Only way to defeat Islamism is with better alternatives

Battleground of ideas

The Islamic State may be defeated militarily, but its ideas will still attract young zealots, writes Maajid Nawaz in The Catholic Herald.

While al-Qaeda may not be the menace it once was, jihadism is more alive now than it has ever been. In fact, not only is it alive, but it has also developed new and arguably more virulent strains that are spreading like wildfire in Iraq and Syria. This worrying state of affairs is exacerbated because these new strains, represented by groups such as the Islamic State (IS) are recruiting European Muslims on an unprecedented scale.

IS has been around since at least 2005 when the insurgency against the US occupation of Iraq was in full swing. But the civil war in Syria gave the group a new lease of life and, crucially, access to eager jihadist recruits from all over the world.

It has since taken over large swathes of Iraq, filling a power vacuum in the Iraqi Sunni heartlands that neither the Kurdish Regional Government nor the federal government of Iraq had paid enough attention to.

Since taking control of significant Iraqi territory, IS has persecuted Shias, Christians, Sufis and other minorities while seeking to exterminate the Yazidi, whom they regard as Devil worshippers. This persecution has included daubing symbols on Christian houses in Mosul to identify them, taking Yazidi women as sex slaves, while beheading hundreds of Yazidi men.

Ultimately, jihadism will only stop appealing to young and disenfranchised Muslims around the world when they feel they have better alternatives through which they can engage others. Bad ideas need to be challenged and replaced with better ones. As such, we need a global and concerted effort not to impose democracy and liberty at the barrel of a gun, but rather to build support for and intellectual engagement with these ideas through constructive and sustained civil society activism.

We need a global dialogue about how societies should be governed, confident as we are in the knowledge that it is very hard to argue against having a political system that respects human rights and forms governments based on popular consent. Through such dialogue the intellectual bankruptcy of jihadist and Islamist thinking can be exposed. Currently, that dialogue is not happening, allowing extremists to monopolise the discourse on geopolitical issues.

FULL STORY We have to defeat Islamism on the battleground of ideas (The Catholic Herald)

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