ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi
ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi
Photo by ANI

"It's quite easy to eliminate an individual, but exceedingly difficult to eradicate a thought, an idea or an ideology." -Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 1943

Finally, the US succeeded in eliminating Abu Baqar Al-Baghdadi in his own lair just like Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed in Abbotabad (Pakistan) by the US Navy Seals in 2011. With the killing of Baghdadi, the juggernaut of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) surely comes to a temporary halt. The reprehensible terrorist outfit, ISIS, may have got a soda-water shake having been jolted by this terrible blow to its mastermind, but the question that's being asked is: Will this action be instrumental in the fizzling out of the maniacal ideology of ISIS, which attracted many Sunni Muslims from all parts of the world to its fold since its inception in 2014? What were the factors that motivated, mobilised and galvanised people like Jehadi John who openly declared that the sight of blood gushing from a throat slit open gave him an orgasmic pleasure and Calcutta's 'educated' Siddharth Dhar (Abu Rumaysah al-Britani) from a middle class family now a Sunni Muslim who cuts the throats of captives-to join this outfit and showed their unshakable allegiance to it? Muslim youngsters, even girls and young women, gravitated towards the violent and obnoxious ideology of ISIS and joined it. Young individuals from India (Bombay, Poona, Hyderabad among others) became its members to spread and strengthen the idea of Pan-Islamisation. 

The US psycho-defence analyst Neil Robinson, who worked as a socio-psychological adviser in military matters when General Powell was the Chief of the US Army, wrote in the West Point Military Gazette that, "Violent religious ideologies like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram in West Africa (precisely Nigeria/In the local Hausa dialect Boko Haram means–Western education is forbidden!), ISIS, Talibans in Pakistan and Afghanistan and others hold a twisted as well as opium-induced religious fascination for the recruits. However hard we may deny, the fact remains that the new millennium has witnessed a worldwide spurt in religious hegemony, tainted spiritual snobbery of all faiths, collective insecurity of all religious organizations and a sudden upsurge in gore and violence. This was catalyzed by 9/11 that took place at the stroke of the new millennium. That epochal episode in the modern history of mankind categorised and compartmentalised almost all organised religions. Islam and Christianity being the most affected....'' His razor-sharp analysis is spot-on. An ideology of religious violence and the glamorization of it through blood-curdling images of decapitations and amputations romanticised the very ideas of jihad, qeesas (Arabic for 'an eye for an eye'), sangsaar (stoning to death) and public beheadings. And when a violent ideology gets rooted and entrenched in minds, it's very difficult to get rid of that. It becomes a part of our psyche. 

That's why, the analysts and observers are not very sure and over the moon that Baghdadi's elimination also eliminates the very ideology of ISIS. 'Once you sow the seeds of a religio-territorial ideology like ISIS, even if its mastermind is killed or removed, the notion persists,' observed Noam Chomsky in 2016. ISIS is primarily a territorial ideology which gets strength and approval from the religion it belongs to. Right from pre-historic times, humans have been territorial beings or animals. Our ancient tribalism was our earliest manifestation of owning a territory along with a homogeneous group of people. So the 'territorial fundamentalism' (to borrow English sociologist Allen Kingsley's term) is deep-seated in every individual, however evolved he/she may be. 

The territorial fundamentalism is ingrained in all humans, irrespective of their faiths and nations. This gets further inveterate with the entry of a religion. Remember, all religions are veiled tools of territorial expansion. Expansionism and religiosity go hand in hand. It's a heady mixture. So, even when the mastermind is eliminated, the very idea of religio-territorial expansion persists. That's why, even after Osama's killing, his outfit still exists. 

One more very important factor that works in the continuation of such violent ideologies despite the absence of their heads is Humans' Universal Macabre Curiosity (HUMC) in modern neuro-sociological parlance. Do you know, humans like images of gore as much as they like porn images and this has been clinically proven? This explains, why many youths from all parts of the world joined and are still joining such bloodthirsty organizations just to get a climax that is akin to getting an orgasm. 

The average brain registers and responds to extremely violent spectacles with a psychic curiosity and interest. Otherwise, how else will one explain the huge gathering of onlookers in Saudi Arabia after the Maghrib namaaz (offered in the evening before Isha) just to see a convict's head rolling on the sands? 

The political Islam tacitly approves of the emergence and survival of outfits like ISIS and Boko Haram. And neo-political agenda of the western world (read America) also allows these outfits to thrive and survive. The US has its concealed and congealed political aspirations with respect to ISIS, just like senior Bush had a business equation with Osama Bin Laden. 

Having studied and taught Islam at world's finest universities and interacted with innumerable members of ISIS and such organizations in India and western countries, I've come to the realisation that to many such entrants, these outfits act as a passport to a 'perfect world' just like spiritual organisations are quick tickets to paradise to many people. The very idea of this world being imperfect is inculcated into the gullible minds by our spiritual and political leaders. The Utopian ideas of Ram Rajya or Nizam-e-Mustafa start beguiling us. This is a structural policy for the survival of a select few. The rest of the world gets mired in meaningless religio-political unpragmatism.

The 'perceived victimisation' of a religion and playing that card to lure susceptible people is one sure trick that seldom fails. The 9/11, ghettoised Muslim community and a sense of fear percolated down to every follower of Islam. This pervasive percolation of persecution (Triple Ps) along with a persistent apprehension, engendered scores of such outfits across the Islamic world. This is actually a kind of DM (Defence Mechanism), a sort of a preemptive action in the form of a creation of a new outfit with an ideological message drilled into the entrants' brains.  

Pristine Islam's Caliphate concept and a regime based purely on theological precepts may appeal to scores of followers of Islam, but this doesn't gel with the modern idea of democracy and liberal thoughts. This disparity is one of the reasons of discord and perpetual incongruity between the followers and kafirs (infidels). So, whether or not the 'leader' is alive, the idea lingers on in some way or the other.    

That before we can be persecuted, it's wiser to persecute the 'enemy', a warfare strategy known as pre-emptive assault management (PAM) is now seamlessly internalised into our survival instincts. So, whether Baghdadi, Osama and such 'leaders' survive or get eliminated, the deep-rooted ideologies and their far-reaching ramifications and repercussions don't vanish overnight. Wait for a while to see how things unfold after Baghdadi's violent end.

The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilizations and cultures.

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