|Destroy IS - God does not exist - All people are equal|
Will the start of WW3 be dated at September 11, 2001, when the al-Qaeda attacks on the US punched the liberal western world in the gut, almost causing the collapse of society, but leading directly to the financial crisis that has made the 99% so tired, miserable and hopeless? Or will it be back in August 1996, when Osama bin Laden issued his Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places (US troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia by President George HW Bush in 1990, enraging Muslims. Most were withdrawn in 2003.) Is it only a declared war when the superpower decides to name it so? Or did it really get serious with al-Qaeda's second declaration of war, fatwa, on February 23, 1998?
The second fatwa states that three facts that are known to everyone compel war against the United States. First, the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places. Second, the crusader-Zionist alliance has inflicted great devastation upon the Iraqi people. Third, the United States' goal is to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. It concludes with instructions to all Muslims everywhere:
Or should we go back a little further? Perhaps to 1095, when Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to holy places in and near Jerusalem. Two centuries of war ensued. Two centuries. Or should we go back to 636, when Muslims forces defeated the Byzantines at the battle of Yarmouk (in Syria) to take control of the famed Levant? Or back again, to 610, when Muhammad first started receiving revelations from the archangel Gabriel? (Of course, these early options for dating WW3 precede World Wars 1 and 2, creating a paradoxical conundrum for another day.)
Let's just go with the reality that we are where we are. So, what's it all about? I have three possible answers:
1. This is just the latest chapter in the clash of cultures between Islam and Judaism/Christianity (remember Yarmouk?).
This is credible, but strange, because all three religions are monotheistic (believing in a single god, as opposed to, say, Hinduism, which believes in many gods) and all their god stories derive from Abraham, an ancient figure from Canaan who was 'ordered by god' to kill his son and was about to do so until 'told by god' to kill a goat instead. Really. So it's all a big, stupid, endless game: Which of these related religions is the most mental? As an atheist I am both horrified and confused by how religious fervour on both sides seems to underline the entire conflict.
2. This is all about the American Empire in decline and IS wanting to fill the vacuum.
WikiLeaks, the diplomatic cables, Edward Snowden, the NSA. Our understanding of American strength has changed in recent years. Duplicity, conspiracy and hypocrisy led to the Arab Spring and the downfall of US puppet dictators across the Middle East. Some of them, anyway. The most powerful US-allied dictators, the Saud dynasty in Saudi Arabia, still reign supreme, still control the flow of oil, upon which the US economy and the US war machine depend. The Saudi brand of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism, birthed al-Qaeda and Saudis piloted the 9/11 jets. Many assume that the Saudis also created IS, as a counter to Iranian (Shia) influence in Iraq. Maybe they saw their American proxy army having its political limitations so they decided to create their own?
3. This is really a war between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam and the west is being used as a pawn in a bigger struggle.
Saudi Arabia leading the majority Sunni Islamic sect against Iran leading the minority Shia Islamic sect. The Sunnis and Shias have been at each others' throats virtually since the dawn of Islam. Consider the Catholic V Protestant Christian wars that have consumed Europe for centuries, most recently in Northern Ireland, and you get the flavour of what hatred pathetically minor religious differences can generate. Some say that the disastrous Iraq War which began in 2003 was caused by Iranian agents leading the US into an unwinnable conflict so as to remove Iran's greatest regional and religious enemy, Saddam Hussein. The very first caliph (Sunni), who ruled after Muhammad from 632-634, was named Aby Bakr. The leader of the Islamic State caliphate is named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In my opinion, the real answer is a bastard mix of all three scenarios and the only way to effectively deal with IS and this never-ending conflict is to address the three main issues from bin Laden's 1998 declaration of war: Get all US troops out of Saudi Arabia, while replacing the horrific Saud monarchy with a secular democracy. Place the religious sites of Mecca and Medina apart from Saudi Arabia, controlled by a coalition representing all Muslims everywhere. Then fix Iraq. A secular, participative democracy must be created. Throw as much money at this problem as was thrown at the war that destroyed the place (about $6 TRILLION, including future veterans' benefits). Fix Palestine, a two-state solution, ideally without Netanyahu, recognising that Orthodox Judaism is as much part of the problem as Fundamentalist Islam.
It is my dream that atheism and secularism can replace the religions that have poisoned the Middle East and spread like a virus into the world. Without religion, can you genuinely see this mutating conflict, from Iraq and Syria to Gaza and Afghanistan, sustaining itself?
In 2014, in 13 countries, all members of the United Nations, and all Muslim nations, being an atheist is punishable by death, typically by beheading - so shocking when carried out by IS. These nations are: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Is this a clash of civilisations? I think so.
Connect with Gary J Byrnes at www.GaryJByrnes.com