Like Al-Qaeda and other militants, ISIS offers a militant warped and distorted Salafi brande of Islamic ideology/religious rationale or rationalization to justify, recruit, legitimate and motivate many of its fighters. Much of what they do violates Islamic law, its unabashed acts of terrorism: slaughter of civilians, savage use of beheadings, killing of innocent Muslims and Christians. While there are similarities between ISIS and other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda in their ideological worldview and tactics, there is also distinctive difference. ISIS seeks to create a state, to occupy and control areas, to govern, not just to dream of or speak of but to create and impose their version of a transnational caliphate, with its harsh version of law and order. At the same time, they are far more ruthless in driving out, suppressing and executing Shiah and Kurds, Sunni imams/religious leaders and others who disagree, as well as minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, demanding conversion to their warped and extraordinarily violent brand of Islam. Having populations forced to publicly pledge their allegiance (baya) to the caliphate in exchange for which they are offered security, a mafia like version of “protection” and social services.
Is religion (Islam) the primary driver of this so-called Islamic caliphate?
While religion/Islam, a particularly harsh and distorted version, does play a role to legitimate, recruit, and motivate, studies of most jihadists and movements, like ISIS, show that the primary drivers are to be found elsewhere. As in the recent past, so too today, this has remained true for Europeans and Americans who have joined ISIS.
Studies by the EC’s European Network of Experts on Violent Radicalization on radicalization in Europe as well as those by terrorism experts like Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer and the University of Chicago’s Robert Pape) on global terrorism and suicide bombing have found that in most cases religion is not the primary source of most extremist behavior. In many cases terrorists are neither particularly religiously literate nor observant. Drivers of radicalization include moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, and for a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging. For many it is the experience or perception of living in a ‘hostile’ society, disenfranchisement and heightened political consciousness, anti-imperialism and social justice, emancipation and the personal search to be a good Muslim or the headscarf as liberation, bringing together a constellation of narratives. The vast majority of the Muslim populations of Europe are also members of a visible ethnic minority. Their experiences are therefore likely to be shaped by experiences such as xenophobia, lower employment and educational levels and, more recently, Islamophobia.
Mehdi Hassan in a recent (Aug 21, 2014) Huffington Post blog post cited an MI5 briefing report on radicalization (2008), which noted, “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.” Analysts concluded that, “a well-established religious i∂dentity actually protects against violent radicalization.”
Moreover, ISIS’s use of Islamic texts as well as its savage and disproportionate slaughter of military and civilians, among its many other policies, are CONTRARY to the prescriptions of Islamic law. »»» ISIS: Informed Comment
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