Where is Daesh? Everywhere. An Islamic State? Hardly. These self-appointed gatekeepers to the faithful, variously referred to as ISIS/ISIL/Daesh are merely a murdering terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, while hiding in plain sight elsewhere, recruiting our youth. They are the snake in the grass you never see until it bites you. Therefore, business-as-usual communities in the U.S., and hidden treasures in Pakistan like Gilgit-Baltistan, feel out of reach of its lethal strikes. But, make no mistake, they are disguised in our midst- in local Mosques, faculty in university institutions, and increasingly in your neighborhood.
In light of the global escalation of Islamist Jihadists, from the Middle East, South Asia to Africa, naming each organization associated with terrorism is made more difficult by a resistance to calling them what they are. Names change, leaders change, but the radical ideology does not. The U.S. establishment press and current administration does not provide clear nomenclature for identifying Islamist terrorism. I won’t provide a comprehensive list here, perhaps in the future. But, within the scope of this essay: Is it ISIL or ISIS? What is “Daesh?”
Daesh is an acronym for an Arabic variation of the group’s (ISIS/ISIL) name: “al-Dawla al-Islamyia fil Iraq wa’al Sham.” The Islamic community prefers the acronym, Daesh, for many reasons, but mostly because it does not assume the glorified misnomer of their claim to be a “State.”
The U.S. presidential administration and Pentagon policy is to use “ISIL,” (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant); some of the U.S. press prefers: ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Herein lies the problem. In using “Islamic State,” the term allows “Islam” and “Islamic” associations that cannot be supported by over 90% of Orthodox Islam. Wahhabi/ Salafists do not represent Islam. Further, it assumes the terrorists have reached their sworn objective. A State Caliphate. Why give them that?
When ISIS attempted to rebrand itself “the Islamic State” in September, residents of Mosul, Iraq stated that the jihadists “threatened to cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym Daesh … saying it shows defiance and disrespect.” (Associated Press) That is reason enough to call them Daesh.
Before I discuss the guise of the Daesh venomous snake in Gilgit-Baltistan, another point follows about clarity of terms. There was a vacuum left in Iraq, when US troops left. Daesh filled the vacuum. There is also a vacuum left by the lack of clarity on what name to call these terrorists which leaves a troubling void. “The void fills demons” as the historian, Will Durant once wrote.
In this case, the co-mingling of peaceful Muslim Sunnis is often unjustly associated with violent Jihadists, who claim to be Wahhabi Salafist “Sunnis.” No. Saying you are Sunni does not make you Sunni. They are decidedly are not Sunnis, nor by all rights an “Islamic state.” As Prime Minister David Cameron put it, they are an “Un-Islamic State.”
Therefore, while Daesh may refer to itself as Muslim, indeed, even, Sunni, we should not assume this to be true. Further, “radical Sunni” is inappropriate, as Sunnis should be removed from any association with Daesh given that it is well-known to target the innocent Sunni population with impunity. Sunnis do not murder Sunnis over imagined ideological differences.
ISIS-affiliated Deobandi groups like ASWJ-LeJ should be removed from any association with Sunnis. Then who are they? They are not who they claim to be. They are a renegade group of Takfiri Jihadists, with their own brand of religious dogma, decidedly non-Muslim. They are certainly not an Islamic State…not yet, Inshallah!
My point is that terrorists should not be allowed to coin a name we perpetuate in the press, which is a reflection of their unreached goals. “Not yet” I write? I write this warning, as the reality is, we are not currently winning, according to most U.S. general staff acknowledgement. If the U.S. does not realize the need of sending in a Special Forces on the ground embedded with the Iraqi Army. No U.S. invasion is necessary. Under one thousand Special Forces imbedded with Iraqi forces, and a non-fighting supporting units of twice that size for medical, intelligence, etc., according to many retired generals on the record, including General Stanley McChrystal, such forces could take out Daesh, then, the snake’s head is cut off.
Washington Post: “a few thousand additional combat troops, backed by helicopters, armored vehicles and forward air controllers able to embed with Iraqi units at the battalion level, as well as additional Special Forces troops able to move about the countryside.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-fall-of-ramadi-was-avoidable/2015/05/18/37bb2df6-fd6e-11e4-833c-a2de05b6b2a4_story.html
In the meantime, beheadings of Muslims, Christians, Sufis, continue. The Sunnis are relentlessly targeted in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan by these Takfiri Jihadists. This group is no different than the ISIS/Daesh affiliated and closely inter-connected terror groups like ASWJ-LeJ/Taliban/Jundullah/Jamaat ul Ahraar. The same Deobandi terrorists are also behind the bombing of churches, shooting at Malala and Peshawar APS massacre of nearly 150 school children. Commensurate with these decisive measures suggested above, is the need to recognize snakes in our midst to impede recruitment. Consider Gilgit-Baltistan – A Beautiful land…is Daesh encroaching there? The disturbing reports are…yes, leaflets are appearing, and recruiting is vigilant in this paradise. (Remember how safe and out-of-the-fight Bali seemed before al Qaeda blew up a restaurant full of innocent Australian tourists).
I recall a different world that might reemerge, Inshallah. A world that might happen again if terrorism can be contained. In 1972, having just been recently discharged from the USAF in ’71 I took a sojourn. Taking my last paycheck from the Air Force, bought two dogs that I left with my annoyed, but forbearing wife, Arlene and flew to Karachi to visit my mother’s Indian immigrant-to-Sindh entrepreneur friends. This was not so unusual for musicians, artists and the “hippies” at this time. My artist friend, Frank La Lumia who went to Ashrams in San Francisco, chose to go to India much later in 1978.
It was a different world then. I wonder if the clubs I went to are still there; the unique spicy scents and sights of Karachi; club bands that played Western music on or near Saddar. I bumped into other Americans and Australian travelers, some Germans, mostly hippies there. But, Pakistan in 1970s was as cosmopolitan as San Francisco.
I was still on the Left politically and very liberal, as were most Vietnam-era vets at the time. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was in office, though there were plenty of dive bars the Clifton Area serving alcohol. It was Muslim, but seemed secular. The locals took me to the beaches (not sure which, maybe, Sandspit).
Pakistanis in those days seemed to like Americans. There were more Western clothes, and pretty girls with and without veils. I bought exotic looking shirts for my band back in the states. Took the train to Lahore- so inexpensive that all I had was a backpack and a few American dollars that with the exchange rate went far. Mohajirs in Karachi would correct my lame attempts at Urdu, and speak back to me in perfect in English. Club Road and Bandor Road had Western entertainment and beer. The Pushtuns looked different, maybe more ethnic looking, but I found them to be friendly to me. There was no threat of terrorism or even the name. I mention this only because this might have been Jinnah’s dream (well, maybe not the alcohol).
Pakistan cities were to me a small bustling and commerce-minded city; it was all very exotic. By the 1980s Mum’s friends eventually felt pressure to flee Pakistan due to increased radicalization within these cities, trouble between Sindhs and immigration of Pashtuns (perhaps due to the Afghanistan-Soviet conflict displacement of eastern Afghans with connections across the Durand Line, and emerging issues of being Hindu in a Muslim culture. The beginning of what we have now.
I never got to the beautiful Gilgit-Baltistan regions; didn’t even know they existed. By virtue of some of my Pakistani friends living there and others having traveled there, I have now seen the remarkable natural beauty of the mountain, rivers and valleys, and its rural agricultural value, its colorful traditions, and small-town friendliness. This should be a tourist destination, bringing in much needed funds.
My segue is the poor treatment of the pristine local residents by thuggish, uniformed, outsiders. I don’t dislike Pakistani military rank and file. The military personnel in Pakistan that I have had the pleasure to know, some even Brigadier level, are not so different than U.S. military trained professionals, and with the exception of a few radical elements, are good people, dedicated to the security of Pakistan and by and large, have been known to have a rapport with U.S. military. However, in recent reports from my friends who live in Gilgit-Baltistan, the general staff have confiscated from rural farmers who have lived on land for centuries handed-down, and pushed off the land by force. Then, replacing the agricultural acreage are huge construction zones – mostly ski areas; grabbing private land, and setting up exclusive government resorts.
In the presence of this Pakistan Army who are presumably unaware, Daesh has infiltrated. True.
In this peaceful existence of the faithful, radical opportunists have arrived. The insidious and incremental invasion of Salafist recruiters, get to know the locals, and then subtly spread disingenuous promise of Jihadist glory, with flyers, posters, graffiti, veiled threats and intimidation. The Pakistani Army is ignoring this subterfuge.
It reminds me gullible country folk difficulty in assessing the honesty of city folk who appear the same; talk the same; purport to be religious, but are not recognized as evil until you have come too close and are bitten.
Consider the alluring Coral snake found in North and South America. There are two types and both beautiful and similar. One harmless the other lethal. In a beautiful land, in slithers the Coral snake, one Sunni Muslim immigrates, bringing in family and a humble settlement; another purported Muslim, looks the same, perhaps talks of “religious purity;” but, is in fact a venomous snake.
Consider also, this June 7th, five Shia Hazara Muslims were murdered in Quetta. Sarah Khan’s usual timely and comprehensive report is at this site: https://lubpak.net/archives/337711
PPP government insouciance of terrorist organizations was bad enough; but the current PMN-L government and sympathetic elements of the ISI have encouraged Deobandi ASWJ Jihadists repeated genocidal intentions on Shia and Sufis. The PMN-L supports and negotiates with the enemy. I have written about every year as nothing changes. The ISI protects these Salafist terrorists who share identical ideology with Daesh.
The security establishment “protects and promotes these beasts in a vain hope that they will fight the BLA militants.” That is, Balochistan, strategically important, with its overland, and blue-water access and mineral rich resources, have been exploited and not included in its potential revenue by the establishment government; in effect marginalized for decades. The Baloch response is BLA militants who desire independence.
These Deobandi ASWJ Jihadists kill Shias and Sunni Sufis alike. Sarah Khan wrote, “Yes, most of the victims in Quetta are Hazara, yes their mongoloid features make them vulnerable and easily identifiable, but they are killed only and only for a single reason: their Shia faith. And that is why it is important to stress on their Shia identity and the takfiri Deobandi identity of their killers!”
Identifying a snake by its colors can preserve one’s life.
Awareness in these terrorist times matters, as the coloring of the Coral snake matters: “if Red Touch Black – Venom Lack;” Harmless. If “Red Touch Yellow – Kills a Fellow.” Further, if the snake has a black nose, it’s a lethal Coral Snake. If we are warned to beware false prophets, and snakes like Daesh abide, we must protect this “Land of the Pure.” My belabored point is: it is difficult to tell the difference until it is too late. Recognition, action and accountability are key to keeping out Daesh!
Most Americans only hear of the worst of Pakistan. Unfortunately, the same is true of my country: only the worst finds its way into the headlines. Good people in America; Good people in Pakistan; Good people in Gilgit-Baltistan.
As do most informed Americans, I only want the best for Pakistan, perhaps, selfishly, as we need you to protect your nuclear arsenal from snakes that would destroy you before their true colors were recognized. But, also as an ally in light of upcoming consolidation of Taliban and Daesh. Isn’t it possible that Afghanistan could be the next Iraqi-like killing fields, and if so, Pakistan might default to a Syrian-type civil war. Daesh has bragged about a large Caliphate.
Beware, lest Daesh slithers in.