Monday 25 August 2014

Intellectually dishonest or just stupid?

I once had a great deal of respect for Melanie Phillips and she was a major influence in my formative years. Being from Bradford I had grown up in what some would call a "multi-cultural" city, but it was anything but. It was a binary city with a white working class population... and Muslims. That's it. I grew up with a misguided perception of Islam and Muslims, and I can completely understand why these places became heartlands for the BNP - and I can now see why I took Melanie Phillips entirely seriously.

But the problems we had in Bradford were more a consequences of mass and rapid immigration which continued as employment opportunities, even for immigrant labour, were diminishing, creating a whole generation of Muslim youth who could neither integrate nor succeed - and that is why, to some extent we see young Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin going off to fight the Jihad in places of the world which are nothing to do with them, but for the vague association with Islam.

These are very much domestic political problems that require domestic solutions and have nothing to do with Islam. But it seems to be a natural tendency of humanity to draw parallels where none exist. Melanie Phillips draws our attention on Facebook to this article in The Commentator, which itself is a dismal right-wing reactionary rag, which aligns itself with Ukip. Not surprising then that the content therein would be excremental in nature.

The piece attempts to conflate Hamas with ISIS saying that "the West" needs to defeat them both. The two cannot be conflated. ISIS is a loose coalition of jackals on a looting spree who smell weakness in Iraq having failed to take Syria. Now that the Iraqi army is getting its act together, ISIS will retreat back to where they came from (where Assad will slaughter them now they are no longer politically convenient). Assuming they don't turn on each other first. That they are Jihadi's is only a vague connection with Hamas, and the threat is overstated. 

The recent beheading is merely a tool ISIS use to enhance their reputation because fear is a great weapon. If their reputation precedes them, they don't need to fight battles because demoralised and disloyal army battalions just won't fight (and I don't blame them either). As much as it is a psychological warfare tactic, it is also a provocation to the West - and we should not take the bait. To conflate it with Hamas is intellectually dishonest because the politics are wholly different. 

Jihad is just part of the illusion. Their main weapon is fear and adopting the clothing of Islamic Jihad just adds to their mystique. But when you look at it closely, there is no cohesive fighting force, no single command, and it is a rag-bag of tribal alliances. Part of which was the same Sunni insurgency we saw during the Iraq occupation because Maliki had frozen Sunnis out of government. Now that Maliki has gone, Sunni officers are re-engaging and the Iraqi army is slowly coming back into the fight. We are witnessing nothing much more than the Croydon looting writ large, chased out of Syria and making hay in Iraq while the going is good. Just watch how quickly the tables now turn - and how they turn on each other as rebel groups are now doing in Libya.

This is nothing but your run-of-the-mill tribal uprising and the Western hyperventilation about it being a grave threat to the West is actually a little embarrassing, and it plays right into the hands of ISIS. To understand ISIS you need to understand that this is all about tribal dynamics and when it comes to Middle East politics you have to understand these dimensions. Religion is secondary to tribe. The moment you start conflating all these separate conflicts as "jihad" is the moment you depart from reality and drift into paranoid fiction.

The losers who claim they have established a caliphate no more control Iraq than I control North Wales by standing on the summit of Snowdon waving a black flag - and just because one or two rebel groups in Libya wave a similar looking flag and believe roughly the same thing does not mean their is a pan-Arab Islamist uprising, and not all Islamist groups believe even remotely the same thing. Insofar as "Islamist" is a useful and relevant term that is, which it isn't.

Those who seek to conflate these tribal dynamics with Hamas are doing so for dishonest political reasons, or they are merely paranoid and stupid. Yes, Hamas are Jihadists, yes they are scum of the earth, but no, it is not an existential threat to the West, nor is it a part of what is happening elsewhere. This is the same dismal ethno-nationalist spat it has always been and its importance is grossly exaggerated.

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