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Saturday, February 21, 2015

WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR - Dr. David Kilcullen.pdf

David Kilcullen

Addresses the 2014 John Bonython Lecture
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I want first to thank the Centre for Independent Studies for the

opportunity to be part of this event, with its rich tradition of

provocative debate. I want to thank the team for organising

this, and for your wonderful welcome. Most importantly, I want to

thank all of you for coming out to be part of this discussion.

My topic is ‘What are we fighting for? Islamism and the threat to

liberal values’. I’m going to approach it through three questions that

are simple to ask, but extraordinarily complex to answer:

What’s the ideology that drives groups like al Qaeda or the

Islamic State?

Where did ISIS come from?

What should we be doing about it?

First, though, let me define my terms. By Islamic State, I mean

the organisation whose Arabic name is ad-Dawla al-Islamiyah fi ‘

Iraq wal Sham (now becoming widely referred to in the West as

da’ish, or Daesh), led by Abubakr al Baghdadi, now calling itself

ad-Dawla al-Islamiyah or al-Khilafa, the Caliphate. I’ll use the

What are we fighting for? Islamism and the threat to liberal values

acronym ISIS for this group, which fields more than 30,000 fighters.

It controls a network of a dozen cities, populations and territory

across about a third each of Iraq and Syria, owns economic assets

that make it the richest terrorist group on the planet, and is

expanding into the wider region, reinvigorating Islamist terrorism

worldwide and radicalising fringe members of our own societies,

of whom thousands are fighting alongside the group.

When I use the word Islam, I mean the second largest religion

in the world, with 1.6 billion followers, founded by the prophet

Muhammad. ‘Islamic’ refers to characteristics of that religion, and a

‘Muslim’ is someone who follows it. Islamism, on the other hand,

is a political ideology that seeks to propagate a particular form of

the religion, shape society around it, and (often) use violence to force

it on others.

Two other terms I’ll use are salafi-jihadist and takfir. A salafi

is someone who emulates early Muslims, as-salaf as-salih, the

righteous ancestors, hence ‘salafi’. The salafi movement arose in the

19th century as an effort to reassert a strict interpretation of Islam

in the face of colonialism, and experienced a revival—which some

call neo-salafism—in the 1960 after the failure of Arab nationalism

and socialism in the post-colonial Middle East. There are millions

of Salafis, most of whom don’t personally use violence, but some do

use violence to spread their beliefs within the framework of a global

religious war—a jihad—and we call that subgroup salafi-jihadist.

When I talk about liberal values, I’m not speaking of what people

in the United States call ‘Progressive’ politics, but about something

older, more basic, namely the tenets of 19th and 20th century classical

liberalism that shaped the societies we live in—individual freedom

and accountability, civil liberties, limited government, the rule

of law, free-market economics tempered by regulation, equality

of opportunity, religious toleration, the removal of violence from

politics. We differ about how to apply these ideas—how limited

should government be, how much regulation is appropriate, what

safety net should the state provide, how should we balance economic

opportunity with social justice—but these surface differences obscure

a fundamental consensus in our societies around these values.