A million dollar question first
Before starting this article let me start with a question. Has anybody wondered why Islamic State has got such an overwhelming support among Muslims around globe which seemed to be missing in case of Al Qaieda ?? More I study Islam more I become clear of the reasons behind this huge success of Islamic State as compared to Al Qaieda. One fundamental fact about Islam is that it is lesser a religious philosophy & more a political ideology. Interconnections between religious and political authority is something that we can find in almost all religions more or less. However in case of Islam, it is in it’s most explicitly institutionalized form with no parallel in world. This is what makes Islam more a “state” than a “religious community”. And here lies the great misery of a common follower of Islam !! A common follower of Islam could never realize that he has become a passion-full soldier of a virtual state in disguise of a faithful follower of a religion. And this thing governs his psychic so deeply & so naturally that most of the time he remains unaware of it. However he does strongly feel a greater share of loyalty towards this “state” than the formal nation-state he lives in or the society he belongs to in general context of region, language or culture- as a symptom.
Return to the question
With this much of the discussion let us return to our question- Why IS is so successful than Al Qaieda ?? Because masterminds of IS had/have more clear insights of Islamic theological psychic than those of Al Qaieda. Baghdadi has successfully exploited this “statehood status” of Islam which Osama seemed to miss entirely. Even at level of modus operandi we can easily spot basic differences between these two. Jihad or war declared by AQ (Al Qaieda) was more like between regional players- Taliban governed Afghanistan located in South Asia & United States of South America Continent. Angle of Islam was off course there but other factors were equally dominated. Also though AQ did try to establish some “franchisee” in some countries it was nowhere close to present international IS modules. Reason is because they could never click to basic instinct of Islam- State mentality of Islam. And this was why their jihad could have limited appeal to Muslims in world. They earned some sympathy among Muslims but could never earn the type of “active support” and “ready-to-join” soldiers from all parts of world IS enjoys.
On the other hand Masters of IS were particularly mindful of this basic instinct of Islam. Right from their first moves to establish their universal mandate in Muslim world, they systematically exploited this inherent characteristic of Islam viz. the name it self- The Islamic State, announcement of Caliphate– supreme leadership for Muslims etc. Masters of IS were fully aware of the fact that a common Muslim is emotionally a dual citizen; firstly, of a “virtual state” of Islam and secondly, of the physical state he lives in- with more developed loyalty to first than latter owing to basic design of his practicing religion. And they made most of it. As a result world soon saw an ever increasing no. of warriors joining IS, ready to lay their lives for so called cause of Islam. Mighty US and powerful west once fairly proved to have successfully tackled AQ, are increasingly proving to be helpless spectators of a strong “virtual-nation” operating across borders- presenting a severe threat to not only sovereignty of modern nations but their very existence at the cost of millions of human lives. I doubt by even now they have spotted the real problem of this havoc (The state mentality of Islam) or not.
Remedies: Is there any left
Any religion when becomes strong, it tends to be a state in itself. Problem with Islam is that it is a state in it’s very fundamental design irrespective of it’s strength. Another aspect of the problem adding to it’s graveness is that this state (of Islam) is easily convertible to a military-state upon strategic provocations- as clear from case study of IS. So even if world today unitedly finishes organizations like IS, the state mentality of Islam will not cease to exist- making it open to similar exploitation in future, arresting whole world again in it’s grip. Thus long term solution lies in attacking the problem at it’s very root i.e. state mentality of Islam. Dismantle of this state mentality may involve two approaches- one, Theological and second, sociological.
All of the major religions of today’s world has undergone their theological revisions except Islam. Christianity for example has undergone through fundamental reforms in era of renaissance. Hinduism also went under such redefinitions from time to time. Same is true for Buddhism, Hebraism etc. However Islam could manage to refrain itself from going any such updating. Such rigidity has reinforced it’s state mentality more than anything else. Thus a theological revision of Islam is a must for a safe today and peaceful tomorrow. So that enriched ethics of humanity, scientific temperament and liberal values of modern civilisations can be updated in outlook of Islam. It is basically- differentiating Islam with respect to time. And for this we need to encourage and support liberal sections of Islam who are ready to change. We also need to make/recognise updated version of Islam of these sections as part and parcel of main stream Islam. World Sufi Forum in New Delhi was a benchmark step towards it. Further in next heading we would discuss second approach to tackle this menace which is sociological. Essentially it is differentiating Islam with respect to space.
Before discussing this approach let me put a question again. Why has IS raised a war against Kurds, Yejidis etc. which are after all followers of Islam only?? In fact all prime advocates of radical Islam including Salafis, Wahabis and most currently IS have declared these groups situated in geographical pockets and practicing localised versions of Islam, a bigger enemy than Kafirs(Followers of other religions). This is because localised versions of Islam dilutes it’s state mentality to a greater extent. So what we have to do is helping to generate local versions of Islam suitable to local context -accommodating local culture and traditions in it. In other words we have to help to generate such local versions of Islam which supports & complements it’s local “social ecology” and does not overrule it.
We have seen that differentiating Islam with respect to time and space are two keys to tackle exponentially expanding Islamic terrorism. And in spite of challenges and risks we will have to take call in this regard without delay if we wish to save our human civilization which is result of efforts and sacrifices of countless generations.
– Abhinav Shankar