ISIL’s attacks on Arab Christians are designed to provoke a showdown between Islam and the West


As early as December 2010, the New York Times had reported that “a new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country’s security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them”. ?

The news of [the most recent]?abduction in Syria is especially frightening in light of the fact that some 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians were brutally murdered by the same group in Libya.

The key question is why are Christians targeted for these mass abduction and slaughter by ISIL?

Four paramount factors immediately suggest themselves:

First: Copts in Egypt, and Assyrians and Armenians in Iraq and Syria are among the oldest Christian communities in the Arab and Muslim world. ISIL targets Arab Christians in order to tear into the fabric of societies such as Syria, Iraq, or Egypt where in the course of post-colonial nation-state formations these societies have become a mosaic of old and new, Islamic and non-Islamic, sacred and secular, group affiliations and have thus enriched their cosmopolitan culture, to which these homicidal gangs are a sworn enemy.

Second: This murderous exhibitionism is to provoke violent sectarianism in the Arab and Muslim world. It is not just the Christians that ISIL targets. They also target the Shia Muslims, the Yazidis, the Kurds, etc. All such attacks are designed to instigate sectarian violence to dismantle otherwise worldly revolutionary uprisings we have known as the Arab Spring.

Third: They mark and attack Christians in order to provoke both the ruling tyrannical regimes and the US and EU to intervene so that their actions become self-fulfilling prophesies; that the war they are waging is between “Islam and the West”. There is nothing farther from the truth. ISIL facilitates, legitimises, and exonerates all US and EU military interventions in the Arab and Muslim World.

There is an aggressive racialisation of the term “Christian” in the global media, as if these Christians that ISIL targets and murders are Europeans. They are – with very few exceptions – all Arab Christians.

Fourth: ISIL fighters target Christians, Yazidis, women, children, and the elderly because they have been severely defeated, humiliated, and exposed for the sham that they are, and thus discredited in Kobane by Kurds.

These cruel attacks are designed to camouflage that fact and keep them on the top of the news charts because they know they can always rely on the rampant Islamophobia in the European and US media and thus they manage to project a power far more potent than they actually have.

And fifth, through motivating the “lone wolf” attackers in the world to perform random acts of violence, they appear to have a global reach where they are in truth not in control of these atrocities.

The most amazing thing is that there appears to be little interest by countries in and around these problems to step in and sort their own problems out. ?The appearance is of countries that can not control their own internal security, and have bands of idiots running around doing ethnic cleansing.

One way or another, this is the most unusual and remarkable conflict the world has faced to date. ?We have difficulty defining it, but we can see the evil and want it stopped.

In the mean time, I wonder if the world media could do its part by no longer reporting on every gruesome detail. ?ISIS’ reach is provided free of charge by a media machine that does not have to answer for the consequences.


– Hamid Dabashi, Al Jazeera