Concern across region over UK action against Islamic State

Prof: Paul Rogers of the department of peace studies at Bradford University.

Prof: Paul Rogers of the department of peace studies at Bradford University.

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BRITISH MILITARY intervention in Iraq and Syria risks “playing into the hands” of the terrorists of the Islamic State (IS), campaigners in Yorkshire have warned.

Religious leaders and conflict experts urged caution as MPs voted in favour of Prime Minister David Cameron’s motion to launch air strikes against IS, also known as Isis and Isil, following an intense debate in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister David Cameron speaking about military action against IS in the House of Commons

Prime Minister David Cameron speaking about military action against IS in the House of Commons

There were fears the Government risked repeating mistakes made in the Iraq war over the likelihood of Western forces defeating IS as the UK joined the US-led coalition.

Professor Paul Rogers from the University of Bradford’s department for peace studies told The Yorkshire Post members of IS would “probably welcome” the move.

He said: “There are no easy solutions but if you don’t know what else to do it doesn’t mean you should do the wrong thing. Western attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq have led to the death of quarter of a million people.

“The problem is that these groups are experienced fighters who would probably welcome Western attacks on them by air because they are the only vanguard for the protection of Islam.

“The great majority of Muslims do not want anything to do with this of course, but there are some in the Middle East to whom this will appeal.

“In the long-term the Islamic State will not work, it cannot control a population long enough. Support for the Taliban was already dwindling when British and American troops intervened.”

Prof Rogers’ view was echoed by Qari Asim MBE, one of Leeds’ most prominent Muslim leaders.

He said: “IS want to draw us in. They want to reinforce in people’s minds the idea of the West versus the Arab world – to create the idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

“Rather than interfering politically, economically or militarily, we should support the actions of the regional powers. Let them stand on their own feet.

“I just fear that we are playing into the hands of IS.”

Mohammad Ali, of the Sheffield Federation of Mosques, endorsed the Prime Minister’s assertion that Isil has ‘hijacked’ his religion.

He said: “It is a difficult time and people are very worried about what is happening and these barbaric acts being carried out. They are unacceptable in any society, no matter what creed, colour of religion you are.

“This is about a power struggle among regions in the Middle East yet they are killing, beheading people in the name of Islam.”

While Mr Ali fell short of supporting military intervention, the federation recognises the need for urgent action.

Mr Ali said: “There are mixed feelings among Muslim communities because of the innocent lives which will be lost. I think more thought should have been put into this before we got to this point but we are where we are and we do need to work together to make the world safe.”

Meanwhile, Bradford’s Respect MP was branded a “total disgrace” after telling the Commons’ debate that people living in areas controlled by IS are “quiescent” and are “acting as the water in which they are swimming”.

He said: “The last people who should be returning to the scene of their former crimes are Britain, France and the United States of America.”

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