Who Is ISIS?

Posted on December 12, 2014 by


Not too long ago a person couldn’t walk ten steps or watch television without hearing about the terrorist group known as ISIS or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, which goes by just the Islamic State. But only a couple of months later we no longer hear about what they are doing even though they still exist and are doing the same things they were doing before. This so called Islamic state does not represent what Islam is actually about but only a skewed view that they use to use a religion as a reason for destruction and murder.


Reasons as to why they are not a reliable source of what Islam is about are that the acclaimed caliph did not go through the process to become a caliph, they use their own interpretation of Islam as the correct way, and they are using romanticized versions of the original four caliphs as evidence that they are right (Wood).

According to Bernard Haykel, an Islamic law expert at Princeton, “caliphs are supposed to be chosen by consultation with all Muslim scholars, and Baghdadi hasn’t shown he has the support of even a majority of ultra-radical Muslims” (qtd. in Wood). How can a leader claim to be a rightful leader when he didn’t follow the laws of his own religion he’s representing? Not to also mention that nobody has claimed to be the next caliph for a very long time. According to Fred Donner, a historian of early Islam at the University of Chicago, “Anybody who actively wishes to reestablish a caliphate must be deeply committed to a backward-looking view of Islam. The caliphate hasn’t been a functioning institution for over a thousand years” (qtd. in Wood).

Having a leader who claims himself as leader and claims to be the rightful leader by the way of his religion without following the process his own religion states is something to think about. As well as bringing back a form of rule that hasn’t been seen in over a thousand years seems off-putting as well.

This new caliph also differs from the caliphates of old. Professor Patrick J. Ryan, the McGinley Professor of Religion in Society at Fordham University in New York City, says “Unlike the caliphates the reigned between the seventh and 13th centuries, this new caliphate persecutes and kills non-Muslim minorities (Christian, Yazidis) and non-Arab minorities (Kurds, Turkmen)” (Ryan). Abu Bakr is therefore claiming to be a leader just like the four caliphs of the Qu’ran, and yet he is persecuting people who are unlike those who were persecuted thousands of years ago.

Another piece of how ISIS is a misinterpretation of Islam is that what ISIS is doing and claiming that their religion states that it is ok is upsetting one of the most infamous groups in the Middle East, Al Qaeda. When the Islamic State of Iraq joined with another group to become the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS), “Jabhat al Nusra and al Qaeda leaders rejected the merger, underscoring growing tensions among Sunni extremists in the region” (Congressional Digest). When another infamous extremist group like Al Qaeda thinks ISIS is a bad guy, what does that say about them? This just reminds me of the day in World Religions class where we looked at a Time magazine cover that showed a group of Muslims in a negative way after the events of 9/11.

Extremist groups like ISIS are not good representations of what Islam is. To really know what Islam is about there is the Qu’ran to read and there are Muslims all across the United States who feel that they are being put into the same category as these extremists when they don’t agree with them at all. ISIS uses idealized versions of past caliphates to justify having a new one, they don’t follow the processes that the original caliphs did, and they claim that their interpretation of Islam is the right way and anyone who thinks different will be killed. From my own learning about Islam I think it is a shame for it to be represented in this negative way because it is a very interesting religion that talks about how to live right by your fellow man and by God.


“Islamic State Situation And The U.S. Response.” Congressional Digest 93.9 (2014): 2-30. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.       http://web.b.ebscohost.com.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=26&sid=fd07030f-8a2a-4f1a-9ac1-     63a33539352a%40sessionmgr114&hid=109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=99328967

Llana, Sara Miller. “Islamic State’s execution spree challenges governments’ ransom policies.” Christian Science Monitor 06 Oct. 2014: N.PAG. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=28&sid=fd07030f-8a2a-4f1a-9ac1-63a33539352a%40sessionmgr114&hid=109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=98743193

Ryan, Patrick J. “Revisionist Islam.” America 211.16 (2014): 23-25. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=20&sid=fd07030f-8a2a-4f1a-9ac1-63a33539352a%40sessionmgr114&hid=109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=99464150

Wood, Graeme. “The Secrets Of Isis.” New Republic 245.15 (2014): 14-17. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=22&sid=fd07030f-8a2a-4f1a-9ac1-63a33539352a%40sessionmgr114&hid=109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=97725370

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