The ISIS excuse factory

On July 23 ISIS murderers killed 80 people and wounded more than 200 in an attack on a Shia Hazara protest in Afghanistan. If you read major media accounts of the attack you will not find any evidence that the attack was caused by intolerance, by bigotry and hatred of Shia among Sunni extremists.  The BBC “explained” the event by noting: “Correspondents say the statement suggests an intention to foment sectarian strife.” It went on to note “Hazaras have long complained of discrimination. During Taliban rule in the late 1990s, many of them fled to Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan.”

Notice the slight of hand in these two sentences.  In the first the mass murder of a minority group is deflected into a story about “sectarian strife,” as if the real problem with intolerance that leads to mass murder, is not about the victims but about there now being “strife” between the group that did the killing and the one that was killed. It’s like turning a Nazi pogrom into a story about “sectarian strife” between “Germans and Jews.” The Nazis were just “fomenting sectarian strife,” not persecuting people.

The second sentence is interesting in how it foists the burden of discrimination not onto the group doing the discriminating but rather onto the persecuted group, claiming they “complain” about discrimination.  When a group is being bombed and ethnically-cleansed and mass murdered, is it just “complaining” or is it actually being persecuted.  Do African-Americans “complain” about having been enslaved in the US or were they actually enslaved and discriminated against?

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ISIS graffiti in a Kakei village, liberated by Peshmerga in late May of 2016. (Seth J. Frantzman)

After every mass murder of people based on extreme Nazi-like intolerance by ISIS, the narrative the media presents is an excuse factory which almost turns the perpetrator into the victim and always disregards the targeting of minorities.  Consider the Anne Barnard piece at the New York Times after the bombings in Bangladesh, Baghdad and Saudi Arabia.

Instead of commiserating with the victims, who were mostly Shia and foreigners, the author decided that the West was “shrugging off” massacres in Muslim countries. So the real problem was not ISIS intolerance and murder, but “the West.”  Then the excuse factory noted, that the violence by ISIS has a goal: “to create a backlash against Muslims, divide societies and make Sunnis feel that no matter what happens, they don’t have any other option.”

So here again, the “real” victims of ISIS violence are not the minority groups being targeted but actually Sunni Muslims who face a “backlash.”  That’s like pretending the real problem after the KKK bombs a black church is that white Christians will “face a backlash” and that “whites have no option but to join the KKK.”  But is that really the logical conclusion after a bombing of a minority group?  Why is it the media never shows any sympathy for the victims and never describes the intolerance and hatred and genocidal ideology of ISIS that motivates the violence.  It’s like writing a history of fascism and never mentioning racism or nationalism.  Did you know the main victims of fascism were Italians and Germans who faced a backlash?  Did you know that it fomented strife between national groups and that Jews complained of discrimination?

After the axe attack on a train in Germany in which an Afghan who had been welcomed as a refugee set out to murder Chinese tourists for no reason other than his own pathological racism and intolerance, the main “narrative” was that migrants would now face a “backlash.”  Perhaps asking why a teenager who was welcomed in Germany became so hateful that he sought to murder random people, would be a more pertinent question? Why was his worldview grounded in hatred?  Where did he learn to hate?  Most people don’t run around on a train with an axe attacking people.  But the media refuses to discuss hatred and intolerance as a motivating factor behind terrorism.

Instead the excuse factory constantly finds complex reasons for mass murder.  During the Munich attack when the media assumed that it was an ISIS attack, numerous “experts” on France 24 claimed that the attack was a “response” to German foreign policy.  Germany was helping to train the Kurds, so that is “why” it was targeted by ISIS. This is a nice slight of hand that once again makes ISIS the victim, rather than the perpetrator.  It presents any attack on European countries as having a reason and an excuse.  Now that the Munich attack has been revealed not to be an ISIS attack, suddenly the “foreign policy” excuse has disappeared.

The excuse factory that underpins all narratives about mass murder and terror, particularly that carried out by ISIS, is designed to never put the blame on the perpetrators, and never accuse them of intolerance, bigotry, racism and hatred. Yet the mass murder of Shia in Afghanistan, Yazidis in Iraq, Kurds in Turkey, and many other targeting of minority groups, is not because of “foreign policy” or “sectarian strife”, it is solely because of intolerance and hatred.

The Western media constantly wants to distract and deflect from the intolerance behind ISIS. When there are attacks in Paris, Belgium or Nice, the narrative is always that the “real” goal of ISIS is to encourage the rise of right wing politicians, so as to create discrimination against Muslims, a “backlash” and then “ISIS wins” because more people join it.  But that isn’t the idea that goes through the head of the man driving a truck through hundreds of people in Nice.  That isn’t what goes through the head of the gunman shooting at Jews at a kosher market, or planning to blow up a synagogue.  He isn’t thinking, “if I do this, then Marine Le Pen will get more votes and then more people will dislike Muslims and then more people will want to join ISIS.”  The sole motivating factor is murder and hatred.  Anders Breivik didn’t kill 80 people so that the radical left would come to power and drive more people to become like Anders Breivik.  The Nazis didn’t build Auschwitz so that there would be a backlash against Germany, so that more Germans would become Nazis.

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A Kakei religious minority tomb blown up by ISIS, it wasn’t to create “sectarian strife” or due to “foreign policy” that they persecuted minorities, it was solely due to ISIS intolerance. (Seth J. Frantzman)

ISIS already had 5,000 European recruits before it ever engaged in one attack in Europe.  It never had a problem recruiting people to its ranks.  It doesn’t need a “backlash” and “sectarian strife” and “Donald Trump” to make people join it.  In a totally peaceful country, without any sectarianism, without any anti-Muslim politics, in fact in the Islamic heartland such as Saudi Arabia, where Sunni Muslims run the country under an existing extremist ideology, ISIS already has recruits.  The hatred of Hazaras in Afghanistan isn’t to create “sectarian strife,” the Hazaras were already suppressed for generations by Sunni rulers, the hatred of them stems from the intolerance towards them, just as in Pakistan there is hatred for Ahmadis and Shia and often bombings of them.  To pretend the problem is sectarian strife is to change the power dynamics between the two groups and present the victimized group as if it is equal to the group murdering it.  But Hazara Shia are not blowing up Sunni mosques, the terror only goes one way and its goal is the ethnic-cleansing and genocide of Shia. The goal is the same as was carried out by ISIS against all the minorities in Iraq, against Yazidis, Kakei, Kurds, Assyrians.  ISIS isn’t creating “sectarianism”, it is committing genocide.

The “backlash” narrative ignores the fundamental nature of ISIS, which is that it is a supremacist, Nazi-like organization, seeking to create a Nazi-like extremist religious state.  The western writers don’t want to admit that, so they claim it is “so-called Islamic State,” which is like writing the “so-called People’s Republic.”  Of course countries that call themselves the “Democratic Republic of the Congo,” are neither democratic or a republic. But the fact is that for those minorities living under ISIS, it is not “so-called”, it actually is, it is an “Islamist State”, just like Germany under the Nazis really was a German state, in which Germans and “Aryans” were at the pinnacle and everyone else was a kind of “sub-human.”  To pretend that Nazism was not the “real Germany” is perfectly nice, perhaps the real Germany of 2,000 years or so had been eclipsed by the evils of a temporary kind from 1933-1945, but the rise of ISIS and its abuses and genocides in Iraq and Syria, and mass murders all over the world have had a similar impact.  To confront them it is necessary not to excuse them and pretend they are something other than they are.  Those groups such as the Kurds who have courageously been fighting ISIS for two years, correctly diagnose that ISIS is built on a hateful ideology, and that it has to be confronted on the field of battle based on its intolerance, not a complex excuse for its actions.

The first goal in reporting about terror is to have sympathy for the victims, such as the Shia, and not deflect from them. Next it is important to highlight that intolerance and hatred motivate terrorists, not “foreign policy”, not a desire for “Trump to win,” and not a complex conspiracy to create “sectarian strife.”  Third it is important to highlight the background of most terrorists, which is that they are spoiled, middle class, privileged, supremacists who have decided they have a right to judge who dies and who lives.  Their terrorism stems from a supremacist mindset akin to the KKK and Nazism and they have abrogated to themselves the right to murder.  The stories about how they aren’t “real Muslims” or they are “non-Islamic”, ignores the fact that they see themselves as truly Islamic. You can tell a Nazi all you like that he’s not a “real Christian” or a “real Aryan”, or that he’s not a “true white person”, but that doesn’t change his decision.  It is important to focus on the real life story of mass murderers, and not turn them into victims or provide them with complex, logical “reasons” and excuses for their actions.  Fourth it is important to acknowledge that there is no evidence that ISIS gains followers through sectarian strife or a “backlash.”  ISIS gained followers among the wealthy and the elite in Bangladesh, not because those who joined it were suppressed and hurt by “foreign policy” but because they wanted to act out a fantasy of mass murder, because they thought it would be fund to torture and rape and pose with weapons.  Like those men who joined the SS because they wanted a license to torture, rape and kill, those ISIS volunteers are solely motivated by hatred, aggression, chauvinism and supremacist views. Any other explanation is an excuse for their crimes.



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