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Terror Strikes Again: Islamic State Tries to Trigger ‘War of Religions’ in West

The latest issue of IS's online magazine Dabiq, widely read by supporters and sympathizers, focuses on the theme of “Break the Cross”

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A picture of late Father Jacques Hamel is placed on flowers at the makeshift memorial in front of the city hall closed to the church where an hostage taking left a priest dead the day before in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, July 27, 2016. Image source: AP
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  • Pope Francis, as well as Orthodox and Coptic church leaders, is among those singled as targets in the 15th issue of Dabiq, released Sunday, July 31
  • The “gray zone” was defined in a January 2015 issue of Dabiq as a “twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil, the Caliphate and the Infidel”
  • French officials were already alarmed before the release of Dabiq at the prospect of IS attacks causing a “war against communities”

The Islamic State (IS) is inciting supporters to mount more attacks on Christians just days after two of the terror group’s sympathizers slit the throat of an 85-year-old French priest as he was celebrating Mass — a killing French officials fear was a deliberate tactic to provoke a Christian backlash in France against Muslims.

The latest issue of IS’s online magazine Dabiq, widely read by supporters and sympathizers, focuses on the theme of “Break the Cross.” In a series of interviews, foreign fighters who have converted from Christianity are used as mouthpieces to urge supporters in the West to destroy “arrogant Christian disbelievers.” They exhort Muslims to “pray for Allah’s curse to be upon the liars.”

Pope singled out as target

Pope Francis, as well as Orthodox and Coptic church leaders, is among those singled as targets in the 15th issue of Dabiq, released Sunday, July 31. IS propagandists mock the Pope, saying the Pontiff only condemned the mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando “because he comes from long line of boy rapists.”

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The Catholic Church condemned forthrightly the Orlando terror attack in June, in which gunman Omar Mateen who had pledged allegiance to IS, killed 49 people and wounded another 53. After the slaughter the Church issued a statement, saying: “The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.”

Pope Francis followed by a security guard arrives to celebrate a mass at conclusion of the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, Sunday, July 31, 2016. Image source: AP
Pope Francis followed by a security guard arrives to celebrate a mass at conclusion of the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, Sunday, July 31, 2016.
Image source: AP

Fighter Abu Sa’d al-Trinidadi, a former Christian from Trinidad and Tobago, references recent terror attacks in the West and urges supporters in a Dabiq interview to “follow the example of the lions in France and Belgium, the example of the blessed couple in California, and the examples of the knights in Orlando and Nice.”

He tells IS supporters in the West that they have the “ability to terrify the disbelievers in their own homes and make their streets run with their blood.” He adds Christians are legitimate targets “due to their mere disbelief,” adding, “for this reason, amongst others, the Islamic State leadership emphasized the importance not to differentiate between disbelieving soldiers and their so-called ‘civilians.’”

Twilight zone

This is not the first time IS has exhorted followers to target Christians in the West — or threaten to destroy Christianity. In February 2015, the terror group released a shocking five-minute video documenting the barbaric mass execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on the shoreline of Libya. In the video a militant spokesman points northward after the killings, saying: “We will conquer Rome by Allah’s permission.”

And the terror group has targeted and terrorized Christians in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq with rapes, abductions, forced conversions, desecration of churches and forced evictions. In 2014 Pope Francis warned, “In Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war—the war against the church.”

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But the redoubled focus on Western Christianity now, analysts say, is powered by a highly dangerous, macabre logic. They warn that IS strategists are aiming to provoke an overreaction by Western governments and enraged citizens, hopinAg to drive young Muslims into their arms and away from what the jihadists call the “gray zone.”

The “gray zone” was defined in a January 2015 issue of Dabiq as a “twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil, the Caliphate and the Infidel.”

Last November, in the wake of the Paris attacks anthropologist Scott Atran told VOA that IS is “seeking to provoke deeper divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, forcing the latter to overreact as the terror becomes ever wilder and more extreme, thereby leaving the former with no choice but to join the jihadist camp.”

And to exacerbate antagonism toward Muslims in Europe, the more outrageous the targets, the more likely the terror will provoke Western governments to overreact or fuel the rise of populist nationalist parties or prompt revenge attacks.

Church attack

The murder last week of Fr. Jacques Hamel in the Norman village of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen differed from previous IS attacks in France. They targeted people and places that symbolized freedom of speech, Western liberalism, the ideals of the French Revolution, and Jews. Some analysts see the killing of Fr. Hamel as the first act of war on European soil against Christianity by IS.

French officials were already alarmed before the release of Dabiq at the prospect of IS attacks causing a “war against communities.” Last week, a French official told VOA that one of the highest priorities of the Élysée Palace is to prevent a clash between Muslims and Christians. (VOA)

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Triple Talaq: Are the concerns and efforts real?

It cannot be deied that BJP is outlawing triple talaq to gain political mileage both from sections of Muslim women and from those Hindus who will see it as Modi's distress over the sufferings of Muslim women and as a message to Muslims that the days when they were given excessive leeway by less assertive governments are now gone.

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Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of Muslim women, VOA News
Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of Muslim women, VOA News
  • Triple Talaq has been seen as way of BJP gaining popularity among Muslims, and not as a real concern for the distressed women of the community.
  • BJP leaders are often accused of Anti-Muslim statements, which further proves the point.
  • However, if the law is passed, it will be a step towards empowerment of the Muslim women.

Only the naive will believe that deep concern for the welfare of Muslim “sisters” and for the maintenance of the “dignity of women” and “gender equality” persuaded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to introduce the bill in parliament to ban the practice of triple talaq.

For a party whose founder in its previous incarnation, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, thought that only a civil war can solve the Hindu-Muslim problem, as Tripura’s Governor, Tathagata Roy of the BJP, reminded us recently, and a BJP candidate in the Gujarat elections sought a reduction in the numbers of “topi and dadhiwalas” (sartorial allusion to Muslims), it strains credulity to believe that it has been guided solely by laudable motives to put an end to an admittedly reprehensible custom.

The belief will persist, therefore, that it is a desire to “garner votes” which is behind the decision, notwithstanding Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad’s disavowal of such an intention.

Few will deny, of course, that the practice itself is highly condemnable, not least because it is illegal even in Islamic countries. For a secular country, therefore, to allow it to prevail will point to a flawed outlook whose roots lie deep in the political calculations.

It cannot be gainsaid that the BJP is outlawing triple talaq to gain political mileage both from sections of Muslim women and from those Hindus who will see the proposed law, first, as an example of “brother” Modi’s distress over the sufferings of Muslim women and, secondly, as a message to Muslims in general that the days are gone when they were given excessive leeway by less assertive governments.

The “secular” rulers of the past, on the other hand, also thought that they will gain votes by pandering to the predilections of the obscurantists among the minorities.

The worst example of this regressive attitude was the Shah Bano episode, when the Rajiv Gandhi government negated a Supreme Court verdict in favour of alimony for a divorced Muslim woman on the advice of Muslim fundamentalists.

Shayara Bano case was one of the biggest milestone cases in history of India which intensified the previously buried matter. Wikipedia Common
Shayara Bano case was one of the biggest milestone cases in history of India which intensified the previously buried matter. Wikipedia Common

The BJP’s rise from the sidelines of politics to the mainstream, can be traced through that event in the mid-1980s. The Congress will have to tread carefully in deciding on its stance on the bill which has followed the Supreme Court’s recent declaration of triple talaq as unconstitutional in a case involving the litigant, Shayara Bano.

The difficulty for the Congress is that it has given secularism a bad name by making the concept virtually synonymous with minority appeasement. While the BJP will not mind being closely associated with Hinduism, the Congress has been trying to shed the impression that it has become “mussalmanon ki party” or a party of Muslims, as the Congress leader, Ashok Gehlot, has said, ever since the 2014 defeat made him aware of this unwelcome image, as the A.K. Antony report pointed out.

The triple talaq bill gives it an opportunity to refurbish its reputation by articulating a rational position on drafting the law, aiming at protecting Muslim women from cruel and whimsical divorces and at the same time ensuring that the legislation does not lead to a police witch-hunt targeting men. Since the bill has to still pass through the Rajya Sabha, Parliament’s upper house, there is ample scope for fine-tuning it for smoothing out the rough edges, the most egregious of which is to introduce an element of criminality in a civil legal procedure.

If the Congress and other “secular” parties play a leading role in ensuring that the new law will unequivocally serve the ends of justice where no one — neither the women, nor the men, nor the children of divorced parents — will suffer, then these parties will be able to retrieve much of their lost reputation about cynical kowtowing to bigots in the Muslim community and reassure the country in general that politics can rise above partisan and opportunistic considerations.

From this standpoint, the bill provides a golden opportunity to the secular outfits even if the BJP runs away with much of the credit for introducing it.

Outside of politics, what is noteworthy is the failure of the Muslims to deal with the problem on their own. But ever since partition robbed the community of bold, educated leaders and self-confidence by inducing the minority complex of being forever under siege under the numerically superior Hindus — unlike other minorities like Sikhs and Parsis who have retained their poise and self-belief — the Muslims have come under the retrogressive influence of the mullahs with the result that they have remained stuck in the past.

Not all Muslim have the freedom to do whatever they want. They are still in the clutches of Triple Talaq.
Not all Muslim have the freedom to do whatever they want. They are still in the clutches of Triple Talaq.

Triple talaq is one manifestation of such backwardness along with polygamy and the veiling of women as they reinforce the age-old patriarchal norms. Only a small section of upper middle class women — film stars and sports personnel being prominent among them — has been able to extricate themselves from the grasp of medievalism and enter the modern world. But the majority of the poor and lower middle class women have been denied the opportunity of advancement by orthodox Muslim society. The new law offers them a ray of hope. IANS Live