You may have read my post a couple of weeks ago where I spoke about the situation in Iraq. Since then the threat posed by the terrorist group ISIS has escalated. They have established their caliphate and beheaded and slaughtered many in the process. At the end of June, they claim that their caliphate was officially established. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant otherwise known as the Islamic State (IS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is currently made up of a large area of Iraq and a part of Syria. Their ultimate goal is to establish a worldwide caliphate. This issue interests me a lot! Not just because I am an International Relations undergrad but because I am a Christian.
Last semester, one of my favourite topics in IR was Political Islam. It enabled me to make sense of a lot of the chaos around me and from my spiritual perspective it also helped to clarify a few things. It is only possible to understand a lot of the current situations by understanding how Political Islam came about. First of all I will start off by explaining that Islam is not inherently political. Unlike Christianity and Judaism where it provides theoretical examples of how to run a state (the Old Testament), the Qur’an does not explain how to run a state or even a caliphate. So IS does not represent the views of every muslim, it represents the views of fallible men!
Political Islam can be traced back to the 1920’s when Hassan al-Banna formed the Muslim Brotherhood. He was looking for a way for Muslims to live an Islamic way of life under British rule however he struggled to control the militant members of his group and was later assassinated. At this time the Muslim Brotherhood was a peaceful organisation (unlike the one we came to know during the Arab Spring). The man who brought about the type of Political Islam that we know now is Sayyid Qutb. He was the chief propagandist of the Brotherhood. His views were largely developed after visiting the USA. He saw US decadence as something to be avoided. He argued that the Ummah (global muslim community) needed to move away from the teachings of the west because they were all corrupt. Sayyid Qutb’s view was to prevent the Muslim world from falling into western decadence. His target was in fact apostate leaders and other muslim states, not the west. Qutb’s views were later adopted by Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban group after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Another infallible man who caused the rise of Political Islam was Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian scholar who was also a teacher and mentor to bin Laden. He inspired muslim men to start the global jihad and leave their countries to go and fight in whatever country their ‘brothers’ were being oppressed.
There are six key events that led to the rise of Political Islam:
- World War 1 – this showed liberalism to be flawed and made many people question the ideas held by the west (at this time colonies still existed) because of this, they needed to find a new model to base their states on once they gained independence. Some tried socialism, which leads onto my next point…
- The Cold War – after fearing that the communists in Afghanistan were not in control, the Soviet troops intervened to fight the mujahideen. This led to muslims from other countries, who were influenced by Abdullah Azzam, going to Afghanistan to fight. The USA then helped to train the mujahideen and provided them with ammunition to fight off the Soviets. This is another one of the proxy wars that took place during the Cold War. However, this had the worst result because after this war finished, many of these men who were trained went on to form the Taliban. In addition, one of the men who fought on the side that the USA equipped was Osama bin Laden, the very same man who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.
- The Six-Day war in 1967 – this was a horrific defeat for not just Arab Nationalism but muslims in general. It was their defeat to the Israeli-Jews. 13 countries v. 1 and Israel still won and maintained their hold over the Gaza strip. The failure of Arab Nationalism, like liberalism in WW1 and communism in the Cold War, showed that there had to be another model.
- The Iranian Revolution in 1979 – Ayatollah Khomeini led the first successful revolution in the Islamic world. They now became a successful rival/model state to Saudi Arabia.
- The Gulf War – the USA’s involvement in this war angered many, particularly bin Laden. The reason for this is that it angered him that the west had set their feet on what he considered to be holy ground because there were many mosques, including Mecca near that area.
- The invention of the internet – this has made the global jihad even more possible. People are able to access information quickly. People are able to join radical movements quickly. Radical leaders are able to increase their social capital quickly.
So this is why I do not fear IS….
I know that it is not God who is causing this to happen but it is men who are playing god. Men who believe that their actions are divinely inspired. Fallible men! I got a message yesterday from a friend that spoke about the threats that IS are posing to the west. The news is constantly talking about the government creating legislation to prevent the people who have gone over to fight from returning to the UK. I was talking to a friend today about the lack of coverage of the persecuted Christians. I was reading the Bible yesterday and God knows why He made me read the scripture when I did. Jeremiah 51:46 says “But do not panic; don’t be afraid when you hear the first rumour of approaching forces. For rumours will keep coming year by year. Violence will erupt in the land as the leaders fight against each other.”
I don’t fear IS because I serve a God who is bigger than man. The persecution of believers is not a new thing, prophets were persecuted before Jesus and He told us that it will happen even after He is gone. We serve a God who is worth dying for because He died for us. A God who beat death. We serve a God who promises us that judgement will come. We serve a God who will never leave us. A God who loves us and a God who is coming back for us. I don’t fear IS because I know that my God can handle this.