Continuing the discussion from Former ISIS hostage: they want us to retaliate:
A friend put this video up on Facebook, and it’s an excellent indictment of reactive responses to ISIS:
I grew up in a Muslim fundamentalist household. There’s a lot of nuance as to what that means and I hesitate to say it because it doesn’t translate well. The reality is that growing up in a Muslim fundamentalist household is actually not considerably different, based on everything I’ve read and heard, from growing up with Christian fundamentalism. I’m not going to write my biography here: The point is that for better or for worse, I was directly exposed to the uglier side of Islamic fundamentalism. I knew plenty of people who sympathized with Al-Qaeda growing up, or who at least equivocated when it came to justifying their atrocities. I have a lot of stories there, but the one I’m thinking of at the moment was someone credulously explaining to me the brilliance of Al-Qaeda’s model: Al-Qaeda has a certain set of theological and political philosophies, and if you or a group accepts them, you can become affiliated, and never take direction from any kind of central authority. This decentralized model of terrorism was supposedly their great strength.
In reality, people like Zarqawi in Iraq didn’t always cleave to the Al-Qaeda doctrines, and there was always a tension between Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the original AQ organization’s founding leadership. This rigidity about doctrine hindered the replication of AQ organizations worldwide. What we have in ISIS is something different, and something far more insidious. ISIS doesn’t care about doctrine. They don’t split hairs. While AQ actually bothered to generate a facile calculation for the number of people it would be Islamically acceptable to kill based on an arcane set of considerations I can’t be arsed to remember right now, ISIS legitimately does not give a fuck. AQ and their ilk were millenarians, believers in a great shift or cosmic change in the order of mankind. That was always their goal. ISIS, by contrast, is trying to bring about the apocalypse.
Without boring you (or enthralling you, depending on your religious nerditude) with visions of exploding seas and Gog and Magog, I can say that I’m very intimately familiar with Islam’s particular eschatology. Muhammad made a number of prophesies that ISIS (and many Muslims in general, regardless of whether they harbor any fundamentalist sympathies) believe have come true. E.g. A common one is the prophesy that Muslims would eventually be forced to engage in the use of interest-based finance in order to navigate the world. The Signs of The Last Day, as they’re known, have no temporal boundaries. Muhammed never said that they would happen within a certain timeframe. They are simply supposed to accumulate. ISIS inparticular relies on a specific vision, where Islam itself is almost obsolete. Visions of Islam for the future include the idea that most Muslims will not uphold the mores of Islamic behavior. In their vision: Muslims are supposed to go astray, they’re supposed to forget their religion, so that God will send down a Chosen One (the literal translation is the Guided One) to finally rid the world of evil.
They are almost nihilists. It’s okay for them to burn people to death (a punishment strictly prohibited by Islam- actually very clearly and indisputably) because Muslims are going to be redeemed when God sends his chosen one to rid the world of evil. (Here, they are inconsistent: It’s okay to burn people to death, but if you live in Raqqa and you skip Friday prayers, that’s Not Okay. They might even burn you to death for it.) This brings me to their model of terrorism. They just tore a page right out of Al-Qaeda’s book, where anyone can join ISIS without being beholden to central operational control. There is a critical difference, however: They have no doctrinal standards. They will happily accept responsibility whether they had any control over the terrorism whatsoever. Whether the people who commit the atrocities were even known to ISIS leadership before an incident is not important.
What they’re after is a concept known as fitnah, which roughly translates to “trials” or “tribulation.” A period of extreme fitnah is widely believed to precede the apocalypse. They really want to create a world where Muslims will wrestle with the conflicting options of either joining their religious brethren, or turning their back on them. ISIS genuinely wants this dichotomy. ISIS doesn’t have to win militarily. They just need to make it so that Muslims at large are forced into a binary choice.
One thing that really worries me, and I’m completely serious about this, is if we experience a series of unstable magnetic pole reversals before settling on a pole flip. This is not only possible, but certain to happen. It’s just a matter of time. This accords very well with a very specific Islamic prophesy that states that the sun will rise in the west on one day and then rise in the east again in the next. It doesn’t have to happen exactly like that for people to believe that the prophesy is satisfied. Here’s the problem: It demarcates a temporal boundary after which there will be no atonement. I suspect that if ISIS continues to be successful, and if Muslims are forced into even a perception that they have to choose one side over the other, something like that might tip the balance. It’s considered a Major Sign of the apocalypse. The less predictable the world seems, the more convincing ISIS’s theology becomes. It’s become a cliche at this point, but this is an excellent summary of everything ISIS does:
(OT, I want to see a movie about the young Alfred… he seems way more interesting than Bruce Wayne.)