Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The ISIS/Extremist Side Show May Be the Main Show

The greater the commitment to extreme interpretations of religious doctrine – “my way is the only true way” – the greater the probability of conflict. There some pretty clear exceptions. For extremist societies that simply close their doors and windows to the rest of the world, that proclivity to violence drops like a stone. For religions, like Judaism, where conversion is not a priority, violence rises generally as a measure of self-defense.
But for faiths founded on the premise that conversion is a divine mandate – be they the kinds of noblesse oblige efforts that early Christian missionaries (backed with modern military units from their home countries) deployed in past centuries among more primitive societies or Islamic warriors who embraced “conversion by the sword” that erupted almost immediately after that faith was founded – violence, laced with “lots of strings attached” charity, become vastly more probable.
Christian radicals in foreign hinterlands were often happy to use their militaries to expand their divine reach, but those battles were, for the most part, fought centuries ago. Islam enjoyed period of intellectual superiority (think modern mathematics as well as geography, the beginnings of medicine, etc.) during Europe’s Dark Ages, but internal rivalries and the rise of Western technology soon crushed that expansion. Many of the most significant armed struggles from Islamic lands are very much a product of the 20th and 21st centuries, when oil imbued the formerly primitive and powerless with the money to marry their religious zeal with modern weapons, communications tools and the ability to use funded education to spread their values (notably the infamous hate-mongering madrassa schools).  
Those Muslim nations with lesser divine mandates to convert – from Turkey to Indonesia – had (have?) embraced a more tolerant, modern view of Islam have been more reluctant to take on assault tactics to foster their faith. But even those nations are facing extrinsic fundamentalist forces that threaten to erode those tolerant values.
As ISIS holdings in Iraq and Syria have become the obvious focal point for Western and regional assaults, as ISIS is slowly losing territory from counter-offenses, that nefarious state (along with arch-rival al-Qaeda) has refocused its efforts towards a “stateless” infiltration of regions all over the earth, from Boko-Haram in Nigeria to major factions in Indonesia, the Philippines, Libya as well as to sleeper cells, local sympathizers and dedicated traveling fighters in Western nations. These “side shows” may define the future of the greater conflict, a “war” that we will face for a very long time.
Oil – and the world’s addiction to it – was the great “enabler.” Societies that once sat at the bottom of global sophistication were empowered, almost overnight, with the gobs of money that allowed them to pursue everything from the “ostentatious frivolous” to the spreading of their desert-based, Islamist-fundamentalist, divine conversion mandate. Some claim it was guilt money for the mega-rich hoping to purchase God’s grace. We’ve witnessed the resulting devastation for decades, but ISIS and al-Qaeda (and their ilk) are using those well-planted seeds of extremism to swell their ranks and increase their toxic reach.
Kosovo is one of the new nations carved out of what was once Yugoslavia. It also represents one of the European areas that was heavily conquered and controlled by powerful Islamic states (mostly recently, the Ottoman Empire), resulting in Islam’s currently being the designated faith for 95% of its people. Kosovo is a microcosm of Middle Eastern extremist money that has so radicalized more obvious countries like Pakistan or Afghanistan. It is also a signature example of the “Islamist investments” fomented by Middle Eastern Gulf nations awash in oil money.
“Every Friday [in the town of Pristina, Kosovo], just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store… The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression.
“Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists.
“Kosovo now finds itself, like the rest of Europe, fending off the threat of radical Islam. Over the last two years, the police have identified 314 Kosovars — including two suicide bombers, 44 women and 28 children — who have gone abroad to join the Islamic State, the highest number per capita in Europe.
“They were radicalized and recruited, Kosovo investigators say, by a corps of extremist clerics and secretive associations funded by Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab gulf states using an obscure, labyrinthine network of donations from charities, private individuals and government ministries.
“‘They promoted political Islam,’ said Fatos Makolli, the director of Kosovo’s counterterrorism police. ‘They spent a lot of money to promote it through different programs mainly with young, vulnerable people, and they brought in a lot of Wahhabi and Salafi literature. They brought these people closer to radical political Islam, which resulted in their radicalization.’
“After two years of investigations, the police have charged 67 people, arrested 14 imams and shut down 19 Muslim organizations for acting against the Constitution, inciting hatred and recruiting for terrorism. The most recent sentences, which included a 10-year prison term, were handed down on Friday.
“It is a stunning turnabout for a land of 1.8 million people that not long ago was among the most pro-American Muslim societies in the world. Americans were welcomed as liberators after leading months of NATO bombing in 1999 that spawned an independent Kosovo.” New York Times, May 21st.
Indeed, it appears as if what was initially a whitewash of the possible Saudi responsibility for the financing of the 9/11/01 attackers – in a series of memos and summaries from 9/11 Commission staffers – actually contains a 28-page section that has yet to be declassified that seems to make the link between funding from prominent Saudis (in an out of government) and those whose commandeered the aircraft that inflicted horrific damage on that fateful day. Congress has passed a bill, against the Obama administration’s wishes, implementing that declassification.
“Administration officials have lobbied against the bill, a view that the White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated after the vote. And the Saudi government has warned that if the legislation passes, it might begin selling off up to $750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they face a danger of being frozen by American courts. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the warning to lawmakers and the administration while in Washington in March.” NY Times, May 17th.  The impact of such a sell-off would hit the value of the dollar particularly hard, but Congress may well be able to override a Presidential veto. Would they lose Saudi connections and insights within the region? Perhaps, but...
There’s a lot of anger over how much Saudi money may have inflicted serious harm around the world. The Saudi Wahhabi religious perspective, a form of conservatism that has fostered most of the Sunni extremism we have witnessed, is to push Islamic society backwards, into a strict and hierarchical past that rejects modernity and democracy; God will make the decisions and determine how society should be run. ISIS and its ilk have selected the most violent sections of the Qur’an (trust me, the Old Testament has its share as well) – carefully avoiding the kinder gentler provisions – as justification for their horrific cruelty.
Strangely, the very Saudi monarchist elite that is in ISIS sights appears to have been one of the most ardent supporters (cash and other support) of that extremist cause. Other Gulf States have joined with the Saudis in this financing effort. The battles based on Saudi’s commitments to extreme Sunnism have also escalated Saudi confrontation with the growing Shiite movement protected by Iran, most recently battles between Saudi forces and Iran’s Shiite surrogates (Houthis) in Yemen. To understand the difference between those two branches of Islam, please refer to my October 20, 2015 blog,Persians, Phoenicians and Arabs – Modern Consequences.
In the end, these oil rich nations – temporarily impaired with a down oil marketplace – must be held accountable, and the United States has to ask itself: 1. How much governmental disruption are we willing to tolerate from these malignant nations we call “allies”? and 2. How far are we willing to go to alienate ordinary Muslims with our own religious intolerance, convincing them that they must now defend their faith?
I’m Peter Dekom, and our own government, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, seems to have participated as the enabler of Saudi (and regional) guilt money through its blind tacit support of these nations as purported allies.

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