The Arab World

All the news not fit to print
Email | Back to History | Back to the world news | Home | Support this website

TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Articles on the Arab world after 2014
World War IV
Articles on the Arab world before 2014

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

  • (december 2014) World War IV.

    I have frequently written about the problems of the Islamic world, starting way before the 2001 terrorist attacks. Islamic "terrorism" used to be about local issues (and very often with good arguments), such as the Israeli occupation of Arab land and the separatist movement in the southern Philippines and the unfinished partition of India; but then they gradually morphed into a general religious war, notably in Afghanistan with the triumph of the Taliban in the late 1990s, and have become something much more disturbing for modern civilization (for those who don't want to be ruled by shariha law). The USA thought that solving the problem was easy: bomb the hell out of Afghanistan and chase Al Qaeda members wherever they hide. It turned out that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were only the most visible avatars of a much more dangerous monster.
    Al Qaeda spread to Mesopotamia, to the Maghreb, and to the Arabian peninsula. The Mesopotamian branch, that initially was mostly a spectator in the two civil wars of Iraq (Shiites vs Sunnis) and Syria (Alawites vs Sunnis) morphed into the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) under the self-appointed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Other branches of Al Qaeda keep fighting in places such as Yemen, which is also being attacked by Houthi rebels (Shiites). A Russian citizen would add the Chechen terrorists who are still plotting terrorist attacks against Russians. A Chinese citizen would add the Uighur terrorists who in 2014 killed dozens of Chinese civilians. (No, Hamas does not fit in this picture: over the last decade Israel has committed way more crimes against Palestinian civilians than Hamas against Israeli civilians, and in any case Palestinian "terrorism" has always been about land, not about religion). There are so many Islamic terrorists that some don't even make the news: in october 2014 the Ugandan Islamist group ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) killed more than 200 people in two months near the Ugandan border and the world hardly noticed.
    The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), however, represents a new stage of the war against non-Muslims, because its aim is not terrorism but the creation of a state. The new Taliban and their allies control a region extending from eastern Afghanistan to northwestern Pakistan (North Waziristan). At the same time, Boko Haram has carved its own state in northern Nigeria. Al Shabab controls central Somalia and now threatens Kenya. Islamists control the former capital of Libya, Tripoli, and more hardcore Islamists in Libya's eastern city Derna have pledged loyalty to ISIS. (The Libyan Islamists, that have lost two elections, are supported by Turkey and Qatar, whereas the elected government, now relocated to Tobruk near the Egyptian border, is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates).
    All these groups are accused of committing atrocities that range from kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirlds (Boko Haram) to exterminating religious groups (ISIS).
    There is no other form of mass killing left in the world after the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka and the peace negotiations between Colombia and FARC.
    It is tempting for me to view this constellation of Islamic-inspired conflicts (the last remaining conflicts in 2014) as a world war, spreading from the Maghreb (Morocco) and Western Europe to India and the USA via the Middle East and Central Asia. (This would be the fourth world war, after World War I, World War II and the Cold War).
    It is politically incorrect to accuse an entire religion of the actions perpetrated by a minority of its worshippers. However, this is what every Muslim in the world should be asking herself or himself: "What would the founder of Islam think of this? What would Mohammed think if he were alive today?" Whatever your answer, it is perfectly legitimate to assume that Mohammed would consider the Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shahab and so forth as his true followers. They are simply doing what he did and what he preached that Muslims should do. You cannot easily go and tell today's "Islamic terrorists" that they are not good Muslims: there is non-negligible evidence (the Hadith themselves) that the opposite is true, that these "terrorists" are following both the letter and the example of Islam's founder. Islam would not exist if Mohammed had not started an ISIS-style campaign to conquer and unify the Arabian peninsula under one faith, with the specific goal of outlawing all other faiths (which, to this day, are forbidden in the whole of Saudi Arabia), and if his followers had not continued the fight in all directions. Mecca was a model of religious tolerance before Mohammed: the whole point of Mohammed's jihad was to expel all other religions. If that is indeed what ISIS is doing in Syria and Iraq, how is it different?
    The most influential Western media and Western politicians keep finding justifications for anything that religions preach (usually distorting the original meaning of the scriptures to make them look less violent than they are, and then by emphasizing the violent crimes committed by our states, as if the crimes of states in the name of geopolitics justified further crimes by religious people in the name of their gods). George W Bush never missed an opportunity to repeat that Islam had been "hijacked" by ordinary criminals (and never mind that every poll showed strong popular support for them throughout the Islamic world). The other Western leaders routinely uphold the same doctrine. Incidentally, the Western media routinely refer to Mohammed as "the Prophet" (an honor that Western media do not confer to Indian, Chinese, Japanese or African religious figures). Whenever an Islamic terrorist strikes in a Western country, the first reaction by the media is to point out that his actions have nothing to with Islam. Maybe so, but this relieves one billion Muslims from any responsibility to do something about it. And the facts prove that it hasn't helped to discourage more Muslims from becoming terrorists (there are more and more, not fewer and fewer, and many are citizens of the very Western countries whose media are so lenient towards Islam). It hasn't even helped stem the rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe, Russia, China, etc. Obviously, denying that there is a problem has not helped to solve the problem: it has made it bigger.
    Western media and politicians never miss an opportunity to denounce the crusades of the 11th-12th century in which Christians massacred Muslims (true) but almost never mention that those crusades were the reaction to the fact that the Muslims had invaded all the Christian regions of the southern Mediterranean in the 7th century. Indirectly. Western media and politicians condone Muslims killing Christians while condemning Christians killing Muslims. Western media and politicians denounce any trace of racism against Muslims (correctly so) but forget to mention that Rome is open to everybody whereas Mecca is only open to Muslims, that one of the biggest mosques in the world is located in Rome whereas no cathedral exists in Mecca (in fact, one can be sentenced to death for bringing a Christian or Hindu or Buddhist book into Saudi Arabia). Somehow the Western media and politicians feel that it is an outrage when someone disparages Muslims in the West but it is perfectly normal that all religions except Islam are banned in Saudi Arabia. Often people who write what i am writing are accused of using "inflamatory language": according to Western media and politicians, it is not inflamatory the way other religions are discriminated in the Islamic world, but it is inflamatory to denounce Islam's discrimination towards other religions. Just like it is not inflamatory what the Quran and the Hadith say about waging holy war, but it is inflamatory to denounce the fact that the Quran and the Hadith encourage holy war. Western media routinely omit to mention that Islam prescribes the death penalty for Muslims who convert out of Islam (no Muslim would go back to his or her country and say openly "I don't believe in Allah") and for non-Muslims who have sex with a Muslim woman (check how many men pretended to convert to Islam before marrying a Muslim woman, lest both spouses would be cursed by her own relatives). In fact, there are so many instances in which the holy books of Islam justify the death penalty that i keep finding a new one every other year. Western media and politicians routinely omit any reference to these widespread Muslim beliefs when they remind us that "Islam is a religion of peace".
    Western media and politicians go out of their way to dissociate the word "Islam" from Al Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Shahab, etc. Note that neither the big mosques nor the national newspapers nor tv stations like Al Jazeera (the Arabic one) are so passionate about dissociating "Islam" from these groups: they have debates that discuss pros and cons, not clear-cut statements "This has nothing to do with Islam". The very reason that so many Muslims are volunteering to go and fight a "jihad" is that there is no shame in doing so, and, in fact, many mosques, newspapers and tv programs might hail them as martyrs. When you ask the Muslim popupation, e.g. when the Pew Center conducts an international poll on Al Qaeda, the answer is ambivalent at best, but Western media and politicians are adamant that these radical groups have nothing to do with "Islam". The most passionate to dissociate the word "Islam" from these radical groups are Western media and politicians, not Muslim media and clerics. What exactly is this "Islam" that Western media and politicians talk about? I get the feeling that it is not the "terrorists" who are hijacking Islam, it is the West (that tries to turn it into a capitalist, liberal, secular and, ultimately, Christian way of life).
    The "allies" in this World War IV are different but they tend to offer each other moral and sometimes military help: the Arab kings/sheiks/emirs (who are the first ones to be directly threatened by radical Islam); the governments of African countries at the border between Islam and Christianity such as Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya; the world powers with significant Muslim minorities (China, Russia, India, the European Union); then Israel and its staunch ally USA; and finally, believe it or not, Iran, a Shiite nation that is viscerally hated by Sunni radicals because of the ancient Shiite-Sunni schism within Islam. (No, i didn't forget Turkey: Turkey has been helping ISIS as well as the Islamists in Libya, so it can hardly be considered an ally against radical Islam).
    Meanwhile, the West keeps expanding its influence. Tunisia has de facto become a European-style democracy (and perhaps more a successful one than, say, Greece or Bulgaria). The whole of North Africa is now more aligned with the European Union than ever. Jordan is de facto a US colony. In the Middle East the remaining enemies of the West are under attack and about to fall: Syria's regime has been deligitimized militarily while economic sanctions have slowed and perhaps stopped Iran's nuclear ambitions. Most of Muslim Africa now relies on the help of the French to maintain Western-friendly regimes, while the creation of South Sudan has weakened Sudan. The largest Islamic countries of the Indian subcontinent, of Malaysia and of Indonesia are increasingly modeled after the West, election after election. The strongest influence is not even military: it is cultural. The younger generations in the entire Islamic world look more and more similar to the Western youth. Maybe the old-fashioned Muslims who feel threatened by the West are not completely wrong. It is not that the average Westerner wants to conquer the Muslim lands, but that Western civilization is slowly but steadily obliterating Islam (and religion in general). There is a real threat to Islam coming from democracy, capitalism, rock music and Silicon Valley.
    Most multinational wars are decided by the shifts in alliance, and this one might not be an exception.
    Pakistan was instrumental in fostering the Islamist movement when it raised, funded and protected the Kashmiri separatists against India and then the Mujaheddin against the Soviet Union and then the Taliban against the communist regime of Afghanistan. For a long time Pakistan has viewed the Islamic fanatics as an asset, not a threat. The military, however, might finally be understanding that the Taliban are a common enemy of the USA, Afghanistan and Pakistan, not a Pakistani asset against India. Of course, a Pakistani person may view thinks differently. Pakistan lost all wars, both against India and against Bangladesh, and now it is losing another war, the war waged by the USA against the Islamist movements that Pakistan created and that had been winning in Afghanistan. Hence Pakistan's traditional ambiguity on Islamist terrorism.
    Iran is actually more hated by the Sunni terrorists than the West itself. The Sunni-Shia schism is a profound wound within Islam: Shiites view Sunnis as the killers of the prophet's family, while Sunnis view Shiites as apostates. No surprise therefore that Iran was fighting the Taliban when the West wasn't paying attention, and that Iran has never collaborated with any of these terrorist groups (certainly not with Al Qaeda). Iran's regime would be the first target of a new Islamic caliphate run by Sunni extremists. While a natural ally, Iran has been marginalized after the revolution that turned it against the USA and against USA's ally Israel. Now both Iran and the USA are beginning to realize that they should be allies in this World War IV but the USA requires that Iran denuclearizes before making any deal. Iran would have nuclear ambitions regardless of the USA because of its imperial past: if Israel and Pakistan have it, why not imperial Iran? If a Jewish state and a Sunni state have it, why shouldn't a Shiite state have it? Iran certainly studied carefully the way Israel bombed Saddam Hussein's nuclear facility in 1981 and learned from it. Iran certainly studied carefully the way the USA treated Saddam Hussein's Iraq (that did not have a nuclear weapon) and North Korea (that did): the USA is treating North Korea with respect while it summarily bombed to hell Saddam Hussein's regime (and let Qaddafi be killed after he surrendered his weapons of mass destruction).
    Turkey is a secular country run by a devout Sunni president, and therefore another ambiguous player. In theory a strong ally of the West, in practice a strong defender of Sunni faith and interests. Turkey is also obsessed with the Kurdish question. When the British and the French partitioned the Ottoman empire at the end of World War I, they forgot to give the Kurds their own homeland. The Kurds are a nation divided among Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Turkey was instrumental in helping Sunnis fight the Syrian regime of Assad (an Alawite, closer to Shiites than Sunnis), and therefore indirectly helped the rise of ISIS. When ISIS started exterminating Kurds on Turkey's borders, Turkey watched. De facto, Turkey has been neutral in this world war against the Islamists. If the Arab Spring succeeds and democratic Islamic regimes start popping up everywhere, Turkey would be their model and Turkey could regain the prestige and power that it used to enjoy in the Ottoman age. If the current regimes (kingdoms and emirs) remain in power, they will keep viewing the Turkish democracy as a dangerous example to their increasingly westernized youth.
    Ironically, the Arab countries that have had minimal trouble during the Arab Spring are precisely the ones that still live under medieval regimes, under kings and emirs and sheiks: Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Dubai... It turned out that the Arab monarchies were much closer to ordinary people than the "republics" of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, etc. World War IV, in fact, cuts neatly through the divide between compassionate monarchs and ruthless corrupt republican regimes.
    These days the Islamic world's most famous aberration is the incredible number of suicide bombers that it produces, and the incredible amount of support they enjoy among the population, but the psychos who become suicide bombers are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many horrible practices that get justified by the religion, a religion that, to me, was largely invented to please what we now consider really bad men.
    One such practice is child marriage: girls as young as eight are given to men who, anywhere in the non-Islamic world, would be in jail as sex offenders. Every now and then a little girl dies after having sex with an adult man after a perfectly legal wedding ("legal" according to Islamic law) but the news rarely surfaces because tribal chiefs "convince" journalists to look elsewhere.
    Pakistani media themselves estimate that about 1,000 women are killed every year by relatives for disobeying their male guardians. Interviewed by the BBC News, the brother of a woman who was stoned to death by her father and others approved of the stoning because he did not want to offend Allah. Allah comes before your own sister. If Allah says that your sister should be sentenced to death, so be it. (I personally find unbelievable the degree of cowardice of a man who gladly sacrifices his own sister or his own daughter because he is afraid of being sentenced to hell by a supernatural power: how about fighting this evil god instead?)
    I suspect that World War IV will end when some of these actor will switch alliance, and some of the others (Russia, China, the USA) will start behaving like real allies and not rivals. However, there is another factor that could speed up the end of this world war.
    World-war I and II were caused by politics as much as by the mood within a nation. Germany and Japan could not have done what they did in the 1930s if their populations had not gone along with or at least tolerated the madness of their political leaders. Had the populations rebelled in horror, Japan would have withdrawn from China in 1937 and Germany from Poland in 1939, and no world war would have ensued. Similarly, we should look into the attitude of ordinary Muslims for the ultimate causes of World-war IV (maybe not the beginning of it but the fact that it is still raging and it is expanding worldwide). Who is indirectly responsible for ISIS' atrocities? Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the first Muslim to be named high commissioner for human rights, has said: "It is also disturbing how few to nonexistent have been the public demonstrations of anger in the Arab and Muslims worlds over the crimes being perpetrated in Iraq". The same is true of all previous terrorist actions. How many Muslims demonstrated in the streets when a cartoonist in Denmark made fun of Islam's founder? Millions. How many Muslims demonstrated in the streets when the USA invaded Iraq? Millions. How many Muslims demonstrate in the streets whenever a suicide bomber strikes in Kenya, New York, London, India, Nigeria, Afghanistan or Iraq? A tiny minority. How many Muslims demonstrate in the streets to defend freedom of the press, or women's rights, or religious minority when cartoonists, women or non-Muslims are brutally executed? A tiny minority. I am afraid that, as long as this remains the case, World War IV will keep raging.


    After receiving feedback from readers, i started realizing that the article sounds more pessimistic than i wanted it to be. I have actually been encouraged by the Arab Spring (as i have written) and i see many polls showing a trend towards rejecting "violent Islam" (for example, this 2014 Pew poll). But i still don't see millions of Muslims demonstrating in the streets: i read the polls, but ISIS and Boko Haram don't, so, again, a citizen of the Islamic world who simply says to a pollster that he or she is fed up with the radicals, but doesn't tell the radicals directly in their face, is still sending an ambiguous message to those who call themselves Muslims and terrorize in the name of Islam.

    (See also:
    The Islamic world is perfect
    What Netanyahu and Putin have in common, part II
    ISIS thanks Turkey and Israel
    What Netanyahu and Putin have in common
    Saudi Arabia's dirty wars
    What to do in Syria Part 2: know your enemy
    The real face of an Afghani terrorist
    Al Qaeda is still thriving )

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2014 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
    Back to the world news | Top of this page

  • Articles on the Arab world before 2014

Email | Back to History | Back to the world news | Home | Support this website

TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.