Graeme Wood’s attempt to paint the takfiris as “Islamic” is meant to discredit Islam and turn Muslims away from its principles to establish an Islamic State.
Some Western writers have a tendency to over-simplify complex issues and make blanket statements about groups. The aim is to advance Western policy through deliberately distorted analysis. The overriding narrative posits that the West is the repository of all wisdom and sophistication and other people, especially Muslims, are barbarians.
This has been illustrated most recently by Graeme Wood’s write-up in the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic monthly about the takfiri terrorist group that goes by the acronym ISIS or ISIL. To properly evaluate Wood’s essay titled “What ISIS Really Wants,” it is crucial to analyze his words as political propaganda. The essay has too many intellectual and journalistic flaws that make it dangerously naive to examine it as a genuine, but flawed academic or journalistic piece.
Wood’s essay is typical of the mediocre half-truth propaganda (known as batil in Islamic terminology) practiced and perfected by NATO mouthpieces. The half-truth methodology is aimed at diverse audiences who might find bits of truth that appeal to their worldview and construct a flawed narrative of the overall situation. The fragments of truth are utilized as sugarcoating in order to feed falsehood as reality.
It is important to keep in mind that the success of NATO’s propaganda machine is primarily based on its hard power hegemony. If China, Russia, or North Korea, for instance, were to achieve the same degree of military, economic and political hegemony through similar genocidal policies as the US and its surrogates, Kung-Fu movies, Confucianism, Russian literature or Kim-Jung Il would be as popular as secularism, George Washington and McDonald’s.
Analyzing Graeme Wood’s essay published by The Atlantic magazine clearly exposes the white man’s burden narrative along with pseudo-intellectualism. As Dr. Yasir Qadhi and Daniel Haqiqatjou correctly point out in their response to Wood, “popular as it is, Wood’s essay is deeply flawed and alarmingly tone-deaf — dangerously so. What is so objectionable about Wood’s essay is encapsulated in his statement, “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic…” By characterizing ISIS as Islamic, Wood and Haykel in effect, if not intent, attributes cruel beheadings, wanton massacre, and all other manner of savagery to Islam. In their minds, such an attribution is neither factually incorrect nor particularly damaging to “nearly all” Muslims who reject ISIS. But are Wood and Haykel too naive to understand that by making such attributions to Islam, they ipso facto implicate and foment suspicion about all those who subscribe to Islam?”
Dr. Yasir Qadhi and Daniel Haqiqatjou’s response to Wood’s essay is good, but it is intellectually too rewarding to Wood’s politically oriented and Islamophobic essay that has little to do with academia, journalism or intellectualism, and everything to do with politics and the soft-power aggression against Islam and Muslims.
Our analysis of Wood’s essay will focus on its socio-political aspects. Our reading of his essay points to the direction that Wood — and those who selected him specifically to do this report due to his views on religion and those who decided to publish the essay — primarily wanted to take with the following four socio-political objectives in mind:
We will point out key phrases and terms that expose Wood’s essay within the above outlined framework.
“And as more reports of misery within it [ISIS] leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.”
“Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells.”
The above statements of Wood’s are the ones that stand out; others make the same point, but in a more subliminal manner. The intent is not difficult to decode. Wood wants to show that the best an Islamic government can offer is a murder-based system in the mountains [Bin Laden] or a bunch of ignorant serial killers that emerged in Syria. Of course Wood conveniently overlooks the fact that ISIS emerged in Syria only when Turkey — a NATO member — opened its doors for them. The green light came from Washington.
“The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”
The above statement needs no elaboration; only an extremely ignorant person would fail to understand the agenda behind it. Of course Wood would never attribute two world wars and the use of nuclear weapons to secularism, democracy and capitalism, let alone the fact that no matter how monstrous ISIS, compared to the US, it pales into insignificance in terms of the number of countries it has invaded. The maniacs from ISIS that were allowed by the Turkish government (courtesy of Washington warlords) to enter Syria have technically “invaded” only two countries: Iraq and Syria. At the moment the US is militarily involved in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines and Libya, plus it supports gruesome regimes in various parts of the world. The US also has military bases in nearly 100 countries.
“Bernard Haykel, the foremost secular authority on the Islamic State’s ideology.”
First, whoever at The Atlantic was responsible for editing this caption should probably be sent back to get some more journalistic training. Using Haykel as the principal “authority” is equivalent to writing an article on capitalism and interviewing a communist economist expecting a relatively objective evaluation on capitalism. The essay’s inclusion of mainly a secular/atheist counter argument against ISIS is a simplistic but subtle attempt to convince Muslims that ISIS can be challenged only by borrowing elements from secular/atheist thought.
Second, Wood’s constant attempt to prove how “Islamic” the Western-backed takfiri terrorists are, carries a subtle message to not-so-well-informed Muslims. Wood’s narrative attempts to portray Muslim pseudo-experts like Irshad Manji as the main alternative to Saudi indoctrinated takfiris. Manji is a self-proclaimed Muslim from East African background and is a self-declared lesbian. She has no knowledge of Islam and certainly cannot be considered by any stretch an authority. By constantly trying to prove the Islamic authenticity of ISIS, the corporate media whose ideas Wood manifests, is hoping to shift Muslims toward a more secular thought framework. Within that framework, the Muslim mind can easily be colonized and controlled as it is non-Muslims that dominate the entire realm of secularism in a physical and metaphysical sense.
When it comes to “Saudi” Arabia, it is not what Wood’s says that matters; it is what he does not say. In a video interview with The Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennett about his essay, Wood states that he realized that in order to find out what ISIS is about it was wiser for him not to travel to Iraq or Syria, but that he would get a better idea about ISIS if he traveled to Australia and London. Apart from exposing Wood’s poor grasp of the subject matter, the statement subtly reinforces the hysteria drummed up by the corporate media that all Muslims living in the West should be treated as potential terrorists.
For some reason Wood fails to do a basic internet search and discover that according to the neocon think tank, the Hudson Institute, “some evidence indicates that ISIS is using textbooks in schools in Raqqa and Jarabulus whose contents and covers have been plagiarized directly from the Saudi Ministry of Education. The textbook on Tawhid (Monotheism): a Central Doctrine in Islam, is the most noteworthy example.” So why did he not travel to the “Saudi” kingdom?
Anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the takfiris unleashed upon Muslims knows that their intellectual epicenter is Washington’s beloved kingdom of darkness, “Saudi” Arabia. All takfiri groups in Syria and beyond revere state appointed and maintained scholars of the Saudi regime. From ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Baz to Abu ‘Abdillah Muhammad ibn al-‘Uthaymeen who justified the murder of civilians, state sanctioned Saudi “ulema” are the godfathers of ISIS and al-Qaeda minded groups. Does Graeme Wood not know this? It is highly unlikely. So what was the reason for ignoring this basic factor? It was most probably not to reveal the Western connection to facilitating the growth of ISIS through the Saudi regime.
When comparing ISIS and the Saudi dogma masked as Islam, Wood writes, “…before the rise of the Islamic State, no group in the past few centuries had attempted more-radical fidelity to the Prophetic model than the Wahhabis of 18th century Arabia… Haykel sees an important distinction between the groups, though: The Wahhabis were not wanton in their violence. They were surrounded by Muslims, and they conquered lands that were already Islamic; this stayed their hand. ISIS, by contrast, is really reliving the early period.” This is a direct assault on the noble personality of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by equating the early period of the Islamic state led by the Prophet (pbuh) to ISIS. It also tries to delink ISIS from the archaic Saudi regime.
Overall, Wood’s essay is shabby journalism with little or no regard to basic journalistic principles and is a poor “academic” piece. Wood’s essay is political anti-Islamic propaganda, nothing more. Therefore, it should be evaluated as a propaganda piece.
With this in mind, it becomes clear that it did well in targeting the Western masses, by throwing in a few Arabic terms with some “exotic” geographical names combined with pictures of men with long beards. This definitely had some impact on the average Western reader and probably convinced many others that to tackle ISIS, the “civilized” West must tackle Islam as well.
The essay also attempts to appeal to secular-minded Muslims. On this front, Wood did not do so well, as his approach of blaming everything horrific in the Muslim East on Islam was crude and shallow. This approach will subconsciously raise tribal loyalty feelings of secularized Muslims and automatically elevate some barriers in accepting Wood’s message in its entirety. Paradoxical as it may sound, Wood’s essay most probably succeeded in appealing to ritually practicing Muslims with a simplistic understanding of the contemporary world order. The essay had a consistent tone of encouraging Muslims to accept ISIS as representatives of the political dimension of Islam. It was probably done in order to reinforce the aspect of discouraging Muslims from thinking about an Islamic model of governance. After the essay’s publication Wood himself acknowledged that his essay became very popular on social media among ISIS supporters.
Apart from secularized Muslims, it seems Wood tried to make a point to the Muslims in general by interviewing adherents of various strands of psudo-Salafism. It appears as if Wood wanted to state that even Salafis cannot agree on key issues, how would you, Muslims, ever be able to establish a government anywhere? Well, no one objects to the fact that Britain and the US have quite different political systems, but yet both are labeled as “democratic.” Why can the British and the US political establishments disagree on what democracy and secularism mean, but Muslims cannot disagree on secondary matters in Islam? Also, why in spite of fundamental differences on secularism and democracy, are Britain and the US able to maintain their partnership? Socio-economic and historical reasons definitely play a role, but one of the main contemporary factors that cannot be overlooked is that no foreign power aggressively interferes in sabotaging the relationship between the UK and the US, a luxury most Muslim states lack, courtesy of NATO regimes.
Whenever there are disagreements between secular socio-political movements, Wood and his ilk are quick to point out that this is a “democratic” achievement and a sign of political maturity and strength. On the other hand when Islamic organizations have different views on certain matters, secularists/hedonists are quick to dub such natural disagreements as a sign of their political immaturity and weakness. Contemporary corporate media constantly tries to bring across the point that the diversity of Islamic movements serves as evidence of the incoherence of the Islamic model of governance. Dr. Salman Sayyid responds to this primitive dogma in his phenomenal book, A Fundamental Fear, by stating that “it is the case that various Islamist thinkers disagree about many important issues; however, disagreement between Western political theorists has never been cited as evidence of the incoherence of Western political thought or even its sub-branches.”
It is becoming increasingly evident that the corporate media and the secular elite of NATO are actively promoting the takfiris as “Islamic.” The reason for this is deep, but not complicated. Using basic analogy it can best be explained as follows: if your competitor is making a mistake, give him a nudge and present the mistakes as correct steps so that your competition ruins itself. Today Islam and secular-hedonism are competing to win the hearts and minds of the global masses. If this competition remained within the economic, intellectual and academic domains it would actually be healthy, but the secular-hedonist camp with the record of the two world wars that resulted in the slaughter of 70 million people knows that it will run out of steam if the competition remains civil and peaceful. Thus we witness global meddling in terms of hard power by NATO countries. Muslims must brace for more “What ISIS really wants?” type of propaganda and learn how to counter it with quality content and clear analysis.