A lack of cohesion could spell ruin for ISIS

Experts say that cracks within ISIS could lead to its ultimate downfall

Peter Harrison
Peter Harrison - Al Arabiya News
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An inability to provide a basic infrastructure could ultimately lead to the downfall of ISIS, a Middle East expert has said, adding that infighting within the group could also assist its demise.

The success of extremist movements is largely based on their ability to show cohesiveness and that they can provide services in an otherwise weakened society, according to U.S.-based Senior Middle East Analyst and Consultant Michael Pregent.

He said that Hezbollah were the ‘gold standard’ example of this, where they had managed to provide the local community with services that were otherwise inadequate or not available at all.

And to some level - he said - ISIS had been able to appear to do the same, by exploiting the otherwise ungoverned areas in Syria and Iraq.

But he added: “When ISIS first came along, they claimed they would build on communities and then leave - this did not happen… We are already seeing signs of descent where other groups are beginning to question what ISIS is providing.”

“I do not believe that ISIS will remain much longer and that they will be replaced by something else. The question is what that will be.”

Some academics have drawn comparisons between ISIS and the Nazi movement of the 1920s and 1930s – arguing that both played on the weakness of failing states – isolating a particular group of people and blaming them for the problem.

In Hitler’s case he devised a concept of a master race - exterminating millions who did not match his ideal, including Jews, Muslims, disabled people and homosexuals.

They dehumanize whoever does not fit their view

But the Nazi movement also worked on a nationalistic view - said Pregent - while ISIS were purely ideological. Ultimately the concept of a single state of caliphate, he explained, did not exist, because this required a single set of beliefs.

Pregent said that the majority of people who went to fight in Syria, were doing so in response to images of women and children killed by government attacks - few, he added, were actually going because they believed in ISIS ideology.

The lifespan of extremist groups he said, largely depended on the ability to fend off counter arguments,

He explained that while Western countries had seen some level of success among extreme right-wing political movements, the more mainstream parties had been able to fend off any real opposition by adapting their own political views to meet the concerns of people.

The difference with ISIS and other groups like it, he said, was that in the absence of any real structure or establishment, they used religion to push their message.

Better education could be answer

And that required people who understood the religion and culture to ultimately be able to bring down such movements.

Psychologist and motivational writer Michelle Roya Rad wrote in Huffington Post of such people, that the “religious extremist is a self-righteous person gone too far.”

She argued that people who turned to extremism have a “sense of righteousness: They usually think that they know the truth and no one else does.”

Indeed ISIS carries out swift and brutal ‘justice’ following up so-called sharia court hearings with immediate, usually brutal and very public punishments.

Last month images of a man accused of homosexuality being thrown off the roof of a tower block hit the pages of western mainstream media.

Rad said of extremists: “They dehumanize whoever does not fit their view: They put other people's views inferior to theirs and dehumanize people whose views do not fit theirs. This gives them a sense that they have the right to kill, harm and destroy others.”

She said that while a ‘rational person’ will accept that there are a number of views to any concept, the extremist had an “utter certainty that they are right,” adding that they were incapable of compromise and were unwilling to find common ground for a win-win position with other people.

In order to tackle extremism she said there was a need to tackle ideas, rather than individuals.

It is a view shared by Doug Saunders of the Globe and Mail, who said that outlawing extremism was ineffective – as was counter-messaging when carried out by the very governments radicalized young people were turning against.

Instead he argued that there should be a reduction in “the number of young men who are vulnerable to these [extremist] ideas.”

He added: “While identifying the guys who might go into jihad is tough (they don’t tend to fit any easy profile), two things do tend to unite those who have become extremists: Most either have spent time in the penal system, or have dropped out of school early (the two tend to go together).”

Saunders argues that the most effective root to preventing people from joining extremist movements like ISIS was to keep them in school.

He said Muslim minority communities with the lowest rates of extremism tended to have lower school-dropout rates.

“Efforts to fight membership in criminal gangs in the U.S. and right-wing radical groups in Europe (both strikingly similar to Islamic State in recruiting messages) have succeeded when they’ve brought down dropout rates,” he added.

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