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Are “Group” and “Terrorist” still appropriate to define ISIS?

By Zaher Mahruqi

The word group which was started by one media outlet and which the rest of the pack inherited and thoughtlessly insists on continuing to use in describing the Islamic State (AKA ISIS) is outdated and indeed an inappropriate match to the current reality for a number of reasons.

The word group was intentionally associated with ISIS to promote the idea that ISIS is composed of a minute number of people who are too few to represent any community or a sizable mass worthy of reckoning with.  The sheer count of its fighters, the constant inward flow of new recruits, its physical supporters in other forms and its virtual online supporters disqualifies the word.

Thanks to ISIS staunch enemies’ atrocities of the past year, ISIS is increasingly becoming a necessary evil for those on the receiving end. The best example for this is the brutality and barbarism of the Shia Militia’s that increasingly rivals what ISIS has been committing.

The recent declaration by ISIS that Israel is on its list of targets and given that IS is considered by many to be true to its words, what is to be expected is that its legend will continue to grow if and when it acts against Israel.  Evil or not, millions of Muslims who have long dreamed of a force that can brutalize Israel as the Jewish State has for decades inflicted on Palestinians, will fully stand behind IS when it does and given its track record of doing as it says, it will inflict the most serious pain to Israel yet. By just pronouncing its intentions against Israel the word group dies due to the support it is bound to gain.

The word group doesn’t also fit a force that every super power is fighting against but seems unable to defeat.

The word group doesn’t go well with a people so organized that they have constituencies made up of millions of people. Constituencies that have fully-functioning institutions which are by far more effective than what can be seen in areas controlled by the Iraqi “government”.

The word doesn’t describe well a people winning pledges of allegiance from Egypt to Libya to Syria and beyond.

What kind of a group that is surrounded by huge nations such as Turkey and Iran which oppose it with all their might and still is impregnable.

Media savvy to extents of out-sounding its enemies’ despite being far more numerous and sufficiently financed; militarily exceptional in its planning and fierceness and the only openly borderless force that has declared its ambitions to take over the globe cannot and ought not be referred to as a group.  Short of using nuclear almost all other types of weapons have futilely been used against ISIS. How then can the media in its right mind still refer to it as a group? The billions being spent by the anti ISIS coalition and the number of personnel involved leave no doubt that what they are up against is not a mere group.

If it is the brutality of ISIS that makes observers believe that the term is befitting, then they need be reminded of Hitler of the last century or Bashar of the past five years.

Whilst I believe that the word group should be rejected in favor of a more appropriate term to describe ISIS, I totally agree with the usage of the word terrorist.  ISIS is indeed the manifestation of terror itself so much so that it has reached a point where it is becoming difficult for the Islamic State itself to find more horrific ways to shock the world.  Perhaps, like many brutal forces in history that have used terror as a mean to subdue and then rule by fear, ISIS is now in reverse gear until it reaches a point where those acts become nothing more than a faded memory.

Kings of England and elsewhere in Europe used exactly the method that ISIS seems to be employing and that is to terrify the masses into submission and then bring the situation back to a more sober way of governing.  Queen Elizabeth is a living example of that path. She is a good queen as the Brits would tell you but the process that got her to that point was a very bloody one.

So to say IS is a terrorist state is appropriate but to call it a group is to deny reality.  I conclude with one fact that completely denounces the word group as it relates to IS. The past week’s downing of the Russian passenger jet as tragic as it is and the recent explosions at a train station in Turkey as senseless as it is an indication of one thing that a group cannot accomplish.  We know that the jet liner was downed by the Islamic State simply because IS announced its responsibility and one thing we know is that ISIS doesn’t lie.

What makes it not an act of a group is that it is a tit for tat action that took place only a month since Russia started attacking ISIS and the fact that the attack took place far from its stronghold.  The same is true with the bombing in Turkey. ISIS started attacking Turkey only after Turkey joined the Americans in their fight against it. The ability to plan and execute such swift and painful retaliatory acts are not actions of what can be labeled as a group.

The main stream media seems to be repeating the same error that occurred on the wake of 9/11.  When George Bush made his famous “either with us or against us” statement, many governments in the world were terrified and the respective media followed suit.  As such it failed to report the true extent of the hero-image that Bin Laden enjoyed in the Arab world, Africa and South America.  The same is probably happening with ISIS as the media navigates itself around proper reporting of reality in a way that doesn’t enrage the powerful.  Fact of the matter is that the Islamic State is not a mere group and its support base is far wider than its enemies would want us to believe and as such the media needs to exercise some independence of thought in order to give the world a truer image.

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Zaher Mahruqi

Zaher Mahruqi follows world events, and seeks to shed light on the Arab and Muslim perspectives on regional and world events.

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