Wednesday, 2 November 2016


Horror on a Big Stage

As the fight for Mosul proceeds, stories are emerging of depravity on a grand scale.  Women, children, and non-combatants are being executed at will.  Behold the glories of ISIS.

One of the beliefs held dear by the leadership of ISIS rarely, if at all, mentioned in the secularist West is that ISIS believes it is in the "Last Days".  Its leaders believe they are fighting the last great eschatological battle.  Soon Muhammad or some similar figure will reappear and take up the fight, putting all Unbelievers or apostates or infidels to death.
The Islamic State has released a defiant new speech by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. In the new audio message, which was posted online on Dec. 26, Baghdadi claims the West and its allies are afraid of an apocalyptic showdown in Iraq and Syria. He dares the US to wage a ground war.

The “Christian Crusaders and infidel nations,” with the “Jews behind them,” do not “dare come to the land to fight a small group of mujahideen,” Baghdadi says, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal.  The “infidels” have “learned that it is the final war, and after it, Allah permitting, we will strike them, and they will not strike us.” Once his enemies are defeated, Baghdadi says, “Islam will rule the world…until Judgment Day.” It is for this reason that the Islamic State’s foes supposedly “delay their arrival as much as possible.” [The Long War]
But now war is upon Baghdadi and his followers.
 Latest reports say he is still holed up in Mosul, but, as we know, truth is the first casualty in war.  Their eschatology makes them reckless and justifies extreme cruelty.  Human life is nothing.  Allah will kill all his enemies and Baghdadi is his instrument.

Of course all of this is absolute nonsense.  It would be a good time for Islamic leaders everywhere to stand up and declaim Baghdadiism.  But they won't, because these doctrines are intrinsic to much Islamic theology.  There will be rejections of Baghdadi, but not of the [world wide Islamic] Caliphate.  Most Islamic political leaders probably harbour an unspoken wish that they would be able to become the Caliph.  The fact that no Islamic politician and leader--to our knowledge--has rejected the doctrines of the Caliph and the world-wide Caliphate is telling.  The belief in a global, universal empire being ruled by one man--Muhammad reincarnate--is intrinsic to Islamic theology--and has been every since the time of Muhammad.  Baghdadi and ISIS is just its latest manifestation.

As one scholar of Islam puts it:
Throughout history all imperial powers and aspirants have professed some kind of universal ideology as both a justification of expansion and a means of ensuring the subservience of the conquered peoples: in the case of the Greeks and the Romans it was that of "civilization" vs "barbarity,".  In the case of the Mongols it was the conviction in their predestination to inherit the earth.  For the seventh-century Arabs it was Islam's universal vision of conquest as epitomized in the Prophet's summons to fight the unbelievers wherever they might be found.

This vision, together with Islam's unwavering feeling of supremacy and buoyant conviction in its ultimate triumph, imbued the early believers with the necessary sense of purpose, self-confidence, and revolutionary zeal to take on the region's established empires.  "We have seen a people who love death more than life, and to whom this world holds not the slightest attraction," a group of Byzantine officials in Egypt said of the invading Arabs.  The great Muslim historian and sociologist Abdel Rahman Ibn Khaldun (d.1406) expressed the same idea in a somewhat more elaborate form: "When people possess the [right] insight into their affairs, nothing can withstand them, because their outlook is one and they share a unity of purpose for which they are willing to die.  [Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007)  p.24f.]
These aberrant beliefs are being played out in Mosul before our eyes--and it will continue in other forms and places when it is all over for Baghdadi and his followers.  Meanwhile, the human suffering leaves us aghast.  May God have mercy on the women, the children, and all the non-combatants in Mosul.

No comments: