mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
The World on Fire
Muslim Democracies Wake Up to ISIS Threat

An ISIS-affiliated group torched two mosques and held an open-air mass rally calling for jihad in Istanbul last week, raising fears across Turkey. According to the US News & World Report:

On July 29, the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the sight of mass outdoor prayers performed by a large crowd of long-bearded men in white robes and the sermon that followed ignited a serious debate in Turkey. The sermon included, among other things, “Those who believe, those who … participate in jihad on the path of Allah with their lives and all their beings will be rewarded generously. They are the ones who will survive. Our plea to Allah Almighty is to accept us jihadists. We beg him to compassionately help the mujahideen, those in jihad…to hit their targets accurately.”…

It wasn’t only this mass open-air prayer that signaled IS has achieved a certain level of structure in Turkey. The Allah-u Akbar and Muhammediye mosques in Istanbul were set on fire by people said to be affiliated with IS. According to the Human Rights Association (IHA), which analyzed the Muhammediye mosque after the fire, it was a planned attack and IS was behind it. IHA noted that a short time before the attacks, several people had asked the imam, “What is your sect? Are you Shiite?” The Istanbul leader of IHA, Abdulbaki Boga, said about the arson, “We can easily and clearly say that this attack in the center of Istanbul was by IS-Istanbul.”

ISIS, or IS, claims a global caliphate, or universal Muslim empire, and recognizes no borders. So far, many commentators have treated this as bluster, but the group’s push into Lebanon and Iraqi Kurdistan shows that it, at least, is deadly serious about the idea. Now Turkey, which has quietly provided some aid to those fighting ISIS, is waking up to the expansive nature of the threat.

Meanwhile, 5,500 miles away, the world’s other most prominent Muslim democracy is also raising the alarm. In Indonesia, the Jakarta Post reports:

The government on Monday announced a ban on support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) movement and warned citizens not to join the rebel group’s fight in Syria and Iraq.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said that the rising profile of the ISIL movement in Indonesia, also known as ISIS, must be controlled as it posed a serious threat to the country’s cultural and religious diversity.

Indonesia moved to interdict citizens departing to fight for ISIS, as well as banning YouTube videos promoting the group and working with religious leaders to fight ISIS’s message on ideological and political grounds. Jakarta also revealed that several indigenous Indonesian terrorist leaders have taken oaths of allegiance to the global caliphate.

When ISIS first emerged, analysts thought that it would be a cakewalk: either it would disintegrate from within due to disagreements between Sunni tribal factions, or attacks by the Kurdish peshmerga, Iranian-backed Iraqis, etc., would tear it apart. Instead, the group has gone from strength to strength. Now Muslim democracies, one on the fringe of the Arab world and another far outside of it, are getting antsy.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Curious Mayhem
  • lukelea

    Turkey and Indonesia? I must admit I was wondering who the Muslim democracies were. How democratic are they by the way? Do they have well established liberal institutions? Isn’t Iran a democracy to some degree?

    • Duperray

      Me too. Never mind, they will also bow to IS because IS religion power on brains is bigger than any other matter.

  • FriendlyGoat

    And “antsy” is what they should be. People who have been brought up in a more-muted Islam and have so far lived relatively-peaceful lives are suddenly being re-introduced to what Islam actually is and what Islam can actually be construed to say. The democracy governments will either react forcefully against the radicalization of their countries or they will be rapidly overtaken by it. The problem is that voters may fear offending Islam more than they wish to salvage the stability of their places.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service