German Jihadists: ISIS and the unraveling of identities

I postulated recently that the worldwide debate over Islam’s compatibility with modernity is biased, and exemplified it with how Kurds are portrayed by practically every single characteristic except their dominant religion.

The debate over whether or not Islam is compatible with modernity is being fought today in Kobane. Muslims standing in the way of other Muslims should be a sign for the Western world that Muslims aren’t too much like ISIS, but Muslims are on the front lines of fighting ISIS.

It is argued that Kurds don’t fight for Islam but for their country, but there are Islamic Kurdish Freedom Fighters, even though they are few, the Kurdish Islamic Front is part of Islamic Front in Syria, a coalition of moderate Islamic forces fighting both ISIS and Al Assad, and is allegedly, the largest opposition force fighting in Syria today.

Identity is a complex thing, and narrowing it down for political narratives only makes things worse, the result being that for most of the world the only Muslims that count are the ones committing atrocities, not the ones fighting them. And worse for the Kurds, it denies them an aspect of common culture in a region where they are despised for their ethnicity.

It’s a feedback loop of infinitely damaging proportions.

The attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan have revived the dream of a Kurdistan beyond the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Thousands of Kurdish fighters have poured in to help Iraqi Kurds, and defend their brothers and sisters, Muslim, Christian, Yazidi and Ahl I Haqq (Yarzanism).

I wouldn’t be surprised if members of the Kurdish diaspora have taken arms and flown home to fight the oppressive ISIS, although I haven’t seen an article highlighting this.

They are Muslims involved in a national struggle, but what are we to make of this: Kurdish Germans are leaving Germany to fight for the Islamic State despite their wholesale slaughter of Kurds in the Middle East.

They would rather fight for Islam’s worst outfit in the modern age, than defend their fellow Kurds.

They would rather shoot at their fellow Kurds in the name of Islam than defend them.

They would rather join a posse who is as hell-bent on killing them, as it is eager to have them join its ranks.

No one has said that Kurds were not Muslims, that aspect is simply ignored in favor of the nationalist narrative that is as beneficial to Kurds in getting help from the West as it is detrimental to their relationship with their neighbors.

It denies Kurds their identity, it denies them the bridge with their neighbors who largely misunderstand them and label them by their otherness, It denies Islam its modern day warriors, its modern day Saladins (men and women), and obscures the transnational reality of the Muslim world that is rich, complex, and diverse and shouldn’t be broken down its most negative aspects.

About the Author
Mame Bougouma Diene is a civil servant on permanent vacation even when he works 70 hours a week, who also blogs for the Times of Israel in French. He's French-Senegalese American, loves Israel and the Middle East, would really like to see an end to this intractable mess in his lifetime.