Al-Baghdadi's death does not signal that the world is anywhere close to the end of violent extremism, both among secularists in the West and among Islamists in the East.
Rabat – The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became public on Sunday, October 27, 2019. But his death does not signal that the world is anywhere close to the end of violent extremism, both among secularists in the West and among Islamists in the East.
On Monday, a Pentagon official confirmed that US forces buried al-Baghdadi’s body at sea after the US military raid on the Islamic State leader’s hideout in Syria.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not give further details on the burial, which is reminiscent of that of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. The leader of al-Qaeda died when an elite US military unit attacked his hideout in Pakistan.
The US chose burial at sea to prevent a possible tomb from becoming a place of pilgrimage. Baghdadi’s body was treated appropriately, in accordance with military procedure and the laws of war.
The chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff of the US military, General Mark Milley, said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., “The disposal of his remains has been done, is complete and was handled appropriately.”
The ISIS leader, who has spread terror over an immense territory straddling Iraq and Syria, has been the subject of a hunt for several years. Washington received information about his presence in a house in the Idlib region in northwestern Syria, “where he lived steadily,” General Milley said.
According to the highest ranking American military official, ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliph blew up an explosive belt he was carrying when he was cornered in a tunnel with three of his children. US forces then confirmed his identity through DNA.
The Russian defense ministry has, however, asked for proof that the US military operation in Syria actually killed al-Baghdadi. The US announced his death with great fanfare, but Russia remains skeptical.
In fact, Moscow has said it has no reliable information on an “umpteenth death” of the head of the Islamic State. A ministry spokesman pointed out contradictory details from the different parties involved.
“There is no convincing evidence that the Americans carried out such an operation in an area in Syria that is not under their control,” the spokesman added. “Moreover, no airstrikes have been recorded in the Idlib area in recent days.”
The ministry said that the death of the leader of the Islamic State does not matter since the terrorist militias were dismantled in Syria in early 2018. “The statement of the Americans has no influence on the situation in Syria. Any danger is not averted because of the presence in the region of many terrorists, ” pointed out the Russian ministry.
French and Turkish reactions to the death followed Russia’s, without questioning, this time, the veracity of the information.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron spoke of a “blow” against Daesh, “but this is only one step, the fight continues with our partners in the international coalition for the terrorist organization to be definitively defeated, which is our priority in the Levant,” he wrote on Twitter. At the same time, the French minister of the interior called for vigilance against possible acts of revenge.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed on Sunday the death of the leader of the Islamic State, which he described as a “turning point” in the war on terror. “The death of the Daesh leader marks a turning point in our joint fight against terrorism,” Erdogan tweeted.
Al-Baghdadi is dead but violent Islamism might remain for some time
The liquidation of the historic leader of ISIS is a great success for Donald Trump, but it is not certain that it will have a decisive impact on the course of the war on terrorism.
Donald Trump was able to triumph Sunday like his predecessor Barack Obama informing his compatriots of the death of Osama bin Laden under the shells of an American commando in Pakistan in 2011. He can expect a revival of popularity at a key moment in the intensification of the presidential campaign, at the end of which he expects to be re-elected next year.
Such a military operation is, indeed, extremely popular. It flatters its authors, the armed forces and the American intelligence services, and, beyond them, the United States, in general, because it emphasizes the pugnacity and efficacy of the country.
It appears simultaneously as a victory of justice. “Justice is done,” said Donald Trump after the raid, repeating the sentiment of Barack Obama eight years ago. Admittedly, it is not the civilized justice of the courts, but there is probably no other possible justice in an ongoing war.
This kind of liquidation, also, draws its popularity from the hope that it can weaken or even defeat terrorism, but history teaches everyone that this is rarely the case.
The example of Osama bin Laden is eloquent, in this respect. His organization, al-Qaeda, was cornered by the US invasion of its Afghan sanctuary, but his terrorist organization did not suffer much from this in the years that followed. It even strengthened al-Qaeda in several theaters of operations like Yemen and Syria.
After the war on Islamism, now the war on Islam in Europe
“France is in danger of ‘Muslimophobic McCarthism,’” stated, quite rightly, the Islamic religion expert Rachid Benzine in an op-ed in le Monde on October 9, 2019. He fears that the succession of attacks on Islam is establishing a climate of hatred towards Muslims in France, in the long run.
The mosque of the city of Bayonne presented by French politicians as “peaceful” with a Muslim community fully “integrated,” was the target of a shooting on Monday, October 28, 2019, causing two serious injuries among its Muslim congregants. The assailant, Claude Sinke, was a former candidate of the National Front.
The Journal du Dimanche released poll results on October 27 that reveal the mistrust of the majority of French about the compatibility of Islam with their society, as well as their concerns about the future of secularism. These are only some of the consequences of an incredible surge of hateful speech, for weeks, by some key political leaders and the media.
While Muslims increasingly face discrimination, the question of banning the wearing of the veil in public space continues to occupy the public debate.
Stigma and its corollary, anti-Muslim racism, have become a national French sport. The fight against communitarianism or “separatism” is the subject of a worrying consensus, while it is, in fact, a fight against an illusion.
The vast majority of Muslims in France want to live their beliefs peacefully and in no way require an adaptation of French norms and customs to Islam.
The principle of secularism, or “laicite,” was not conceived and developed as a weapon of war against creeds and culture, but unfortunately it is now widely used for political gain and cultural stigmatization.
Of course, there is still a long way to go to reform the organization of Islam in France, especially in its representative institutions, but the French ought not to reject everything in block, as does the far right Doxa.
Despite al-Baghdadi’s death, extremism is alive, both in the West and the East.
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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter @Ayurinu