Proving that nothing is so awful that the Islamic State cannot make it even worse, ISIS on Sunday reportedly published an article in one of its newsletters asking Allah to “increase the torment” of infidels from the coronavirus while sparing faithful Muslims.
The Al-Naba newsletter, as translated by the typically pro-Bashar al-Assad Al Masdar news service, celebrated the coronavirus as an act of divine judgment for idolatry. According to ISIS, Allah has “imposed something of His painful torment on the nations of His creation” by conjuring the epidemic.
“We ask Allah to increase their torment and save the believers from all that. Indeed He is harsh of punishment against the one who rebels against Him, and merciful to the one who obeys Him and stands with Him,” the jihadists wrote.
The terrorists also praised what they saw as a military retreat by “crusader nations” because their soldiers were supposedly needed to maintain order within their own nations during the coronavirus epidemic. ISIS looked forward to “a great economic catastrophe” befalling the West due to the virus.
The UK Daily Mail noted on Tuesday that ISIS previously advised its jihadis to avoid nations suffering from coronavirus outbreaks and recommended common protective measures such as thorough hand-washing, but also assured the faithful that “illnesses do not strike by themselves, but by the command and decree of Allah.”
The Islamic State might have noticed that Iranian mullahs made similar promises of religious immunity to the coronavirus, which they also portrayed as Allah’s wrath against the infidels, but Iran wound up with the deadliest outbreak in the world, and some of the most incandescent of its many fiery clerics have been felled by the disease.
Presumably, ISIS theologians would dismiss the Iranian experience as irrelevant because they are signaling to Allah on the wrong frequency. Last week the Jerusalem Post puckishly suggested jihadis of all denominations might be among the groups hardest hit by the epidemic, in part because their leaders seem eager to demonstrate they are immune to the disease, while the coronavirus seems completely unmoved by appeals to religious authority.
Deutsche Welle reported that the coronavirus is having an effect on military operations against ISIS and other terrorist threats, but it’s also ravaging the terrorists:
In Iraq, NATO announced earlier this month it would suspend training for 60 days due to the pandemic. As a result, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said he would scale back the UK’s troop deployment since “the tempo of training has significantly declined.”
In addition to the moratorium on training activities, coalition members in Iraq and Syria are having to take precautions to prevent an outbreak among troops. Although US officials suggested the measures wouldn’t have an impact on operational continuity, the outbreak is undermining efforts to shore up local capacity to deal with IS.
“Inevitably the coronavirus pandemic will shift attention and resources away from the fight against the ‘Islamic State,'” said Colin P. Clarke, a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center. “The overall focus and attention required to continue fighting against the group will be understandably distracted.”
“But [IS] fighters will be vulnerable as well. The militants themselves are clearly not immune from the virus, and if they are relying on faulty medical or health information, which is possible, then they could easily lose fighters to the virus too.”
The coronavirus may also cause disruptions in the prison camps where ISIS fighters are held, giving them a chance to escape, a danger exacerbated by ISIS telling its recruits they can secure better divine coronavirus protection by conducting acts of jihad.