MICHIGAN, June 25, 2014 — When news broke of ISIS’ take over of the city of Mosul in Iraq, the media immediately framed the crisis as a Sunni-Shia conflict, disregarding the ample evidence that says otherwise.
This line of thinking is misguided, and serves only to add to the sectarian rift that is emerging in Iraq and does little to address the real issues plaguing our Middle Eastern ally.
The media’s first mistake is making ISIS synonymous with “Sunni”, a false equivalence. The error of that is made clear by recent events in Iraq. Numerous Sunni scholars have come forward to denounce the actions of ISIS, including two of the most influential scholars in Iraq, both of whom called for their followers to aid the Iraqi Army.
Head of Iraqi Ulemas Society Sheikh Khalded Al-Mulla has been critical of ISIS, requesting religious scholars in the country to avoid speaking out against the Iraqi army and saying that to do so is an act of treason.
“Support of the security forces, and stripping the ISIL (ISIS) of its facade of faith and Islam, is very important for Iraqis, in order to avoid fitna, and to unify their ranks on the same issue,” he stressed.
Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the Sunni Awakening Council in Iraq openly supports the Iraqi government in their fight against ISIS. He was killed in a suicide bombing, and according to CNN, ISIS “has claimed several failed assassination attempts against him in recent months.”
Furthermore, ISIS’ indiscriminate killings are not consistent with the narrative that the Shia are their main enemy; they take a hard-line stance on anyone who opposes them. Aside from the numerous horrific videos that have flooded social media showing random drive-by shootings by ISIS members on Sunnis, Fox News has reported that ISIS is also responsible for the killings of 12 Sunni Imams who refused to give their allegiance to ISIS.
One of those Imams, Imam Mohamad Almansouri was head of the main mosque in Mosul. There is no middle ground with ISIS; you either join them or face a brutal death. Their heinous ideology isn’t limited to Shias, but is extended to anyone who stands in their way.
To take seriously the sectarian claims perpetuated by media outlets requires a certain suspension of disbelief. They do not accurately reflect the situation on the ground. The majority of Sunnis have rejected ISIS, including even al-Qaeda, which has gone as far as to label ISIS too extreme, as reported by the Guardian.
Prescribing an effective solution requires an accurate and proper diagnosis of the problem. If the media is attempting a real and honest dialogue to address the problem, painting the struggle with a sectarian brush is counterproductive.
The media should echo loud and clear the voice of all patriotic Iraqis: This struggle is not Sunni versus Shiite, it is Iraq versus ISIS.