ISIS, I think, is one of the most misunderstood things out there. Certainly, some of this misunderstanding is deliberate, it is political. Muslims spend countless hours insisting that Islamic driven terrorism is not Islam. Those in power, wanting to avoid being called racists, eagerly will erase all traces of Islam from their conversation about ISIS and it’s actions. Some of this misunderstanding is based on ignorance, ignorance of ISIS, Islam, and some other things.
But I want to look at a few things, and maybe try and clear some of this up.
1) ISIS is a terrorist organization
Everyone wants to treat ISIS as a terrorist organization, like Al Qeida or Hamas. This is partially because that’s what we are familiar with in terms of Islamic based violence. we’ve lived with AQ for almost two decades (even if we have largely killed it) and Hamas, well, for longer because of their battling with Israel. When we think of fighting Islamic Violence, we think of suicidal bomber, sneak attacks, etc.
But these are not the tools of ISIS. ISIS does not hit and run, it does not fade into shadows. It’s killers are not men and women hiding in a crowd till they strike. They drive tanks, use cannons, lay siege. They hold towns and lands, they lay taxes upon people, run a civil as well as a military branch, and provide social services to the people under their domain.
The primary reason we talk about ISIS as a terrorist organization is because we do not want to admit the truth. ISIS is not a terrorist organization. It is exactly what it claims to be: An Islamic State. Their laws are based on their interpretation of the Koran, their warfare is based on their interpretation of the Koran. They are a country, a small country, but they are a country. They fight as a country fights.
2) ISIS is not Islam/Islamic
This one is something that people fight over constantly. “They do not practice the true Islam!” many a Muslim has said.
A better way of putting it is that they do not practice the Modern Islam.
I was reading a well put together article in The Atlantic website where the Author interviewed a number of people who are linked (and well respected) by ISIS and it was a bit of an eye opener.
ISIS is essentially, a big group of reconstructionists.
To my Heathen readers who just truly grasped what I said, my applause. For those who don’t get it, Reconstructionists, or recons, are people who attempt to recreate their religion as accurately as possible from their religious texts. This is a relatively new Idea in religions, though we’ve seen it in sub cultures like the SCA or Civil War reenactors, though those laity groups tend to reserve it for week ends. Recon, in terms of religion, is about bringing back as many, if not all, of the original practices of the religion.
In Paganism, this leads to arguments over the practice of animal sacrifice. In Islam, however it brings back things like total warfare against all non-Muslims, slavery, and the brutal war tactics ISIS engages in like immolation, beheading, crucifixion, enslavement, etc. Those are all historically accurate practices to how Mohammed spread Islam in his life, and how Islam was largly spread all the way to the end of the Ottoman Empire. But most importantly…it is how the Koran teaches that The Islamic Nation should Be.
3) ISIS is just another Islamist group
ISIS started small, though it grew to hold territory in Syria and Iraq. In those nations, it’s growth has been stalled. But according to Wolf on CNN, ISIS now has branches in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
This is because, at its heart, ISIS is not an Islamist group.
It is THE Islamist group.
That’s because it has a legitimate Caliph.
There is no real analogy in the Western world to what a Caliph is, but the closest I can come to is a Priest-King. A Caliph is not only the highest authority in politics/law, he is also the highest religious authority. More importantly, by being a Caliph, he takes an ordinary nation/country and turns it into a Caliphate. This makes that nation to be The Holy Islamic nation and it’s Caliph who is essentially the key to salvation.
By which I mean that the Caliph is essentially like the Pope, but a bit different. According to the Atlantic article, one has to swear Fielty to the Caliph in order to get to the Islamic Heaven. This is something I haven’t heard before, but it is a direct quote from Islamic Scholars interviewed, so I’m taking them at their word.
To put this in Heathen terms, its much like you cannot get into Valhalla if you are a person who has never kept their oaths. Only in this case, the requirement would include you had to swear fidelity to the King in order to be in a state of honor.
The head of ISIS, meets all the requirements to be a Caliph. ISIS acknowledges him as their Caliph. And they have been publicizing it. “This is the new Caliph!” they cry, and many a religious Muslim answers the call, because to deny a legitimate Caliph is to sin so grievously as to be damned to hell. And ISIS has made no attempt to hide the view that they consider any Muslim who denies their Caliph as an apostate. This is part of the driving force behind them burning that Jordanian pilot the way they did. He was a heretic. I suspect the same might be the truth for the 40 people potentially burned just recently.
This is part of why you hear so many young Muslims coming out and immigrating to join ISIS, because by Islamic law they have to swear fielty to the legitimate Caliph. That’s why all these other “terrorist” groups are swearing loyalty to ISIS. Because they have the legitimate Caliph.
For them, it’s pretty much the same thing as King Arthur coming back to save England. The once and future king has returned, and any true Englishman must swear loyalty to Arthur, King of the Britons. So too, any true Muslim must swear to the Caliph.
4) We can fight ISIS the same way we’ve fought AQ
Let’s hit them with drones, lets bomb them, and eventually they will vanish into the sands.
I used to think this was what was needed to beat ISIS. That was before I realized they were laying claim to the title of Caliphate and could legitimately back it up. This was also before I realized that there was a whole new branch of Sharia/Islamic law that comes into play when a Caliph exists.
The truth is, we could wipe out ISIS, but it would require going in and wiping them off the map to not only the last man, but to their leader as well. But this opens up the problem that you have now killed what millions of Muslims (if only a few million) consider their legitimate, holy leader.
If people though killing Bin Ladin would cause him to become a martyr and raise up a new generation of extremists, killing a Caliph would do that with steroids.
AQ fought under the banner of Islam, but they were ideologically a political organization. Bin Ladin believed in a Caliphate, but didn’t think he would see it in his life time, or that it would exist for generations. ISIS lives that ideal in the present. They don’t fight for politics in the name of religion, they are religion creating politics. The more we deny their religion, or its drive, the stronger they become.
Because apparently part of their whole thing is that they will be invaded by the non-Muslims and that battle will be a driving catalyst for the end of the world and the supremacy of Allah and Islam. As hard as it is to believe (we Heathens desire for Ragnarok not to happen because it means the end of us and our Gods, though a new generation will continue on afterwards), desiring the end of the world has been a regular thing in Christianity and Islam, with ISIS being one of the latest. They do not care if they die, they do not care if they loss, because they believe they are fated to win and any battle brings them closer to bring Allah’s end of the world.
Much as the Vikings did not fear death because Valhalla awaited them, so too does ISIS not fear death because heaven awaits them. To fight that zeal, you must have a greater zeal for your beliefs. This is something our leaders have failed to show, which is why ISIS continues to grow.
5) ISIS is not Driven by Faith.
The truth is, I can understand many an ISIS fighter. I can understand the feeling of committing yourself so completely to one’s faith, to the tenants of one’s faith, and of wanting to see it practiced correctly.
I can understand their faith, even if I do not understand the appeal of their religion or agree with any of its tenants. I know how they feel. ISIS is about religion, it is about faith, and it is about Islam as it was originally practiced. As a Recon Heathen (or at least a former Recon Heathen, I’ve loosened up a bit), I know that desire to see it restored. Hel, it’s one of the primary reasons Heathen’s fight each other, is how to most accurately recreate our faith’s original practice, even if we don’t use bombs and guns to settle the argument like ISIS does.
But despite what all those in power try to say, it is about Faith. They do not have faith, they do not understand it, they see it as a thing to be avoided, dirty and foul, and so they cannot understand an enemy who is driven by a higher ideal such as Faith.
It is something that leaves me very worried.