ISIL: Defenders of the New Caliphate — Lee Shaw

[The following is posted from the BIC student blog, QuickBIC, and is written by BIC freshman, Lee Shaw. The article is a response to a recent panel discussion sponsored by the BIC Leadership Council, “Examining ISIS,” which included BIC professors Mark Long, Lynn Tatum, and Sam Perry.]

Now when Al Qaeda kicks you out, we’ve got a serious problem on our hands… –Dr. Lynn Tatum

While still part of Al Qaeda the group was simply referred to as AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq). Once excommunicated, the extremists spread into Syria and became known as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria0. As they advance through Syria and into the region called the Levant, however, this group has been labeled ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and Levant). Muslims, however, refer to this group as DAISH (Al-Dawlah Al-Islamiyah fe Al-Iraq wa Al-Sham), as they do not want ISIL to be associated with Islam at all.

No matter what you call them, ISIL is waging a war against what they call “Crusaders.” In vanquishing “Crusaders” such as Americans and dissenting Muslims among other outsiders, ISIL hopes to create a new and perfect caliphate, the end-all-be-all Islamic state. They believe their faith gives them moral clemency when it comes to killing.

On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, over one hundred BIC students attended the BIC event “Examining ISIS.” The panel discussion was led by Dr. Lynn Tatum, Dr. Mark Long, and Dr. Sam Perry (each a beloved and esteemed BIC professor in his own right), with a focus on the implications of ISIL as they advance through Southwest Asia. 

If you missed the panel you might wonder, “What is ISIS?” ISIS, or as it is now called, ISIL, started as a branch of Al Qaeda (AQI), but was kicked out due to its truly extreme ideology. Dr. Tatum vividly described the historical motivation behind ISIL’s origins. Upon their excommunication, this group spread with one goal in mind: create a new caliphate, restoring the glory of Islam. Tatum compared these Islamic extremists to that of the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warriors who, during the crusades, killed many heretics and heathens in the name of God in order to establish a Christian empire. Just as the Templars do not represent all of Christianity, ISIL does not represent all of Islam, just a violent perversion of the faith.

But you might ask, “If ISIL is so violent, why would anyone sign on with them?” According to Dr. Long, ISIL’s twisted ideology has a powerful influence over many people. For instance, when an initiate joins ISIL, he receives a new name.

“You can find videos of this anywhere,” Long stated. “Men at the airport, tearing up their passports. They don’t need them anymore. They have been reborn.”

Initiates are also promised eternal paradise for their actions against the “Crusaders” as they pursue the formation of a new caliphate. The same ideology not only grants ISIL soldiers the clemency to kill, it obliges them to do so, as otherwise a new caliphate could not be instituted. Dr. Long explained that Al Qaeda was excited and overjoyed when the United States invaded Iraq, as it gave Al Qaeda the chance to invade Iraq and “defend” it. This culture of death within ISIL ideology is persistent.

Consequently, you might think “Well, why do they hate us so much?”

Dr. Perry said, “In the words of former president George W. Bush, `They hate us for our freedom.’ No. They don’t. That’s not enough.”

ISIL members have an ideological fundamentalist conviction to kill “Crusaders.” Even other Muslims (often called Apostates) are not safe from ISIL. This is due to the extensive narrative that ISIL has created for itself.

“The past four US presidents decided to bomb Iraq,” Perry said. “But it hasn’t been effective. You can’t bomb a narrative.”

While Al Qaeda (literally translated as ‘the base’) was content in being a structure for a new caliphate, ISIL would rather act as a dynamic conquering agent, putting anyone who disagrees to the sword. ISIL is terrorism without borders.

The advance of ISIL has been covered on every media outlet imaginable, but I can personally say that this hour and a half long panel has been more informative than any newscast. If you missed the panel, find a friend who went or seek out any of these three fantastic professors.

As ISIL expands, it is important that as BIC students—and as Americans—we stay informed.

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