I know you are tired and exhausted. You have spent nearly a decade to advocate Shia rights. But what you are about to engage in will truly be the greatest and most important fight of your life. In the recent past, no other force has threatened the Shia nation as ISIS has. No one has shown the level of murderous determination as ISIS has. No one has demonstrated the capability and intent to annihilate the Shia nation as ISIS has. This enemy knows no boundaries and it is imposing an existential threat.
First, while the threat appears overwhelming, shocking, and sudden, the good news is that you can take practical and concrete steps to counter the ISIS threat.
Second, while no single Shia organization or individual will be able to execute the entire strategy presented below, it is important for all US based Shia organizations to work together and focus on areas that are more compatible with their values systems. It is essential that all Shias come together to fight this ruthless and lethal enemy. You may not agree with all the points presented below, simply focus on the ones that you agree with, that you are comfortable with, and that you can perform.
Third, while there will be a time to philosophize or intellectualize what transpired the sudden rise of ISIS, what is urgently needed is a plan of action.
These are the twelve steps that we can take to combat the ISIS threat:
1- Prayer Sessions: Immediately begin holding Dua-e-Wahdat sessions at your mosques, your homes, and your centers. Ask your family members to recite Dua-e-Sabasab. Please try to do these sessions daily. These sessions will help unite the community but more importantly they will also bring us out of a state of denial and help us act and function as a “nation under siege”. This recognition is critical to realize our true reality. It is important to realize that Baghdad may fall soon and the forces of evil will be directly threatening Karbala, Najaf, and Samara.
2- Organize Protests: Conduct mass protests against ISIS. In Moharram hold one majlis daily outside Turkish, Qatar, and Saudi embassies. Turn majalis into protest sessions this year. In particular, focus on linking Turkey with “supporting terrorism and ISIS”. Figure out how to get support with Kurdish, Christian, and other human rights organizations.
3- Call your Congressional Representatives: Call your congressmen, congresswomen, and senators on three specific issues. First, let them know that you support the US military intervention against ISIS. Second, let them know that US should punish Turkey for supporting ISIS and that you would expect sanctions against Turkey and possible expulsion from NATO. Third, let them know that you support US working with Iran to counter the ISIS threat.
4- Fundraising: Do realize that as the war continues, it can potentially lead to millions of Shias and others displaced from their homes and needing immediate help. This Moharram, only collect funds to fight ISIS and don’t raise money for any other project. Remember, our faith, our sacred sites, and our people are threatened. Your imambara or community center is not more important than Karbala or Najaf. So focus on Karbala, Najaf, Samara, and Damascus this year. Don’t waste money on extravagant “hissas” (food) or lavish rituals. Remember, we are a nation under siege. Instead use that money to build a fund to fight ISIS.
5- Get Active on Social Media: Educate yourself on the issue. Visit news media sites daily. Make sure to become extremely active on Twitter and Facebook. Use the power of social media to spread the message.
6- Write Articles and Own the Discourse: Over 3000 Shias have been killed by ISIS in the last month and a half. How many Shias have you seen on CNN or Fox news to talk about the atrocities? Once again, as I have said for years, who owns the discourse? We need to work on training and developing capable media outreach and public relations people.
7- Talk to Your Kids: There is no better time to educate your kids about the global threats facing Shias than now. Talk to them and let them know about the clear and present danger that confronts our nation. Tell them how important it is for them to become educated and powerful so they can make sure that such calamity never inflicts the Shia nation again. Prepare them for “never again” mindset and embed in their hearts that the sole purpose of their lives is to serve the interest of Imam-e-Zamana (AS).
8- Help in Recruiting Anti-ISIS Fighters: CNN invited a legal expert to comment on the legality of an American soldier voluntarily fighting against ISIS. The legal expert said that it is legal for US citizens to fight against ISIS. While I am not a legal expert, I think it is important for us to verify this with the US State Department and if US State Department authorizes
9- Help Transport Anti-ISIS Fighters: If State Department authorizes such recruitment, then US based Shia organizations should also plan to help implement a system to transport mercenaries from various countries to Iraq. This may require on-the-ground collaboration with the US forces operating in Iraq.
10- Provide Weapons: Work with the State Department and Pentagon to figure out if US citizens can purchase and ship weapons to fight ISIS. While only the US government can provide heavy weapons, it will be helpful to find out if US citizens can at least send light weapons to anti-ISIS fighters. If it is legal and possible to do so, then various Shia organizations can launch a “Donate Weapons to Fight ISIS Campaign”.
11- Send Thank You Cards and Tie Yellow Ribbons: Send thank you cards to US soldiers who are on the ground helping fight against ISIS and tie yellow ribbons outside your houses and offices to show support for our military. We now have hundreds of soldiers, military advisors, and air force personnel actively fighting the ISIS threat. Thank them for their sacrifice and efforts.
12- Launch an Organized Campaign: Several key people from US media and politics have stated that the campaign against the ISIS will be long and sustained and may last a decade or more. This means we should gear up to fight this battle. I have registered two domains crushISIS.org and crushISIL.org and will be happy to pass them on to people who would be willing to work on this cause.
Finally, please don’t take the threat of ISIS lightly. We must all come together to fight this threat. Our unity, and our zeal to follow Imam-e-Zamana (AS) will be our only salvation. Let us defeat this enemy once and for all.