PARIS — After Daesh (the acronym for the Arabic name of the group alternately known as ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State) took credit for the brutal attacks on Paris last week that left 129 dead and hundreds of others injured, many were quick to blame the Muslim community as a whole for the terrorist rampage.
However, a Muslim is far more likely to become a victim of Daesh than to join it, and the vast majority of the group’s victims are fellow members of the faith. This is due to the political motivations behind Daesh rather than religious ones, where it’s receiving arms and funding from nations like Saudi Arabia to foment sectarianism and civil strife in an attempt for Arab Gulf nations to maintain hegemony over oil and gas resources in the region.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this year, French journalist Didier Francois, who spent over 10 months as the group’s prisoner in Syria, said that the captors cared little about religion and were more politically motivated.
“There was never really discussion about texts or — it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion,” Francois told Amanpour.
“It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran.” Francois added, “We didn’t even have the Quran; they didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”
Due to the chaotic nature of events in the region due to arms landing in the hands of jihadists in a clamor for oil and gas, the exact numbers of Daesh’s victims are hard to come by, but a United Nations report from September 2014 found that “at least 24,015” Iraqi civilians — the vast majority of whom were Muslim — had been killed or injured by Daesh in the first eight months of 2014. The authors of the report warned that their numbers were likely too low, and did not include deaths from related causes:
“Additionally, the number of civilians who have died from the secondary effects of violence, such as lack of access to basic food, water or medicine, after fleeing their homes or who remained trapped in areas under ISIL control or in areas of conflict are unknown.”
In September, Peter R. Neumann, a scholar who studies radicalization in the United Kingdom, reported that attacks on other Muslims is a major factor driving defections from Daesh:
“Many complained about atrocities and the killing of innocent civilians. They talked about the random killing of hostages, the systematic mistreatment of villagers and the execution of fighters by their own commanders.”
On Nov. 12, days before the attacks on Paris, terrorists struck the majority Muslim city of Beirut, in a pair of suicide bombings that left 43 dead. A string of suicide bombings in Baghdad killed at least seven this week.
In a Monday interview, Yasser Louati, a spokesperson for the Collective Against Islamophobia In France, told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman that while they’re mourning the attacks like the rest of their countrymen, Paris’ Muslims are also terrified of a rising tide of violent Islamophobia in retaliation for the terrorist strike. He noted that reports of attacks on mosques, vandalism of Muslim-owned businesses and even physical attacks against Muslims have flooded the group’s hotline.
The violence is especially misplaced, Goodman noted, because, “Muslims by far outnumber any other group when it comes to being targeted by ISIS. ISIS has killed more Muslims than certainly members of any other religion.” Louati agreed:
“Definitely, like if they hit Beirut right before hitting Paris. And before that, I mean, like they have been killing Muslims by the thousands in Syria and Iraq. You know, what Islamic—I mean, like, how can they call themselves so-called Islamic, when they are first targeting Muslims?”
Watch “‘We Are Scared, We Are Grieving’: Muslim Activist in Paris Condemns Attacks, Rising Islamophobia” from Democracy Now!: