The ‘Islamic State’ after the Fall of Raqqa: A Continuing Terrorist Threat and Ideological Challenge
The recent territorial losses and defeat of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria signify a tactical win in the long-term battle against the group. IS will however continue to recruit and conduct attacks through its wilayats, affiliates and supporters in parts of the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. Part of this was seen in the recent truck attack in New York City which killed eight people and injured 11 others. IS has claimed responsibility for this attack and many others such as the vehicular attack in Barcelona, Spain (14 killed), and the suicide bombing in Quetta, Pakistan (15 killed) in August, and the bomb explosion in London (30 injured) in September. IS continues to pose not only a significant terrorist threat, but also a long-term ideological challenge, which is evident in the traction for its diverse online propaganda (magazines, newspapers, videos and statements) that continues to call for the establishment of the ‘caliphate’, and war against non-believers. It is therefore necessary to neutralise IS on both the terrorist and ideological fronts by preventing its armed attacks as well as negating key Islamic concepts that IS has manipulated to win supporters, sympathisers and legitimacy amongst its followers.
As IS re-strategises in the wake of its significant losses, it will rely on its extensive online presence to keep its struggle alive and maintain what would now be a ‘virtual caliphate’. Thus, it is critical to de-legitimise IS’ conception of the ‘caliphate’ which lured thousands to Iraq and Syria in 2014-2016. In this issue, Ahmad Saiful Rijal Bin Hassan debunks IS assertions about the caliphate and argues that there is no religious basis or obligation for any Muslim to migrate to the so-called caliphate or pledge allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The article highlights IS transgressions of Islamic doctrines and practices, and Baghdadi’s ambiguous family lineage and legitimacy as ‘caliph’. Also on IS ideology, Reid Hutchins analyses the manipulation of concepts such as ‘martyrdom’, ‘sacrifice’ and ‘jihad’ by terrorist groups like IS and Al-Qaeda to further strategic goals. They have misconstrued and exploited the intended usages and true meanings of these concepts to mislead their followers into believing that suicide attacks and terrorism are permissible and justified. Given that groups such as IS and Al-Qaeda resort to social media as a medium of communication and propaganda, it is imperative that more action be taken not only to effectively debunk terrorists’ distortion of religious doctrines but also to curtail their online dissemination of religious misinformation and virulent propaganda.
Radicalisation of vulnerable segments of society occurs not only online but also on the ground. Farhan Zahid narrows in on the radicalisation of educated youth in Pakistan, a rising trend that has been rising since the Afghan war in the 1980s and 1990s, and the emergence of militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and since 2014, IS. Countering terrorism goes beyond detecting and rounding up of jihadist cells in campuses and elsewhere. Challenging violent narratives as well as exclusivist and intolerant beliefs and mind-sets are critical in negating radicalisation efforts by terrorist groups.
The issue of radicalisation is also discussed by Jade Hutchinson who highlights the rise of far-right extremism in Australia and its impact on the local Muslim community. He warns that the mainstreaming of far-right narratives centred on Neo-Nazism and anti-immigration, could fuel Islamophobia and result in the alienation of the Muslim community, with adverse implications on Australia counter-extremism efforts.
Commentaries / Conflict and Stability / Country and Region Studies / East Asia and Asia Pacific / Global / Middle East and North Africa (MENA) / South Asia / Southeast Asia and ASEAN / Terrorism Studies
Last updated on 06/11/2017