Islamic State, so-called Islamic State, ISIL, ISIS, Daesh. However one may call them, all of us can agree that they are a threat to not only the stability of the Middle East but to global peace. This author chooses to call them ISIS; the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. To call them Islamic State would give them a unique legitimacy which they so deeply crave. Many Islamic militant groups are self-proclaimed states, none of them have been named by Western media as solely ‘Islamic State’. The acronym ISIS constrains them to the main areas which they control in Iraq and Syria.
Daesh, the Arabic acronym of ISIS used by many states in the Middle East, has insulting connotations because of its similarity to ‘Dahes’, which literally translates as ‘one who sows discord’. ISIS hate Daesh, they loathe and detest it because of its refusal to acknowledge them as their self-proclaimed position as the one true Islamic caliphate. This damage to their legitimacy is exactly how we must go about in defeating them.
Russia and the USA are now both bombing the group’s capital in Raqqa which is testament to the profound threat posed by ISIS. In the last few months alone, ISIS have downed a Russian airliner over Egypt, launched countless bombings in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and most recently and most prominently for the West, orchestrated the killing of 129 innocent people in the streets of Paris on November 13th. The West is right in mourning the loss of these people, but look at it in perspective. When 132 children were murdered in Peshawar, did we see Pakistani flags adorning our profile pictures? When 148 students were slaughtered at Garissa University, were Kenyan flags all over our news feeds? Were people in the West even aware that on the 12th of November, 43 people in Beirut died from an ISIS bombing? This plays into the hands of ISIS as some Muslims believe this shows that the West cares little about their lives. Turkish football fans on November 17th booed the minute of silence held for Paris, reportedly in anger that no vigil was held at such a scale when 102 people were killed in the Ankara bombings (whose perpetrators have links to ISIS). To Muslims, it appears as though Western media favours the lives of non-Muslims over them.
We must not take rash action against ISIS. They are the product of violence, they were born in violence and they revel in violence. They want us to feel anger towards them. They want us non-Muslims to turn our anger against Muslim residents in the West. They want us to isolate and exclude Muslims from our society, to drive Muslims into the welcoming hands of jihadist groups like ISIS, whose actions stain the name of the majority of the world’s Muslims who are peaceful people, like us. ISIS were created in the chaos of the Shia-Sunni insurgency following the US-led invasion of Iraq. It has been proven again and again that meeting militancy with nothing but force will simply worsen the situation; the more Western bombs that fall, the more that Syrian and Iraqi civilians will perish.
The anger that drives terrorism thrives like a virus from the deaths of innocents. ISIS themselves are a virus; the key to defeating them lies in the root causes of their upbringing; that of hatred towards the west stemming from our interference in the Middle East and our continuing intervention in Muslim lands. We must not play into the hands of the jihadists by simply bombing them even more. Western bombs are exactly the reason why jihadist salafism arose in the first place.
Ollie Potter writes about Politics for The Manchester Magazine. He is a second-year History student at the University of Manchester