Danger signals on the home front

The objective of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or just the Islamic State (IS) is simple — the establishment by the sword of an Islamic caliphate. ISIS is, perhaps, the most monstrous of all such groups fighting in defence of the faith against established governments, all Islamic themselves, throughout West Asia, North Africa and Asia Minor.

Under its current self-styled caliph — Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al Badri al Samarrai, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — the Islamic State is in the business of mass murder.

It claims inspiration in its mission from the great Salah addin, or Saladin, the legendary leader of Saracen forces in the holy wars of the Middle Ages against European Crusaders seeking to capture the city of Jerusalem, sacred to both Christianity and Islam.

The Great Sultan was known for his sense of honour, justice and, above all, compassion and tolerance for all communities and religions in his empire. Attempts at claiming his heritage constitute the most extreme form of blasphemy for an organisation of psychopathic mass murderers like ISIS, whose victims have been Kurdish, Yezhdi, Shia and Coptic Christians living in Syria, Iraq and the Levant region around the Mediterranean since Biblical times.

These minorities had been marked for extermination by kangaroo courts of the ISIS in Iraq and Syria and those of its counterparts — Boko Haram in West/North Africa, Al Shabab/Islamic courts in Somalia and Kenya, and Al Qaeda seeking to establish an overarching global terrorist presence everywhere. This pattern will be repeated wherever ISIS and its ideology has been allowed to penetrate.

India and its secular democracy is reportedly on the target list of ISIS, as well as Al Qaeda which has recently proclaimed an Indian chapter through a video link addressed by Ayman Al Zawahiri.
This was expected and India is not overawed. Our security and intelligence organisations have experience in dealing with similar extremist groups which have been operating with the active support of the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). India has suffered losses, but has also dealt some heavy blows in return.
West European countries are less conditioned to the threat of extremist fundamentalism.

The excessive economic and socio-political permissiveness almost mandated by the European Union for its member nations, all with Islamic populations of reckonable size, has severely handicapped security and intelligence organisations of western Euro-pean countries to combat the extremist radicalisation spreading amongst younger generations.
Most European Muslims are descendants of the original “gastarbeiter” (guest workers) imported as low-cost labour from Turkey and Pakistan to assist in the economic recovery of western Europe in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

The vast majority of their younger generations have been born in the West, into a quality of life which they could never have even hoped to experience in the countries of their origins.
By an extreme paradox, it is these very youth who are the most eager recruits for jihad and are amongst its most savage and ruthless practitioners.

Western European countries now face a serious internal threat from “foreign jihad” brought home by European Muslim militants returning home from “tours of duty” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia and the Caucasus — all war zones where they have fought as mujahideen against international peacekeeping forces, often from their own countries.

Turkey, a traditionally liberal Islamic nation that straddles the land bridge of Asia Minor between Europe and Asia, is currently witnessing a mass influx of terror-stricken refugees from Syria and northern Iraq, ahead of the advancing ISIS forces.

Speaking recently at the United Nations, US President Barack Obama declared his country’s moral, material and military support for “defeating, degrading and dismantling” the ISIS. However, Mr Obama qualified his statement (made in an election year!) by favouring American airpower on ISIS ground targets, rather than deploying American “boots on the ground”.

In India, now in the frontline trenches of its own “war on terror”, ISIS must be perceived in the historical context of invasions by Ghaznavi, Ghori and Nadir Shah.
Fortunately, India has proved itself as a stable democracy, whose armed forces, paramilitary, police, intelligence and border defence agencies are motivated and well-trained.

However, there are shortfalls and its borders can be reasonably protected, but are not impenetrable.
India’s abject failure has been its inability to establish the National Counter Terrorism Centre, crucial for success in the type of conflict the country faces, due to ignorant and mindless opposition from politically powerful, but shortsighted, chief ministers.

It is in this context that media reports are significant about batches of young Indian males, apparently from around Maharashtra, who are said to have offered their services to ISIS after ostensibly proceeding on visits to conflict zones in Iraq.

The Shia/Sunni aspect of this phenomenon also requires investigation. These are danger signals during dangerous times that India’s security establishment can disregard only at its peril.

The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former member of Parliament

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