Category Archives: Islam

JV Team ISIS: 42 MILLION Supporters in the Arab World

The organisation, which boasts Muslim anti-extremism activists as its board members, calculated the figure by looking at opinion polls from the region, and calculating the amount of positivity felt towards ISIS by its inhabitants.

The Clarion Project wrote:

The estimate is based on a March 2015 poll by the Iraq-based Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies;  a November 2014 poll by Zogby Research Services; another  November 2014 poll by the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and an October 2014 poll by the Fikra Forum commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In Iraq, around 4 per cent are said to view ISIS positively “to some extent”. This means the terrorist group has “between 651,720 and 1,955,160 supporters in Iraq.”

The number rises dramatically in Syria, though it is not known to what extent interviewees are coerced into answering positively, or if they do so out of fear of ISIS reprisal.

“Seventeen percent of Syrians said that they completely support the Islamic State’s goals and activities in the March 2015 poll. That statistic grows to 27% when you account for Syrians who do not consider the Islamic State to be a terrorist group.

“The November 2014 poll interviewed 900 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and found that 4% are positive towards the Islamic State and another 9% are somewhat positive. This should raise serious concerns for countries that are accepting refugees from the civil war.

“With a population of 17,952,000, that means the Islamic State has between 3,051,840 and 4,847,040 supporters in Syria.”

Figures from other Islamic or Arab countries – including the Palestinian territories (20 percent), Tunisia (13 percent), Egypt (3 percent), Saudi Arabia (10 percent), the United Arab Emirates (13 percent), Yemen (up to 7 percent), Jordan (up to 14 percent), Libya (up to 7 percent), and Lebanon (1 percent) – reveal that in total, ISIS could have between 8.5 million and 42 million supporters, sympathisers, or those that consider it a legitimate political force in the Middle East and North Africa.

“With a minimum of 8.5 million strong supporters and 24.5 million who view the group at least somewhat positively, the Islamic State has plenty of room for growth in the Arab world,” wrote Ryan Mauro, the head of national security for the Clarion Project.

Russia: Vulnerable to ISIS

A video appeared on the Internet several days ago in which bearded men from the Islamic State declare that the North Caucasus are part of the Islamic State. In another video, commanders from North Caucasus guerrilla groups agree to join the Islamic State and recite the requisite oath.

By Ivan Sukhov// Russians discussed various options concerning Chechnya’s future back in the 1990s. Chechnya first declared its independence in 1991 and twice fought for it — not without some success. However, the average Russian is always inclined to look at things through the prism of conservative politics.

Even while Russian soldiers were dying on the streets of Grozny, Muscovites sitting in their kitchens or bars would lightly curl their lips and agree that Russia could let the North Caucasus go, but would inevitably add: “But what good are the North Caucasus without Russia?”

Indeed, a look at the map always showed that the North Caucasus was in relative safety. From the conservative Soviet point of view, real danger lies in the possibility of some other power snatching away a piece of territory. But who would try to encroach on a nuclear power? And from where would they do it? After all, over the mountains lie Georgia and Azerbaijan. Are Turkey or Iran a threat? They might cast a covetous glance now and then on the Caucasus, but that is about the extent of it.

In short, even if things were not going smoothly within North Caucasus, the region needn’t have worried about its territorial integrity: nobody seemed to have any designs on it.

And then, just last week, something happened that hadn’t occurred in a very long time. A political entity lacking the status of a full-fledged state or recognition as a participant of the world community, but with sufficient influence to remain on television screens and newspaper headlines for months on end, announced that it claims a part of Russian territory as its own.

The Islamic State is not recognized by anyone as a legitimate structure, and yet no one has the audacity to say it isn’t, either. And not only has it laid claim to a part of Russia’s territory, but there are people living there who have said: “Yes, that is exactly what we want. We are ready to defend this idea with arms.”

Under different circumstances, it might have been possible to simply ignore such pronouncements. A few commanders from the North Caucasus guerrilla underground represent a mere handful of malcontents and their equally scant number of followers — all of whom are already under surveillance by the Federal Security Service and military intelligence. If Russia’s domestic affairs were more or less in order, it could blithely ignore those threats.

However, Russia’s domestic affairs are not in order. According to the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, 5,000 Russians are fighting with the Islamic State in the Middle East. As of the last few months, that figure makes Russia the largest supplier of manpower to the Islamic State among non-Islamic countries.

Strictly speaking, now that the Islamic State has declared the North Caucasus as its own province, its supporters have no need to travel to distant Syria or Iraq in order to fight. Right at home they have hundreds of like-minded people who would like nothing more than to go to war for Islam.

Until now, only one thing was stopping them — the great distance they had to travel to reach Islamic State forces. Now they can simply grab a gun and stroll just beyond the limits of their village — already ordinary behavior for that region.

In part this is because the North Caucasus has de facto become a region where Russian law and the influence of the Russian state are applied only unevenly. In general, a state can be defined as such whenever a legitimate government is capable of establishing rules of conduct and can demand their execution under the threat of force.

There are regions in the North Caucasus that have withdrawn from such a system and set up virtual enclaves, places where the authorities apply force only occasionally at best, and where those who apply that force must first leave their heavily fortified, fortress-like bases and travel in armored vehicles.

And even if a legitimate government does exist, under such conditions its ability to apply force or influence becomes so limited that the very existence of the state comes into question. When that happens, the ominous statements made by bearded outlaws sitting in a desert 700 kilometers from Makhachkala — which is, in fact, closer than Sochi or Moscow — cease to be idle threats.

That reduces the state to some sort of quasi-state. Of course, the fact that citizens of that state can apply for disability benefits or receive passports enabling them to travel, makes the Russian presence in the Caucasus somewhat less ephemeral than the Islamic State. But on the whole, the gradual erosion of Russia’s presence and influence in the North Caucasus plays into the hands of those who argue: “Since things haven’t worked out so well with Russia, why not try the Islamic State?”

Something has gone wrong in Russia: people have lost their sense of solidarity with the country, a sense of allegiance to the flag. The imam of the Voronezh mosque, a man that Russians might call a “traditional Muslim,” posted information on social networks that he had traveled to Syria to fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad. However, the Kremlin considers Assad a leader who is fighting a justified war against bandits and terrorists. But isn’t that imam a part of the Russian nation?

Those Russians who believe that President Vladimir Putin is the be-all and end-all and those who hate Putin are like two different peoples. In a sense, the first group carries a national flag with Putin’s image on it, while the second carries a similar flag, but with a red line through the picture.

One advocates the free market, another a return to communism, a third simply wants to earn money without excessive government interference. Still another supports the Islamic State while another opposes it. One is alarmed at the legalization of same-sex marriages in the United States even though his own “acceptable” family is falling apart. And some are doing so well that they could care less about politics, Putin or the Islamic State.

Each of these groups is like a separate nation, a different people, and they have not yet managed to forge a single country for all. Each group holds views of what is proper and acceptable that are too much at odds with the others to be reflected by a single national flag.

One group wants to join the Islamic State, the other the EU. But a way out exists for both groups: If you can’t ensconce the Islamic State in your own backyard, you can always join your brethren in the Middle East. If you can’t integrate with Europe, just retire to your dacha and plant enough flowers to imagine you live in Holland.

It might be a hackneyed metaphor to call a country a common home for all, but as long as discord reigns in your home, one group after another will continually claim rights to your room.

And if you, like Russia, claim to be the hot shot of the neighborhood and have even managed to alienate your neighbors and the local sheriff — who would ordinarily help you fight back the gangs on your street — you will find yourself in an unenviable position when it turns out that the Islamic State lays claim to your basement or to that new room you have added.

Lebanon: Americans arrested after Bekaa terror plot foiled

BEIRUT: Thirty suspects, including three Americans, have been arrested in east Lebanon after the Lebanese Army thwarted a major terror plot aimed at civilian and religious targets in Baalbek, local newspaper An-Nahar said Thursday.

The report said the suspects – including 24 Syrians, three U.S. citizens and three Koreans – were arrested late Tuesday after a raid on Syrian refugee camp sites in Telya plains in eastern Baalbek.

The suspects were taken to Beirut for further investigation, An-Nahar said.

The report said the foiled terrorist plot was aimed to target residential units and religious centers in northern Bekaa with “dozens of rockets” to be fired from the Telya plains.

The Daily Star could not independently verify the report.

The Lebanese Army has been engaged in a war against Syria-based militants from ISIS and Nusra Front entrenched along the northeastern border with Syria.

Terror in the Sinai: Ongoing battles, police under siege, at least 100 dead

Roi Kais, News Agencies// Egyptian security and military officials said  on Wednesday that Islamic militants staged simultaneous attacks, including a suicide car bombing, on army checkpoints in northern Sinai, killing at least 100 including soldiers and civilians. 

An Egyptian newspaper said that 64 soldiers and police officers had been killed. While Hamas said that its border with Egypt would be reinforced by extra military operatives.

Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement on Twitter.

An Egyptian military spokesman said battles were ongoing and that airstrikes against terrorist were also continuing.

Smoke billows after attack in Sinai
Smoke billows after attack in Sinai

 

The Egyptian military issued a statement saying that 70 terrorists had participated in attacks on five checkpoints. It said it returned fire, killing 22 terrorists and destroying three vehicles.

Egyptian media outlets reported that the coordinated attacks in northern Sinai included three suicide bombings.

Officials said militants also took soldiers captive and seized several armored vehicles. Al Arabiya reported that the Egyptian military was boosting its forces in the northern Sinai and the area bordering Gaza. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Defense Ministry announced a level three state of emergency.

Witnesses told Egyptian media outlets that the town of Sheikh Zuweid felt like a warzone, with battles between the IS-affiliated militants and security forces. According to these reports, the militants mined roads in order to limit movement and placed explosive charges around the police headquarters, preventing law enforcement from leaving.

“We are under siege,” a source in the police station told one outlet.  The source denied unverified reports that the town had been fully overrun.

  The attacks came just two days after the assassination in Cairo of the country’s top prosecutor. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi vowed on Tuesday to step up a two-year crackdown on militants.

Militants in northern Sinai have battled security forces for years but stepped up their attacks following the July 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Al-Sisi, then the nation’s army chief, led the ouster and went to become Egypt’s president, winning a landslide election a year ago.

Wednesday’s attacks came in swift response to al-Sisi’s pledge the previous day to carry out justice for the prosecutor general’s assassination — and possibly move to execute Muslim Brotherhood leaders, an Islamist group from which Morsi hails.

Pounding his fist as he spoke Tuesday at the funeral of Barakat, who led the prosecution and oversaw scores of cases against thousands of Islamists, Al-Sisi’s comments seemed to signal an even tougher campaign on the Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist group that is now outlawed and declared a terrorist organization.

Egypt has since Morsi’s ouster waged a crackdown that has led to thousands of arrests, mass convictions and death sentences. Morsi is among those condemned to die, but has a potentially lengthy appeal process ahead of him.

Al-Sisi said the government was ready to brush aside criticisms and free the judiciary’s hand for a “battle” the country is prepared to wage.

“The judiciary is restricted by laws, and swift justice is also restricted by laws. We will not wait for that,” el-Sissi said.

Action will be taken within days “to enable us to execute the law, and bring justice as soon as possible,” he said. “We will stand in the face of the whole world, and fight the whole world.”

In a thinly veiled reference to jailed members of the Brotherhood,al-Sisi blamed the violence on those “issuing orders from behind bars,” and warned: “If there is a death sentence, it will be carried out.”

 

 

Obama blocks attempts by Arab allies to fly heavy weapons directly to Kurds to fight Islamic State

Some of America’s closest allies say President Barack Obama and other Western leaders, including David Cameron, are failing to show strategic leadership over the world’s gravest security crisis for decades.

They now say they are willing to “go it alone” in supplying heavy weapons to the Kurds, even if means defying the Iraqi authorities and their American backers, who demand all weapons be channelled through Baghdad.

High level officials from Gulf and other states have told this newspaper that all attempts to persuade Mr Obama of the need to arm the Kurds directly as part of more vigorous plans to take on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) have failed. The Senate voted down one attempt by supporters of the Kurdish cause last month.

The officials say they are looking at new ways to take the fight to Isil without seeking US approval.

West is losing the Twitter battle with fanatics, says general
Allison Pearson: We should demand military action against Islamic State

“If the Americans and the West are not prepared to do anything serious about defeating Isil, then we will have to find new ways of dealing with the threat,” said a senior Arab government official. “With Isil making ground all the time we simply cannot afford to wait for Washington to wake up to the enormity of the threat we face.”


Kurdish Peshmerga fighters train on a weapon during a training session with British military advisers

The Peshmerga have been successfully fighting Isil, driving them back from the gates of Erbil and, with the support of Kurds from neighbouring Syria, re-establishing control over parts of Iraq’s north-west.

But they are doing so with a makeshift armoury. Millions of pounds-worth of weapons have been bought by a number of European countries to arm the Kurds, but American commanders, who are overseeing all military operations against Isil, are blocking the arms transfers.

One of the core complaints of the Kurds is that the Iraqi army has abandoned so many weapons in the face of Isil attack, the Peshmerga are fighting modern American weaponry with out-of-date Soviet equipment.

At least one Arab state is understood to be considering arming the Peshmerga directly, despite US opposition.

ISIS: A wake-up call for Muslims all over the world

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The Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has sown nothing but destruction, chaos and sectarianism. Through terrorist strategies, it rapidly spread over great parts of eastern Syria and north and central Iraq. Its new recruits came from all over the world, but mainly from Muslim countries. Arab countries provided the biggest share of recruits.

While ISIS was assembling supporters and sympathizers, Sunni clergymen constantly called for material and moral support to the Syrian rebels, and accordingly thousands of foreign fighters flooded into Syria for jihad.

According to research conducted by The Soufan Group in 2014 on the foreign fighters traveling to Syria, it is estimated that the highest number of foreign fighters came from Tunisia (about 3,000), Saudi Arabia (about 2,500), Morocco (about 1,500), Russia (about 800), France (about 700), Turkey and the United Kingdom (about 400 each).

These numbers exclude the Syrians and Iraqis who are already in ISIS.

The Arab leader of ISIS is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was named its caliph, which literally means the “successor” – the ruler of the Muslim community.

ISIS seems to have a clear and strategic ideological path. It should not be alien to Muslims, especially the political and religious elites, that these teachings still exist in Islamic books, Friday-prayer preaching, and even schoolbooks. The ideology of ISIS is one of various interpretations of the Koran and the Sayings and Tradition of the prophet Muhammad.

The Salafi-flavored ISIS actually represents a valid extension of fundamentalism in the Arab societies. It is more a cultural and educational issue than a religious matter. Such an apocalyptic interpretation of Islam does not seem to be acceptable to the majority of Muslims.

The supreme imam of Al-Azhar University and Mosque, Ahmed al-Tayeb, said that the extremist groups who murder and slaughter under the name of the Islamic State represent neither Muslims, nor Al-Azhar, nor the prophet Muhammad and his teachings. The hideous deeds of these extremist groups repeatedly harm and distort the real message of Islam. Furthermore, the grand mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, said that naming a terrorist organization such as ISIS an Islamic state is a huge mistake. This organization speaks and acts against the humane and religious teachings and the Shari’a of Islam.

Indeed, the World Association of Al-Azhar Graduates declared the organization as un-Islamic and part of a conspiracy against the Muslim world – ISIS in the Middle East, Taliban in Asia and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Media outlets in the Arab world were flooded by news, explanations, and interpretations condemning the Islamic State, calling it un-Islamic. Prominent Islamic scholars from different countries all over the world condemned the actions of ISIS and confirmed the message that the group is not related to Islamic teachings, but, on the contrary, it destroys Islam.

NOW IF ISIS members are not Islamic and are not true Muslims, then what are they? All their slogans are Islamic, and all their interpretations are Islamic. Actually, on their flag it is written: “There is no God but Allah and the prophet Muhammad is his messenger.” Most of ISIS’s recruits have come from Muslim countries, and to a greater extent from Arab countries. They mainly rose from Islamic societies and communities and studied in the same religious books at schools and universities as their contemporaries.

They went to the same mosques and they received the same religious messages as the rest of the community. They might actually be the sons, brothers, fathers, sisters and mothers of so-called moderate Muslims.

The shocking reality of the horrible actions and ruthless brutality of ISIS members should bring the attention to the real problem – that Islam needs reformation and revivalism.

Reformation could perhaps start from elementary school, beginning with religious books for children, to the highest forms of religious education. A reformation could start at mosques and at preaching sessions at Friday prayers to enforce tolerance and build toward peace. A reformation could also start when religious institutions in the Arab world and the Muslim-majority countries stop interfering in politics, and when the political institutions stop using religion and co-opting religious institutions for the consolidation of power.

The rise of ISIS should be a wake-up call for all Muslims, all over the world.

Muslims calling ISIS un-Islamic or arguing that it does not represent Islam is not enough, and certainly does not stop newcomers from joining the group.

Moreover, ISIS is Islamic as much as they claim they are.

Reformation of religion is due; otherwise, the world risks the emergence of organizations similar to ISIS in the near or far future. Describing ISIS as un-Islamic is apologetic and serves reality with nothing. It neither prevents the emergence of another 100 ISIS-like extremist organizations nor improves the image of Islam and Muslims. A real framework of reform should start from scratch with every source being put under scrutiny and thorough study by Islamic scholars.

THE SHOCKING fact that ISIS emerged from an Arabic political conflict and that it uses Islam for its own political ends should be an awakening moment for those who call for the fusion between politics, religion and the state.

Compromising on politics and dogmatic religion might result in a destruction of one of these two components.

Either politics dominates and destroys religion or religion dominates and destroys politics. In the case of ISIS, politics is dominant over religion, but the prominence of the latter serves the political cause of the group – power, legitimacy and dominance. The choice of such a version of extremism served ISIS well, as there is no hesitance in such an ideology to resort to genocide to eliminate its opponents.

This is a chance for Muslims to make real reform. Islamic scholars should lead such a reformation far from politics and far from the divide of what is the right Islam and what is the wrong one. There must be a framework to lay down the first bricks in this long process. The political leadership must in return observe the process closely.

It does not seem enough for Muslims to condemn a terrorist act and simply call it un-Islamic. There must be a real change and it should start now. ■

by Hakim Khatib, a lecturer in journalism, intercultural communication and the politics and culture of the Middle East at Fulda and Darmstadt Universities of Applied Sciences and Phillips University Marburg. He specializes in the application of religion to political life and discourse in the Middle East.