‘Religion of the Sword’: ISIS Magazine Heavy on Crusades Propaganda

The new issue of Dabiq, the Islamic State English-language magazine, is officially out. Its headlining story boasts the capture of a Mossad informant, but the magazine serves less to bring news than to reframe the war between the Islamic State and civilization as a revisiting of the Crusades.

This is a hot topic in the West as well, thanks to comments by President Obama comparing the atrocities of the Middle Ages with the Islamic State.

The issue contains a great deal of ranting about the Crusades and modern-day “crusaders,” which sounds quite a bit like the sort of thing American Christians are now treated to at National Prayer Breakfast speeches by their president. It is a spirited attempt to argue that Islam is “The Religion of the Sword,” and anyone who claims otherwise is a “deviant”—a mash note to the former Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt. Triumphant reports of the latest beheadings prominently include immolated Jordanian pilot Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh and beheaded Japanese captives Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, and a women’s page features an interview with Umm Basir al-Muhajirah, wife of the deceased terrorist who “randomly” shot some “folks” in a kosher supermarket in Paris, as President Obama put it.

It is topped off with a back-page editorial, ostensibly from captive British journalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in a number of ISIS propaganda videos, and who some suspect is a willing supporter of the Islamic State, rather than a hostage.

The “crusader” language is ubiquitous throughout the issue—pictures of Western political leaders and military forces are given captions like “The Crusader David Cameron,” “The Japanese Crusader Kenji Goto Jogo,” and so forth. The foreword begins with a quote from Osama bin Laden in 2001, in which he warned nations such as Japan, Australia, and Germany from joining “yet another Crusade, just like the former Crusades led by Richard the Lionheart, Barbarossa of Germany, and Louis of France. Likewise today, when Bush raised the cross, the crusader countries immediately scrambled.”

Alas, bin Laden’s warnings fell upon deaf ears in Japan in Dabiq’s view, because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s offer of $200 million in humanitarian relief for war refugees bought him a seat on the “Crusader coalition against the Muslims,” assembled by “‘Nobel Peace Prize’ winner Obama.” This might have been written before Obama took the latest opportunity to make it clear that he hates the Crusades and holds modern-day Christians morally responsible for them (thus depriving them of a seat on the “high horse” from which they like to criticize Islamist violence), so maybe Dabiq will feel bad about going so hard on him.

This is what I meant when I said Obama’s rhetoric is “very close to reciting enemy propaganda.” The similarities go deeper than the superficial use of words. Obama treated the Crusades as an event very relevant to modern Christendom, emphatically rejecting the notion that it is ancient history unworthy of dredging up in a conversation about Islamist atrocities in 2015. ISIS feels the same way, and when they get a taste of Obama nattering about the Crusades, they will present it to their followers as confirmation that even the new crusaders agree with them.

One area where ISIS profoundly disagrees with Obama is his characterization of them as 100 percent non-Islamic, would-be extremist hijackers of a pastoral faith. “Islam is the Religion of the Sword, Not Pacifism,” one Dabiq article declares, helpfully including a picture of a sword, just in case anyone does not get the point. The article is dedicated to denouncing Western politicians and peaceful Muslims (who ISIS regards as apostates and traitors) for pushing the “Religion of Peace” slogan. They are also pretty hot under the collar about those who portray “jihad” as anything other than the violent conquest and murder of infidels and apostates. One picture of such Muslims is captioned, “Deviants Claiming That Islam Equals Peace.” They are quite picky about the proper definition of “Islam” as meaning “submission,” not “peace.” A great deal of Islamic writings are quoted to support these arguments, and runs on for four pages, including dense clusters of small-font footnotes.

There are numerous close-up photos of the hideously burned corpse of Jordanian captive al-Kaseasbeh, in case anyone needs a reminder of how insanely evil ISIS is. The article on his death justifies murdering the “apostate” pilot by immolation, normally proscribed in Islam, by saying air strikes tend to kill ISIS targets by fire. They cite religious rulings that justify burning under “eye for an eye” principles of Islamic justice: “So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you.”

This issue of Dabiq also discusses what has become a matter of much concern for the Pentagon: the expansion of ISIS operations into Afghanistan, which they refer to as “Khurasan.” The article discusses the decision of some Taliban to “declare their bay’ah” to the “Khalifah” (i.e. swear allegiance to the Islamic State), sealing the deal by executing a captured Pakistani soldier. A Taliban spokesman is quoted declaring, “In spite of the ongoing crusade, the gathering of those near and far against the Islamic State, and the war waged against it by those both close and distant, we bring the mujahadeen the good news of the Islamic State’s expansion to Khurasan.”

The bulk of the article is essentially devoted to jeering at the Taliban who consider making peace with the U.S.-backed government of Afghanistan as a bunch of “deviant and feeble” lightweights who don’t understand the true meaning of jihad.


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