The Daesh plays on fear to undermine our liberal democratic values and fracture our societies. And people in the U.S. and France are falling right into their trap.
Politics and Societal Fractures in the West
n recent news, Donald Trump in the United States and the National Front in France have been leading the political polls in their respective countries. The commonality between the 2 political entities is that both are notably anti-migrant. Xenophobia-mongering perhaps. Both Trump and the National Front are thriving on fear fanned by terrorism. A month ago, only 4% of American respondents felt that terrorism is the top issue in the U.S. Today, the number is 19% .
One would have thought that Trump’s ludicrous remark about banning all muslims from entering the U.S. would have rattled his ratings. But no. After those remarks, his ratings actually went up. 35% of Republican voters are rooting for him. 1 in 4 Americans polled (yes, including Democrats) actually support his idea of the Muslim ban . This is playing right into the hands of terrorists like the ISIS/ISIL or as the French and UK governments call them, the ‘Daesh‘ (perhaps more states should use this term instead). Why? Because it’s about the battle of ideologies.
The Daesh and Ideology
The Daesh holds to a totalitarian ideology legitimated by a certain interpretation of Islamic scriptures and tradition. Most Muslim associations, teachers and individuals in the world would, and have, expressly rejected the Daesh’s interpretation as correct or Islamic, as it were. Regardless of the hermeneutics, the Daesh is bent on implementing and imposing its totalitarian ideology on the rest of the world. It believes it is justified and indeed obligated to do so. What it also seeks to do is to respond to everything that’s not what it holds to as truth or moral normativity by way of obliteration. This includes other Muslims who hold to other interpretations of the Islamic traditions. This includes non-Muslims who live according to world views, ideologies and beliefs which are different from theirs. And the West’s modern liberal democratic political ideology stands opposed to the Daesh. Liberty and equality for all, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, sex, indeed any identity, stands opposed to the Daesh. The Daesh’s approach of instilling terror in modern liberal democratic societies is precisely such as to destroy those fundamental values. Fracture, if not rip apart, these ideological underpinnings. By that, it proves their ideology superior.
Global War: World War III?
The war against terrorism is the Great War of the 21st century. If you like, it’s coming close to World War III. A total of approximately 62 countries are involved in an international intervention against the Daesh. These include a U.S.- and France-led coalition and a separate Russian (pro-Bashaar Al Assad) intervention. (Check out an interactive map of the countries involved here.) The Daesh itself views 60 countries as comprising the global coalition against them, interestingly, including Taiwan. This number is significantly short of the numbers in World War II (almost all the countries in the world were involved), but more than that in World War I (depending on how you assess the involvement: about 32-40 participated or involved in the war). The war against terror is not merely global because many countries are involved. It’s global because its ideological impact inevitably affects every society. Fear is infectious. And no one country is spared. Not even China. Recently, the Daesh is reportedly issuing propaganda to recruit fighters from China. Not even Taiwan is spared (despite some states not even recognising Taiwan as an independent state). If our descendants are to study 21st century history, the key topic will be this, the global war against terrorism and the battle of ideology.
A Constructive Response
Can there be a constructive response to this battle (apart from military intervention)? I’d think at the ideological level, our response must be to strengthen our society and hold fast to our cherished values. We must stand against fear by professing faith. We must build deeper relationships within our communities and build our communities within their localities. We must uphold the fundamental values of liberty, community, harmony, and understanding, all grounded within relational contexts. We must triumph over the ideological altogether, which is impersonal, by way of real human relationships, which is personal and always truth-seeking because they are grounded in authenticity and love, that is mercy, kindness and respect. In short, we can defeat ideology by authentic relationships. Fear is the terrorists’ only weapon. But love casts out all fear.
 “Trump gets a lift in polls as he taps into terror worries”, The Straits Times (12 December 2015).