Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown
Representing the 99%!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Brief Analysis of ISIS’ Terror and the Westerners’ Response By Aimée Pocock

Terror of |Terrorism
Photo © BBC News, 2014
"After the shock of September 11, Americans rallied around the flag in support of their country and their government. Unfortunately, that commendable sentiment brought a blind loyalty, an unquestioning willingness to accept whatever the leadership said was necessary to fight terrorism. By suppressing our natural scepticism, turning off our analytical filters, we participated in a major national mistake, the invasion of Iraq" (Clarke, 2004).

Photo © Warner Todd Huston
Since 9/11, the western nations have become more and more suspicious of other religions and ethnicity.  In current affairs, the crisis with the Islamic State is only putting fire on the already existing terror. The extremist group, following in the steps of Al-Qaeda has been gaining power in the last year and spreading their beliefs to larger stakes. How did the current crisis, involving the Islamic State and the Western countries become an international conflict? The Islamic State is spreading terror all over the world, through means of atrocities, such as mass murder and individual’s beheading, forcing a worldwide response to counter attack the extremist’s propaganda. Westerners have been taking action; online, with campaigns and counter propaganda, in the media by sharing stories and important facts of the ongoing war, and also in the air, with air strikes coming from many countries taking part in the U.S- led coalition.

Background and History

Photo © Syria News
Although assumptions are often made of extremist groups - like the Islamic State - that their ideas and norms are based on religious matters, most groups are rather political. ISIS is a terrorist movement that thrives to fight anti-imperialism and impose their interpretation of Islam, even on other Muslims. The Islamic State’s ideology even reveals similar traits than an existing Islam perspective, called Wahhabism. This form of the Islam is found in Saudi Arabia and their interpretation of Islam is very close to that of the Islamic State. They interpret the Quran in a very literal fashion and apply the Shari’ law in a very strict manner, like ISIS. However, Saudi Arabia is part of the U.S allies fighting against ISIS and has been an American ally almost since its foundation.

Photo © BBC News, 2014
The danger is that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have been propagating their interpretation of Islam to western countries, an Islam which is exclusive and excludes all other interpretation of the religion. It is also important to mention that the American Invasion of Iraq has destroyed the old Iraqi state and that since then it has been a breeding ground for terrorism and interreligious strife. This puts the United-States and old imperialist powers (like France and England) in the front row of anti-westerner rhetoric and hatred . According to Harith Al-Dabbagh (2004) and Richard A. Clarke (2004), the American intervention of 2003 aggravated the ‘hate’ and terror, even in today’s fight with ISIS.  Of course, ISIS’ actions are unacceptable but it is important to keep in mind that they are not the only one responsible for this war.

ISIS Propganda

"Your games which are producing from you,
we do the same actions in the battlefields!!"
- Cited in The Guardian, 2014.
Photo © BBC News, 2014
Extremist groups have used imagery, like video games (these games are from the Western Perspective of Wars), to recruit more ‘soldiers’ all over the world. What they are doing is taking Western ‘tools’ and turning them to their advantage. Not only do these ‘techniques’ influence believers all over the world, but it also inflicts fear on the Westerners by pushing citizens of foreign countries to commit actions against the authorities. According to BBC News (2014), "IS fighters linked to the UK began referencing language and imagery from video war games such as Call of Duty, making simplistic claims about "respawning" in heaven – meaning starting the game again. Back home, their supporters saw these messages, shared them and made their own plans to get a flight to Turkey" (BBC News, 2014).  Call of Duty is not the only game used to gain recruits. A recent example was a recruitment video consisting of edited footage from Grand Theft Auto. Thus, Islamic extremists are using Western video games against Westerners themselves.

US Journalist James Foley
Photo © Steven Senne
On the other hand, the Islamic State uses beheadings and testimonies to send their message against the western governments. Their goal is to provoke governments, to create a threat to foreign states, and to influence individuals in other countries to feel free to commit atrocities of their own. Steve Rose, (2014) states that, "ISIS’ global media operation appears to have two key objectives: to provoke the US and its allies, and to recruit from outside the Middle East. Both seem to be working. In the former instance, the horrific videos of the beheadings of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers David Haines and on Friday, Alan Henning, have helped drag western powers back into combat in the region. Meanwhile, those same countries have seen their citizens departing to join Isis." (The Guardian, 2014). Once again, ISIS uses imagery to make their point.

Worldwide Response

"CNN effect: Impact and power of images of human rights abuses transmitted via the media in galvanizing world opinion to pressure governments to do something about human rights abuses" (Bova, 2014).
What Do You Think?
Various campaigns such as "#notinmyname" and ‘’#Muslimapologies’’ are trying to protect the Muslim world and their religion, by stating that ISIS is not acceptable and that their views are not approved under any religion, making a point that Muslims are NOT terrorists. These campaigns have revealed themselves to be very successful opening up people’s mindsets on the reality of ISIS and closing some of ISIS doors. However, they are also critiqued by Muslims that state they should not even have to create such campaigns, since it is obvious that ISIS has nothing to do with their religion. Interestingly, the ‘hashtags’ NotInMyName and MuslimApologies have dominated social networks.

It’s already been one month since BBC News (2014) claimed that, "One estimate of #notinmyname’s reach suggests that it touched 300 million people over the weeks since its launch on Youtube." These same social networks are trying to block and delete any extremist accounts, "Twitter went after Isis in a really big way after the first video of James Foley being murdered. We saw Isis on the back foot – it issued five-stage instructions to its members how to get round this – and we saw them leave Twitter to operate on other platforms" (BBC News, 2014). According to the Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura (2014), what it seemed like a small thing at first, has blown away the internet: “While the tweets are sarcastic and playful, they underline frustration among some Muslims with Western misperception of Islam. The hashtag #Muslimapologies at one point topped the trending list on Twitter in Britain." Thus, social networks can seem irrelevant, but they are pushing towards involvement of the world population, as well as sharing knowledge of the crisis, all around the globe.

The International Conflict

What is Canada's Stance on ISIS?
In theory, the western world hopes to take down ISIS with counter propaganda and air strikes. In reality, the Islamic State stands strong. Extremist groups cannot be completely defeated, because as long as there is a belief, there is a movement. Although the Islamic State is a relatively new group, it is only a continuation of previous Islamist extremist groups. As Clarke (2004) writes,

"little noticed by most Americans, including those in its government, a new international movement began growing during the last two decades. It does not just seek terror for its own sake; that international movement’s goal is the creation of a network of governments, imposing on their citizens a minority interpretation of Islam. Some in the movement call for the scope of their campaign to the global domination. The ‘Caliphate’ they seek to create would be a severe and repressive fourteenth-century literalist theocracy. They pursue its creation with gruesome violence and fear." (Clarke, 2004). 
If nothing more, this illustrates how the United States, alongside its western allies, have a strong fear of the Muslim world and how they are also responsible for the disputes of the current war. In the end, the ‘allies’ will have to deploy greater efforts to ‘break down’ the Islamic State and not only with physical force. Finally, even if people are not calling this crisis a world war, the international involvement is clear and present.


Al-Dabbagh, H., (2004). L'Irak au bord de l'éclatement ''Les dix péchés capitaux d'une reconstruction ratée''. Cérium: Working Paper. (001), pp.1-25.

BBC News. (September 26th, 2014). UNSC Resolution 2178: How easily can it be enforced? BBC News Middle East.

Bova, R., (2012). ‘The Human Rights Revolution: The Construction of international Norms’. In: (ed), How the World Works: A Brief Survey of International Relations. 2nd ed. United States: Pearson Education, Inc.. pp.177.

Clarke, A. R., (2004). Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror.1st ed. New York, NY: Free Press: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 

CBC News. (September 26th, 2014). British Parliament approves Iraq airstrikes against ISIS. CBC News World.

Davidson, Helen. (2014). ‘Not in my name’ campaign organiser warns of danger of political rhetoric. The Guardian.com

Casciani, Dominic. (2014). How the battle against IS is being fought online. BBC News Magazine.

Feldman, N., (2008). The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State. 1st ed. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura (2014). For Muslims, Social Media Debate on Extremism Is Reflected in Dueling Hashtags. New York Times.

Mas, Susan. (September 26th, 2014). Stephen Harper says Canada won’t ‘stand on the sidelines’ of ISIS fight. CBC News Politics.

Malek, Cate. (2013). International Conflict. CR Info.org.

Pipes, D., (2002). Islam and Islamism: Faith and Ideology. Policy. 18 (1), pp.22-26.

Rose, Steve. (2014). The Isis propaganda war: a hi-tech media jihad. The Guardian.com.

Teti, A., & Mura, A., (2008). 'Islam and Islamism'. In: Haynes, J. (ed), Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics. 1st ed. New York, NY: Routledge. pp.92-95.

Varende, Alexis. (2014). Du bon usage du mot « terrorisme » et de quelques autres termes. ORIENT XXI Magazine.

About The Author

Aimée Pocock is presently studying at Champlain College Lennoxville located in Quebec, Canada. A Brief Analysis of ISIS’ Terror and the Westerners’ Response was written as part of an assignment for Introduction To International Affairs in the Department of Social Science.

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