Almost every day I run into men and women in New York City who are trying to make sense out of the ever deteriorating situation in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS. The essence of all the questions is a sincere desire to seek peace.
Is there a solution to the epidemic of ISIS and its affiliates that continue to impress upon the world that it should conform to their ideology? They are insisting that their understanding of the Islamic teaching is accurate. Consequently, a small number of followers of ISIS infected by its ideology within many nations of the world have become a threat to the security of their countries by conforming to ISIS’s ideology.
Like a global disease that unites people to work together to overcome an epidemic, ISIS too is pulling countries big and small into this war regardless of their belief systems. They are coming together to fight ISIS in order to secure the sovereignty of their perspective nations.
Therefore, I believe that without realizing it, ISIS is creating a sense of global unity which has been unattainable otherwise. It appears that today, having a common enemy is the only thing that can bring these nations together. First, it was Al-Qaeda and now it’s ISIS, tomorrow it will be something else.
One major difference is that Al-Qaeda was actually much more popular among many Muslims and was indirectly and unofficially supported by many Muslim nations around the world. However, ISIS has yet to find that support for thier longevity. It has certainly lost the respect of some of the most well known Islamic scholars of our times by going too far in its exegesis of the Qur’an. Also, by rejecting the advice of some likeminded Jihadi organizations in regards to how to deal with Muslim nations, it has further distanced itself from its potential allies. In my analysis, it has all but completely isolated itself from the larger Islamic world.
The war against Al-Qaeda was a Western initiative, whereas the war against ISIS was initiated by the Islamic world. As a Pakistani, I can tell you that majority of the Islamic world had no interest in hunting down Osama-Bin-Laden, because he and his organization was not working against the Islamic countries. Bin-Laden earned himself a good reputation by investing money and time in defending Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion, thus his sacrificial acts in the name of Islam spoke volumes on his behalf. Besides, his target was the non-Muslim world. However, ISIS’s ideology to conquer the Islamic world makes it impossible for the organization to build relationships with any existing body of internationally recognized governments.
Therefore, it is needless to say that a religious, theological, and political criticism of ISIS is growing every day. Much of the criticism is coming from several Islamic states that see the popularity and advancement of ISIS as a potential threat to their power. Among such states are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. Each with their own personal agendas are willing to cooperate to handle ISIS aggressively due to the fact that none of the Muslim countries are safe anymore.
Despite all of the discussions that are focused on the ill intentions of ISIS, I have come to see the rise of ISIS as a blessing and an opportunity for the whole world. I know it may sound insane, but if it was not for the brutality of ISIS and their zeal to dominate the world, the Islamic world would not have come together to work towards achieving peace and harmony within the Islamic world as well as with non Islamic countries.
Even in Pakistan, the ongoing problem of extremists and the terrorist attacks on all people of Pakistan regardless of their religions has brought the political parties and the powerful army together to combat the epidemic of extremism and militancy in religious circles. The end goal is to end extremism once and for all. The great sacrifices of the well trained army has made it possible for the country to gain peace in the tribal regions for the first time in a long time. The government, the armed forces and the public of Pakistan are united to fight extremism.
Finally, I would say that what ISIS has intended for evil, God has turned into a blessing for the world. It has certainly brought Muslim and non Muslim countries together to help each other in mutual protection. I therefore consider it a blessing and an opportunity for the whole world to build trust and to enrich their understanding of each other in these tough circumstances.