Shaakira B. Ahmed
It has been three years since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jolted the political world when the group seized Iraq’s second major city, Mosul. In response to subsequent ISIS offensives across the region in 2014, former US President, Barack Obama launched the US-led military coalition in Iraq and Syria. This year, with the US-led coalition offensives have continued but ISIS combatants have certainly not been the sole targets of the assaults.
In early March this year, the United States’ Pentagon admitted responsibility for two calamitous airstrikes in Mosul which left more than 200 civilians dead – a large proportion of the victims being women and children. Following the deadly attack, the Iraqi government resolved to bring the coalition’s military assault in Mosul to a temporary halt in order to ‘review tactics’. However, with the coalition quickly sent back into combat, the civilian casualty tally continued to swell. The deaths of an estimated 80 civilians were reported after an airstrike on the Zanjili district of Mosul on May 31st. Since May, more than 231 civilian casualties have been confirmed, and with the Battle for Mosul between ISIS and its rivals raging on, numbers are expected to escalate. The rising death toll has elicited criticism from Amnesty International, commenting that the US-led coalition is not taking “adequate precautions” in assisting the Iraqi government to take back Mosul.
Salaamedia recently spoke to American journalist in Syria, Bilal Abdul Kareem, about the fight against ISIS, the UK’s complicity in the US-led military coalition, the recent spate of attacks in Europe, and recommendations on how the global Muslim community can effectively approach and address these heavily impacting subjects.
Speaking from Syria, Abdul Kareem engaged listeners on the topic of the mainstream media’s role in furthering very ‘selective’ narratives about wars in which western powers engage across the Muslim world. Highlighting a need for stronger Islamic news platforms and emphasising the discrepancies in mainstream media reporting, Abdul Kareem boldly remarked, “The reason why that fight (i.e. against ISIS) is advertised more than any other fight is because that is the fight that is most important to Western powers.” Abdul Kareem further illustrated how Western policy makers have exploited and manipulated the topic of ISIS-brutality to harness public support for greater foreign military intervention and self-serving political agendas, while providing no workable solutions to ending terrorism.
In recent months, the United Kingdom has been particularly vocal about its controversial anti-terror laws and its strong stance against ISIS abroad as well as on the influence of ISIS in the UK. Not only has the UK earned her share of opponents by assisting in militarily devastating foreign populations, but the British government has also come under much criticism for its plans to seize passports and revoke the citizenships of a number of Muslim Britons returning from Syria – combatants, former combatants and non-combatant aid workers alike.
In the wake of three deadly attacks in the space of two months across Britain, much debate has been triggered on the possible motives of perpetrators. While British Prime Minister, Theresa May has voiced suggestions that ‘radical’ elements among Muslims are driven by a dislike for British values and freedoms, Abdul Kareem agreed that recent terror attacks on Western soil – while “plain crazy” – may ultimately be retaliations to Western-waged wars across the Middle East that have been responsible for the plundering of majority-Muslim lands. Affirming his strong support for the right of those who are being attacked to appropriately defend themselves, Bilal Abdul Kareem urged Muslims not to emulate Western values and violate Islamic injunctions by carrying out retaliatory attacks in the West which claim innocent lives. “They (the West) are not our teachers”, he stressed, emphasising the need for Muslims to maintain the pristine Islamic value system and moral code in the course of actively challenging injustices and defending themselves against oppression.
As the American-pioneered military offensive to take back ISIS’s remaining enclaves in Mosul entered its second week, the catastrophic loss of hundreds of civilian lives and the displacement of thousands more remains a barely lamented reality.