Resisting Islamic Extremism

Prospect magazine has just published a thought-provoking article entitled Do not give Isis what it wants, drawing attention to the dangers of the West being drawn into another war.  Experience ( indicates that an invasion, which would constitute what Rupert Smith referred to as “a war among the people”, is unwinnable.  The article’s author suggests a viable alternative response by providing limited military assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, for example by using drones.

Although the Islamic State may want to lure the West into putting boots on the ground in Iraq or Syria, it is very unlikely that this would happen – but there is a wider danger of the Islamic State’s atrocities creating a popular backlash within Western countries.  If people start to persecute their Muslim neighbours, the Islamic extremists will get exactly what they want: the radicalisation of peaceful Muslims, leading to sectarian violence in Western cities.

A fatwa has been issued by leading UK imams, prohibiting Muslims from joining the Islamic State.  This is a very welcome example of moral leadership.  What is now needed is for the rest of society to support them by keeping calm.  The news media can play a part, by making it quite clear that the problem is not Islam as a whole but a group of Islamic extremists who are trying to provoke radicalisation.


  • A recent comment on a New Statesman article about jihadi ideology in Britain – “Currently I can think of 1,400 reason[s] in Rotherham to set myself against all Muslims” – shows how broad ethnic labels can be used to demonise a whole community. In a totally unconnected arena, the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) is threatening to behead a British hostage, to provoke a violent reaction. Anti-Muslim feeling is easily fed by outrages in different parts of the world, but they are not directly connected with each other and are certainly not permitted by the Islamic religion. To blame Islam is as illogical as to quote the troubles in Northern Ireland as evidence that all Christians are terrorists. If people start to be aggressive towards all Muslims they will give IS what it wants – a ‘holy war’.

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