Europe is scared, worried, apprehensive and looking for a solution to its crisis with ISIS which can strike anywhere. And we are also worried and scared.
For as much as ISIS poses a threat to Europe and the world, it threatens us too. Just like its moral sense has completely collapsed and it has started attacking soft targets that are impossible to protect around the clock, it is doing the same thing in our world and attacking mosques. Just as it targeted civilians in Stade De France because they voted for their government and are hence partners with it in the war, it would target civilians in Jawharah Stadium because the Saudi people support their government against ISIS. It is the same logic and it is just a matter of time. To have access to weapons and explosives and to manage to be overlooked by security; once these two conditions are met, the bombing will happen.
ISIS is not Baghdadi
Yet while Europe fears only ISIS, we fear – along with it – that the state of chaos and collapse that our world is experiencing will reach us. Our victims in the Middle East are greater in number. We can draw many pictures with their images just like the French media did with the images of the Paris attack’s victims. Our victims are more; their murderers more diverse – not just ISIS. They also include the oppressive regimes whom ISIS claims it has come out to avenge. The endless list of our victims stirs in us a fear of the future, but this fear is a fuel for the extremists among us who use it to recruit new supporters under the banner of revenge.
ISIS is not Baghdadi. They have a good stock of bearded men who memorize a few Quranic verses and Prophetic sayings and are ready to climb the podium and declare themselves the Caliph of the CaliphJamal Khashoggi
This is why there has to be a European alliance with the countries of the region not only for the war on ISIS but also for the war on the prevailing state of chaos which will continue to secrete more ISIS unless we stop it. But Europe, particularly French President François Holland, is still focused on the direct apparent enemy, ISIS – headquartered in Raqqa and cells spread around Europe, and wishes that the U.S. and Russia would put aside their disagreements and unite to face the organization. It is clear that under the shock of the attacks, President François is leaning towards adopting the Russian interpretation of the crisis: “fight ISIS”, and this is why there is a need for a different approach that is broader and more comprehensive. One that aims to fight the causes that produced ISIS in the Middle East and not just an extremist speech that can be handled by eliminating a school curriculum, preventing a “scholar” from visiting France or even by a raid that destroys the “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There is no doubt that the latter would make amazing headlines for a French newspaper, followed by a speech in which Hollande – waving his hands – says, “we won.” But ISIS is not Baghdadi. They have a good stock of bearded men who memorize a few Quranic verses and Prophetic sayings and are ready to climb the podium and declare themselves the Caliph of the Caliph.
ISIS is the state of chaos, failure and political and social collapse that the Middle East is experiencing extending as far west as Libya. It is the regime of Bashar al-Assad who has been killing his own people for four years and whom Hollande has declared, on more than one occasion, to have lost his legitimacy but did nothing to stop him. It is the regime’s explosive tanks that are falling on the Syrians in their markets and destroyed neighborhoods. It is the sectarian militia from outside Syria that came to fight sons of the majority who are rejecting the rule of the minority. It is Iraq’s Sunnis who fear that Baghdad’s sectarian government and its extremist crowd will expand, control their areas, humiliate them and attack them. It is the prisons that contain tens of thousands of detainees. It is the abolition of civil rights. It is the shooting of the peaceful demonstrators. It is the deceit of the media that converts the judiciary system from a refuge for the oppressed to a tool for tyranny and oppression. In short, it is the confiscation of the hopes of the Arab people that arose in the Arab Spring four years ago wanting democracy, justice and decent living.
Yes, ISIS does not want democracy nor freedom, but it is the only alternative for some angry men seeking “good governance” and who imagine it to exist in ISIS after they were denied all other alternatives and had their options limited to tyranny, detention, immigration to Europe on a death boat or ISIS – which doesn’t deserve to be an option for an Arab Muslim. It is an abhorrent idea that will remain with us in its different “Salafist Jihadi” forms but must not spread with this force nor enjoy all this gravity which is only happening due to the state of chaos and descent of our world.
Terrorists and refugees
Europe made the modern Middle East – which is now crumbling – a hundred years ago. It is time for it to go back to it and collaborate with the powers that are in a position to fix it, not because it is responsible for it which is no longer the case and no one wants a return of the twentieth century imperialist, but because the Middle East is the one that is turning to it in two forms it does not desire: terrorists and refugees.
There are two powers in the Levant that are capable of the required comprehensive reform: Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But they are suffering from “American hesitation” just like Europe. Forming an alliance between these three powers can guarantee ending the American hesitation and bringing the U.S. to a global plan to eradicate ISIS – one that starts with an accurate reading of history and is based on respecting the people’s desire for freedom, security and political participation. This will entail ceasing to protect a minority oppressive regime like that of Bashar Al-Assad and helping the Syrian people in forming a national government whose men will be the power needed to destroy ISIS on the Syrian territory without the need to send French or European soldiers to the Syrian lands against their wish. It will also save France the cost of air raids on ISIS’s fortress which will not terminate it but could rather kill innocent victims whose tragedy will be used by ISIS to fuel another cycle of violence in the streets of Paris.
Saudi Arabia has called for democratic secular ruling and elections in Syria which seems strange to some since Saudi, from their point of view, is neither democratic nor secular. However, the problem is not in Saudi Arabia but in Syria. The Kingdom realizes that a pluralistic country whose people have revolted for freedom will not accept a Salafist Islamic government which some groups are calling for there, nor will the people accept a minority oppressive ruling. Both are recipes for a state of instability as the rest of the components of the population will reject this narrow factional vision. The solution is in a pluralistic democratic government which everyone can find a place in. Syria and the rest of the Levant deserve better alternatives than Bashar and ISIS.
Europeans must realize that their and our real enemy is not ISIS but the state of chaos and breakdown in the Levant.
This article was first published in al-Hayat on Nov. 21, 2015.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi
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