July 19, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6531

Kuwaiti Columnist Fahd Al-Bassam: Leave ISIS Be

July 19, 2016
The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 6531

On July 16, 2016, the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida daily published an article by columnist Fahd Al-Bassam under the provocative title "Leave ISIS Be." Al-Bassam is not at all an ISIS sympathizer: he argued rather that by fighting ISIS, Kuwait and the world were playing into its hands, and that the way to turn the tables on the organization was to recognize its state and to force it to become a responsible sovereign member of the international system. The columnist also pointed to some potential benefits from such an arrangement - for example, he suggested that the Islamic State and Iran might end up expending their energies fighting against one another, to the benefit of countries such as Kuwait that view both as their enemies.

The following are translated excerpts from the column:   


Kuwaiti columnist Fahd Al-Bassam


Let Us Turn The Other Cheek To ISIS

"It is coming on three years now that we and the world have been confronting ISIS in fits and starts... We have tried every kind of conventional and unconventional weapon on them, as well as intelligence and spy operations. None of this has worked, and they are still there. We likewise tried to fight them with Islam, trying to convince them to adopt the path of moderation - the boundaries of which no one knows - and this did not work on them either, [since] they always find bad-faith interpretations [to justify their actions]. As for us, we gained our expertise through our dealings with the sweet, cute Muslim Brotherhood 'guy', who espouses a lightweight and tractable version of Islam that is always subject to negotiation and adaptation. The only thing that puts him in a tight spot is a salafi, and the only thing that puts a salafi in a tight spot is another who is more salafi than he - and so on and so forth... And these ISIS guys are the most salafi of all to date, and they have come to put everyone in a tight spot.

"For this reason, let us change the rules of the game a bit, turn the tables on them, and put them off their game. Let us face them with some Christianity, in which we will perhaps find our own lost wisdom. Perhaps we can succeed this time by, for example, following the principle of 'if someone slaps you on your right cheek, offer him your left cheek'.

"Let us recognize them and their state in its borders. This will then require them to adhere to these borders and not go beyond them, [and will likewise require them] to cure [themselves of their] 'nostalgia' for the [Islamic] conquests and to abandon the hobby of chasing dust in the desert on four-wheel drive vehicles. 'If we can't beat them, let's make them join us' in the international club and in the game of states, politics, and diplomacy. Let them send their ambassadors, and we will send our ambassadors, like things were with the Taliban's Afghanistan. Let us start playing out in the open. 

'ISIS Would Be An Extremist Buffer State In Confrontation With Iran'

"This new situation would not be all bad. In fact, it would also bring us some gains. From the foreign policy perspective, ISIS would be an extremist Sunni buffer state in confrontation with Iran, the extremist Shi'i state. Let them come to terms one with the other. [For our part] we will hope that each side is sincere in its intention to do away with the other.

"From the domestic policy perspective, the existence [of the ISIS state] would be an opportunity to test the sincerity of the faith of those among us who dream of an Islamic state and sympathize with ISIS. We will see if they will move to live there, or go to invest, work, tour, and buy apartments there instead of in Turkey, Bosnia, or the UEFA Euro states. As for those who prefer to remain among us to spread ISIS' ideology, it would then be simple to indict them on charges of treason and collusion with a foreign country without any hesitation or ambiguity, unlike at present.

"Finally, we would like to see with our own bare eyes how the dream of the Islamic state and the caliphate is achieved in reality and how they will run it. It is one thing to hope and to live in the mantle of the past, and reality is another thing. Come on [ISIS]: pay salaries, create an economy and job opportunities, manage human life, and achieve economic growth. If they succeed, may Allah grant success to the state [established] by our brothers who rebelled against us; and if they fail, then at least we will have put to a practical test... the dreams of those romantics among us [in Kuwait] who hold ISIS in their hearts and on their tongues - after which perhaps they will be convinced [that their dreams are impossible].[1]    




[1] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), July 16, 2016.

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