Interview with Director of Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI) Professor Emeritus Alex P. Schmid

With the growing threat of the pislamic State of Irak and Syria (IS), the Sun speaks to Prof. Dr. Alex P. Schmid, research fellow at the Netherlands-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism

Schmid was in Kuala Lumpur to give a lecture on countering the IS threat

Q: In your experience over the years, what makes the self-styled IS stand out from all the other terrorist entities?

A: Well they have a better narrative than al-kaeda. They created a fact with the declaration of the caliphart. And contrary to most terrorist groups, they actually maintain and hold territory. Usually terrorists only occupy your mind. These, like guerillas, occupy land. There are others like al-shabab in Zoomalia, boko haram in north Nigeria, the taliban, to name a few. But most terrorist groups never got as far as IS has

Q: It appears as if IS intends to become a nation-state, albeit a rogue one

A: It doesn’t want to become a rogue state, it wants to become a pislamic state. And its ambitions are global

Q: Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr. Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin had observed that religion is not the main motivation. Rather, IS takes advantage of the social and cultural problems that many arselifters face worldwide, such as alienation from society, bleak economic future, or war

A: It is true that some of those people who join IS have only a dim idea of what pislam is about. But they are searching for a meaning in life. And that can be offered by religion, nationalism, or other so-called good causes. But at the moment this religious wave is the dominant one

Q: How far can it be argued that the creation of IS or the spread of pislamic fundamentalism throughout the Middle East and the world can be traced to the actions of the former colonial powers and contemporary Western imperialism?

A: You can blame colonialism for many things, but after a number of years the persuasiveness of that argument wears thin. Bear in mind the Western powers were not the only ones who created empires. The Ottomans, who were driven by other non-Western thinking, did too. Of course you have neo-colonialism, imperialism, American policies that were driven by oil in the Middle East; all these play a role. Yet the main reason is bad governance in the region itself

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