There seems little respite for the hapless people of Iraq, a country besieged not so long ago by occupying forces and lately by self-proclaimed religious rulers who turn out to be little more than mad men. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a militant hardliner group led by the self-anointed ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after capturing the second largest city in the country, Mosul, and savagely executing and beheading hundreds of Iraqi troops, has set its eyes on the nation’s minorities. Just after its ‘conquest’ of Mosul, ISIS purged Shia Muslims and Christians in neighbouring villages and towns, giving them the ultimatum of either converting or facing a horrible death by crucifixion or beheading. The latest victims of ISIS threats are the little known minority the Yazidis from Sinjar province who are amongst the longest surviving followers of an ancient religion of Kurdish origin. Fleeing from ISIS persecution, which promises to be barbaric and severe, as many as 50,000 Yazidi refugees have ascended up the peaks of the Sinjar mountains, threatened now by starvation and dehydration if they are not helped by the international community. It is this huge humanitarian crisis that has moved the US, forcing it to take a firm stand against ISIS by launching aerial strikes against the militant group. The US unleashed its first round of air strikes in northern Iraq on Friday in response to the worsening situation of Iraq’s minorities and displaced persons.
While one is weary of the US’s adventurism, especially since its haste to invade Iraq more a decade ago ultimately led to the anarchy and civil war we see there today, this latest strike against the terror group is welcome for no group of people on earth can be allowed to be persecuted in this way.
The events in Iraq are eerily reminiscent of another religious persecution over 500 years ago when the Spanish Inquisition reversed the policy of tolerance adhered to by the Muslim rulers of Spain. The Spanish reconquest gave Muslims three choices back then: convert, leave the land, or die. It looks like ISIS has not even granted Iraq’s Christians and Yazidis the option to leave. This is a new kind of Inquisition, one that is baying for blood. Over the centuries, the most successful and long lived Muslim rulers were those known for tolerance and protection of minorities under their care. Even the Mughal emperors included minority members in their courts. Look how far back we have regressed now, with fanatics killing Muslims and people of other faiths while calling them kafirs (infidels) amid calls for their murder. ISIS is a classic example of how wrongly the message of Islam has been interpreted and used to inflict harm on others. Strikes against such elements are a necessary step in protecting both Muslims and minorities. *