What ISIS Wants
, well-written piece by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic
argues that, despite Obama's well-intentioned statement that the Islamic State is neither, ISIS
is quite Islamic in a very literalist way. Similarly, one wouldn't reasonably claim that the Spanish Inquisition
was non-Christian, even though its doctrine was far from the present majority position.
Wood explains the Koranic ties to many of the group's actions and elements of propaganda and discusses how their total devotion to 7th Century practices and prophecies may be understood to help defeat them. One key prophecy is a battle at Dabiq (near the Syrian border with Turkey) against the "army of Rome." Wood says that Rome might be interpreted as the Eastern Roman Empire (Constantinople), which would mean a battle with Turkey. Rome could also easily be interpreted as the West in general, and an American ground presence might only make things worse by energizing the group. Wood mentions Persia only in passing, but it seems to me that if the Islamic State pushed far into Kurdistan and Shi'ite Iraq, Iran might get involved. A conflict in which Washington and Tehran (and perhaps Ankara) were united against a common enemy would be interesting to say the least.
Reading about the apocalyptic goals of the Islamic State, I'm glad that the apocalyptic neoconservative faction of the American right wing has fallen out of favor in the last eight years. What we really don't need is an American Armageddon movement
with an an excuse to militarily engage a caliphate
which (in this instance) is also eager for a world-ending battle which will bring forth the messiah and God's plan of resurrection.
I am reminded also of The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain
. The Salafist
focus on words brings with it a mindset of violence, exclusion, and other masculine traits and a repression of imagery, inclusion, and femininity. ISIS should serve as a warning and a reminder that adherence to the literal interpretation of a book which does not evolve and adapt is a dangerous practice in a dynamic world. Meanwhile, the majority of Muslims around the world, raised in a culture with access to TV, magazines, and an image-rich web, oppose the Islamic State as violent extremists, unbecoming of what most believers see as Islam.