Image via Twitter
Jihadists don’t want money. They don’t want us to release prisoners. They’re not focused with a particular territorial dispute. So what do they want? I turned to Twitter to find out.
Twitter is full of people fighting for ISIS. You simply need to find a Jihadists’ name in a newspaper article and punch it into the Twitter search bar. From there you can follow all the people they follow. It’s a big club with masses of trolls and journalists orbiting around them. So I joined in, tweeting “What do Jihadists want from westerners? How do we avoid harm?”
Out of around fifty, only a handful replied. But as you can see, the responses followed a pretty common line – that the west is at war with Islam, and they want us to stop. It’s not an entirely surprising response.
“Extremist Muslims have felt persecuted for a long time,” Amin Saika, director of the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, told VICE. “Generally, they see this as happening after the Second World War, when the US sought to contain the influence of the Soviet Union by supporting anti-socialist governments. These regimes were often quite fascist, and this fuelled anger towards the US. ”
In this often-overlooked part of the Middle East’s history, Muslims typically suffered under America’s efforts to stamp out communism. Saika points to Iran as an example, where in 1953 the US and UK helped to undermine the power of a democratically elected socialist government, which ended in a coup. The monarch, a guy named the Shah, took the reins but his penchant for detaining Islamic dissidents, blowing public money on extravagant parties, and generally kowtowing to the west, did a lot to fan anti-American rage. He was finally ousted in 1979, and Iran has been under Islamic rule since. Only in 2013 did the CIA finally release documents admitting the coup was “carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”
Afghanistan, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq all have similar stories, but Saika believes the bulk of Muslims don’t feel victimised. “Religious persecution isn’t unique to Islam,” he says simply. “It has occurred to Islam, but the sense that Islam is somehow more persecuted than other religions, that’s false.”
But if some individuals are feeling persecuted by western governments, enough to become Jihadists, what should the rest of us do?
No, not a very uplifting responses. But maybe a better question isn’t what they want from us, but rather what they’re trying to achieve. What is the future that extremists are fighting for?
“One day, we believe as Muslims that there will be the domination of the world by Islam”, explained UK Islamic activist, Anjem Choudary when we spoke on the phone. “The proverb said that to Allah belong the east and the west, so wherever you turn yourselves or your faces there is the Face of Allah. This concept of entitlement, the domination of the world by Islam, is very clear in the mind of Muslims. I think that’s something to look forward to.”
It’s important to note that Choundry was recently arrested and released on UK terrorism charges, and his opinions are far from indicative of mainstream Muslim desires. ISIS aren’t mainstream either, but interestingly their hopes for the future were marginally more positive. What tomorrow do they want?
Coming from extremists, this all seems strangely resonable. How it actually turns out, we'll just have to wait and see.
Follow Julian on Twitter: @MorgansJulian