As I’m sure you’ve heard it in the news recently, ISIL has attacked Medina – a major site of pilgrimage and the second holiest city in the Islamic faith. One thing I notice on social media is how people have used this event to say “see? these guys have nothing to do with Islam!”. After all, what sincerely believing Muslim would think to attack Medina of all places? Of course I’m sure you know that ISIL has attacked other Muslims before. In fact, other Muslims seem to be very frequent targets of attacks by ISIL. Their attack on Medina isn’t even the first time they’ve attacked a mosque. Remember when they attacked a mosque in Kuwait, and during last year’s Ramadan no less?
Here’s the thing the people who say “they’re not Muslims” are missing: ISIL don’t consider their Muslim victims as fellow Muslims. They follow a particularly extreme version of the Islamic faith, which in the end is still an extension of Islam in the same way that fundamentalist Christians practice a hardcore belief system that is still an extension of the Christian faith. Specifically, they are proponents of a branch of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, which today is the sponsored belief system of the state of Saudi Arabia – the same state that is believed to be supporting ISIL. Wahhabism emphasizes strict adherence to Islamic law, believes in an absolute monotheism and rejects any heterodoxy, debate or more modern or liberal interpretations of the Quran and the Hadith. Wahhabists view themselves as following the true path laid out by Allah based on the teachings of the Quran through a very conservative and literal interpretation of Islamic teachings, and naturally they believe everyone else to be following heterodox teachings. This is exactly why ISIL is willing to kill other Muslims. In their eyes anyone, literally anyone, who does not follow their particular interpretation of Islam is an infidel and a non-believer, and they believe that non-believers are to be killed. To them a moderate Muslim is just another infidel. I mean fuck, these people actually view the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist political party of Egypt, as a cancer and they think of their belief system as pagan. That’s like how fundamentalist Christians view other Christians celebrating Christmas and Easter as practicing pagan tradition. I cannot believe this is lost on people.
Then you have the eschatological element. It’s important to remember that ISIL wants the West to wage war against them. They await the day when the armies of Rome will face them in the small town of Dabiq, which is located in Syria. Why Dabiq, you ask? Because apparently in the Hadith it is stated that, during the “last hour”, the armies of Rome will come to Dabiq to fight Muslim armies, at which point the armies of Rome would be defeated, which begins the countdown to the arrival of a being known as Al-Masih ad-Dajjal (better known simply as Dajjal) and the beginning of the apocalypse. Since the Hadith are considered to be recordings of the thoughts, words and actions of the prophet Muhammad, the central figure of the Islamic faith (being the messenger of Allah and all), it is safe to infer that ISIL consider what the Hadith says about the end of days to be, literally, the word of Muhammad. And in the absence of an actual Roman empire or an army commanded by the Pope, it’s not unreasonable to assume that ISIL have chosen to interpret Rome as meaning the Western world or the armies of NATO. They literally believe that by defeating the Western armies in Dabiq, it will trigger the end times. They want to make this happen, for the same reasons that Christians await the arrival of Judgement Day (or in some cases the Rapture). And for this to happen, the West has to declare war on ISIL. To that end, this is why they go about committing such horrible acts of violence and destruction upon innocent people (Muslim or not) and upon the land that they, and why they have agents committing terror attacks and massacres in Europe and more recently in America. By creating havoc and inflicting pain upon our world, they are clearly intending to provoke a violent response in order to get us to declare war on them so that eventually we would fight them in Dabiq. And again, they literally believe that the apocalypse will occur if this happens, because they believe that what is said in the Quran and the Hadiths is literally 100% true, because they are religious as fuck. Violently so too. Those who try to divorce them from Islam by referring to them as thugs simply do not understand this. Even if they are chiefly psychotic warmongers, it is impossible to ignore that they are very much religiously motivated.
In my opinion, this may also partly explain why some Muslims in the Western world go and join ISIL. It’s important to stress that not all Muslims are religious fanatics. In fact, much of the Muslim world is perfectly willing to condemn ISIL. And I certainly don’t believe that most Muslims are inclined to join ISIL or any other militant Islamist movement, just as I don’t believe most Christians are going to join the KKK our go out and kill homosexuals. But it is also important to remember that there are large numbers of Muslims who want Sharia law implemented in the Western world, and there are large numbers of Muslims who are generally . I don’t feel inclined to doubt that for every “cultural” Muslim who isn’t actually particularly religious, you have Muslims (not necessarily radicals I might add) who are sincerely religious. The concept of all Islamic countries being united under a single caliphate is, from what I hear, a concept that appeals to some Muslims, and apparently there have been at least four historical caliphates, the last one having been established in the Ottoman Empire. So when ISIL marches across the Middle East promising to create a new caliphate based on Islamic law, I am not surprised that groups like ISIL can recruit Muslims in the Western world.