• Khalil Charles

Part 2 - Did the Islamic State Group achieve its objectives?

Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of theological disputes. Hence, the Islamic State Group forced the world to look back in time over the last century at the conditions that allowed the so-called Islamic ideology to arise. Western support of repressive bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for oil, as well as the War on Terror which targeted Muslims up and down the globe all helped to establish the clash of civilisation paradigm.

After the group took over swath of land in Syria and Iraq the mainstream Muslim organisations were quick to say the Islamic State group was, in fact, un-Islamic. Muslims who put the group outside Islam typically denied that the Islamic State’s religious discourse or doctrine was rooted in an “interfaith-Christian Muslim tradition.” Equally, the mainstream media quickly tried to frame the Islamic State group as the 'true' representatives of mainstream Muslims wheeling out so-called experts to claim that the group were following the texts shared by all Sunni Muslims and had as much legitimacy as anyone else.

The claim was the fighters of the Islamic State group are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of engagement with non-Muslims. The accusation was that modern Muslims tended to prefer not to acknowledge the references in sacred texts made to slavery, crucifixion and beheadings. It was argued that the group were smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and were bringing Islamic traditions wholesale into the present day.

This pseudo glorification of the group presented a distorted narrative to the outside world-made worse by well-meaning academics and Islamic experts who dug a hole that mainstream Muslims are still trying to climb out of today. Every facet of the group's imposition was touted as the Islam that Muslims are secretly wishing to practice. This was despite the voluminous rebuttals by Islamic scholars some of whom produced a 24-point open letter denouncing, with evidence from the religious text, every facet of the actions and ideology of the group.

Their principal objection lay in the “takfiri” doctrine employed by the Islamic State to kill vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory made the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggested that individual executions happen more or less continually and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” were the vast majority of the victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who did not resist the new government. They were permitted to live, as long as they paid a tax, known as the jizya in exchange for a protected status. The authority for this practice is not in dispute.

Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims were thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State. Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places. Many went to fight with the intent of being martyred in battle. Supporters of the Islamic State rejected the legitimacy of the last caliphate claiming it did not fully enforce Islamic law, which requires stoning and slavery and amputations. The Ottoman empire, which began in 1453 reached its peak in the 16th century and then experienced a decline, until the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, euthanised it in 1924, reportedly under pressure from the British.

Supports of the State believed they were fulfilling prophecy and attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town and celebrated when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam.

Peter (Abdul Rahman) Kassig

After taking Dabiq, the Islamic State group purported to await the arrival of the enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the last day. Western media missed references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos and focused instead on lurid scenes of beheading. “Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” said a masked executioner in a November video, showing the severed head of Peter (Abdul Rahman) Kassig, the aid worker who’d been held captive for more than a year. During fighting in Iraq in December, after mujahideen reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure, like over enthusiastic hosts or hostesses upon the arrival of the first guests at a party.

The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome. Who “Rome” was, now that the pope has no army, was a matter of debate? But Islamic State made the case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul. Some believed we should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey—the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago. Others Islamic State sources suggested that Rome might mean any infidel army for which the entire disbelieving world fit the scenario nicely.

Part 2 of 3

Final Part -Next Week

Article adapted and corrected for factual inaccuracies from Article: What ISIS really wants? - The Atlantic Magazine: Published March 2015

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