I am reminded of this parable in light of what “Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi” of the “Islamic Caliphate” is doing to attract the wrath and hatred of the world’s peoples. Even the infamous Abu Qatada has called IS “the dogs of hellfire”.
(Daily Times, 18 September 2014)
There is this story of a kafan-chor (shroud-thief) who would dig out a newly buried corpse from its grave and steal the funeral shroud. After he died his son could not bear to hear the abuse which was heaped on the deceased man by the people of the town. So, he decided to do something to improve his late father’s image.
Like his father, he continued to dig out corpses and steal their shrouds. But, unlike his father, who would rebury the corpse minus the shroud, he left the dead body lying on the open ground. The town people now cursed him even more, saying that his deceased father at least had the decency to rebury the corpse after taking the shroud. It pleased the son to hear his father spoken of in these terms.
Confronting a similar situation, the grandson hit upon another idea to deflect abuse from his own father. After taking the shroud and leaving the dead body lying on the ground, he would also poke a stick through his backside. The angry people of the town now recalled his father as a decent man, for he did not desecrate the dead in this way.
I am reminded of this parable in light of what “Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi” of the “Islamic Caliphate” (IS) is doing to attract the wrath and hatred of the world’s peoples. One is now tempted to think of the late Osama bin Laden as being “decent” enough not to slit the throats of innocent journalists and charity workers. Even the infamous Abu Qatada of Al-Qaeda fame has called IS “the dogs of hellfire”.
The outsourcing and reincarnation of Al-Qaeda in the form of brutal regional outfits operating from Mali to Nigeria, Somalia to Kenya, and Yemen to Iraq and Syria has been so swift and comprehensive that some even in the White House might be wishing they had not got rid of Osama bin Laden.
As recently as the 1980s, there was no such thing as trans-national or supra-national “Islamic terrorism”. All we knew was the Afghan Mujahideen fighting the Russian invasion of their country with American support and the Palestinians struggling against Israeli occupation in spite of American hostility.
Then, at the turn of the century, Osama bin Laden came to the scene and the rest, as they say, is history. President Barack Obama considered Osama’s liquidation as a major success, just as his predecessor, President George Bush, had an air of triumphalism when Saddam Hussain was captured and, again, when Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed. America was now safe, thought the White House each time.
But instead of the much-despised Osama bin Laden and Al Zarqawi, we now have an “Islamic State” headed by its “Caliph”, occupying a significant swath of territory straddling two major Arab countries, Iraq and Syria, with an impressive defensive and offensive capability, thousands of dedicated computer-savvy young men, and large funds.
The IS hates infidels, oppresses everyone but their own sect, exercises tyranny over its subjects and hates America. It seems to possess all the physical characteristics of statehood. Only legitimacy and international recognition are wanting. And, frankly speaking, the “Caliph” is no worse than Hitler or Pol Pot and the IS no more evil than the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge.
The IS is grist for the mill of Islamophobes. But a personal account by Michael Muhammad Knight in the Washington Post (September 3) entitled “I understand the Islamic State – I almost joined a similar group” is instructive and I quote from it at some length:
“Twenty years ago, I ditched my Catholic high school in upstate New York to study at a Saudi-funded madrassa in Pakistan. A fresh convert, I jumped at the chance to live at a mosque and study the Koran all day.
“This was in the mid-1990s, during an escalation of the Chechen resistance against Russian rule. After class, we would turn on the television and watch feeds of destruction and suffering. The videos were so upsetting I soon began thinking about abandoning my religious education to pick up a gun and fight for Chechen freedom.
“It wasn’t a verse I’d read in our Koran study circles that made me want to fight, but rather my American values. . . . I believed this world was in bad shape. I placed my faith in somewhat magical solutions claiming the world could be fixed by a renewal of authentic Islam and a truly Islamic system of government. But I also believed working towards justice was more valuable than my own life.
“Eventually, I decided to stay in Islamabad. . . . It’s easy to assume religious people, particularly Muslims, simply do things because their religions tell them to. But when I think about my impulse at age 17 to run away and become a fighter for the Chechen rebels, I consider more than religious factors.”
Defying their parents, families and imams, many young American Muslims are now joining hundreds of Britons, Canadians, Australians, Germans and Scandinavians, not to mention Arabs, Pakistanis, Chechens and others, to fight for the IS under the leadership of its “Caliph”.
These young Muslim men (and some women) of impressionable age are full of rage. This rage has its roots in a litany of genuine grievances starting with the dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 and the most recent destruction of Gaza, and the terror unleashed against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt by the military regime (which the US supports for Israel’s sake), not to mention the atrocities of the Assad regime in Syria.
The IS can be and will be destroyed by the combined might of the US and its Western and Middle Eastern allies. But so long as the causes of the Muslim rage, at the very core of which is the humiliation of Palestinians by Israel with unstinted American support, are not addressed, the issue will return again and again.
By Razi Azmi