Western policies helped create IS monster

Western policies helped create IS monster
5 min read
17 Nov, 2015
Comment: The West must bear the brunt of the responsibility for the recent terrorist attacks in Paris because of its part in the creation of jihadism, says Badr al-Ibrahim.
IS has taken control of large parts of Iraq and Syria [Getty]
What happened on Friday in Paris was a shocking and horrible event. The attacks were better planned, more brutal and heart-wrenching than the attack against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January. Without a doubt, western states and media will obviously dwell on the attacks for a long time to come and they will possibly immortalise them as they did with 9/11.

We must consider the possibility that the response to the attacks will be the same as 9/11. Western media may once again, expectedly, blame an entire culture and start up the discussion on the clash of civilisations, an attack against the "free world" and push towards responding with more military intervention in the Arab world to eliminate "terrorism".

     The West's role is one of the key factors to how jihadism has emerged and expanded

Maybe western politicians and academics have not realised that the response to 9/11 has caused the criminal phenomenon, known as global jihadism, which we see today.

Before we discuss the West's response to jihadism, we must start by saying that the Paris attacks were a horrible crime - innocent people have been targeted and nothing can justify what these murders have done.

In troubling times such these, it has become necessary to say this because confusing understanding the emergence of the Islamic state group [IS] and similar groups and justifying their actions has become common in many publications. This has made it necessary to clarify the distinction between understanding the appearance of this group and justifying it to outwit enemies.

There are those who indirectly justify the crimes of IS and similar groups in the Arab world as 'reactions' to the actions of their enemies. Perhaps this is a way to make sense of so called jihadism.

However, understanding it does not mean turning the actions of jihadis into automatic mechanical responses to the actions of others – as if jihadis have no free choice of their own and are programmed to give knee-jerk reactions, for which they cannot be held responsible, bearing all of the responsibility on the other side.

We can call this, in particular, indirect justification because it limits the actions of jihadis to political reactions and disregards the role of their ideology, which in part explains their behaviour such as their view of themselves and others and their convictions on issues such as targeting civilians of "rival groups".

We are speaking here about the Jihadi religious ideology as a political ideology that influences their actions and philosophy - not about the culture that some use to explain jihadism and discredit groups of people and whole societies for their religious or cultural affiliations, as a part of a fundamentalist racist world view.

To understand jihadism, we must go over several factors that have contributed to it emerging and expanding. An organisation such as IS expanded in conditions of sectarian and civil strife, the collapse of a state and colonisation.

Here, we must mention the West's role in feeding the fires of jihadism since its beginnings in Afghanistan, when western states supported the influx of jihadis and called them "freedom fighters". The impact of this support is rarely mentioned in debates in the West because today's jihadis are the cumulative product of a movement, which was born and grew up in Afghanistan.

      IS has claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks in Paris [Getty] 

Western states have not stopped doing this, they have supported the jihadi call-to-arms in Syria and turned a blind eye to them setting up a stronghold in Iraq and Syria, from where they can carry out attacks around the world.

The West has not only supported jihadism in Afghanistan and in Syria, it has also created the climate for organisations such as IS to grow through the invasion of Iraq, in the name of the war on terror, and set up a sectarian political system made up of Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties.

The sectarian quota system, which Iran also helped install, made the atmosphere ripe for various sectarian militias to grow and IS was one of them. The sectarian strife and breakup of the state, which IS has benefited from, bears the unmistakable imprints of the US and the West because the occupation is responsible for the breakup of the Iraqi state and the outbreak of civil strife.

Don't forget that the western colonial powers have not stopped their persistent intervention and brutal attacks in several Arab states with their warplanes, armies and "smart killing" using drones.

It's easy for the West to blame the culture of others or their religion and repeat their criticism. It's also easy for the liberal Arabs to suffer from inferiority complexes, feel guilt towards the West and blame themselves.

It will take courage to re-direct the discussion and lead it to a serious review of the West's responsibility for the expansion of jihadism, whether through its contribution to creating it, using it against the communists and rogue regimes or its military interventions that have destroyed states and broken up societies, creating an atmosphere for jihadi groups to develop.

The West's role is one of the key factors to how jihadism has emerged and expanded. Serious discussion and working towards change are some of the important ways to successfully tackle jihadism instead of repeating the mistakes of the past and strengthening the ongoing cycle of violence.

Badr al-Ibrahim is a Saudi writer, analyst and author.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.