- - Monday, September 22, 2014

At the moment, it appears that our allies in the Arab world are just as hesitant as our president to send ground troops against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Let’s hope that situation is improved by President Obama’s efforts during the U.N. meetings this week.

Why? Because it is absolutely critical to the ultimate defeat of ISIS that their fellow Muslims actually fight them. Remember, there are two “wars” or two aspects of the war against these people: the military conflict and the ideological battle. The military conflict has a far greater chance of being won because, no matter what Mr. Obama says now, it is almost certain that the greatest army in the world will be forced to join the fight if all else fails, as was noted by Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last Tuesday.

But the Americans cannot win the war of ideas. Only true Muslims can defeat the heresy that ISIS professes as their religion. There are many complications involved in defeating this new barbarism.

The rise of ISIS is reminiscent of the way the Berber Almaravids came pouring out of the desert and conquered the (Islamic) Moors of the Cordova caliphates in the 11th century, and all of Iberia (Spain, Portugal and part of southern France) in the next 100 years. They too were radical Muslims, ferocious, cruel and barbaric. Cordova was undoubtedly the most advanced civilization in the Europe of its time. But the radicals ruthlessly destroyed it – including the tolerance which had allowed Christians and Jews to live peacefully in the Moorish cities.

This warlike attitude on the part of an Islamist group is a reflection of Mohammed’s own activities. In the last 10 years of his life (622-632 A.D.), when he went from an “eccentric” to the founder of a great religion, he spent most of his time as a general, fighting one battle after another. Nor was barbarism unknown to Mohammed. Although recently disputed, Jewish historian Ibn Ishaq’s account of the battle of the Jewish town of Banu Qurayza was accepted for centuries. He states that after the surrender of the town, all the men except a few converts to Islam were beheaded, and the women and children became slaves. The actual number of the men beheaded is unclear, although the number is probably 400-800 men. The persistent claim by Western politicians that Islam is a “peaceful” religion is therefore open to substantial doubt.

The second extremely significant complication regarding Muslims willingness to fight against ISIS is the division between the Sunni and the Shia partisans within the Islamic religion itself. This split began at the prophet’s death in 632. The Sunni faction followed the leadership of Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s father-in-law. They were shortly challenged by the followers of Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law. The two sides have grown farther and farther apart over time, and generated all the bitterness associated with religious schisms. 80 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are Sunni, and they include the Gulf states of the Middle East, while the minority Shia rule the so-called Shia Crescent from Iran through Syria to the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Generally speaking, the Sunni are fundamentalists, believing in the literal interstation of the Quran – resulting in the call for Sharia Law, while the Shia believe that the Quran must be re-interpreted continually by their elected ayatollahs (literally “Sign of Allah” the experts in the Quran) and applied to current circumstances. Thus the radicals, including ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda, Wahhabis and Hamas, as well various other extremists are Sunni.

So, getting the coalition sought by the president to become the ground troops in the battle against ISIS is fraught with pitfalls. The first problem is getting the Sunni to fight their co-religionists at all. The second problem is to get the Sunni and the Shia to fight together against anyone. Another issue is the separate ethnic groups involved – the Arabs, the Kurds and the Iranians, who are made up of the predominant Persians, with the minority Aseris, Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs and Lors.

One can only hope that the threat of an aggressive, well-financed and well organized group of radicals will motivate the diverse branches of Middle Eastern Islam to set aside their historical differences and come together to fight this new enemy. Perhaps this common enemy will have an effect similar to that of all the Christian denominations, which had been fighting for centuries, to institute an ecumenical movement when confronted with atheistic Communism.

The long-term challenge of this war is to so discredit and ostracize the merciless radicals among the Islamists that they cease to exist as a group. Only when other members of their faith take up arms against them and treat them as outlaws and losers will the seeds of success in the war of ideals be sown. Thus the necessity of the countries of the Middle East to take a leading role in the military and subsequent contests with the radicals. When mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers of the Islamic army against ISIS see what has happened to their loved ones at the hands of these barbarians, there will take deep root in their souls a horror and disgust aimed at ISIS. It is especially important that there be a strong Sunni contingent in that army, that this effort not be seen as merely an assault by the Shia on the Sunni.

The assertions by Western politicians that most of the Islamic populations of the world are peaceful and tolerant of their neighbors is as much a wish as a reality. This longing for peace and progress comes from the simple humanity of these folks, not unfortunately from the example of the founder of their religion. Nevertheless, it is real all the same. If ISIS is allowed to continue its bloody march through the region, it will become, like the Almaravids, or indeed Mohammed himself, master of all the countries we are asking to help us. ISIS will make the Nazis look tame.

But these countries must rise to the challenge now, or it will be left to the infidel Americans to deliver a military defeat of ISIS – and that will mean that ISIS will rise again as soon as the Americans leave. The Kurds have already shown themselves to be worthy opponents of ISIS. But the Iraqis, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Pakistanis must also be brought onto the field of battle. What about the Shia — the Iranians and the Syrians? Good question. Seems like it is hard to turn down willing enemies of our enemies.

If these countries cannot bring themselves to fight in the military war against ISIS, this movement will never be truly defeated. Only the scorn of the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of Islam can eliminate this terror from the face of the Earth.

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