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Terrorism and Atrocities of the Islamic State are Inspired and Justified by its Interpretations of Islam

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Dr. Jeffrey M. Bale is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of International Policy and Management at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). He obtained his BA in Middle Eastern and Islamic history at the University of Michigan, his MA in social movements and political sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, and his PhD in contemporary European history at Berkeley. In this essay Dr. Bale explains why, despite the fact Muslims deny ISIS is Islamic, the jihadis are truly Inspired and Justified by Islam. He writes: As is invariably the case these days in the wake of the terrorist violence, brutality, and atrocities carried out explicitly in the name of Islam by jihadist terrorists, a host of dissimulating Islamist activists, other Muslims in a state of psychological denial, and apologetic Western pundits are now insisting that the actions of the terrorist group calling itself al-Dawla al-Islamiyya (IS: the Islamic State) – which was previously known as al-Dawla al-Islamiyya fi al-‘Iraq wa al-Sham (ISIS: the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria) – has little or nothing to do with Islam. In all such cases, however, the perpetrators of these violent actions not only proudly insist that their actions are inspired by the Qur’an and the exemplary words and deeds of Muhammad himself (as recorded in the canonical hadith collections), but explicitly cite relevant Qur’anic passages and the reported actions of their prophet to justify those actions.
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  ! ! ! $ %%&%'() *+, -.%&/'.' ( &0 .! 1(2*)'/ 3.*. *% ! #$%&'( * ( +,#-%.%'( /0 %-# ! -'&$&'-*-%1 # 1. !#2*3   Jeffrey M. Bale Monterey Institute of International Studies “Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgement that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas – jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy – reliably lead to oppression and murder?” # $%& '%(()* 1    As is invariably the case these days in the wake of the terrorist violence, brutality, and atrocities carried out explicitly in the name of Islam by jihadist terrorists, a host of dissimulating Islamist activists, other Muslims in a state of psychological denial, and apologetic Western pundits are now insisting that the actions of the terrorist group calling itself al-Dawla al-Islamiyya (IS: the Islamic State) – which was previously known as al-Dawla al-Islamiyya fi al-‘Iraq wa al-Sham (ISIS: the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria) – has little or nothing to do with Islam. 2   1  Sam Harris, “Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon,” Sam Harris  website, 10 September 2014, at http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/sleepwalking-toward-armageddon . 2  Alas, it is even more troubling that these same false claims are so often repeated, like some sort of mindless cult-like mantra, by Western government officials. For example, U.S. President Barack Obama made the following misleading statement in his 10 September 2014 address to the American people outlining his strategy for dealing with the Islamic State: “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim.” See “Transcript: President Obama on How U.S. Will Address Islamic State,”  NPR  [National Public Radio], 10 September 2014, at http://www.npr.org/2014/09/10/347515100/transcript- president-obama-on-how-u-s-will-address-islamic-state . The very last point about the preponderance of Muslim victims is the only accurate part of this statement, but that is because – as is the case with so many Sunni jihadist groups – the sectarian, puritanical IS jihadists regard their Muslim victims not as real Muslims, much less as “innocents,” but rather as “apostates,” heretical “rejecters of Allah,” or “hypocrites,” and thus as de facto “infidels.” For his part, American Secretary of State John Kerry made this no less inaccurate statement during his visit to Baghdad a couple of days earlier: “ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam, but the fact is that its hateful ideology has nothing to do with Islam.” See Jim Bacon and Kim Hjelmgaard, “Kerry Says World Won’t Let Islamic State Win in Iraq,” USA Today , 10 September 2014, at 2  Alas, it is even more troubling that these same false claims are so often repeated, like some sort of mindless cult-like mantra, by Western government officials. For example, U.S. President Barack Obama made the following misleading statement in his 10 September 2014 address to the American people outlining his strategy for dealing  + Not long ago, many such commentators also argued that the horrendous actions committed by the Nigerian jihadist group Jama‘at Ahl al-Sunna li al-Da‘wa wa al-Jihad (Association of People Following the Teachings [of Muhammad] on Proselytization and Jihad), better known as Boko Haram (Western Influence is Sinful), had nothing to do with its members’ interpretations of Islam. 3  In all such cases, however, the perpetrators of these violent actions not only proudly insist that their actions are inspired by the Qur’an and the exemplary words and deeds of Muhammad himself (as recorded in the with the Islamic State: “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim.” See “Transcript: President Obama on How U.S. Will Address Islamic State,”  NPR  [National Public Radio], 10 September 2014, at http://www.npr.org/2014/09/10/347515100/transcript- president-obama-on-how-u-s-will-address-islamic-state . The very last point about the preponderance of Muslim victims is the only accurate part of this statement, but that is because – as is the case with so many Sunni jihadist groups – the sectarian, puritanical IS jihadists regard their Muslim victims not as real Muslims, much less as “innocents,” but rather as “apostates,” heretical “rejecters of Allah,” or “hypocrites,” and thus as de facto “infidels.” For his part, American Secretary of State John Kerry made this no less inaccurate statement during his visit to Baghdad a couple of days earlier: “ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam, but the fact is that its hateful ideology has nothing to do with Islam.” See Jim Bacon and Kim Hjelmgaard, “Kerry Says World Won’t Let Islamic State Win in Iraq,” USA Today , 10 September 2014, at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/09/10/kerry-iraq-prime-minister-islamic-state-syria/15376123/ . Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in explaining the adoption of heightened security measures in response to the threat of jihadist terrorism, felt it necessary to opine that “[t]his is about crime and combating crime. This is not about religion…” See Frank Coletta, “Tony Abbott Increases Australia’s Terrorism Threat Level from Medium to High and Warns Australians to Expect Increased Security,”  Daily Mail  , 11 September 2014, at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2753016/Tony-Abbott-increases-Australia-s-terror-threat-medium-high.html . And British Prime Minister David Cameron, in response to the IS’ beheading of a British aid worker, insisted that “Islam is a religion of peace”, that the IS jihadists are “monsters” rather than Muslims, and that their “claim to do this in the name of Islam” is “nonsense.” See Peter Dominiczak, “David Cameron Vows to Hunt Down ‘Monsters’ Who Beheaded British Hostage David Haines,” Telegraph , 14 September 2014, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/11095247/David-Cameron-vows-to-hunt-down-monsters-who-beheaded-British-hostage-David-Haines.html . Apparently, these Western leaders imagine that they have more expertise on Islamic doctrines and history than IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the nom de guerre of Ibrahim ibn ‘Awad ibn Ibrahim ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarra’i, who has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad. 3  See, e.g., Dean Obeidallah, “The Boko Haram Terrorists are Not ‘Islamic,’”  Daily Beast  , 12 May 2014, at http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/12/the-boko-haram-terrorists-are-not-islamic.html ; “OIC: Boko Haram has Nothing to Do with Islam,” al-Manar  , 6 March 2014, at http://www.almanar.com.lb/english/adetails.php?eid=154669&cid=56&fromval=1 ; and “Boko Haram has Nothing to Do with Islam: Iran Cleric,”  Press TV   (Iran), 18 May 2014, at http://www.presstv.com/detail/2014/05/18/363213/boko-haram-has-no-relation-with-islam/ . Even some American  politicians have made this same erroneous claim. See Michael Warren, “Dem Senator: Boko Haram is Not Islamist,” Weekly Standard  , 16 May 2014, at http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/dem-senator-boko-haram-not-islamist_792891.html .  , canonical hadith   collections), but explicitly cite relevant Qur’anic passages and the reported actions of their prophet to justify those actions. 4  Hence in order to argue that jihadist terrorists are not directly inspired and primarily motivated by their interpretations of Islamic doctrines and by clear precedents from early Islamic history, as they themselves repeatedly and accurately claim, one has to pretend as though the perpetrators themselves have no idea why they are actually carrying out such actions, or assert that they are deliberately mischaracterizing their own motives. In short, one must stubbornly ignore what the actual protagonists keep telling the entire world about their own motives and instead rely on Islamist activists, who are often peddling outright disinformation, or on  Western commentators, most of whom know little or nothing about Islam or Islamism, for explanations of their behavior. 5  In both cases, these sorts of pundits minimize the central role played by Islamist ideology and 4  Cf., e.g., Abu Bakr al-Husayni al-Qura[y]shi al-Baghdadi, “A Message to the Mujahidin and the Muslim Umma in the Month of Ramadan,” al-Hayat Media Center, [1 July 2014], at http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/documents/baghdadi-caliph.pdf  , wherein the IS’ leader, the self-styled‘Amir al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful), announces the establishment of a new Caliphate and enthusiastically  promotes offensive  jihad  , martyrdom, and world domination (along with ample citations from relevant Qur’anic  passages); numerous IS propaganda and recruitment videos citing the Qur’an and ahadith ; and the first three issues of the IS’s magazine  Dabiq , which likewise contain references to the Qur’an and hadith , promote actions using explicitly Islamic rationales and justifications, and are inspired by Muslim apocalyptic millenarian themes. See, e.g., “Until It Burns the Crusader Armies in Dabiq,”  Dabiq  1 [July 2014], pp. 3-5, at https://ia802500.us.archive.org/24/items/dbq01_desktop_en/dbq01_desktop_en.pdf  . Indeed, virtually everything  produced by the IS in written or video formats is laced with justificatory references to the Qur’an and hadith , as well as events in Islamic history and Muslim eschatological themes. For more on the apocalyptic themes in the first issue of Dabiq, see Timothy Furnish, “New Islamic State Magazine “Dabiq”: Western Forces on the Eve of Destruction,”  Mahdi Watch , 14 July 2014, at http://www.mahdiwatch.org/2014.07.01_arch.html . 5  As atheist Sam Harris accurately notes in “Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon,” “there is now a large industry of obfuscation designed to protect Muslims [as well as, it should be emphasized, Westerners] from having to grapple with these truths. Our humanities and social science departments are filled with scholars and pseudo-scholars deemed to be experts in terrorism, religion, Islamic jurisprudence, anthropology, political science, and other diverse fields, who claim that where Muslim intolerance and violence are concerned, nothing is ever what it seems. Above all, these experts claim that one can’t take Islamists and jihadists at their word: Their incessant declarations about God, paradise, martyrdom, and the evils of apostasy are nothing more than a mask concealing their real   motivations. What are their real motivations? Insert here the most abject hopes and projections of secular liberalism…” For further illustrations of these types of delusional and self-destructive arguments, in the context of the Boston Marathon bombings and other acts of jihadist terrorism in the West, see Jeffrey M. Bale, “Denying the Link between Islamist Ideology and Jihadist Terrorism: Political Correctness and the Undermining of Counterterrorism,”  Perspectives on Terrorism  7:5 (October 2013), pp. 5-46.  - erroneously ascribe the actions of jihadist terrorists to assorted subsidiary causal factors, such as garden-variety political grievances, poverty, lack of democracy, psychopathology, greed, or simple hunger for power. Using similar logic that would be no less faulty than claiming that the actions of jihadist terrorists have “nothing to do with Islam,” one might just as easily argue that self-described Protestant fundamentalists or Catholic ultra traditionalists who bomb abortion clinics in the name of their interpretations of Christian doctrines have nothing to do with Christianity, that the actions of theocratic Orthodox haredi   or messianic Zionist terrorist groups in Israel have nothing to do with their interpretations of Judaism, that the actions of self-styled Marxist-Leninist terrorist groups have nothing to do with communism, and that the actions of self-described neo-Nazi terrorist groups have nothing to do with Nazism. 6  Needless to say, most of the commentators who keep insisting, against all evidence to the contrary, that the actions of jihadist terrorists cannot be attributed to their interpretations of Islam do not also argue that the violent actions of other types of extremists cannot be attributed to their ideological beliefs. On the contrary, whenever other types of terrorists carry out gruesome attacks, many of those same commentators are quick to ascribe their actions primarily to their proclaimed theological and ideological beliefs – and justifiably so. One can easily illustrate this glaring contrast with respect to the analytical treatment of Islamist terrorism by asking a simple question: when was the last time that any more or less respected commentator made the case that Nazi ideology had nothing to do with inspiring particular acts of terrorism committed by self-identified neo-Nazis, or that notions of white supremacy 6  Cf. the broader arguments of Jerry Coyne, “If ISIS is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition is Not Catholic,”  New  Republic , 13 September 2014, at http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119433/if-isis-not-islamic-then-inquisition-was-not-catholic .

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Jul 25, 2017
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