For the past few years, ISIS has dominated the global narrative on terrorism. As inhumane beheadings, religious-militant conversions and terror attacks steadily increase over the years, the world has joined forces to attack and dismantle this Islamist extremist terrorist group. We, however, zoom out to examine the rise of ISIS in the first place.
1. THE ISLAMIC IDEOLOGY OF A CALIPHATE
Certain factions of the Islamic world believe in imposing an Islamic form of governance – a Caliphate led by a Caliph (a political and religious successor to Prophet Muhammad). This implies that the current democratic order in most nations in the world would be replaced by a more authoritarian ideology. Since democracy is primarily a Western concept, ISIS has focussed a lot of their wrath on the Western world. This explains their barbaric acts of violence, like the beheadings of American journalists and suicide bombings as was seen in Paris. The ideology of “radical” Islam has, therefore, become a harsh reality for today’s world, and organisations like ISIS are a prime example of its veracity.
2. THE INVASION OF IRAQ
In 2003, the United States of America, with allies like Great Britain and Australia, invaded Iraq with the intention to “free the Iraqi people” from the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein. What ensued was a state of war in Iraq, giving the frustrated populace a perfect platform to fight America and other western countries. Aside from foreign factions creating chaos in the country, a battle broke out between the two Islamic sects of Shias and Sunnis (Jihadists). Some jihadists, unpleased with the current regime, decided to defect from Al Qaeda and form their own Caliphate. They merged with other fundamentalist groups under a new name, The Islamic State of Iraq or ISI. In July 2014, ISI leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi led the Friday prayers at Mosul’s Great Mosque and publically called on Muslims all around the world to follow him as the head of the Caliphate, thus establishing the Islamic State as we know it today.
3. THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR
In 2011, a democratic protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s government arose in Syria as a result of the Domino Effect of the ‘Arab Spring’. The protests led to a conflict between two groups – one supporting the President and the other against. Gradually, like the invasion of Iraq, the conflict evolved into a battle between the Shias (Alawite) and Sunnis. What started out as a protest eventually turned into a full-fledged civil war, destroying the socio-economics of the country. And again, just like in Iraq, the civil war provided the ISIS with the perfect opportunity to establish its agenda in Syria. After merging with Jabhat A-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was born. Eventually, they took control of various parts of the country, and subsequently the region.
4. MISGUIDED US FOREIGN POLICY
A large part of the global community blames US foreign policy makers for the rise of the ISIS. While the US justified their invasion of Iraq by calling for a “change in regime”, all it did was provide a platform for fundamentalists to propagate their agenda through violence. On the other hand, when the protests against the Government first erupted in Syria, the Obama administration did not intervene. Some would argue that the US invaded Iraq too early, and didn’t come to the rescue of Syria soon enough.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, a number of state leaders had taken strict stands against ISIS. In an Oval Office address, President Obama even vowed to destroy the ISIS. Yet there has been no success in our bivouac with the group. All we’ve seen are more and more attacks in the most gruesome ways imaginable. The most recent one being the Indonesia church attacks, which used 10 year old children as suicide bombers.
One of the reasons for the increasing popularity of the ISIS could be their extremely sophisticated recruitment videos. By taking snippets from movies like London Has Fallen, G.I. Joe and The Lord of The Rings as well as using references from the Hunger Games and GTA, ISIS’ digital recruitment programme makes the viewer feel like the next big action hero, and this can be very appealing to some people. It’s no wonder that random attacks like those in Paris, Belgium and London continue to happen.