Kill off Islamic State by winning over hearts and minds of young Muslims

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 December, 2015, 12:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 December, 2015, 12:15am

I refer to your editorial about Islamic State (“Xenophobia will only strengthen IS”, December 9).

Xenophobia at its most extreme is Donald Trump wanting to stop all Muslims entering America. President Barack Obama was right when he said, “If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.”

Islamic State (IS) Muslims are a small minority in the global Muslim community. They practise an extreme form of fundamentalist Islam. Islamic State says it will build a caliphate which will surpass the Abbasid Caliphate (circa 750-1261), which at its height controlled nearly all the Middle East and North Africa. The group’s ultimate aim is to create a world caliphate that it controls.

Islamic State calls Muslims who do not follow the Koran as it interprets it “hypocrites”. It believes these “hypocrites” and also non-believers of Islam, such as Christians and Jews, who it calls “infidels”, should be eliminated with hypocrites wiped out first. Muslims who live under its rule in Syria and Iraq are forced to practise its version of Islam and they live in constant fear.

The young people it recruits from Western countries are second- or third-generation migrant Muslims who have been radicalised. They feel discriminated against and alienated in their own countries.

Such feelings are strongest in France, where Muslim schoolgirls are not allowed to wear Muslim headscarves in school; and where the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo drew nude caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and called it “freedom of expression”. These young Muslims are attracted by IS, which promises to change the world into one which they want to live in. By joining it, they see themselves as the ones who will be in power, instead of having to lead mundane lives.

Islamic State cannot be eliminated through a conventional war. Even if it is driven out of Syria and Iraq, its brand of terrorism will carry on in the world, because it is supported by radical young Muslims.

To defeat IS, the West needs to win over these young people and make them feel they belong in their own countries.

When these young Muslims do not have any reason to feel they are not citizens of their own countries, they will no longer be radicalised and will not join IS. It will then die a natural death.

Alex Woo, Tsim Sha Tsui