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The Islamic Basis of the Islamic State
An article from September 2015 by the counter-terrorism expert Will McCants provides one of the most extensive accounts so far about the shadowy man the world has come to know as the leader of the Islamic State.
Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri was apparently born in 1971 in Samarra, an ancient Iraqi city on the edge of the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad. He was the son of a pious man who taught Koranic recitation in a local mosque. Ibrahim was withdrawn and quiet, but also good at football. As a teenager, he led neighborhood children in Koran recitation. Even in his youth, he developed a reputation for being very pious. He went on to earn a doctoral degree in Koranic studies.
According to William McCants, “Early on, Ibrahim’s nickname was ‘The Believer.’ When he wasn’t in school, he spent much of his time at the local mosque, immersed in his religious studies; and when he came home at the end of the day, according to one of his brothers, Shamsi, he was quick to admonish anyone who strayed from the strictures of Islamic law. Now Ibrahim al-Badri is known to the world as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ruler of the Islamic State or ISIS, and he has the power not just to admonish but to punish and even execute anyone within his territories whose faith is not absolute. His followers call him ‘Commander of the Believers,’ a title reserved for caliphs, the supreme spiritual and temporal rulers of the vast Muslim empire of the Middle Ages. Though his own realm is much smaller, he rules millions of subjects.”
He comes from a lower middle-class family that claims to be descend from Muhammad himself. Baghdadi was thus not among the wealthiest members of his society, but he was not dirt poor by local standards, either. This once again confirms that many Jihadists come from a middle-class background. A few even hail from very wealthy families, for instance Osama bin Laden. Jihadist terrorism is not caused by poverty. This Marxist-inspired claim has been disproved many times.
Baghdadi also joined the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq. His participation there has previously been confirmed by the Qatar-based Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is widely considered a spiritual guide to the Muslim Brotherhood. Admittedly, al-Baghdadi seems to have belonged to a militant subgroup of the MB. His membership of it is nevertheless significant.
Western leaders such as U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President François Hollande or German Chancellor Angela Merkel have repeatedly claimed that the actions of the Islamic State have nothing to do with Islam. This claim is simply not credible. Al-Baghdadi is no doubt a cruel man who leads an incredibly brutal group of people. Yet despite his many flaws, he seems to have been a devout and pious Muslim man throughout his entire life. Already as a teenager, he was referred to as “The Believer” by other Arab Muslims. That tells us something. He grew up in the heartland of the ancient Islamic Caliphate, in a territory that was ruled by Arab conquerors nearly fourteen centuries ago. His mother tongue is Arabic and he has had many years of education. He is able to read the Koran and other Islamic religious texts in their original language. He has a passionate interest in Koranic studies and is knowledgeable in this field.
Available evidence indicates that al-Baghdadi has been a serious and dedicated student of Islamic religion and Islamic law for as long as he has lived. He certainly knows more about these subjects than Western political leaders do. There is little reason to question that Baghdadi is sincere in his belief that the barbaric actions of his state represent Islam in its purest form. He quotes perfectly authentic statements from the Koran and the hadith in support of his rulings. Judging by the enthusiasm the Islamic State generates among a disturbing number of Muslims, millions of Muslims worldwide recognize ISIS’ version of Islam as true and authentic.
A few comments from me.
|1.||Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been an intensely religious and devout Muslim throughout his entire life. He also has a higher degree in Islamic studies. A Muslim man with Arabic as his first language, he has for years developed a deep understanding of Islamic theology. This makes a complete mockery of the claim that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam.|
|2.||Al-Baghdadi has been an active member of the Muslim Brotherhood, just as the al-Qaida ideologue Sayyid Qutb was before him. The Muslim Brotherhood have for decades bred terrorists and their supporters. It is about time that Western authorities stop treating them as a “moderate” organization.|
|3.||Al-Baghdadi combines scholarly interests with a passion for football, which is somewhat unusual. He has a forceful personality with charisma and brutality in addition to Islamic scholarly credentials. This, unfortunately, makes him a rather capable leader of Jihadists, one who should not be underestimated.|
|4.||It is questionable whether the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would exist, had it not been for the desire of U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Hussein was not a nice man, but he was a relatively secular dictator. The disintegration of his regime left a power vacuum and some experienced but dissatisfied personnel. Perhaps a secular dictator who maintains some stability and keeps the most militant elements under control is the most viable alternative in the Middle East.
Trying to spread “democracy” to this part of the world can actually make matters worse and open up more room for Jihadist groups. What evolved into the Islamic State were simply the worst of these groups. Unless the Americans learn this basic lesson, they will continue to make mistakes in the Islamic world. These mistakes could also indirectly spread instability and migration waves to other regions, including Europe.
|1.||www.brookings.edu/research/essays/2015/thebeliever “The Believer,” by William McCants, published September 1, 2015. William McCants is a fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University and has served in government and think tank positions related to Islam, the Middle East and terrorism, including as State Department senior adviser for countering violent extremism. He is the author of Founding Gods, Inventing Nations: Conquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam.|
|2.||www.raymondibrahim.com/from-the-arab-world/new-revelation-isis-leader-originally-from-muslim-brotherhood/ New Revelation: ISIS Leader Originally from Muslim Brotherhood. Posted by Raymond Ibrahim on October 15, 2014.|
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