The Islamic State Doesn't Want True Muslims
by Russ Wellen
Islamic State recruiting patterns give credence to those who believe it doesn't practice true Islam. Pictured: Aleppo, Syria. (Photo: Hakan T / Flickr Commons)
The Islamic State is experiencing success recruiting Westerners with no religious background, including Islam.
In a New Yorker article titled Journey to Jihad: Why are teen-agers joining ISIS?, Ben Taub chronicles the misadventures of a Belgian boy, Jejoen Bontinck, who hooked up with the Islamic State. Actually the piece is more remarkable for the story of his father. Though he may have become slightly unhinged in the process -- and who wouldn't? -- Dimitri Bontinck went to unheard of lengths, including trips to Syria (which he still makes on behalf of other parents who have "lost" their children to the Islamic State), to extract his son from the clutches of the Islamic State.
Aside from the Bontincks' what jumped out of the article was an aspect of the Islamic State of which I wasn't aware.
"Typical recruitment patterns in Europe and the West tell us that it helps if that person doesn't have a religious background," Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist recruiter who now runs a counter-extremism think tank in London called Quilliam, told me. Converts and the newly devout, "dislocated from the traditional hierarchies" of Islam, are less likely to challenge a purported authority on religious matters.
That lends further credence to those who maintain that the Islamic State practices and propagates a bogus form of Islam, if it's Islam at all.
The horror with which one looks on the Islamic State makes one think it's unique. But it likely has precedents in history. ABC News reports:
After President Obama's remarks comparing ISIS militants to medieval Christian crusaders ignited a firestorm of criticism on Thursday, ABC News wanted to know: how accurate is that comparison?
"Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," the president told an audience at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.
Some historians, such as Thomas Madden of the University of St. Louis, bristled at the comparison. From the ABC News report:
"[President Obama] seems to be casting [the Islamic State] as an example of a distortion of Christianity and trying to compare that to what he sees as a distortion of Islam in the actions of ISIS," Madden said. "The initial goal of the Crusades was to give back lands to Christians that had been conquered, due to Muslim conquests."
Talk about simplifying the Crusades. Should I consider enrolling in the University of St. Louis, remind me that it employs instructors such as Madden. Another historian, Thomas Asbridge of the University of London, was less blanketing in his condemnation of the president. He told ABC News:
"It is true to say, that by modern standards, atrocities were committed by crusaders, as they were by their Muslim opponents, it is however, far less certain that, by medieval standards, crusading violence could be categorized as distinctly extreme in all instances."
Okay, the moral relativity ("by medieval standards") adds nothing to the conversation. If need be, we will just extend the analogy and compare the entire European Middle Ages to the Islamic State. Brutality is timeless. More from ABC News:
Asbridge said he doesn't have a problem with the president reminding the world that the Christian Church "advocated violence, and at times even encouraged its adherents to engage in warfare" but to suggest a causal link between ISIS and the distant medieval phenomenon of the Crusades is "grounded in the manipulation and misrepresentation of historical evidence."
Whatever the truth of the matter -- in a recent book I read about the first Crusade, the Christians slaughtering Muslims in Jerusalem made the Islamic State look merciful in comparison -- it seems to me far less controversial to compare the Islamic State to the Crusaders than it does to maintain that the violence of the Crusaders wasn't extreme.
Available at Amazon.com:
- Prospects for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East
- Stephen Walt's Call to Adopt a Containment Policy Toward the Islamic State
- Kids Paying the Price for Yemen's War
- Turkey's AKP Doomed by Poverty, Growing Inequality and Its War on Trade Unions
- Multiculturalism Will Save Turkey
- Saudi Arabia Fixated on Iran When Sunni Extremists Are Real Threat
- The Dark Plot to Tip the Scales
- Deconstructing the Mainstream Narrative About the Saudi War on Yemen
- Syrian President Assad Using Islamic State to Defeat Other Rebel Factions
- The Islamic State Doesn't Want True Muslims
- Obama's Strategy in Iraq: Escalation
- Iraqi Army Overmatched Against Islamic State Fighters
- Islamic State May Not Be Worth a Strategy
- The Islamic State Needs to Be Stopped, But With Imagination, Not Intervention
- Seizures of Ramadi and Palmyra Suggest Islamic State, Despite Setbacks, Still on a Roll
- Bashar al-Assad: The Problem with Young Dictators
- A Fateful Triangle: the United States, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in Yemen
- The Islamic State's Crimes Against Islam
- DC's Dictator Summit
- Yemen's War Is Redrawing the Middle East's Fault Lines
- Identifying the West's Flaws in Logic When Discussing Islam
- The Islamic State's Strange Co-dependency With Syrian President Assad
- Chlorine: Assad's Double-Edged Sword
- Number of Atheists in the Arab World Rivals the West
- US-Saudi-Iran Rapprochement Needed Before Peace in Syria Can Happen
- How the U.S. Contributed to Yemen's Crisis
- Is Al Qaeda Waxing or Waning?
- Diplomacy Is the Only Plausible Solution to Syria and Yemen
- Will Israel 'Bounce the Rubble' in Gaza?
- Yemen and the Congress of Reaction
- Autocrats United Against Yemen
- The Clash of Civil Persuasions
- The Great Convergence with Iran
- Iran Deal: A Game-Changer for the Middle East
- Another Illegal War in the Middle East
- Jim Crow in the Holy Land
- Netanyahu's Victory Is Just as Bad as It Looks
- Why America Lacks Credibility in the Middle East
- America's Hydra Problem in the Middle East
- The Islamic State and Turkey's 'Precious Loneliness'
- Reviving the North Korea-Iran Axis?
- Authoritarian Symps
- Celebrating Wars & Destruction
- Healing or Harming? The Provision of Health Care by Peacekeepers
- Two-Track War Against ISIL
- The Need for a New Syrian Narrative
- Why ISIS Exists
- Why Are Women Joining the Islamic State?
- When Bibi Came to Town
- The Geopolitics of Speeches
- 10 Reasons I'm Praying for AIPAC's Decline
- Understanding Turkey's Tilt
- Some Good News from the Middle East
- ISIS Unites the World
- An Eritrean in Israel
- Global Warming Triggered Syria War
- Is Turkey Holding Up a Resolution in Syria?
- Does Syria See the U.S. as an Ally?
- Nationalism under Pressure: Islamic State, Iraq and Kurdistan
- Syria's Future and the War against ISIS
- The Syrian Labyrinth
- So, Islamic State, You Want to Rule a Caliphate
- Wanna-Be's Doing Islamic State's Bidding
- Is ISIS Capable of Nuclear Terrorism?
- Khomeini Drew the Line at Nukes
- Israel's Lack of Interest
- Recognizing Palestine
- Gaza: Bipartisan War on Human Rights
- Iraq Long Awash in Carnage
- Turkey's Dealings With ISIL
- In What World Are the Kurds as Dangerous as the Islamic State?
- Iran: Netanyahu UN Speech Baseless
- Without Iran, Coalition to Confront ISIS is Doomed
- Treat ISIS Like an Onion
Article: Republished with permission of Foreign Policy in Focus.
"The Islamic State Doesn't Want True Muslims"