How ISIS is winning the war

One can’t help but notice the irony and Biblical deja vu inherent in the multiple tragedies playing out in the Middle-east. The region which gave birth to three of the world’s major religions is now witnessing a carnage in which these three are doing deadly battle with each other. Islam appears to be taking on the other two faiths for supremacy but is mainly killing its own faithfuls by the tens of thousands! And the Biblical sweep cannot be missed either: the lure of the Promised land inducing an Exodus of millions for whom, unfortunately, the waters of the seas do not part but consume by the thousands. And now we see the beginnings of a new Crusade being mobilised in Europe.


Only a fool, or a Nostradamus believer, would predict how this war of cultures will play out. The interplay of personal rivalries, strategic considerations, economic interests and historical baggage has so far ensured that neither the Islamic world nor the Developed world are united even among themselves: how then will they ever join forces to take on the ” enemy” whose definition in any case defies consensus? The Russians regard everybody other than Assad and Iran as their enemy. The Saudis consider all Shias as their enemy. The Americans and western Europe identify all who support Assad as their enemy. Iran is convinced that all Sunnis are their enemy. Somewhere in this maze of diplomatic confusion lurks ISIS, playing one power off against the other and gradually filling in the vacuum created by the competing disarray of the western powers, steadily expanding its empire. The Caliphate is not a defined territory, but an idea whose boundaries shift daily, like a viscous quicksand whose enclaves extend also to the ghettos of France, to Lebanon and Turkey, to the Sinai. Militarily, therefore, the conflict is likely to continue for the indeterminate future.
But the ISIS is winning the cultural and political war while the western powers persist in defending their individual interests. Consider the following:

Islam is a proselytizing religion which consciously seeks to increase its numbers and spread its area of influence. The current refugee crisis in Europe is an indication that ISIS has been hugely successful in doing so. Its barbaric actions in Iraq and Syria will ensure that a million refugees, predominantly of the Muslim faith, will inundate Europe this year, with another million and a half expected next year. Physical barriers and panic driven legislation will not stop them for they have already lost everything: as Bob Dylan sang- ” when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.” Whether or not there are any terrorists embedded among this multitude of the damned is irrelevant: their sheer numbers are enough to change the demography and culture of Europe in a few years. The Islamisation of Europe is well and truly underway, abetted by soft states and liberal societies.

The political and administrative structure of Europe, already weakened by the financial crisis of Grexit, is buckling under the pressure of the refugees. The very idea of the European Union is unravelling: common borders are a thing of the past with each country setting up border barriers to stem the human flood; the Schenzen protocol is on its way out, its fatal flaw exposed by the ease with which the Paris terrorists moved between countries; the authority of the European Commission is being defied by member states on the matter of refugee quotas; the exit of Britain next year is now almost certain with the spirit of protectionism hardening every day.

Western Europe is changing in more subtle, and more fundamental, ways too. Countries like France which have always prided themselves on their extreme liberal values-freedom of expression, privacy, keeping the state at arm’s length, secular tolerance- are now being forced to reassess these tenets of democracy. The process had started with the Charlie Hebdo massacre and now has been accelerated after the downing of the Russian plane over the Sinai and the Paris killings. Security now demands a more intrusive state and a curbing of long cherished freedoms. The political repercussions of the ISIS attacks are also significant: moderate centrist parties are now being edged out by those on the extreme right, such as Britain’s UKIP and Marie La Penn’s National Front, who have consistently opposed immigration. The essence and ethos of western Europe is changing in accordance with the ISIS agenda, and this perhaps is the deepest cut of all.

Organisations like ISIS, Al Quaeda and the Taliban feed on the Muslims’ fear of oppression, discrimination and ghettoisation, and the panicked reactions in the west are adding to this fear, which is precisely what these terrorist outfits want. There is now a growing Islamophobia across the world, prompted not only by the terrorist attacks but also by the tsunami of refugees crossing the Mediterranean. Some countries have openly announced that they shall not accept Muslim migrants, an increasing number of US states have also declared that they will not honour Mr. Obama’s pledge of taking in 20000 Syrian refugees. Even Mr. Donald Trump is finding a new resonance in his vitriolic opposition to any kind of immigration. Caught up in this mass hysteria and anger the developed world is losing its capacity to distinguish between Islam and terrorism, to recognise that the terror in Europe is not imported from Syria or Iraq but is home grown, to accept that it is social alienation, not the Quoran, that drives youngsters into the embrace of terrorism. They are hesitant to ask themselves that revealing question: Why is it that, with a population of just a few million Muslims, they have produced thousands of recruits for ISIS, when the 400 million Muslims of India and Indonesia have yielded just a couple of dozen? By not doing so they yield more ground to terror and make their societies more vulnerable- which is what ISIS wants. The war against this brand of terror cannot be fought only in Iraq and Syria: it will ultimately have to be won in the ghettos of Paris and Belgium, and Europe has to realise this sooner or later.

ISIS may well- and probably will, now that a coalition is taking shape against it- lose the military and territorial battle. It should. But it has already achieved its objectives in large measure. For the struggle has already moved beyond the middle-east into the heart of Europe and America, and it is there that the poison will fester. The developed world will never be the same again- its values, principles and standards of behaviour will undergo a transformation for the worse, a siege mentality will prevail, liberties will be curtailed, Islam will be reviled, and will find ever more recruits.
Whose victory would you call it ?

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at

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1 Comment

  1. says: Nodnat

    As brought out clearly in Mr Shukla’s interesting article, the ISIS and linked outfits are succeeding in conflating terrorism and Islam. Europe and to an extent America’s reaction would be predictable and stupid use of force, as the US has proved itself capable of over and over again, will drive millions of Muslims into the arms of ISIS and the likes. The stage will be set for Armageddon and for the rest we can read the Bible.

    In this volatile and highly dynamic conflict scenario, solutions / strategies are difficult to agree on leave alone to act on unitedly. What appears to be very wrong (and mysterious) is that the Huge and Moneyed Muslim world seems to be watching from the fence while Europe takes the brunt of the fall out. So why don’t we have Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the many of the super-rich Persian Gulf countries offer and take in their unfortunate brethren? Earlier, Afghan refugees came to Pakistan?

    It’s kind if queer that from the thousands of ‘refugees’ risking life and limb to get into Europe, there seems to be little or no outright and VOCAL condemnation of what the ISIS is doing to their homelands and livelihoods? Are we saying that those unable to get away are being ‘killed’ by the ISIS? There are many well-off, oil soaked Muslim countries out there and it is strange that the ‘refugees’ are not even opting for any of these nor is there any offer by them to take in the refugees? At times it appears that this is not a refugee problem but something else. Like ‘exporting’ unemployable but highly motivated youth into ‘soft’ countries?

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