A Ten-Point Plan for Defeating ISIS and Muslim Fundamentalism

The struggle against Isis and fundamentalism will be difficult and costly. However, the cost of not waging it would be even greater.
Karima Bennoune
September 19, 2014
As President Obama prepares to chair the September 24 special session of the UN Security Council, it is critical to understand that this evolving conflict is not just between the United States and Islamic State. This is a global struggle against jihadist violence and the ideas that underlie it.
 
In doing research for my recent book, "Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism," I interviewed nearly 300 people of Muslim heritage from almost 30 countries, and heard countless stories of ordinary people engaged in extraordinary acts of courage to fight extremism.
 
Here are my ten takeaways which the members of the Security Council, including the U.S., and other nations, and even global civil society must consider as the plan to defeat ISIS - and Muslim fundamentalism generally - is formulated.
 
1. The international community must stand together.
 
ISIS should be viewed as hostis humani generis - the enemy of all humankind. This is not a clash of civilizations, but a decisive conflict between those everywhere who believe in civilization, and those who do not. As President Obama underscored in his address to the nation on September 10th, almost all of the deliberate killings these misguided jihadists have carried out targeted ordinary Syrians and Iraqis. In the post 9/11 world, the focus has been on keeping the "homeland" safe. But we cannot prevent terrorism here while tolerating extremist violence elsewhere.
 
2. Our strategy must be cross-regional.
 
Sadly, the brutality of ISIS is not unique, as the President suggested. Muslim fundamentalist violence stretches from West Africa to South Asia and beyond and has claimed millions of lives - mainly of Muslims. As far away as Mali and Algeria, jihadist groups fighting governments pledge allegiance to the black banner of the so-called Islamic State. The Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram - which, like ISIS, practices sexual slavery - are still missing. The global response must reflect the strategic thinking needed to help defeat all these jihadists or we will fight the same war somewhere else next year.
 
3. Support must be given to people of Muslim heritage who oppose extremism.
 
From Afghanistan to Somalia, thousands have put their lives on the line to defy fundamentalists. They loathe those who reduce their Holy Book to a death threat, and misuse the religion as a cover for an extremist political project. President Obama said, "We stand with people who fight for their freedom." That has not always been true, and we must fulfill his words.
 
4. There must be an immediate humanitarian response to the desperate needs of those affected by ISIS brutality.
 
The president was correct to highlight this. 1.2 million people were displaced in Iraq by mid-August, when the UN declared its highest level emergency.
 
5. We must not just battle terrorism, but fight the underlying fundamentalism.
 
As Cherifa Kheddar, President of Djazairouna, the Algerian Association of Victims of Islamist Terrorism, told me, "Fundamentalism makes the bed of this terrorism." We need a worldwide coalition of people of Muslim heritage standing together against Islamist ideology. Ani Zonneveld, founder of Muslims for Progressive Values, is categorical: "ISIS's slaughter of innocent people is a disgrace to Islam. As Muslims we need to go beyond condemnation and get to the root. We must ask ourselves, 'How did this come about, and are we doing enough to stamp out this theology of hate?'" She is absolutely right. However, the world must also listen to the many of us who, like her, have already spoken out.
 
6. We have to dry up the funding sources of ISIS.
 
This involves depriving ISIS of control of territory where it extorts and plunders oil. It also includes confronting allied Gulf countries like Qatar, which have filled these murderers' coffers. Countries and individuals who are giving money and arms to ISIS should face severe sanctions.
 
7. Unequivocally defend women's rights.
 
The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) has long denounced ISIS's crimes against women, including reportedly selling them in a Mosul "concubine market." OWFI and other Iraqi women's rights defenders need resources to assist victims. Moreover, we must also condemn the anti-women stances of "allies" like Saudi Arabia. Gender equality is not a side issue, but a critical piece of the campaign against fundamentalism.
 
8. The response to ISIS must respect international law.
 
All military action must comply with the laws of war, and any detentions must respect human rights. This is essential for reasons both moral and strategic. Abuses we commit become recruitment tools for the very jihadists we are fighting. The U.S. also has to grapple with the reality that its own illegal Iraq War helped create this problem, something the President neglected in his speech.
 
9. This is not a partisan issue.
 
Some on the right think Islam is inherently fundamentalist. Some on the left downplay the grave problem posed by Muslim fundamentalism. Both approaches are entirely mistaken and should be jettisoned.
 
10. We must fight discrimination against Muslims everywhere.
 
People of Muslim heritage are not collectively responsible for the crimes of ISIS. Stigmatizing Muslims and Islam generally is offensive, and a gift to jihadists who capitalize on the perception of grievance.
 
With a holistic approach, a better outcome becomes more likely. I am inspired by the determined optimism of people on the front lines of this fight. This struggle will be difficult and costly. However, the cost of not waging it would be even greater.
 
Karima Bennoune is a professor of law at the University of California at Davis, the author of the book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism and of the Ted Talk The Side of Terrorism That Doesn't Make Headlines.
 
[Thanks to the author for sending this to Portside -- moderator] 
 
 
September 19, 2014