Why the Islamic State is doomed and bound to collapse

Only thing ISIS has to offer is 'relentless fury of destruction, obsession with perpetual war against enemies real and imagined.'

2016/09/04 Issue: 71 Page: 14

The Arab Weekly
Claude Salhani

The global fear of the Islamic State (ISIS) may be somewhat overplayed. To be sure, there is a clear and present threat emanating from the organisa­tion and it may well be ten times more lethal than al-Qaeda, as the director of the FBI recently warned, but ultimately, it will fail because it has no clear vision and no sense of direction outside of terror and the use of fear.

No society can survive under such conditions for very long. Look at the Soviet Union, nuclear-armed and one of two world super powers. Its reign lasted a mere 70 years, a blink of an eye in the history of the planet.

History is still the best road map of the future and in looking at philosophies that have been successful throughout the ages it has always been those that offered adherents room to expand their ideas, be it in the field of sciences, the arts or even in religion. If you look at the religions that have fared well over the ages — Christianity and Islam, for example — those faiths have contributed greatly to the advancement of the sciences for their communities.

ISIS, on the other hand, “offers no hope to the populations it controls”. The only thing ISIS has to offer is the “relentless fury of destruction and an obsession with perpetual war against enemies real and imagined, coupled with extreme religious interpretations of daily life”, Sam Ben-Meir, a professor who teaches world religions at Eastern International College in Jersey City, wrote for the Augusta Free Press.

“ISIS is failing and will fail not only because it is a brutal and short-sighted organisation that rules through fear and totalitarian control of day-to-day life but because it is a denial of the creativity of the human mind — it is an intellectually starved group that is devoid of ideas, of anything resembling theological or philosophical content.”

Indeed, ISIS and its interpretation of what Islam is and what it should be is far removed from the true faith as practiced by the vast majority of the 1.25 billion Muslims.

Still, despite its nihilistic approach to a religion that most scholars interpret as one of peace rather than the neo-fascist approach chosen by ISIS, the group has attracted thousands of followers, many whom left the comforts of Europe for the wild existence that is the Islamic State. Ben-Meir labels this “void”, that “great intellectual emptiness, that simplicity where its members do not need to think” but simply get to act out their frustration and anger in a bizarre world where they make up the rules to suit their fantasies.

In short, if one was to psychoanalyse the lives of a good number of ISIS’s adherents, it could well be concluded that these volunteers who fight for the Islamic State are acting out a life-sized version of their favourite video game fantasies and along the way they get to reinterpret the rules of the game that includes their version, interpretation and understanding of scriptures.

Look at Islam’s influence on its followers and the positive contributions it made during the reign of the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Ottomans and even during the violent reign of the Mamelukes, who nevertheless contributed to the building of great mosques in Egypt, in Iraq, and of course during the time of the Moors who contributed greatly to the advancement in astrology, mathematics and medicine. Now compare that to the medieval brutality and backwardness professed by ISIS and judge for yourself.

At the end of the day, again with history as a guide, societies that have fared well and continue to do well are the ones that offer their citizens advancements in all fields. ISIS’s version of Islam will follow the path of other totalitarian systems. Where is communism today? Where are the once powerful fascist powers of the past century? What remains of the Iraqi Ba’ath? Much of the top echelon of what was once the Iraqi Ba’ath Party, it is believed, has found its way into the ISIS hierarchy.

For the moment ISIS remains a threat to the civilised world but its hatred of all that does not conform to its liking will ultimately help bring about its demise.

Claude Salhani is the Opinion section editor of The Arab Weekly.

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