Leaders: Unite in the face of IS barbarism

Italian Senate defense commission president Nicola Latorre a day after IS claimed they would 'conquer Rome'. Picture: AP

Italian Senate defense commission president Nicola Latorre a day after IS claimed they would 'conquer Rome'. Picture: AP

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SO ISLAMIC State has opened up a new front in its mediaeval campaign against everyone who is not Islamic State.

It carries the hallmarks of its previous assaults: the simultaneous beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt shows utter inhumanity. And the selection of its victims and the ruthlessness of its actions are coldly calculated to help deliver its strategic aims.

Yet again we have Islamic State expertly exploiting chaos in a bid to increase division in its chosen heartland. Libya has been in chaos since 2011 and the overthrow of its then-leader, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. Since then, numerous militia groups have battled for control with limited western military involvement and it now has two rival governments, one Islamist.

This latest atrocity brings Islamic State to the southern shores of the Mediterranean, close enough to Italy to make it a real threat. Just in case that was not obvious enough, IS talks about “conquering Rome” in the video that accompanies the latest slayings.

But one direct consequence of the brutal murders of these Christian workers is Egypt launching air strikes.

Egypt is not a force to be trifled with. With more than 88 million inhabitants, Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world and its economy is one of the largest and most diversified in the Middle East. But it is also a country with divisions and it is these divisions Islamic State wishes to exploit.

In recent years the military-backed Egyptian authorities have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, jailing thousands and killing hundreds of street protesters. Many of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders and activists have either been sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Islamic State sees it as a ripe recruiting ground.

Another strand to IS’s evil strategy for Holy War was the careful selection of its victims and the return to a theme of its killings by using language such as “cross” and “crusaders”.

It seeks to polarise opinion as part of a modern continuation of an ancient war – it is actively seeking a war of Muslims versus Christians.

So while it was absolutely correct for Pope Francis to denounce the killings, as it was for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, to join in that condemnation, we must all be wary of allowing Islamic State to turn this into the war of its choosing. It has to be clear that all right-thinking people condemn and oppose the barbarism of Islamic State. But as the coalition ranged against this murderous group enlarges, and the actions those nations take to eradicate it grow, it is to be hoped that the end result of this latest outrage will be in hastening Islamic State’s destruction.

It is clear it will seek to exploit division wherever possible, which is why we have to unite in opposition.

Invitation that is worth taking up

It IS a stark comparison and certainly one that demands scrutiny. While unemployment has been generally falling, and since 2010 the number of men aged 50 to 64 who are unemployed has fallen by almost a quarter, how is it that among women over 50 it has increased by 30 per cent?

So plaudits to the Labour party for setting up the Scottish Commission on Older Women to examine the issues females aged over 50 face at work. Cynics might say this is just another demographic segment Labour is determined to attract in its bid to take democratic momentum away from the Nationalists in the run up to the general election.

But appealing to genuinely under-served areas of the population is the very essence of politics. That is why people should vote, for people who they think will help them. And with those statistics there is no doubt that women here are in need of help.

There can be no doubt that part of this will be the age-old syndrome of women becoming the carer when there is no-one else available to do it. With the recent economic troubles hitting everyone’s pockets, people’s abilities to cope have been more restricted. People are living longer, but much of that can be in ill-health and although it is right that, for people who choose to do so, looking after an aging parent can be a rewarding experience, we need to make sure that it is a genuine choice, as much as possible. So the newly set-up commission “wants to hear from women the length and breadth of Scotland about their experience and what they think politicians should be prioritising”.

There is an invitation that is surely worth taking up.

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