Is the Islamic State an Islamic State at All?

Below is another excellent op-ed by Christian Ortner, published last week in the Austrian daily Die Presse. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:

Is the Islamic State an Islamic State at All?

At present, Saudi Arabia is actually carrying out beheadings more energetically than the Islamic State. But of course, all that has nothing to do with Islam.

by Christian Ortner

Do Western governments — voters included — really have a problem with masked men somewhere in the Arabian desert cutting off the heads of other human beings? The correct answer is — it depends. When the gentlemen of the Islamic State (IS) put another beheading video online, outrage knows no bounds. Immediately, there is talk of a “cancer that must be eradicated” (Barack Obama) or the members of IS are declared to be “monsters” (David Cameron).

If, on the other hand, someone is beheaded a little down the road — in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh, for example — the outrage in Western seats of government is measurable. Excitement is kept within bounds in most media. The whole thing is regarded as part of the local folklore. At present, the Saudis are beheading, if possible, more industriously than the IS. Just since the beginning of August, it has been “Off with his head!” more than 40 times — and not just for drug crimes. Alleged high treason against the ruling Wahhabis is quite sufficient.

Obviously, the Saudis are less spontaneous in their beheadings than the jaunty gentlemen of the Islamic State. But the distinction between the “cancerous” IS and the Saudis who are courted in the West is more stylistic and quantitative than substantial. And that is not just true of the Saudis. In fact, flogging or stoning sexually independent women and hanging gays from industrial cranes are popular in considerable areas of the Islamic world — from Brunei in the east, through Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iran and the Arabian peninsula to Islamic territories in Africa.

When all is said and done in these cozy regions, values not exactly contradictory to those of the Islamic State are represented and acted upon: persecution of sexual minorities, discrimination against, and often persecution of, anyone who does not wish to be Muslim, and a massive rejection of democracy, enlightenment and human rights.

The fact that the most recent surveys show that a great majority of Saudis and a not inconsiderable minority of the Turkish population are in sympathy with the Islamic State, is no more astonishing than that the Saudis not so long ago were supporting IS, and Turkey, too, has a rather ambivalent relationship with these cutthroats.

This is not insignificant, since it undermines the theory advanced by the “appeasement faction” in the West: that the Islamic State is a distorted image of Islam and really has nothing — absolutely nothing — to do with it.

If IS has nothing to do with Islam, then no doubt Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with Islam, and neither does the theocratic state of Iran, and of course the millions of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafists, and numerous other more or less radical currents in this religion. If IS has nothing to do with Islam, then most of Islam has nothing to do with Islam, which just can’t be.

This problem can no more be confined to the lands of its origins than can Ebola. Because, for a long time, the messages from the world of cutthroats have been streaming to Europe on the airwaves of TV satellite channels, the social media and other digital platforms.

Until now, out of ignorance or a false sense of tolerance, Europe has done nothing substantial to oppose this. Sooner or later, there will be a high price to pay for that.

One thought on “Is the Islamic State an Islamic State at All?

  1. I’ve seen an execution of someone in Saudi Arabia. It is quick, probably as quick as done by a guillotine. Getting one’s head sawed off with a knife is something different.

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