The Islamic State’s Most Recent Victims


FEB. 27, 2015

 Raqqa, Syria, in June. Credit Reuters       

It seems sometimes as if a band of fanatics has emerged from the dark ages to wage war on the present, starting at the cradle of civilization and deploying civilization’s own technologies against it.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has nurtured this narrative with its claim to be the vanguard of a new caliphate. How much its terrible actions — the beheadings, the threats, the destruction — are rooted in religious zealotry, raw psychopathy or political ideology is hard to determine. In the past, ISIS has been as ready to swap hostages or antiquities for cash as to destroy them.
Still, and perversely, the narrative of evil is the Islamic State’s greatest recruitment tool. The ghoulish videos spread around the world, the ritualized murders, the smashed statues, the British cadences of the spokesman “Jihadi John,” now identified as a Kuwaiti immigrant to England named Mohammed Emwazi — all of this acts as a strong lure for potential fighters and as a challenge to the security and values of the civilized world.
Any response to this threat cannot be to accept the Islamic State’s narrative, to view its actions as a sectarian struggle of Islam versus the West — or, for that matter, as a holy war against the ancient Christians of the Middle East or against small religious sects like the Yazidis.
ISIS is an extremist band of murderers parading as Islamic purists, and does not discriminate in its choice of enemies. It has killed countless Muslims, including Sunnis who purportedly share its faith but refuse to accept its authority. Its ideology is simple: Anyone who does not accept its commands can be tortured, raped or killed.
The United States and other Western governments are right to insist repeatedly that their fight against ISIS is not a war against Islam. At the same time they must make every effort to expose the false claims of the terrorists for what they are: a cover for a sadistic battle for power and plunder.

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