The ugly attractions of ISIS’ ideology
By Amir Taheri
Islamic State flag flies near the Syrian town of Kobani.Photo: Getty Images
“Pure Mohammadan Islam”: This is what ISIS, Daesh in Arabic, promises to deliver once the caliphate has defeated “Infidel” enemies and secured its position. The promise is at the core of its propaganda, including in cyberspace.
Its recent blitzkrieg victories and high-profile beheadings are not the only reason ISIS has attracted universal attention. Perhaps more interesting is Daesh’s ability to seduce large numbers of Muslims across the globe, including in Europe and the United States.
It does so with an ideological “product” designed to replace other brands of Islamism marketed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Khomeinists in Iran. Daeshism, to coin a phrase, also aimed to transcend the ideological hodgepodge marketed by al Qaeda franchises.
The promised “Pure Mohammadan Islam” is based on three rejections, explained by the late Islamist ideologue Youssef al-Ayyeri in a book published more than a decade ago.
The first rejection is of traditional Islamic tolerance for Christians and Jews — who, labeled “People of the Book,” could live in a caliphate by paying protection money (jizyeh).
The idea is that the “protection” offered by Mohammad belonged to the early phase of Islam when the “Last Prophet” wasn’t strong enough. Once Mohammad had established his rule, the Daeshites note, he ordered the massacre of Jews and the expulsion of Christians from the Arabian Peninsula.
In this view, what is now needed is “cleansing” (tanzif) of other religions from the world, starting with areas controlled by the caliphate. To escape death, one can convert to Islam. The Druze of northern Syria did so by sending a delegation to ISIS’ “Caliph” Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi to swear on the Koran and announce the community’s mass conversion.
The Yazidis refused conversion and had to be massacred, driven out or taken into slavery. Christian towns captured by Daesh also refused conversion, “obliging” the caliph to order massacres and mass expulsions.
In his book, Al-Ayyeri argues that Muslims can have only one goal: converting all humanity to Islam and “effacing every trace of all other religions, creeds and ideologies.”
The second rejection is aimed against “Infidel ideologies,” especially democracy — government of men by men rather than by Allah.
Al-Ayyeri writes: “Various forms of unbelief attacked the world of Islam in the past century or so, to be defeated in one way or another.
The first form of unbelief to attack was “modernism” . . . which led to the emergence in the lands of Islam of states based on ethnic identities and territorial dimensions rather than religious faith. The second was nationalism, which . . . divided Muslims into Arabs, Persians, Turks and others. . . The third form of unbelief is socialism, which includes communism. That, too, has been defeated and eliminated from the Muslim world.”
All along, many Muslims have fallen for those “heathen ideologies,” thus postponing the inevitable unification of mankind under the banner of Islam.
Hilmi Hashem, regarded as chief theological adviser to the caliph, believes that the decision by Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to take part in democratic elections was “a sin rather than an error.”
Hashem is one of al-Ayyeri’s four disciples, all Egyptians, who’ve provided ISIS with theological arguments and methods of applying Islamic law (sharia). According to Mohammad al-Shafei, a leading authority on radical Islam, Hashem is now acting as “grand mufti” (religious guide) for Daesh.
Daesh’s third rejection is aimed against what is labeled “diluted” (iltiqati) forms of Islam — for example, insisting that Islam is a religion of peace.
In Daesh’s view, Islam will be a religion of peace only after it has seized control of the entire world. Until then, the world will be divided between the House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the House of War (Dar al-Harb). There can never be peace between Islam and whatever that is not Islam. At best, Muslims can make truce (solh) with non-Muslims while continuing to prepare for the next war.
Daesh also rejects the “aping of Infidel institutions” such as a presidential system, a parliament and the use of such terms as “republic.” The only form of government in “Pure Mohammadan Islam” is the caliphate; the only law is sharia.
According to British sources, the Daesh ideology was shaped over the years in Egyptian mosques and then in prisons, where many of its “thinkers” spent time. Several “Daesh thinkers” also had brief spells in New York, London and Geneva before ending up with the caliphate.
Today, they are using contacts in Europe and North America to recruit well-educated Muslims, notably to set up what they claim would be “the first truly Islamic