Because of all the tippy-toeing involved in trying to reassure moderate Muslims, while isolating Muslim extremists, perhaps the West has dangerously misunderstood the ISIS attempt to re-establish an Islamic caliphate.
This is the premise of a featured article in the March 2015 edition of Atlantic magazine, called ‘What ISIS Really Wants’.
And according to this article by contributing editor Graeme Wood, ISIS is aiming at a global apocalypse, not just domination of the Middle East. This ambition includes preparation from the ground up, including conditioning and brutalising children to fight as jihadists.
The Atlantic editor, Wood, came to his conclusion that ISIS is aiming at world domination after interviewing Anjem Choudary of the banned London-based Islamist group Al Muhajiroun. Choudary is a Muslim revolutionary who claims that the ISIS laws of war are actually policies of mercy, not brutality. “He told me that the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies,” Wood writes, “because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.”
This provides a new and even more alarming perspective on the recent ISIS massacres and media orgies of murder. Wood observes that the scale of savagery is difficult to quantify, but he estimates from regional social media that “individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Most… of the victims are Muslims.”
These executions have sickened the West, but are proving to be a powerful magnet for tens of thousands of foreign Muslims who are believed to have joined ISIS. Almost every day, new reports surface of teenagers from North America and Europe who are attempting to join ISIS.
For all of its medieval ferocity, ISIS also presents itself in slick video productions and sophisticated use of social media, including Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. A US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says “we are seeing 90,000, I think, tweets a day that we’re combating.”
On its own sites, ISIS presents frequent montages that imitate trailers for action movies, with slow motion explosions, superimposed images, and flames consuming American troops. It's perhaps not surprising, therefore, that ISIS frequently dominates world news.
The overall impression that ISIS attempts to promote is that young recruits, called ‘cubs of the caliphate’ will be joining an exciting revolution, and will live the good life, including "a house with free electricity and water provided to you due to the Khilafah (the caliphate or state) and no rent included," according to Aqsa Mahmood, a British teenager who left Scotland to join ISIS and become an ISIS recruiter in 2013.
Then there’s the opportunity to marry ISIS fighters, which appears to appeal to teenage girls. The case of three teenage British girls, who are believed to have travelled to Syria to join ISIS, has refocused attention on the appeal of the Islamic extremist group to young females.
Yes, but what about world domination? The Atlantic article concludes that ISIS hungers for genocide, and that “it considers itself a harbinger of – and healing player in – the imminent end of the world …The Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.”
The West, Wood argues, has been misled by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the medieval religious nature of the Islamic State. “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.”
Woods's vision of a Muslim apocalypse is very much at odds with the Obama administration.
In his prime-time speech to the nation on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President Obama made a particular point of declaring that the Islamic State terrorists “are not Islamic.”
“Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic,” Obama said, speaking from the state floor of the White House residence. “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.”
He added, “And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al-Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
Well, in the light of the Atlantic analysis, the views of the White House seem to be simplistic. And it doesn’t matter by what name the Islamic State is recognized – as ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, or the derogatory Arabic acronym, Daesh. The movement has already called for a world-wide jihad and this call has so far been acted on by terrorists in Australia, France and Denmark. There will obviously be more attacks to come.
More recently, three men were charged in the USA with conspiring to support the Islamic State, including two who planned to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of the radical group, U.S. authorities said.
ISIS is based in Syria and Iraq, but it has jumped beyond its borders by grabbing global headlines, and attempting to spread its terror throughout the western world.
So far, the Islamic State is able to control an area of only the size of Great Britain. It can be argued that ISIS was aided in its conquest by the withdrawal of Coalition forces from the Middle East, and the civil war in Syria.
More recnetly, ISIS was forced out of the Turkish border city of Kobane by local Kurds, and its control of territory in northern Iraq is being contested by Iraqi troops trained by US and coalition forces.
The Islamic State is better at seizing global headlines than it is in occupying and controling territory. Its beheadings and burnings of captives are powerful propaganda, but whether this propaganda is enough to sustain and expand a caliiphate, remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Sunni Muslims are flocking to the cause, with a promise of participating in the formation of a new state. This is in a region where governments have ruled more by force than by persuasion, " eliciting only shallow loyalty from their people. As repugnant as its tactics are, ISIS offers Sunnis a rare opportunity: a chance, in effect, to be a citizen. Irreconcilable fanatics might form the group’s core membership, but it has attracted broader support in the Sunni community. Understanding that appeal is the key to countering it."
However, world domination and the apocalypse are currently just dark fantasies, although these are deeply embedded in ISIS ideology.
For example, the ISIS recruiter and blogger, Aqsa Mahmood, warns in her Tumblr blog, Diary of a Muhajirah: 'Ittaqullah (fear Allah), Cameron/Obama, you and your contries will be beneath our feet and your Kufr (non-Muslims) will be destroyed, this is a promise from Allah swt (glorified and exalted) that we have no doubt over. If not you, then your grandchildren or their grandchildren.'
Well, many have dreamed of world domination, and many have predicted the apocalypse, but all have failed. ISIS is terrorizing parts of the Middle East, and this terror is spiling over into Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. But it remains to be seen how much further the Islamic State can extend its jhad.