Earlier this month, The Atlantic published “What ISIS Really Wants” by Graeme Wood.
Wood’s main point in the impressive piece is that al-Qaida and ISIS — also called the Islamic State — are totally different. Their goals are largely different. Their tactics are vastly different. And, in fact, the two groups generally can’t stand each other. Thus, unless they merge, policymakers are making a huge mistake by not treating them differently.
Beyond that big picture, though, the details Wood provides are riveting. Here are the 10 most amazing ones.
1. A primary goal of the Islamic State is to purify humankind by murdering and enslaving massive numbers of people.
The Islamic State is a caliphate modeled on the government regime proposed in the Koran. Its adherents view the system as a perfect and complete one which cannot be improved.
Because the Koran decrees both slavery and crucifixion, the leaders of the Islamic State enthusiastically and unapologetically endorse — and very much want to utilize — slavery and crucifixion.
Wood compares the current caliphate to Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. That’s very apt. Another, more contemporary example, is North Korea under murderous tyrant Kim Il-sung and his equally thuggish progeny.
“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, chief spokesman for the Islamic State, threatened in a message directed at no one in particular in the Western world. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
2. The Islamic State promises that its political and economic model will be very much like the Marxist-Leninist ideals of communism.
Anjem Choudary, a former leader of a radical Islamist group called Al Muhajiroun (The Emigrants), told Wood that Sharia law, once fully implemented, will provide a social paradise. (RELATED: Jay Carney’s Gourmet Kitchen Is Filled With Communist Propaganda)
Sharia is misunderstood, Choudary explained. It’s much more than beheading people and cutting off their hands. Yes, drinking alcohol results in lashings. Yes, adultery results in stoning. But Sharia is far more comprehensive.
“The problem is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia — the whole package — they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia,” Choudary said, while swilling a Red Bull.
The “whole package” of the Medieval system features a vast welfare-state apparatus including free access to basic necessities such as food and housing, as well as clothing. No one would have to work, though they could if they wanted.
Presumably, only Muslims would have access to the provision of these free basic needs. The forced work of slavery does not otherwise fit into the model, nor does the fact that Christians and Jews would have to earn the money to pay a special subjugation tax, called the jizya.
3. The Islamic State’s free healthcare will be way better and more ample than Obamacare.
Sharia law as it is rolled out by the ISIS caliphate will provide a system of publicly funded healthcare and welfare perks in line with the wildest dreams of American progressives. Such a system is necessary because it is an aspect of God’s law.
Another member of Al Muhajiroun, Abdul Muhid, told Wood that all healthcare under the Islamic State’s caliphate will be completely free. Coverage will be very extensive and will include more benefits than Britain’s vast public healthcare system. “Some procedures aren’t covered” in Britain, Muhid noted, “such as vision.”
4. Adherents of the Islamic State fervently believe that Jesus Christ will reappear soon and usher in the End of Days.
The End of Days is a prominent theme is the propaganda of the Islamic State.
Musa Cerantonio, an Australian Islamic radical and a star recruiter of ISIS foot soldiers, told Wood that he believes that Dajjal, an anti-Messiah in the apocalyptic literature of Islam, will emerge from somewhere in eastern Iran to eviscerate the caliphate’s military forces. Only 5,000 soldiers will remain.
Then, Jesus Christ will reappear in the Middle East, kill Dajjal and personally direct the Muslim army to a massive victory.
Jesus Christ is the second-most venerated prophet in Islam — behind, of course, Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
5. The epic, apocalyptic showdown with the anti-Messiah will occur around Dabiq, a forsaken city exactly in the middle of nowhere in Syria.
The buregeoning Muslim empire currently under the control of the Islamic State caliphate is considerable. By way of comparison, it is twice the size of Pennsylvania. At the same time, most of this territory is void of inhabitants and very poor.
Adherents of the Islamic State believe “the armies of Rome” and the Islamic State will soon do battle on the terrain of Dabiq, a nominally Syrian city under the caliphate’s control. Dabiq is a strategically insignificant wasteland. But it’s hugely important to the Islamic State because prophetic writings promise that the fight against the anti-Messiah will occur there — after an interval of new Islamic conquests.
The amti-Messiah’s armies will focus on Dabiq, ISIS devotees believe, and fight a Muslim army.
“Dabiq is basically all farmland,” an Islamic State enthusiast tweeted, according to Wood. “You could imagine large battles taking place there.”
The Islamic State’s magazine is called Dabiq.
6. The world’s leading secular authority on Islam has said people who call the Islamic State “un-Islamic” are silly, “politically correct” and part of a “Christian-nonsense tradition.”
Bernard Haykel, a professor at Princeton University and the world’s leading secular expert on Islam according to Wood, suggests that Muslims who claim that ISIS is not really Islamic are “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion.”
People who reject the authentically Islamic nature of the Islamic State are usually speaking from an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition,” the Princeton professor added.
7. Osama bin Laden, before he was killed by a Navy SEAL team, Ayman al Zawahiri and the rest of al-Qaida’s leadership can’t stand the Islamic State and think it’s full of crazy rubes.
The leadership of al-Qaida does not subscribe to the belief that an anti-Messiah is on the way to Syria to usher in the end of the world.
“Bin Laden and Zawahiri are from elite Sunni families who look down on this kind of speculation and think it’s something the masses engage in,” Will McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar, told Wood.
Members of al-Qaida do believe in an apocalyptic, end-times scenario but, a bit like members of some mainline Protestant denomination, they are staid about it. They see it as far in the future.
ISIS adherents, on the other hand, are more like some radically millenarian faction, which believes that the final battle between the godly faithful and Satanic enemies is just around the corner. The leaders of the Islamic State see portents of an impending apocalypse all over the place.
8. The Islamic State will not conform to the modern understanding of national sovereignty, and its leaders believe they must wage a religious war against enemies at least once a year.
Empires were once common. There was Rome, of course. There was the Holy Roman Empire, the British Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Ottoman Empire — the last of the Islamic caliphates until now — peaked in the 16th century and declined for centuries until it was put out of its misery in 1924.
These days, the world order is generally full of countries with distinct territory, national sovereignty and peaceful ambitions. The Islamic State’s medieval understanding of the Koran does not permit such an arrangement. Leaders of the new caliphate scorn national borders. They believe that peace treaties are conveniences which can last only up to a decade (though they can be renewed).
Also, critically, a principle of the Islamic State is that its leaders must, as a matter of religious duty, wage jihad against outside forces once a year. Leaders who don’t wage such a jihad are committing a sin.
9. The Islamic State won’t participate in the United Nations because its religious ideologues believe doing so is a form of polytheism.
Taking a seat at the United Nations would be political suicide for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, since its inception in May 2010 (Baghdadi calls himself the Islamic State’s caliph and the only legitimate leader of the world’s 1.5 billion or so Muslims).
“To send an ambassador to the UN is to recognize an authority other than God’s,” Abu Baraa, a third member of Al Muhajiroun, told Wood. Recognizing any authority other than the authority of Allah is thus tantamount to polytheism.
Additionally, any form of democracy or voting for candidates for political office is absolutely verboten in the Islamic State.
10. President Barack Obama and America’s intelligence apparatus utterly misunderstand the Islamic State. Obama tried to explain his cluelessness with a basketball analogy.
Obama informed The New Yorker of his boneheaded view that ISIS is al-Qaida’s subordinate partner in Islamic radicalism. (RELATED: Remember When Obama Was The Messiah?)
“If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the president said.
When American intelligence agencies tried and failed to rescue now-dead American aid worker Peter Kassig, they enlisted a man affiliated with al-Qaida to approach an important religious leader of the Islamic State. The hope was that the Obama administration’s man in al-Qaida could convince the Islamic State to release Kassig.
The plan failed, but it did at least briefly renew the United States-blessed diplomatic relations between al-Qaida and the Islamic State caliphate, thus risking a rapprochement that would unite the world’s two largest and most frightening radical Islamic groups.
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