Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Stop Helping ISIS in Its War on the "Gray Zone"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Stop Helping ISIS in Its War on the "Gray Zone"

Article excerpt

What were Islamist terrorists trying to accomplish when they attacked Paris that Friday, killing 130 French civilians? An increasing number of analysts now agree with Juan Cole's theory about the extremists' strategy in France, which he raised after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, writing:

"The problem for a terrorist group like al-Qaeda is that its recruitment pool is Muslims, but most Muslims are not interested in terrorism. Most Muslims are not even interested in politics, much less political Islam. France is a country of 66 million, of which about 5 million is of Muslim heritage. But in polling, only a third, less than 2 million, say that they are interested in religion. French Muslims may be the most secular Muslim-heritage population in the world...In Paris, where Muslims tend to be better educated and more religious, the vast majority reject violence and say they are loyal to France.

Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination."

Cole likened this strategy to the early 20th century communist revolutionaries in Austria who would launch attacks for the express purpose of provoking a police crackdown on left-leaning citizens in order to radicalize them. From the perspective of the vanguard of the proletariat:

"...the fact that most students and workers don't want to overthrow the business class is inconvenient, and so it seemed desirable to some of them to "sharpen the contradictions between labor and capital."

This is the strategy explicitly professed by ISIS (aka Da'ish), the group that almost surely perpetrated the attacks. Also shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, in its official magazine Dabiq,ISIS ran an article titled, "The Extinction of the Grayzone."

For the authors, the grayzone is the middle ground between extremist, Salafi, terrorist theocrats (i.e., themselves, whom they exclusively regard as the "camp of Islam") on one side and an imperialist, war-waging, Western "crusader camp" on the other.

In other words, the grayzone is the realm of coexistence, communication, cooperation and commerce among people of different creeds. The grayzone is where civilization resides.

ISIS hates the grayzone and wants to see it eliminated. As Arab Spring activist Iyad El-Baghdadi put it, ISIS wants to erase all gray areas and make the world as starkly black and white as their flag. So the authors rejoiced in its belief that:

"The grayzone is critically endangered, rather on the brink of extinction. Its endangerment began with the blessed operations of Sept. 11, as these operations manifested two camps before the world for mankind to choose between, a camp of Islam...and a camp of kufr - the crusader coalition."

The authors celebrated that the 9/11 attacks:

"...quickly exposed the different deviant 'Islamic' movements...as all of them rushed to serve the crusaders led by Bush in the war against Islam. And so, the grayzone began to wither..."

The authors cite Osama bin Laden favorably quoting President George W. Bush after 9/11:

"The world today is divided into two camps. Bush spoke the truth when he said, 'Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.' Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam."

Four years later, in "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," George Lucas scripted this exchange between Anakin Skywalker (who had just turned to the dark side, becoming Darth Vader) and Obi-Wan Kenobi:

Anakin: "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy. …

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