Apart from taking out as many Daesh leaders as one can, we should launch a counternarrative which publicly ridicules the movement.
Who is the strongest, who is the best
Who holds the aces, the East or the West
This is the crap our children are learning
But oh, oh, oh, the tide is turning —
- Former Pink Floyd frontman
Roger Waters, in Radio K.A.O.S
As we all sing the worried life blues, wondering which neighbour, which gathering, which country will suddenly start baying for our blood in the name of God, it might be time to consider whether the tide is really turning.
At first sight, things look a bit bleak.
The Daesh, comprising a band of psychos who get their kicks out of beheadings and other bestial acts in the name of Allah the Merciful, seems to have spread its evil vile tentacles across the world. Not a day goes by without this bunch of bloodthirsty retards who call themselves the Islamic State (IS) claiming credit for some insane barbaric act of terror.
As far as Psy Ops go, the Daesh seems to have nailed it. Whether the world reacts with political correctness (Islam is a religion of peace) or righteous indignation and silly strident calls for bans on all Muslims a la Trump, the cult seems to have no dearth of recruits willing to kill and die for the unholy cause. The polarisation, the us-and-them divide, appears starker each hour.
The Al Qaeda, which was the bogeyman of the West after 9/11 till its pathetic kingpin was gunned down by US forces in Pakistan a few years ago, scientifically and methodically capitalised on the Muslim victimhood narrative. In the US, Muslims given the special treatment by paranoid American authorities at airports and other entry points were—and some say still are—met by a team of local Muslims immediately afterwards, stressing that the only way to avoid such rampant religious discrimination was to join their movement.
A Canadian professor I met at a conference in New York a few years after 9/11 recalled how he had been stopped at Toronto’s Pearson Airport by US officials “purely, solely, and only because my passport had a Muslim name”. “It was only after senior officials in Toronto and Ottawa intervened that I was allowed to pass,” he said. “When I finally landed in New York, I was met outside La Guardia Airport by some gentlemen who professed sympathy for my traumatic experience, and urged me to join their movement which apparently wants an Islamic caliphate in the US and in Canada.”
According to the elderly professor, “I politely declined, saying ‘not in my name, please’, but that was probably because I had received profuse apologies from both Canadian and American authorities for what they described as a terrible misunderstanding. But the hundreds of other Muslims—including many who commute almost daily between Canada and the United States—who receive similar treatment may not be so sympathetic or forgiving.” Muslim anger in Palestine, Chechnya, and parts of Central Asia and Xinjiang in China over real or imagined oppression is low-hanging fruit for the Daesh. “I’m prepared to rip off the heads of 200 people...to save peace and calm in the Republic,” Al Jazeera quotes Uzbek President Ismail Karimov as saying shortly after a series of attacks by Islamic radicals in Uzbekistan in March 1999. “If my child chose such a path, I myself would rip off his head.”
True to his word, in 2005, the former Communist strongman sent in tanks and troops to crush a revolt by Islamists protesting against state atrocities in the eastern city of Andijan. Some reports said over 2,000 people were gunned down, and thousands of others jailed for life.
In April 2006, I was part of the media delegation accompanying then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his trip to Germany and Uzbekistan. During the two-day stopover in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, I met a senior Karimov official over a bottle of Russian vodka and Indian food at Le Grande Plaza, a tall, somewhat decrepit hotel which was also locally known as the Tata hotel because it was built by the Indian conglomerate. “In Uzbekistan, we believe religion is a personal thing which is best confined to your home,” said this official, who had served a stint as a diplomat in India. “We actively discourage anyone from wearing their religion on their sleeve in public. In Delhi, I saw people blocking the road during Friday prayers at the Jama Masjid. Though we are 95 per cent Muslim, such a thing would never be allowed here,” he declared proudly. Uzbeks today are said to be among the most brutal of the Daesh killer squads operating in Iraq and Syria and in pockets of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Xinjiang, China’s restive westernmost province with a large population of Uighyur Muslims, authorities have tried to curb Islam by prohibiting fasting during the holy month of Ramzan, barring Muslims from wearing beards or burkhas, and even forcing devout shopkeepers to sell pork, cigarettes and liquor.
In March last year, Xinjiang’s Communist Party secretary Zhang Chunxian publicly admitted that the Daesh was successfully recruiting Uyghurs. “Some Xinjiang residents have crossed the border illegally to join IS. The group currently has a growing international influence, and Xinjiang is affected by it, too,” he told reporters attending the plenary meeting of Xinjiang legislators in the 12th National People’s Congress. His officials “recently broke up a terrorist cell run by those who returned from fighting with the group,” he added.
The West, particularly the US, with its apparent zeal to impose and enforce democracy in Muslim states like Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, helped reinforce this narrative of victimhood, turning each one of these nations into war-weary basket cases yearning for the order of an Islamic caliphate instead. Saudi Arabia, which practises one of the most rigid versions of Wahabbi Sunni Islam and funds hundreds of madrasas in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and other vulnerable nations, was left alone because of its oil and its willingness to splurge on expensive American weaponry.
So how does one fight this scourge, this obscene cult which has successfully wooed not just the poverty-stricken Muslims looking for someone to blame, but also doctors, engineers and other qualified men and women, many of whom have lived, studied and worked in Western democracies?
Though my wife rejects this as a simplistic solution to a very complex problem, I still believe that apart from taking out as many Daesh leaders as one can, we should launch a counter-narrative which publicly sneers at, derides and ridicules the movement, religiously undermining its very reason for existence.
Soon after the attack on a café in Dhaka by the Daesh, someone asked why the pictures of the young perpetrators showed them all smiling just before the attack. My response: Because they actually believe they are doing Allah’s will. But if they know they will be laughed at instead of being called shaheeds, and that what is waiting for them on the other side is not 72 virgins but one 72-year-old virgin...it might make them reconsider. The catch here is that this counter-narrative works only if it is pushed by Muslims themselves.
To start with, we should stop calling these madmen IS. Russia, France, the UK and Australia already refer to the terrorist organisation as Daesh, and not IS, which hates the term.
Though an acronym al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa ash-Sham—the Arabic phrase meaning the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams, Daesh, when spoken, sounds similar to the Arabic words for “the sowers of discord” (Dahes) or “one who crushes underfoot” (Daes). The words are frequently used as insults.
IS has threatened “to cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym Daesh, instead of referring to the group by its full name”. This could be a beginning of a disdain campaign; they loathe being referred to as Daesh, so call them Daesh and never use the vainglorious term Islamic State.
While it is patently unfair to expect people to suddenly start sniggering at their own religious beliefs, the growing number of Muslims publicly denouncing the Daesh is encouraging. This includes several respected seminaries and clerics across the world, as well as Muslim social, cultural and political outfits.
A poster boy for this movement is Tarek Fateh, a Karachi-born Canadian and author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. It was Fateh who described Mumbai-based evangelist Zakir Naik, whose sermons apparently inspired the Dhaka café attackers as well as several Daesh sympathisers arrested in India, as a nalayak (unworthy), and forced the Canadian government to ban Naik from entering Canada in 2010. Hopefully, Fateh, and others like him, will inspire fence sitters in the community who oppose the Daesh but are too scared to articulate it, to come out in open condemnation. From rejection to ridicule is a small, but tough step. Us “apostates” can only cheer them on.
Of course, this will not happen overnight, and it does not mean that we should miss any opportunity to exterminate vermin who espouse the Daesh and its cause. Because cowards who slaughter and maim innocents in the name of God have no business on earth.
Until then, here’s Waters again:
Used to look in on the children at night
In the glow of their Donald Duck light
And frighten myself with the thought of my little ones burning
But oh, oh, oh, the tide is turning
The tide is turning.
The author is an editorial consultant with Indian Defence Review, and teaches defence journalism in his spare time.