The year 2015 has come and gone, but Islamic State has not disappeared from the global agenda. Shocking and bloody attacks, activities on social media, propaganda techniques, boastful statements and intrepid militants have always been in the headlines. Plans for fighting the radical organisation were discussed all year.
Efforts to prevent it from recruiting new members and eliminating its attractiveness continued unabated. It looks like 2016 will see similar developments. One noteworthy sign of this was a meeting organised by United States President Barack Obama’s administration in the early days of January.
Participants in the meeting in California included many world-renowned figures. The guest list underscored the importance the US administration attaches to the issue. Senior White House officials, national security advisers and top managers from US high-tech giants all met together. The aim was to unite official bodies and private sector institutions against radicalism and create a high-tech project for combating it.
IS is known to use the Internet and social media quite skilfully to spread its ideology. Everyone also knows that Western countries have, thus far, failed to implement an effective strategy against it. The meeting in California was intended as a step toward stopping IS’s propaganda. One of the primary measures to be introduced is, as announced by the State Department, the establishment of a centre to rebut statements by IS and other radical groups.
That centre will seek to respond to such extremist groups by “highlighting their misdeeds and creating positive images of the West”.
At first sight, this is all very welcome, but when one thinks a bit deeper, these goals, while laudable, are far from producing the desired outcomes. First and foremost, let us consider the move to create a positive image of the West; public relations, in other words. It does not seem possible to change the harsh and negative view of the US and West held by IS militants or their sympathisers by such means.
Image improving measures may be more or less useful for institutional businesses but it will be difficult for public relations to produce a solution in a world of almost daily attacks, aerial bombardments, and the deaths of innocent children, civilians and refugees. Let us not forget that the anger towards the West in the Middle East was caused by the West’s mistaken policies since the early 2000s and that these policies have left almost irreparable suffering in their wake.
We must remember that the West is still interfering in the Middle East with guns and missiles. It, therefore, appears most improbable that a positive image of the West is going to spring up in people’s hearts under such circumstances.
If Western states sincerely desire for the Middle East to have a positive image of the West, they must change their strategy. Rather than endless armed interventions, they must stress such fine values as peace, liberty, equality, brotherhood, justice, love and solidarity, which they certainly espouse in their own countries. They must also use their material strength, their economic and technological means, to produce useful solutions.
Another comprehensive goal of the US administration is to make people aware of “the misdeeds of extremist groups” and thus prevent IS from recruiting new members. Let me make it quite clear that this is also not an effective strategy for a solution. IS and similar radical groups commit acts of violence and terror, not in the name of evil, but of what they mistakenly believe to be “a sacred aim and lofty objective”.
It must not be forgotten that the majority of IS militants are not ignorant, uninformed or naïve. Neither are they insane or perverted, nor do they seem to suffer from any personality disorders and neither are those who are being manipulated after being led astray by ill-intentioned friends or social media.
On the contrary, as experts also tell us, many of these are young people who were once well-adapted to social life, had good careers and were given a modern upbringing. They have abandoned their possessions, careers and worldly aims to follow an ideology because they sincerely believe they are in the right and are doing what is necessary.
Therefore, since they do not regard what they are doing as evil misdeeds, and are following an ideology, propaganda aimed at “highlighting their misdeeds” will simply fail to have an impact.
IS resorts to bloody violence and savage acts of terror because of a belief system: that belief system is grounded in superstition, fabricated hadiths and extreme beliefs that have no place in true Islam. So long as this superstition and these fabricated hadiths continue to be depicted as the true source of Islam, we cannot be surprised by the violence that ensues.
The problem, at its core, is this false belief system. This can only be rectified with the Quran. Therefore, IS cannot be drawn to a right path by guns or bombs or arid propaganda, but only by the Quran.
In fact, it was world leaders who grasped the importance last year, albeit very late, of an ideological fight against IS. One such person was Obama. Speaking in the United Nations General Assembly last September, he said: “Ultimately, however, it is not going to be enough to defeat IS in the battlefield. We have to prevent it from radicalising, recruiting and inspiring others to violence in the first place. And this means defeating their ideology.
“Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they’re defeated by better ideas — a more attractive and compelling vision. We’re working to lift up the voices of Muslim scholars, clerics and others, including ISIL defectors, who courageously stand up to IS and its warped interpretations of Islam.”
So, who will take a stand against IS’s radical ideology? Who will speak the truth in the face of their false propaganda?
The US needs to think long and hard about whom to support on this subject. It must not be forgotten that many people known as Islamic scholars regard the basic texts of the traditional and orthodox culture of Islam as their guide and theoretically espouse the same false beliefs and superstition as IS; an educational campaign waged by such religious figures will obviously have no impact on IS. These people will be unable to provide a scientific response capable of demolishing this false ideology, because they are also adherents of that same ideology.
IS, on the other hand, will just regard them as dishonest, cowardly, passive and timid for believing everything that appears in Islamic texts but lacking the courage to act on it, and they will be viewed by IS and their fellow travellers as having failed to stand up for the values they believe in.
The solution, therefore, lies not in involving religious scholars who essentially share the same ideology as IS, but in waging this campaign together with rational, sensible people capable of providing reasoned and true rebuttals to this false ideology.
If they wish to defeat and eradicate IS ideology, Obama and the US administration have only one option — the Quran. The antidote to radicalism is the Quran. An education based solely on the Quran is the only force that IS ideology will be unable to withstand.
Harun Yahya has authored more than 300 books, translated into 73 languages, on politics, religion and science