Since the beginning of their occupation of Mosul the islamists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have demolished dozens of mosques and mausoleums dating back to the 11-13 centuries. Those facts were announced at a recent Pan Arab seminar in Jordan.
This reminds of the the actions of Taliban militants in Afghanistan that have destroyed the 19th century Buddhist monuments back in the 90s. ISIL went one step further in the heat of the purification war of religion than its predecessors, since it is basically destroying cultural and spiritual heritage of co-coreligionists. Yet one can trace a lot of traits in common between the two organizations.
The Taliban’s rise to power occurred in 1996, when it seized power in Kabul and toppled the Mujahideen government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, that was representing the Islamic armed opposition. But this organization formed earlier, back in the late 80s when it was generously funded, armed, trained and supported by various external forces: Pakistan, the CIA, the conservative forces in Arab countries, etc. Their primal target was the Kabul regime, supported by Moscow. Out of the blue, from a Pakistan enclave Taliban entered the arena of international politics as one of the most radical forces.
ISIL has been formed in Iraq but soon it got involved in the project of overthrowing the legitimate government in Syria, with the active assistance of the anti-Syrian opposition. ISIL has also been nurtured, funded and encouraged by the external players such as regional powers and the West.
Just like the Taliban ISIL has been recruiting young people from a layer of poorly educated marginals, first ISIL buys these poor souls off then their heads are being stuffed with slogans of jihad. Here’s where ISIL has surpassed the Taliban since foreign fighters are coming to fight in their ranks from other countries, including the European ones.
“The professional level of today’s fighters of ISIL is much higher than al-Qaeda’s”- concludes a US anti-terrorist veteran Randall Bennett. – “since they have acquired a lot of tactical experience over the recent years.”
ISIL has picked up the banner of violence in the Middle East, it is escalating the tension and in fact has become largely independent from its sponsors. It’s now more or less self-sufficient that is why it is posing a threat to the whole region.
But at the very beginning of the Arab Spring movement the governments of Libya and Syria warned the external players that their military support of the Islamic opposition forces will inevitably lead to the Afghan scenario. However their voices were not heard over the traditional media buzz about “fighting dictators, supporting freedom and promoting democracy.” The latest developments in the Middle East has proven them right.
In the Arab media space ISIL is regarded as a scarecrow today, a freak nobody wants to deal with. There’s increasing number of critical remarks about those who has issued dozens, hundreds of fatwas over the last decade in an attempt to rally the young people for a jihad in Syria and Iraq. All statements are emotional and are literally soaked in self-criticism. Authors are shocked by the rigid brutality, the cult of killing, the irrationality of the events happening that present the Arab community in a wrong light in front of the whole world.
Several media outlets and politicians are criticizing the Arab world for failing to organize a cooperative action against the formation of ISIL, they believe that the campaign against the international terrorism led by the United States has miserably failed.
The area of ISIL operations in Africa and the Middle East is growing rapidly. The European countries are afraid that they will not escape this plague due to the participation of Muslim immigrants from these countries in the events in Iraq and Syria under the banner of jihad.
There’s a growing number of calls to ensure that the banner of Islam should be wrestled from the hands of ISIL supporters and that ISIL should be eradicated.
“Who will call for the World Muslim Congress, but not just to describe the evildoings of ISIL and al-Qaeda, but to give a prescription treatment from this curse, from this “modern interpretation” of Islam?” – demands a Lebanese writer Amin Kamuria.
Yuri Zinin is a Senior Research Fellow at MGIMO and a columnist for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.