What an exciting couple of days we have had since the first installment of this series. Donald Trump, on Monday, stated that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. This “strategy” is by no means new in American history: the 19th century saw bans against Chinese, during the Great Depression there were movements to suppress Jewish immigration, and most notably during WWII there was forced encampment of Japanese Americans. The US has had a long history of xenophobia and sadly their are still a large number of people who have these same feelings today. Trump’s statement is wrong on many levels but one of its biggest errors is the fact that ISIS (which profoundly motivated the statement) does not actually practice Islam. Almost all Muslim-theology scholars agree that ISIS’s ideology contradicts Islam in almost every way. To understand this, imagine the KKK (a “protestant” terrorist group) went over to the Middle East and committed acts of violence in the name of Christianity. The leader of the affected country would then condemn all Christians as violent-untrustworthy people and ban them from entrance into the country. This seems downright insane, but how is this scenario different then the one currently being trumpeted by Donald? The intricacies of Islam as a religion will be explored in future posts but for now let’s get back to ISIS.
We left off with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi becoming the second leader of the newly formed Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in 2010. Baghdadi was said to be a quiet boy growing up and was quite scholarly-receiving a doctorate in Islamic culture and law. This all radically changed when he became a jihadist after the Iraq invasion in 2003. Baghdadi would be shortly captured by Americans and put into a military controlled prison camp. These prisons mixed radical jihadists with minor offenders which created a ideal environment for recruitment. The US inadvertently spread terrorist ideology in these prisons and upon release, jihadists would be further glorified (similar to how gang members receive street cred after serving time). Baghdadi did his fair share of recruiting while imprisoned and when released, he was in prime position to take leadership of ISI in 2010. Shortly thereafter, Baghdadi began to attack military prisons which resulted in the escape of many jihadists who quickly pledged loyalty to ISI. During this same time, Baghdadi defied Al Queda and spread his terrorist group into war-torn Syria; hence the name known around the world was birthed, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”
ISIS was technically a branch of al Queda but Baghdadi would soon take on a whole new ideology of radicalization. Baghdadi began to split from al Queda when he resumed Zarqawi’s mission of targeting Shiite Muslim with gruesome killings. Eventually, ISIS would declare themselves the “true” Islamic State and claim that all nations must bow to them-including al Queda. ISIS is attempting to bring about the end times by fulfilling several prophecies: certain manuscripts predicted that preceding the apocalypse their would be…sectarian war, slavery, a battle in Dabiq (a town that ISIS controls), and the eventual control of Constantinople (to list a few.) This apocalyptic mentality is critical to understand because it shapes ISIS’s gruesome behavior. Apocalyptic groups are not concerned with worldly matters or politics which makes it much easier for them to commit barbaric acts. “ISIS’s stated goal is to purify the world and create a new era, in which a more perfect version of Islam is accepted worldwide.” The interesting thing to know is that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, says very little about the end of times. To summarize, ISIS is extremely violent because they desire to “purify” the world and they want to create sectarian violence among Muslims because war between Sunnis and Shiites is predicted in the end of times. Again, these apocalyptic beliefs are not tenets of Islam but rather created by prior scholars in an attempt to rationalize negative circumstances of their time (many were written whenever a foreign power took control). ISIS wants the United States to fight them and occupy their territory because this is yet another prediction of the end of times. Knowing this, we will continue to part 3 to understand how ISIS is so effective at recruiting and what we need to do to prevent their advancement of terror.