Iraqi journalist Fadel Boula challenged the claim that the Islamic State (ISIS) and other jihadi organizations have no relationship to Islam, in an article featured in Iraq’s Al-Akhbar newspaper and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Boula argued that these terrorist organizations follow a radical Salafi ideology and believe their objectives coincide with Allah’s will and the core tenets of Islam.
“Since its inception, this movement of terror has espoused a Salafi ideology that champions religious extremism, and brainwashed people of all ages have rallied around its flag, [people who were] trained to kill themselves and kill others in order to attain martyrdom,” Boula wrote in the November article, “Does Terror Truly Have No Religion?”
Scholars and observers in the West frequently discount the role of religion when analyzing Islamist terrorist organizations, claiming that religion is simply evoked to galvanize supporters as a means for political ends. That overlooks the firm belief in radical interpretations of Islam shared by the leaders and the rank-and-file within these terrorist movements. They often use political means to achieve religious objectives.
“The terror that is shaking the world today is not a natural disaster like a tornado, a thunderstorm or an earthquake, and it is not perpetrated by savage tribes,” Boula wrote. “It is perpetrated by people who enlist [because they are] inspired by a religious ideology. [These people] advocate enforcing and spreading [this ideology as a set of] dogmatic principles that must be imposed by the force of the sword, and which [mandate] killing, expulsion and destruction wherever they go.”
He described how early ISIS expansion throughout Syria and Iraq emulated pre-modern Islamic conquests.
“The invaders attacked the populace of Mosul and eastern Syria, arrested them by the hundreds, and took a sword to their necks, and later singled out the Christians among them and offered them two options: either convert to Islam or pay the poll tax, as happened to their forefathers when the Arabs attacked their lands in the days of the Caliph ‘Umar Al-Khattab [583-644 AD]. When [the Christians] rejected this humiliation, [ISIS] seized their property, expelled them from their historic home, the province of Ninveh, and sent them to wander destitute under the skies, seeking rescue and safety.”
Some Western leaders, including President Obama and his administration, continue to pretend that ISIS is “not Islamic.” However, a basic understanding of ISIS’ Salafi origins and inspirations confirms that the terrorist organization and its affiliates maintain religious and political objectives that are rooted in extremist interpretations of Islam.