If you really want to be scared, take a gander at the recent issue of The Atlantic and the article by Graeme Wood ” What ISIS Really Wants and How to Stop It.” Wood has caused quite a storm among liberals and the Muslim community because he states emphatically that the doctrine and practices of ISIS are indeed Islamic, ” Very Islamic.”
Wood delves deeply into the beliefs of the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and finds that the beheading, crucifixion, slavery and mass murder of those who are deemed apostates, Muslims and non-Muslims, are deeply embedded in the writings of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers. The establishment of a caliphate in Syria and Iraq is part of their apocalyptic vision as their forces will battle the armies of the west and then destroy them; it is then that they will wait for the end of times. There is even a place where all this end of times will occur, the Syrian town of Dabiq, which is mentioned by Muhammad in his writings.
While Wood readily admits that ISIS has attracted a weird bunch of psychopaths and delusional religious fanatics, he emphasizes that the leadership of the caliphate is applying the most harsh version of Islamic law and cannot be viewed as acting devoid of religious beliefs. Of course the vast majority of Muslims do not hold to the values and vision of ISIS and its apocalyptic doctrine, but to say as President Obama and others have said that ISIS is not Islamic is a misreading of their beliefs.
What is really scary, other than the fact that ISIS is well led, well armed and adept at social media propaganda, is that they are in a real sense a death cult that is following to the letter the dogma of Muhammad. They are ready to die and the killing of apostates is normal operating procedure. There is thus no interest in working toward a diplomatic solution or abiding by international agreements or implementing a cease-fire. In fact the goal of ISIS is to spread the caliphate throughout the Middle East and wait for the war with the west that will usher in the end times.
Wood agrees with President Obama that it would be a huge mistake to put thousands of US boots on the ground and take on the Islamist fighters head on; that is exactly what they want as a way to fulfill their apocalyptic vision. The best strategy is to contain them and let the caliphate die off from a lack of fanatical energy and the disillusionment of the fighters as time will eventually weaken a state that is not expanding and attracting more support.
The take away from the Wood article is that not only is ISIS Islamic, but also that it holds beliefs most in the Muslim world reject( which is why ISIS fighters have no problem killing so-called Muslim apostates). It may be politically convenient for some to get involved in word games about what to call ISIS but the key is to understand what their end game is and what they are willing to do in order to bring about the apocalypse. Religious fanatics eventually destroy themselves from within rather than through a modern day crusade. This will be a long war against ISIS but like the containment policies of the Cold War, eventually a warped ideology will implode from within.