ISIS a failed idea and a failing project
In recent weeks, nearly 500 members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community were forced to flee the Sinai peninsula to Ismailia, on the heels of the assassination of seven Copts in El Arish.
The Islamic State (ISIS) is trying to fuel sectarian conflict in Egypt to destabilise the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. This dastardly agenda is meant to play out in the way it promoted sectarian strife in the Levant.
The extremist group’s terrorism is obviously intended to compensate for military setbacks in Syria and Iraq. In recent days, forces loyal to the Syrian regime recaptured most of the ancient city of Palmyra, two months after it fell to ISIS.
Recent assessments indicate ISIS was driven from nearly one-quarter of its territory in Iraq and Syria in 2016; its infrastructure, resources and revenue-raising capacity have been greatly depleted and it has lost many key leaders as the result of 17,000 air strikes by the US-led coalition. Late last year, ISIS lost control of Sirte, its final stronghold in Libya.
More importantly, ISIS is failing as an idea. And it is failing as a project.
In June 2014, no one quite believed the extremist group’s declaration that it would build an Islamic caliphate along the lines of illusory goals. Since then, ISIS has been unable to impose its anachronistic value system anywhere except in the areas it brought under its direct barbaric control. The group has not been able to bring about the end of religious tolerance, cultural commingling and multi-ethnic harmony. The overwhelming majority of Muslims have rejected its call for a clash of civilisations, with Muslims against everyone else.
In the United States, Muslims have been raising money and mobilising their community on behalf of Jewish fellow-Americans whose cemeteries were vandalised and desecrated by anti-Semites.
Those American Muslims raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Jews in Missouri and Pennsylvania are, in a way, a measure of ISIS’s failure. That they symbolise the strength of an age-old notion of shared humanity, common values and fellow-feeling is another blow to ISIS’s hateful, hate-filled ideology.
ISIS has wreaked horrors on minority religious groups in the Middle East and North Africa region but it ultimately will not be able to carry out its sectarian ethnic cleansing project in the region.
Despite its attempts to fan the flames of sectarianism in Sinai and the rest of Egypt, the overwhelming majority of Egypt’s 92 million population has stood against the ISIS strategy, which considers the country’s Christians its “favourite prey”.
Amid complaints that Egypt’s Copts are not sufficiently protected, Sisi told his military and police chiefs that it was time “to completely eradicate terrorism in northern Sinai and defeat any attempts to target civilians or to undermine the unity of the national fabric”.
Governments and civil society groups in the Middle East and North Africa region must be more watchful and proactive about protecting religious and ethnic minorities. Preserving the make-up of the region and harmony between its various components is a key element in the war against ISIS’s totalitarian vision.