and their fight against the West. In 2006 they and other Islamist groups created the Mujahideen Shura Council, which later rebranded as ISIS.
Many experts believe the chaos in the aftermath of the Iraq War meant ISIS was able to grow stronger. The Guardian describes that though the name may have changed “the group’s grievances have been largely consistent. Central to them is the belief that the invasion destroyed a regional order, ousting a stalwart of Sunni rule, and inviting the rival Shia sect to take over.”
If wars create terror groups like ISIS, declaring war on those groups legitimizes them as a state. This, as Matthew Norman at the Independent writes, is exactly what ISIS wants.
“A crucial way to help defeat ISIL is to cut off its funding, its supply of arms, and its trade,” says Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party. He pressed David Cameron to clamp down on Britain’s allies which may be providing support to ISIS.
Maybe he has a point. It’s easier to fight an enemy with weakened supplies. It’s estimated ISIS could be making up to $3 million a day selling oil from captured oil fields. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have all been accused of assisting ISIS. All three countries deny the charges, and considering as they are in the oil game themselves, chances are they see ISIS as a threat. Stopping people buying oil from ISIS would reduce their income and limit their operations. Trying to identify buyers is the hard part. The Green Party recently got into trouble for accusing an oil company of buying from Islamic State. Awkward.
One step further would be to crack down on all companies accused of War Profiteering. It is what it says on the tin, profiting from war. As we’ve seen above, violence and conflict provides a space for extremist groups to flourish. Though war profiteers don’t cause violence, they supply the resources and it is unfortunate that both the media and politicians might have their part to play in this process. Comedian Russell Brand believes we should question the information we receive from the media and politicians for exactly this reason.
“The media just want to create stories and tacitly support the corporations that benefit from wars in foreign countries – because they are the corporations that benefit from those wars.”
We don’t mean trolling ISIS supporters on Twitter like Hacker group Anonymous. Chancellor George Osborne takes cyber warfare seriously; it is seen just as much as a threat as it is a weapon. He’s investing £2 billion in a new National Cyber Centre to target terrorist groups online.
“If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost.”
Does this mean we could do the same in retaliation, or indeed that we should be worried? This year regulators in the US announced that certain hospital drug pumps could be hacked through the hospital network. This could be used to give an overdose to patients. Yet though ISIS may have a cyber army, its soldiers need lessons on internet security. One ISIS member gave away his location by posting selfies.
Stopping young Brits from becoming radicalised would deny terror groups new recruits. It could also reduce the risk of attack from “home grown” British terrorists. The UK government funds Channel, a secretive de-radicalisation scheme which attempts to steer young people from radicalisation. Eight people a day were referred to Channel this summer.
Apart from salvaging potential radicals, there could be a use for them too. Charlie Winter from anti-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation thinks former extremists can be useful in de-radicalising potential terrorists. Speaking to the IB Times he said that they know the ideology which will be taught to recruits and can offer counter arguments. Quilliam was set up by Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist extremist. Another British former extremist has created a cartoon series designed to discourage young Muslims from joining extremist groups. That’s not to mention several times Muslims took action against Islamic Extremism.
This is a controversial question. Should we try to negotiate with extremist groups? The British government’s official line is that it does not negotiate with terrorists. Negotiating legitimizes terror groups by acknowledging that their demands are real. However, it seems there are exceptions to the rule. In the 1980s then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher stated she would not talk or negotiate with the Irish Republican Army, seeing them as terrorists. It was later revealed that she had taken part in negotiation with the group. However, the communication did not lead to a deal. More recently the G7 countries made a pledge in 2013 not to talk to terrorists. Could current problems be solved by just sitting down and having a chat with ISIS? Somehow we doubt it.
Terrorism techniques are constantly evolving. It could be argued there is no solution. Governments and anti-extremism groups must constantly change tactics to keep up. Which approach do you think is best?
Take part: The Quilliam Foundation is looking for young people to create a short film to challenge extreme views.
The media shows us terrorists, extremists and murderers, and a constant association with Islam. In reality the majority of Muslims live in peace and many are fighting back against Islamic Extremism. Yet, is it fair to expect Muslims to apologise for extremists?
Islam is the world’s second largest religion. Muslims believe Allah is the one true God and that the prophet Muhammad communicated his will. Islam promotes messages of peace; the Qur’an (Muslim holy book) states that you should not kill. In Britain there are about 2.7 million Muslims.
Islamism, also called political Islam, is very different. It’s the belief that Islam should be political as well as just personal. It’s often (though not always) linked to violent Islamic extremism, fundamentalist beliefs and terrorist groups.
To Paris, From Pakistan Please share it as much as you can so it reaches the people in Europe!#PrayForParis #PrayForTheWorld House of Lolz
Posted by Pakistani Comedians on Sunday, November 15, 2015
On Friday 13th November 2015, Paris was decimated by a series of terror attacks. At least 129 people are dead and around 99 are seriously injured. Shootings and suicide bomb attacks were carried out across multiple locations. Extremist group the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
In the wake of the attacks a series a videos of Pakistani Muslims denouncing the attacks went viral. It begins by saying “we’d like you to know that we’re just a shocked and horrified as everyone else around the world.” It then goes on to say that they would not be apologising for the actions of Islamic State. “We can’t possibly be held responsible for the actions of a few deranged individuals who somehow claim to be like us… that’s like blaming all Germans for the actions of Hitler.”
The hashtag “nous sommes unis” which means “we are united” in French also started trending on twitter.
Earlier in 2015 killer Seifeddine Rezgui murdered 38 people in Tunisia. Islamist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
When Sky News released this image some people commented that it looked as though the Muslims on the beach were just standing by.
Later, a video would show locals and hotel workers chasing the killer, picking up bottles as weapons and shouting at him “Why?”
Other witness accounts confirmed the bravery of the Tunisians. They placed their own lives in danger protecting the guests.
Sajda Mughal was the only Muslim in the underground carriage targeted in the 7/7 bombings in 2005.
After the attack she quit her job in the city and now works for a charity attempting to stop young people becoming radicalised.
“Islam teaches you to respect life, not even to harm an ant – how could you harm a human being in the name of Islam?” – Sajda Mughal in an interview with the Mirror.
Imams are leaders of the Mosque. They lead the prayers, teach the religion and help out in the community. In the past people have worried that Mosques were places where extremist views could be preached in secret. A group of Imams from around the UK decided to make this video, setting themselves against the actions of Islamic State.
More and more reports describe young Muslims who are radicalised by extremist messages. Many are travelling to areas like Syria and Iraq to join Jihad (“holy war”). It’s worth noting that Jihad isn’t actually a violent concept; it has been misappropriated by extremists.
The Muslim Youth League decided to do something about this. They launched a campaign urging politicians and leaders from the Muslim faith to condemn violence and extremism.
The group used an image of a Muslim woman using a Union Jack flag as a headscarf. Visiting cities up and down the country, they educated many against the dangers of radicalisation.
The campaign was created by Sara Khan who also co-founded the Inspire group; which was created to empower Muslim women and work towards gender equality.
You can view some of the women making a stand on the MAS wall as part of the Inspire website.
Activists and ordinary people uploaded images to social media with #NotInMyName.
Groups like ISIS have used social media to spread their message and many fear they are winning the online battle.
‘After finding out that James Foley had been beheaded and David Haines was next, we decided enough was enough and that we must take action and take a stand to show the world they do not represent us Muslims. They will not kill in the name of Islam.’ – Zahra Qadir from Active Change, the charity behind the campaign.
This year, to mark the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, Mosques around the country opened their doors. They invited non-Muslims to attend a peaceful “iftar”; the meal eaten after sunset by fasting Muslims. Imams are also encouraged to mention 7/7 in their sermons.
That list only gives 8 examples. It doesn’t mention the other times Muslim leaders around the world denounced ISIS, or Muslims in the security services who protect our country from terrorists.
We should also mention the countless times Muslims have explained that terrorist groups misinterpret the teachings of Islam, which is a peaceful religion.
Is it enough to win over the public opinion? More importantly, why should Muslims have to apologise for the misinterpretation of their religion?
More than a quarter of British 18-24s don’t trust Muslims. Around 15% of Muslims are Islamists according to historian Daniel Pipes, though many would disagree with that statistic. Yet some people think that just because the figure is low it doesn’t mean we can’t debate the big issues. When confronted with this statistic American journalist Brigitte Gabriel gave this passionate response;
Is she right? The percentage of Muslims who are extremists is extremely low; does this mean we shouldn’t link Islamic Extremism to Islam? It’s unlikely a definite answer is coming any time soon. With David Cameron and Teresa May pressing the Muslim community to do more to combat extremists, this issue will be on the agenda for a long time to come.
However some might argue that it is unfair to expect Muslims to apologise for, and condemn acts of Islamic extremism. This Daily Show clip outlines the issue perfectly. It’s arguable that we wouldn’t expect a Christian to condemn all the bad things the Church has done in the past. Nor would we ask a white person to condemn all the acts of violence committed by white people. So why do we demand this from Muslims?
Do we need to do more to ensure Muslims aren’t misrepresented? Can the Muslim community do more to condemn acts of violence and should we expect this? Are people too scared to speak out for fear of being seen as racist or Islamophobic?
They dominate our headlines, but what do we actually know about the so-called Islamic State? Who or what is it? What do its members believe in? What do they want? Are they really so powerful? How do we combat them? All your questions; simply answered in our five-part guide.
What even is the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Wikipedia says it’s a Wahhabi/Salafi jihadist extremist militant group, but what do all these words even mean? We broke it down.
Members of the group want to create a caliphate. What is this? What is Muslim Sharia Law? Is this actually anything to do with Islam or is the group twisting it to suit its own ends?
Islamic State seems like an unstoppable force. How powerful is the group really? Why are young Westerners attracted to join the ranks?
A global coalition of 62 countries led by the USA is targeting the so-called Islamic State with airstrikes. What’s the best way to tackle terrorist groups? Is dropping bombs the answer or do we need actual boots on the ground?
All those questions you had about ISIS but were too embarrassed to ask? Yeah, we answered them. Trust us, ISIS can be a tricky subject to get your head around. So we took a bunch of frequently asked questions and broke down the answers. What does ISIS mean? What does the flag say? How did ISIS get weapons and Toyota jeeps? Are ISIS terrorists? Is ISIS actually Islamic? All this and more, with simple answers.
A tonne of material has been written on ISIS and our understanding of the group is constantly changing. World leaders, journalists and scholars continually struggle to explain the group and its motives. If there are any definitive answers, it’s clear we won’t have them for a while due to the lack of information we have on the group. The information we do have is often conflicting and challenged. Most importantly we can’t claim to be able to explain ISIS as we cannot assume there is a rationality behind their actions that we can fully understand. This is not to say that they are just batsh*t crazy and fueled purely by evil. Instead, we are saying that the ISIS worldview may be so different to that of most Western journalists and analysts that they may simply be unable to wrap their heads around it, not with the little information we have on them anyway.
Take it from us – the guys doing the explaining – some things don’t have a rough and ready straightforward explanation. But what the hell, we thought we’d try anyway.