Abdel Bari Atwan: ISIS Savagery Comes from Islamic History; The West Likely to 'Contain' ISIS Like It Contained the IRA and Arafat
In a December 15 lecture about ISIS at the American University in Beirut, Abdel Bari Atwan, former editor-in-chief of "Al-Quds Al-Arabi" and the current editor-in-chief of "Al-Rai Al-Youm" rejected common claims that the savagery of ISIS is alien to Islam, presenting examples of similar conduct from Islamic history. Atwan said that the West faces two options: to contain ISIS or to destroy it. The former is more likely than the latter, he added. The West always starts by trying to destroy organizations that it considers to be terrorist and ends up negotiating with them, Atwan said, citing the Taliban, the PLO, and the IRA as prominent examples.
Abdel Bari Atwan: "Why does (ISIS) use savagery? What's the story with all the savagery? I am surprised by... I will say something out of line again. I am surprised by people who say: 'This blood soaked ideology is alien to us. From where did they bring it? Islam is not blood soaked.' How can you say that Islam is not blood soaked?! This is very peculiar. In the days of the Abbasid Caliphate, Abu Al-Abbas Al-Saffah spread a carpet over people's skulls and had dinner. Where did that happen? In Yorkshire? In Georgia? In the Ukraine? No, it happened in our religion. The same is true of the Umayyad Caliphate. Even Cromwell, when he staged a coup against British Monarchy 400 years ago, he executed 400,000 people. Stalin and others acted the same way. They executed millions of people. Millions of people. During the French Revolution - the revolution of light and civilization - they executed 150,000 people when the revolution was successful. Still, people ask: 'Where did this ideology come from?' Didn't the Wahhabi movement go to Karbala, where they killed thousands and desecrated the tomb of Hussein? They shattered tombs and almost destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, when they took over Najd and Hijaz. They desecrated the tombs of all the companions of the Prophet. Yet people say: This is not Islamic ideology. The IS is neither Islamic nor a state. So why do they use savagery? In 2003, Abu Bakr Naji published the book Management of Savagery. When you read this book... There is some confusion. People think that 'management of savagery' means perpetrating of savage crimes. It's not. The period in which we are living is the stage of security chaos. This is the state of savagery. It is their way of taking over the rule in this period of security chaos. This is what 'management of savagery' means. They have been practicing savagery for a very simple reason: To strike fear in their enemy. They must sow fear among the enemy. It's all orchestrated. All organized.
"How should this phenomenon be dealt with? There are two options: To contain (ISIS) or to destroy it. In my view the likelihood of containing ISIS is much greater than the possibility of destroying it, considering the way the West has dealt with such movements. The West first treats these movements as terrorist organizations, and ultimately, negotiates with them. They are currently negotiating with the Taliban, and the Taliban now has an embassy in Doha. They negotiated with the IRA. They made a peace agreement with the IRA, and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness became ministers in the Irish government. Before that we in Britain had not been allowed to even hear their voices or see their pictures. They would bring actors to play their parts. I saw Gerry Adams many times in joint lectures and symposiums in Ireland. It's all normal. They are highly respected, and represented in Irish and British parliaments. The same thing happened with the PLO. Yasser Arafat was (considered), the greatest terrorist in history, but we saw them with him, negotiating with him, inviting him to the White House and being photographed with Clinton. It was all very normal, without any problems whatsoever. We saw the same kind of containment with regard to the Iranian chemical weapons... I mean Iran's nuclear weapons, or rather Iran's nuclear project. We saw four carriers in the Gulf and thought: That's it. War is imminent. Nuclear submarines and over 250 war ships were deployed there. We expected a war that would destroy Iran to break out any moment. And then, we woke up one morning and learned that there had been secret negotiations between Iran and the US in Muscat - and bear in mind that Oman is a GCC member. I'll never forget how I once went on a lecture tour in Canada, and I bought an issue of Foreign Affairs, which was dedicated to what could be done about Iran's nuclear project. There was a consensus in all the articles that the US had to contain Iran. I said: 'How can this be?! How come Foreign Affairs supports the containment of Iran?! I couldn't believe it. The drums of war were beating. Well, now you see that they have contained Iran. What I mean to say is that the option of containment is not inconceivable. The other option is the complete obliteration of the Islamic State. Okay, let's assume that we destroyed the Islamic State completely. What then? What's 'plan B'? What do we do with the region? What can be done about the popular support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria? What do they want to do with Syria? With Iraq? With Palestine? I didn't mention Palestine because we are talking about the Islamic State now. That's their problem. They have no 'plan B' whatsoever. All they talk about is going in, striking, destroying, infantry, airforce... But nobody says anything about the future of the region and what it will look like. What will the borders of the region be? The most important thing we had in the region was coexistence. When we went to Iraq we didn't know who was Sunni and who was Shiite. We didn't know who was a Christian and who was a Muslim. When we went to Lebanon we didn't know who was Sunni, who was Shiite and who was Christian. The problem is that western intervention has destroyed us. Really. Note something very important. The countries that have been destroyed are the most important historical centers of civilization in the region. The countries that have been destroyed, along with their armies and their social fabric, are the secular countries: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Egypt almost followed them. Why do they destroy countries of coexistence? It's true that there are dictatorships, human rights violations, and oppression, but at least there was coexistence and the injustice was distributed equally. Currently in the region... There is no Iraqi identity anymore.
"Regarding the comment about (ISIS) not being Islamic... I am not a religious source of authority, brother, but when the Sheik of Al-Azhar, who heads the moderate religious institution, refuses to accuse (ISIS) of heresy and says that they are Muslims - what more do we need? Some people disagree - and they are free to do so - but Al-Azhar is a moderate source of authority. The Sheik of Al-Azhar refused to accuse them of heresy, and said they are Muslims, and you expect 'Sheik' Abdel-Bari Atwan to pronounce them heretics?! It's a little difficult for me...
"I just want to comment on the ISIS Dabiq magazine. I received an offer, via the internet to be editor-in-chief of Dabiq. I didn't know whether it was genuine or not, but I rejected it, of course."