A Terrorist or a Soldier?
A Deeper look at “Terrorist” Groups in The Middle East
Decorated with ribbons and medals a returning soldier is widely appreciated for their efforts endured during battle, they are named a survivor, even a hero. They are given a parade and honored for crushing the skulls of those ruining world peace in the Middle East. These soldiers have earned this celebration, right? After all, they have just returned from the land of barbaric savages and those living with the backwards mentality of devoting their entire lives to religion. A mentality that has caused the United States (a nation nondiscriminatory toward race, gender and surely religion) to take initiative in the Middle East (a region controlled by governments that have not fully advanced past religion). Unfortunately, this initiative has devastated many Arab countries, especially Iraq and Syria, and out of the ruble different terrorist groups developed, each with different missions. Terrorist groups in the Middle East can be traced as far back as 1948, when the United Nations decided Israel would replace a country previously known as Palestine (Bowen). Even today woman, like Ayat al-Akhras, are fleeing the West and heading to the Middle Eastern “wasteland” in order to become “terrorists” and aid the Palestinian state in its efforts to survive (Giovanni). But should the people who are involved in groups fighting for the freedom of a nation be considered equally as dangerous as the vicious brutes slaughtering those who do not support their views? Nonetheless, almost all terrorist groups have exploited a haven found in social media today, a haven that has abetted the recruitment effort of several radical organizations. Heavily empowered by social media, terrorists and quasi-terrorists prey on unsuspecting potential candidates; candidates who can be recruited for motives linked to religion, war and cultural connections.
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While here in The United States a typical morning consists of a tasty bowl of cereal and a television screen tuned in to the broadcast of a vehement battle going on between the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers; in Palestine a normal morning scene consists of the lament of a young teenage boys mother who has just seen her sons body and ligaments torn apart into pieces by a destructive Israeli machine gun and his remnants dismembered by a tank. The Palestinian Israeli Conflict has been raging on ever since the United Nations partition plan after World War II was put into action (Emadi). Unfortunately, the plan failed when the first Jewish settlers to step foot in Palestine razed the populations homes and forced families to reconcile somewhere else, today Palestinians only comprise about twenty percent of the Israeli population (Emadi). The creation of Israel caused the displacement of Palestinians; too weak to fight a war with the incoming settlers, the Palestinians involuntarily started a journey to somewhere distant from home, but similar to their Jewish oppressor’s history, they had nowhere to go. Forced to move on, Palestinians traveled to countries like Jordan and Egypt in search of shelter, which in turn stimulated the conflict from a Palestinian one to a Middle Eastern one. “TheIsraeli-Palestinianconflictis actually a “hyper conflict” influenced by local, regional, and global factors. It is no accident that the main accords producing temporary stability have been reached in periods of relative calm for the whole Middle East” (Casertano). The Palestinian conflict is in reality a Middle Eastern conflict, while the gruesome war is fought on the grounds of Jerusalem, Palestine, the soldiers are equipped and assembled in Sinai, Egypt and trained by the most elite sergeants in the Jordanian Army and Syrian Navy. This can be seen through the hiatus of fighting between Palestinians and Israelis during periods of stability in The Middle East;
For example, in 1978, Egypt and Israel were able to reach the Camp David agreements after oil prices had been steadily falling in the region; the drop in prices helped reduce the aggressiveness of the countries in that region which in turn allowed two enemies to settle their argument (Casertano). “Later, the Oslo Accords were reached in the mid-1990s, at a time when Russia — a disruptive player in the Middle East before and since — had no political, military, or financial means to disrupt or influence the outcome” (Casertano). While The Palestinian Conflict effects the entire Middle East, Palestine is the only area of the conflict in which lives are threatened on a daily basis.
For Palestinians, the fight for survival is the fight for freedom. To them the war has been going on for sixty seven years and they must continue to fight on. Adult males, children and even females all join the fight against the oppressing Israelis through any means possible. Adult Males try to attack Israeli soldiers using anything from Ak-47’s to rocks and glass bottles; females on the other hand find themselves in varying roles. In Palestine, females join Hamas and serve in a plethora of jobs, jobs that range from nursing and helping the wounded, to holding a weapon and attacking the nemesis. And then there are the females who discover that the only way to freedom is through perversity like Ayat al-Akhras who “Pushed a button on the belt strapped to her and detonated an explosive device in a crowded supermarket in Kiryat HaYovel, Jerusalem” (Giovanni). For Syria, Palestine’s close neighbors, females recruited by Al-Nusra, “a branch of Al-Qaeda created in January 2012 that operates in Syria and Lebanon. Which has also been cited as “the most aggressive and successful” of the Syrian rebel groups” serve in deadly roles, transporting bombs across the border and fighting on the frontlines (Giovanni). On the other hand, Israelis believe that the war is over but several conflicts with Palestinian terrorist’s spring up on occasion and Israel has a right to put those conflicts down violently. Unfortunately Israel’s fighting morale is quite inhumane, they are known for hunting Palestinians in similar ways wild animals are hunted, slaughtering thousands of children in years past. A year ago in a recent conflict with Palestine, Israel was credited with “According to UNICEF, the murder of 59 Palestinian children — 43 boys and 16 girls —in the first nine days of the conflict, before the Israeli ground assault began. Most were under the age of 12.” (“Israeli and Palestinian”). While Israelis view Palestinians as terrorists, Palestinians view Israelis as Nazi like murderers.
The Palestinian conflict has been going on for decades; and the Arab Spring has just added to the chaos by serving as a catalyst for terrorist groups, in countries like Syria and Iran, to gain more control and aid the Palestinian effort. The Israeli state deserves to exist, but viewing a group like Hamas, fighting for the survival of its torn nation, as a deadly terrorist organization is at the least contradictory considering that Americans live in a country amassed through a revolution. While groups like Hamas should be viewed with a little more sympathy, groups like ISIS should be viewed with more animosity and revulsion.
Islam is similar to Christianity in a way; both have factions in which religion is interpreted differently and whether that difference be a mild or extreme one, the factions identify themselves as separate sectors of the religion. Comparable to the Protestant/Catholic conflict during the times of the Holy Roman Empire, the Sunni/Shiite conflict today remains at intense levels in the Iraqi homeland. Sunnis have always been at odds with Shiites; but nowhere have they pugnaciously acted out against each other like they have in Iraq. This violent relationship has caused the creation of groups like the Islamic State or ISIS. However, ISIS did not find its ignition in Iraq, rather it found its true base formed in the revolutionary sands of Syria. While George Bush was signing the agreement that ended the American Iraqi War, ISIS was moving out of Iraq and into Syria. Joining the Syrians in their fight against the government of President Bashar Assad, ISIS gained a stronghold in that area after losing the stronghold they had in Iraq to the American troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom (“Who’s To Blame”). The group made a profit, detained armor and weaponry, recruited followers and “became battle-trained and hardened” through its fight against Assad (“Who’s To Blame”). Quickly, this weak organization created an arduous force and refurbished from a group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, to a terrorist organization feared and known as ISIS. “What began as a small group of individuals with a relatively common extremist ideology has grown to become one of the largest and most barbaric terrorist organizations in the world” (O’Briain).
Today, Most Americans know about ISIS because of its intelligent advertising techniques. ISIS has managed to recruit talented individuals who were able to transform the media and technology fields to a whole new level; attracting more recruits and producing an outburst that has caused television to unintentionally promote the terrorist organization. The interesting thing about ISIS is the way it runs its “government”. They have taken away the Iraqi populations original government issued ID card and assigned them a new ISIS ID card to replace it (Cambanis and Collard). Furthermore, ISIS has redrawn the Middle Eastern border and legitimately created an ISIS nation. Unfortunately, for them, no other country in the world recognizes this border; but at the rate ISIS is developing today, the world might have to recognize the Islamic state’s redrawn border shortly. “ISIS looks much more like a functioning government than any of its detractors ever thought it would: it is pumping oil, policing streets, collecting taxes, [and] even planning to issue its own currency” (Cambanis and Collard). Although the Islamic State has assembled an organized and sophisticated ruling system, the way it has structured its judicial court and laws are on the complete opposite spectrum of civilization. The Islamic State runs an extremely strict code of law based on a faulty interpretation of The Quran, the Muslim holy book, and has caused great distress to those living within the makeshift border. Some of the laws that govern these tormented people include the beheading of anyone who speaks out against the state, the amputation of a convicted thief’s arm, and the poking of one’s eye out who is caught staring at an appealing lady passing by (Cambanis and Collard). Most of the Islamic states punishments are videotaped and released to the public as propaganda advertising ISIS. The Islamic state has so much money and so many ways of seizing wealth that it seems their mission has changed from an Islamic one to a monetary one; or maybe their mission was never religious to begin with? Whether the Islamic state was truly established to spread Islam or not, thousands of people have flocked to Iraq and the Middle East in hopes of joining ISIS and other terrorist groups that have reached out to them through social media.
Social media plays a colossal role in people’s lives. Teenagers, adults and even children all check-in to the web on a daily basis. This has created a network in which a large number of people can easily be reached; terrorist groups have come in touch with thousands of individuals, and have successfully recruited an abundance of people, by persuading them to travel all the way to the Middle East in order to dedicate their lives to these organizations. On several occasions individuals have even trekked all the way from Europe and North America to join the Islamic state in the Middle East. But why do these individuals go through all that trouble to live the rest of their doomed lives in a third world nation?
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is the man who independently attacked both the War Memorial and Canadian Parliament last October (Friscolanti and Patriquin). During the attack, Zehaf was able to murder Cpl. Nathan Cirillo using his illegaly obtained rifle (Friscolanti and Patriquin). His reason for the attack? Islam. Zehaf was a drug addict who on several occasions was imprisoned due to robbery, drug abuse and house parties. His parents were rarely home and he often found himself alone in the house. All the nights Zehaf spent home alone, he spent wasting time online. He was quickly lured in to believing the Islamic state was his port of call after endless hours of viewing ISIS on the news and chatting with people online. To him, the media was encouraging his venture to Syria by advertising the horrific acts ISIS was committing, he stated that “the Islamic State’s mass murder of non-Muslims is justified because the targets supported America” (Friscolanti and Patriquin). Zehaf was arrested trying to flee to Syria using an illegal passport; after his arrest, Zehaf expressed that the Iraqi and Afghani wars America had been involved in were sufficient justifications for his attacks in Canada. Zehaf’s hatred for America had driven him to insane measures.
On 4 October 2014, nineteen-year-old Mohammed Hamzah Khan and his two younger siblings were arrested for attempting to travel to Turkey in an effort to join ISIS (Reitman). The siblings grew up in a Chicago suburb and were heavily influenced by the local mosque that preached the doctrine “An Islamic State has been established, and it is thus obligatory upon every able-bodied male and female to migrate” (Reitman). Khan was able to plan his entire journey online; he was even able to find an Islamic state recruiter who walked him through the entire procedure. The recruiter was kind enough to give Khan his phone number and assured Khan that he would be there to greet him at the airport when he arrived (Reitman). Khan was delighted, as far as he knew, he was about to join a religious Islamic society, a utopia he was honored to be a part of. After his arrest, Khan was questioned about his motives. His answer: “I wanted to help the Muslims. I never intended to return to the U.S.” (Reitman).
Somalia. That was the motive for Abdirahmaan Muhumed’s overseas attempt to join ISIS. But unlike Zehaf and Khan, Muhumed was successful. All the way from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Muhumed was not an unusual case of extremism. Minneapolis contains an enormous Somalian population; a population notorious for its sturdy cultural and traditional ties. However, Minneapolis’ Somalian population has seen several cases of radicalism, most that can be traced back to the local Mosque in the area; a Mosque said to preach an extreme form of Islam (Tuttle). Through his local Mosque, Muhumed was able to take home what he learned and express it to other people on the internet through online chatrooms. After his engagement in numerous online chatrooms, Muhumed was extremely motivated to join the fight in Syria and excited to travel and support his Somalian brothers. In August, Muhumed became the second American to die fighting for ISIS (Tuttle).
The dread filled stories go on … and on. Every minute of every day there is a vulnerable adult or teenager online prepared to do anything in order to be a part of something and feel important. The Islamic state, Al-Nussra, Al Shabbab, and plenty of other terrorist groups in the Middle East have exploited this sensation; most groups have even situated online recruiters to track down potential employees and persuade these employees to come join the organizations in Iraq and Syria. Muhumed, the Khan Siblings, and Zehaf were all targeted and recruited. The organizations found the men’s weaknesses and attacked. They were all recruited for different beliefs; some thought the war in Iraq was a justification for joining, while others thought their religion and culture meant they had to join the terroristic effort. But all of these men had one thing in common, they were all innocent online recruits.
Confetti rains down New York City’s streets. The parade is at full capacity and an American soldier is seen with a smile across their face. They are credited with the take-down of three terrorists, and the applause never halts. Now, back to the question that initiated this paper, does this soldier deserve the recognition? Terrorism has taken a variety of definitions. But a Palestinian fighting for the freedom of their nation and their people should not fall under the definition of “terrorist”. However, an Islamic state government official amputating people’s arms off should be viewed not only as a perilous radical but as a menace to peace anywhere in the world. War, religion, and culture are some of the main reasons that extremists have emerged. Most arrested terrorists either claim that the Iraqi and Afghani wars justify their quest with ISIS, or that Islam and ties to their culture encourage them to join the Islamic states “flawless” society. Regardless of their reason, most people are recruited through social media. A phenomenon that has created an outburst in people flocking to join terrorist organizations in the Middle East. These organizations have turned an initially unstable precinct of the world into a terrorist wasteland capable of mass murder and genocide.
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