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We Must Object to the Aim, Not Just the Method

We Must Object to the Aim, Not Just the Method

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Islamic State (or ISIS or IS) is without doubt a particularly vile Islamist group.  Disavowed by Al-Qaeda for being too extreme, the group emerged in early 2013 and is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Baghdadi recently declared himself leader of a new caliphate which so far covers parts of Iraq and Syria. Islamic State intends to stretch its caliphate much further – including in to parts of Europe.

The atrocities committed by this jihadist group, in pursuit of their Islamic state, have been widely publicised.  Death squads have lined people up to be shot in the back of the head, people (including children) are reported to have been buried alive, beheadings are widespread, and women are being kidnapped and sold in to slavery.  Christians in Iraq have reportedly been ordered to “leave, convert, or die”. 

It is the plight of the Yazidi people, a religious minority in Iraq, which has prompted the United States to respond with air strikes against Islamic State.  Around 50,000 people of the Yazidi minority have fled for their lives and many have been hidden away in mountains facing starvation and dehydration, as well as the threat of slaughter by the Islamist militants. 

It is right that the US has responded to Islamic State with military strikes, and it is right that this group is condemned across the world for its brutality.  What has not been sufficiently condemned however, or even acknowledged, is the ultimate aim of the Islamist group, or the fact that groups all over the world share this aim – the creation of Islamic states under sharia law.  Until the world is ready to condemn this underlying motivation, confronting IS will merely paper over the cracks.  

Across the globe, Islamist groups are fighting the same war: a war against freedom, human rights, and anything that doesn’t fit with their version of Islam.  It is the war being fought by Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram in Africa, by Hamas against Israel, and it is the war being fought by various Islamic groups in the west, whose methods may differ from the terrorists but whose aim is the same; the establishment of sharia law.

In the UK, sharia-advocating groups are widespread and are often entertained by our leaders as “moderates”.  The Muslim Council of Britain endorses sharia, as does the Muslim Brotherhood linked Muslim Association of Britain.  Senior figures in the Islamic Sharia Council (the largest ‘sharia court’ body in the UK) call for stonings and lashings and “jihad against the non-Muslims”. 

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group which advocates a global Islamic state, can attract a crowd of 10,000 or so to Wembley stadium.  Islamists and jihadists routinely preach (and recruit) on British university campuses (Sharia Watch UK will soon release a report on Islamism in UK universities) and those speakers share the aim of Islamic State – a society governed by sharia law.

Islamism and the quest for sharia law is a global phenomenon.  It is present on every continent and is growing in power by the day.  It is aided by the stubborn refusal of Western leaders to acknowledge the underlying problem, which is the nature of the Islamic state itself.  This is a problem because it is fundamentally at odds with democracy, liberty, and basic civil rights. 

To oppose the likes of Islamic State, and what is truly driving them, Western leaders are called upon to do something very powerful – to defend democracy, freedom, and civil liberties, and to do so without apology. 

Currently, this looks to be sadly improbable