One big reason ISIS lost the capital of its caliphate

Islamic State’s defeat in Raqqa was aided by the silent defiance of the city’s Muslims, who held fast to the liberty of conscience in religious belief. 

Reuters
A civilian in Raqqa prays after being rescued from the Islamic State militants by U. S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

After a four-month battle, American-backed forces in Syria captured Raqqa on Oct. 17, taking back a city that was the center of power for Islamic State’s “caliphate” since 2014. While the victory was a military one, the real heroes may be the Muslim civilians forced to live under the harsh rule of Islamic State (ISIS) but who silently withheld support. Many never bought into the ISIS notion that religious belief can be enforced, and that violence can triumph over individual conscience.

In fact, one of the best “weapons” used to help liberate ISIS-controlled cities in Syria, Iraq, and Libya over the past two years has been media interviews with Muslims who experienced the group’s brutality. Their tales have been so damaging to the ISIS propaganda machine that the group released an audio clip in September with this command from its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

“Behold, soldiers of Islam and supporters of the Caliphate everywhere!... Make the centers of information of those infidels your targets.”

Despite Mr. Baghdadi’s call to censor the truth about ISIS, journalists will now start to interview many of the 200,000 people who lived in Raqqa, a city on the banks of the Euphrates River. Their stories of quiet defiance, like the stories that came out after the liberation of Mosul and Fallujah in Iraq, will no doubt resonate in the few remaining ISIS-controlled areas.

Another theocracy long ruled by the power of the gun is also collapsing. The militant Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip has lost so much support because of its misrule that it agreed in early October to let the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank take over control of civilian functions in Gaza.

The lesson from the slow demise of both ISIS and Hamas is that people will not easily give up their liberty of religious belief, or their understanding that God speaks to each individual and not only to a select few. The real liberation of Raqqa took shape in the thoughts of its residents, long before anti-ISIS soldiers entered the city.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to One big reason ISIS lost the capital of its caliphate
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2017/1017/One-big-reason-ISIS-lost-the-capital-of-its-caliphate
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe