The rise of a terrorist group unjustifiably named the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has been a disaster for the image of Islam. Here is a group of people who claim to be fundamentalist literalist Muslims who justify their medieval punishments with Islamic rhetoric. With the recent Paris bombing in November 2015, or the barbaric beheadings, in cold blood and on camera, of 5 western hostages between August and November 2014, the consequences are as expected…
The rise of Islamophobia in the West has drastically increased and crucial detail notes that it is not just ill informed or ignorant members of society who have aided this rise. As these terrorists are constantly being thrusted into the spotlight, a vast majority of people inevitably begin to view ISIS as “very Islamic” or “the true form of Islam”.
This, unfortunately, has brought much hate towards those who are not only targeted by islamophobic western media but also by those who deem themselves the true believers and decide that Shia Muslims should not be give the right to life. This terrorism existed since after the death of our holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), when the first act of beheading in the name of Islam was showcased in the battle of Karbala. Their thirst for power and worldly affairs was the only driving force and, because of it, millions have been inhumanely beheaded, shot, and murdered in the name of Islam.
A fundamental error of attribution, society’s excessive emphasis on religious motivation to explain the behavior of ISIS, has been the easiest route for most to take because it’s much easier to blame it on the most prominent common denominator, Islam, than studying the underlying characteristics that ISIS members have in common.
People have seemingly begun to deem ISIS to be a religious ideology rather than considering the relevant external factors that play a dominant role in forming this radical group.
Analyzing the political aspects of the creation of the so-called ‘Islamic State’, one must acknowledge the long period of war, torture, occupation and sectarianism that flourished in the land of Iraq and the firing of the Iraqi army in 2003, which created perfect conditions for the rise of the hybridized terror group.
Dissolving the Iraqi army meant taking away the identity of Sunni Muslims who relied on the armed forces of Saddam Hussein as their symbolic support of identity. A political statement more than a religious one, Sunnis, the minority who had government control during Saddam Hussein’s regime, were suddenly replaced by the Shia-led government of Nouri Al-Maliki.
The Sunni insurgents went on to form Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2004, which then morphed into the Islamic State (IS) after its leader Abu Musab Zarqawi was killed in the summer of 2006. Over 100 Saddam Hussein-era officers run the so-called “jihadi” military groups. Now, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State caliphate, appointed his deputy in Iraq to be Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a former senior special forces officer in Hussein’s army. Furthermore, Baghdadi’s number two in Syria is Abu Ali al-Anbari, a former major general under Saddam Hussein.
Therefore, to give themselves more legitimacy, they use religion as an identity; to identify themselves with the 120,000 innocent Iraqis who have been killed by US-led coalition forces and the sectarian civil war between Shias and Sunnis as justification to drive their terror against the West and Shias. This identity is a form of justification for their thirst for political power, distinguishing themselves with the abused victims and classifying their terror as justice.
Where Might Some Derive a Fraudulent Religious Connection?
Now one may ask why certain Western young men and women aspire to join the blood-drenched group. In a study done by MI5, the United Kingdom’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, it revealed: “Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practice their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could be regarded as religious novices”.
Indeed religious novices, such as Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed, two young British Muslims who were convicted of terrorism charges after travelling to fight in Syria had bought copies of The Koran for Dummies from Amazon prior to their travel. Most of those who join ISIS are similar to these young men; their blinded, ignorant, and uneducated mistakes take the lives of millions every year. Whoever said ignorance is bliss was wrong, ignorance merely makes you a slave to those who can burden the weight of intelligence.
Analysts also noted that there was a high number of converts and a lofty tendency for “drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes”. Here we have vulnerable people; people who are frustrated with the world they live in, not necessarily motivated and obsessed with a messianic and apocalyptic view of the world. They are then introduced to charismatic persuasive figures who cherry pick texts out of context from Islamic literature that promises to enlist them in a greater cause and paradise.
MI5 has further investigated evidence that proves that a well-developed religious identity protects against violent radicalization. This created identity isn’t part and parcel with the Islamic identity and anyone who knows a fraction of Islamic truths can arrive to that conclusion reasonably.
The Stance of the 1.6 billion Peaceful Muslims
Dissecting the stance of Muslims on their view on ISIS is a pivotal aspect of this argument. Conceivably the most impressive achievement of ISIS is the way in which it united 1.6 billion, often divided, Muslims against it.
Whether one is Sunni, Shia, Salafi, Sufi, conservative, or liberal, all leaders and scholars have unanimously condemned and denounced ISIS from the religion of Islam.
Considering the statements of famous Muslim groups around the world is an essential facet. The Organization of Islamic Co-operation, representing 57 countries around the world stated that ISIS has “nothing to do with Islam”; the most prestigious Sunni University, al-Azhar University in Cairo stated that ISIS is acting “under the guise of this holy religion… in an attempt to export their false Islam”; and even Saudi Arabia’s Grand salafist Mufti, Abdul Aziz ibn Abdullah ash-Sheikh stated that ISIS is “the number one enemy of Islam”.
Many blame the violent extremism on the Salafism ideology, a extremely conservative branch of Islam, which owes much of it’s controversial teachings to 18th century preacher named Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahab, which is the source behind much of the sectarianism and misogyny in the Muslim world.
Although it is proven that most Salafis are not Jihadists and most adhere to sects that reject the Islamic State, the ideology itself remains the same even though they are ignorant to it. They may reject the actions of ISIS, but only because they are so heavily denounced for their beliefs. Their utopia would look exactly like what the ISIS is currently working to build; extermination of Shia, and other people who they conceive to be the ‘kafir’ or disbelievers.
The religious world, whether Muslim, Jewish or Christian, is packed with fringe and fundamentalist groups that claim the mantle of total authenticity. Therefore, people cannot interpret ISIS’ twisted and corrupted view of Islam to be the legitimate, authentic, or rational driving force of their terror.
To claim that ISIS is “Islamic” is inaccurate and insulting to the 1.6 billion non-violent adherents of Islam across the planet. In contrast to how the KKK and the Branch Davidians are not considered the image for Christianity, neither should ISIS be considered the image of Islam. Fundamentally, it is also dangerous because it provides ISIS leaders and their slaves with propaganda and a tool for recruiting, which is one they utterly crave.