Solutions; reflective pieces on extremism, ISIS, Shia-Sunni conflict and Muslim Agenda

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My commentary is followed by two articles: We’ve got walking time-bombs by Marina Mahathir and What ISIS and the ‘caliphate’ mean for Pakistan By Muhammad Amir Rana and a link to my article – The Muslim Agenda.

In the following piece Marina Mahathir points out the social causes leading the youth towards extremism – when someone is vulnerable – he can be tempted to come towards extremism or moderation depending on who is better at recruitment.

I wonder if the call of the Adhan means that.  The first part is Hyya las Salah, followed by Hayya lal falah. Is it the call to prayers with a simultaneous call to do good to fellow beings (Quran defines it as neighbors and rarely limits exclusively to Muslims).

The piece is followed by Muhammad Amir Rana’s essay, which puts it succinctly, “Among many factors, the Pakistani state’s protracted apathy and inaction on the issue of security has provided non-state actors the spaces to grow and expand their influence. They used these spaces not only to propagate their ideologies and narratives but also to establish a state within the state’ in Pakistan’s tribal areas.”

It is a sign of glad tidings to see a movement away from the blame game to reflecting on the issues that cause extremism and conflicts.  We should not give up hope on the world coming together in respecting the otherness of others (definition of pluralism), and accepting the uniqueness of each other.

Years ago I wrote a piece on Terrorism and said “given the desperate economic situation in a given society, the youth are not channeled to find viable fulfillment in their lives, instead the extremists offer them the joys of killing others and getting killed, that is a guaranteed achievement, and perhaps the only success they see it happen in their lives.”
If we want a better world, we need to get involved in spreading the good word.  The first front should be to win our Masjids – which have welcomed tabligh groups – missionaries of a singular version of Islam bordering on passionately selling passes to Jannah. It is time, each one of us to get out and do the tabligh of the other side, the teachings of the Prophet; to come to the center, earning a pass to live a good life here on this earth while others sell them a pass to Jannah.    
Insha Allah, I will send a proposal to a few masjids in our area and ask the imams to deliver khutba’s on the topics of “Creating a better world around us – and becoming the Amins of the world”. I urge fellow Muslims who are not Imams, Aalims and Mualanas, but ordinary Muslims who understand the world to take up delivering Friday Sermons to invite people to to Falah to fellow beings, while our Imams call to Salah.  Insha Allah, I will start writing a series of Khutbas. There first one is at Huffington post and I will be happy to do the 20 minutes Sermon on Friday. Let’s do our share of creating a better world.

The Muslim Agenda –  

Jazak Allah Khair
Mike Ghouse is a Muslim speaker, thinker and a writer, and presides over the World Muslim congress, a think tank, and a forum with the express goals of nurturing pluralistic values embedded in Islam to build cohesive societies. More about Mike at

We’ve got walking time-bombs
by Marina Mahathir
[The writer is Mahathir Mohamad’s daughter (his eldest child).]
Our concern should make us look at the state of our young men today,  particularly the Muslim men at the bottom of the social scale.
SO we finally stepped over the line. When the first Malaysian suicide  bomber died in Syria, we finally put to rest the idea that Malaysian  Muslims would never do this. For so long, we have believed that suicide in itself is a sin and such drastic action is sinful because  it harms and kills innocent people. But now these concepts seem not to hold water any more.
In the age of social media, not only are our youth going off to fight wars in a foreign land, they are even boasting about it to all their friends back home via Facebook and Twit­ter.
They need this self-advertising in order to ensure that everyone thinks of them as heroes and warriors, fighting for a cause that nobody really understands.
After all, by joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), they are fighting other Muslims, not people of other faiths.
But why should we be surprised at this development? For the past year or so, Malaysian Muslims have been bombarded by propaganda against Syiahs in the mosques and in the media.
Alleged Syiahs are arrested and few care what happens to them. Our Home Minister has even declared Syiahs unIslamic, something even the ra­bidly anti-Syiah Saudis have never done.
Syiahs make up only about 10% of the world’s Muslims and even fewer in number in Malaysia compared to Sunnis.
Yet our Inspector-General of Police insisted that if we do not control Syiah activities in Malaysia, it “could lead to militant activities.  We do not want what happened in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to happen here, do we?”
Well, he’s wrong on two counts. The Malaysian militants going to fight with Isil in Syria are all Sunnis, and if Syria doesn’t happen here, then they’ll just go to Syria. If they survive, they’ll eventually bring it home.
Another Malaysian on a humanitarian mission to Syria who met one of these jihadists, had this to say: “Most of them who join are fanatics, mat rempits, those without high education or were from problematic families. Some of them committed some big sin and were told that they could purify themselves by taking part in the jihad. They want a short cut to hea­ven.”
This is an important clue as to what drives these young men to join a war that is far away from home. When home is dull and problematic, a fo­­reign war with the promise of hea­ven sounds infinitely more exci­ting.
Getting heads broken at their motorbike races on Friday nights pales in comparison to actually holding an AK47 and killing another human being.
Back home if you kill someone you might get punished for it. Here in Syria, you’ll go to heaven. What could be better than that? Even the clothes are cooler.
If anyone is worried about this development, and they certainly should be, then the answer is to look at the state of our young men today, particularly the Muslim men at the bottom of the social scale.
The ones who drop out of school early and face a future of either unemployment or menial work. The ones who take drugs in order to make their dull and bleak everyday lives slightly more interesting.
And we need to take some responsibility for these young men. We’ve been telling them that as Malay Muslim men, they are superior to everyone else and entitled to everything in this country.
Yet when they fail to attain any of these, when this so-called entitlement only goes to those with better connections than them, we discard and neglect them and call them names such as rempit.
We prohibit them from being anything but what we want them to be, and while we sneer at them, we also glorify and romanticise the violence in their lives through movies and novels.
The hero apparently always gets the girl, even if he has to rape her first.
But in real life, this doesn’t happen. The girls would rather they had a good job and a decent car.
As drug-ridden fishermen or mechanics, they will never earn enough to win the girls of their dreams.
That rage sometimes leads them to take it out on the nearest girls, the ones in their own villages. Why not? After all, society will always blame the girls anyway.
It is likely these are the types of young men who wind up being wooed by jihadist recruiters with promises of adventure, excitement and a free pass to heaven where the best girls are waiting.
We are complicit in the wasted lives of these young men. We may wring our hands in disbelief now but we’ve been moulding them for this for years. Why should we be surprised now?
Maybe some deeper reflection on our responsibility is needed this Ramadan.
Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her co­lumn in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words,“she pro­bably thinks too much for her own good.” Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely her own.
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What ISIS and the ‘caliphate’ mean for Pakistan

Shortage of water poses serious threat to rice crop
05 July, 2014 / Ramazan 6, 1435    

By Muhammad Amir Rana
 Many experts see the decline of al Qaeda in the rise of ISIS, while analysing the recent developments happening in Iraq and Syria. That is a mistake. – Photo by AFP
Among many factors, the Pakistani state’s protracted apathy and inaction on the issue of security has provided non-state actors the spaces to grow and expand their influence. They used these spaces not only to propagate their ideologies and narratives but also to establish a ‘state within the state’ in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Even as counteraction is now underway, the sudden rise of ISIS has threatened to make matters worse for us.
The militants are jubilant over the success of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has established a ‘caliphate’, or ‘Islamic state’ in parts of Syria and Iraq. This is not the first time militants have captured some territory and established their so-called Islamic writ.
Afghanistan, Pakistani tribal areas, Northern Mali and Somalia have experienced similar ventures by militants in the past, though on varying levels.
Rise of ISIS ? Fall of al Qaeda
Many experts see the decline of al Qaeda in the rise of ISIS, while analysing the recent developments happening in Iraq and Syria. That is a mistake.
A realistic review of militants’ strategies suggests that they first challenge the very foundation of the state by providing alternative socio-cultural and political narratives and then march onto its physical territory.
They may have differences over strategies, as ISIS and al Qaeda had, but ultimately they overcome their differences. Al Qaeda might feel stunned over the ‘victories’ of ISIS but now, instead of arguing with ISIS over strategies, will prefer to develop a consensus over a model of caliphate.
In some cases, militants develop alliances with nationalist groups.
That’s what happened in Northern Mali, where the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) had developed coordination with Islamist groups. But when they captured a territory, Islamist groups started imposing Shariah. The alliance was weakened due to ensuing infightings and eventually broke up after a military offensive was launched by the French forces.
A dangerous inspiration
Apart from group dynamics, inspiration plays an important role in militants’ efforts to replicate one success in other parts of the world.
The rise and success of ISIS could play a very dangerous, inspirational role in Pakistan, where more than 200 religious organisations are operating on the national and regional level.
These organisations pursue multiple agendas such as transformation of society according to their ideologies, the enforcement of Shariah law, establishment of Khilafah (caliphate) system, fulfilment of their sectarian objectives and achievement of Pakistan’s strategic and ideological objectives through militancy.
Such organisations could be influenced by the success of ISIS in various ways. A few would limit themselves to providing just moral support, but others might actively provide donations and financial assistance on ISIS’ call.
Common purpose: Establish the state of Khurasan

Still others – mainly religious extremist and militant organisations – could find inspiration in ISIS’ strategies and tactics.
This is possible since even groups operating in two different regions can find common ground in the Takfiri ideologies they believe in, and in the organisational links they share with each other.
The map released by ISIS shows countries for expansion marked in black across North Africa, into mainland Spain, across the Middle East and into Muslim countries of Central and South Asian region. It depicts exactly the states, which are or once remained under Muslim control.
According to this notion, the territory which has come under Muslim rule even once becomes a permanent part of Islamic caliphate. These territories, if later invaded by non-Muslims, will be considered as unjustly occupied territories and it will be obligatory for a Muslim to struggle to regain them.
Interestingly, the ISIS map shows both Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the Islamic caliphate state’s Khurasan province. Al Qaeda and its affiliates believe that the movement for the establishment of the Islamic state of Khurasan will emerge from the region comprising of the Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan and Malakand region of Pakistan.
A map purportedly showing the areas ISIS plans to have under its control within five years has been widely shared online. As well as the Middle East, North Africa and large areas of Asia, it also reveals ISIS’ ambition to extend into Europe. Spain, which was Muslim-ruled until the late 15th Century, would form part of the caliphate, as would the Balkan states and eastern Europe, up to and including Austria.
They consider Khurasan as the base camp of international jihad, from where they will expand the Islamic state boundaries into other non-Muslim lands. Mullah Fazlullah of Swat was inspired by the notion and considered himself the founder of the Khurasan movement.
Many other groups and commanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan subscribe to the same idea, but only a few groups have dedicated themselves to the cause of establishment of the Islamic state of Khurasan.
The current TTP leadership – mainly Fazlullah and his deputy Qayum Haqqani, and Khalid Khurasani group in Mohmand and Bajaur agencies of Fata – are leading this movement, not only on the militant, but on the ideological front as well.
The concentration of al Qaeda and TTP hardliner groups in Kunar and Nuristan are of the same mind; they intend to use the territory as a base camp for the establishment of the state of Khurasan. Though they are not strong enough to trigger a massive militant campaign like the one going on in Iraq, they will remain a critical security irritant and keep inspiring radical minds in the region.
Though the North Waziristan military offensive is an attempt to damage militants’ operational baseline, at the same time it has forced the militants to assemble in Khost, Nuristan and Kunar regions, which are all places that seem more conducive for beginning a militant struggle toward the eventual establishment of their fantasised Islamic state.Muhammad Amir Rana is a security analyst. He is the Director of Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Islamabad, Pakistan.

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