Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Whither IS?

What most people fail to understand about the fighters of the Islamic State (IS), that has been proclaimed in eastern Syria and northern Iraq, is that they model themselves on the example of their prophet Muhammad, who in 622 ce moved with his followers from Mecca to Medina (now in Saudi Arabia) and there founded his religious community.  This is termed the hejira from which the Muslims date their calendar.  There were two main tribal groups residing in these two cities at that time, pagan Arabs and Jews (some of them converted Arabs).  Muhammad set about trying to convert both of them to his new monotheistic religion.  In order to do this he formed an army that in 624 ce returned to Mecca and eventually conquered it. Then he returned with his army to Medina and through a series of raids and battles he subdued all resistance in the region and forced all remaining inhibitants to either convert to Islam (which means submission) or die.  In Mecca, he substituted his worship for the pagan Arab worship at the Kaba (the great black basalt stone), initiated the Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca) and gradually extended his control over the whole of Arabia.  After his death in 632 ce, his followers, the Ummah, continued to expand the Islamic Empire by conquest of Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad.
This history is contained in the Koran and is very well known to all Muslims (for a detailed account see "No god but God" by Reza Aslan).  There are two things to note about this history, first, that Islam was spread by "the sword," second that Mohammad dealt very harshly with those he conquered who refused to accept his belief system, they were summarily executed.   When some peope say that Islam is a "peaceful religion" they mean that many Muslims are not motivated to follow this example of Muhammad, but of course, many others are.  These constitute the current wave of political Islam or Islamism that seeks to expand the realm of Islam by force and reconstitute the (Sunni) Islamic Caliphate, that was founded among his followers after Muhammad's death and which was centred in Baghdad until it was taken over by the Ottoman Turks and was transferred to Istanbul, until it was abolished in 1928 following the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic by Kemal Ataturk.
Knowing this history and knowing that that the IS are specifically following Muhammad's pattern, is necessary in order to understand their true threat to modern western civilization and for all minorities.  It is true to say that Islam does not tolerate minorities, they are considered to be un-Islamic, or to use a Christian term - they are heretical.  Jews and Christians have been tolerated by Islam because they are monotheistic precursors to Islam, but they were forced to pay a special protection tax (the jizya) and treated as "second class" citizens or dhimmis.  However, throughout  Muslim history, Jews and Christians have been persecuted, and now in the whole Muslim world there is no viable Jewish population and those of Christians are diminishing rapidly as a result of massacres and attacks from Nigeria to Iraq.  Of course, Israel is a main target of the IS.  But, note that IS does not only consider Jews and Christians as their enemies, they also include in that category the Shia, the main heretical sect of Islam in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and the regimes that control all the Arab Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, that was established only in 1932.  Further, they consider the USA as their chief enemy, being the most powerful secular/Christian country in the world.


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