ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks that killed over 30 people and wounded over 200. Five months earlier, ISIS claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks at the Bataclan and other locations where over 120 people were gunned down. The savagery of their attacks in Syria, Iraq and Europe has made them the top enemy of the modern world but conventional tactics to combat them don’t seem very effective.
ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq & Syria) started as an Islamic jihadist group in Syria. After taking territory in Iraq, they changed their name to ISIL. The “L” is for the Levant, a region including Egypt, Turkey and Jordan.
ISIS uses beheadings, rape and mass executions to terrorize over 10 million people into submission. Some estimate that ISIL has killed over 100,000 civilians.
ISIS gets most of it’s money from oil, extortion and the sale of antiquities. According to the Washington Institute, ISIS receives sizable donations from rich Saudis who perceive them as fellow-sunnis in a fight with Iranian backed shiites. President Erdoğan’s, Turkey’s pro-Islamic government is reported to purchase oil from ISIS and support their war against the Kurds.
With such a complex political context, western governments have avoided direct action against ISIS. Limited airstrikes have been used to back the Kurds and the Iraqi Army but ISIS uses these bombings to justify attacks like the ones in Paris and to recruit westerners to join their cause.
So what exactly is their cause? After the attacks in Paris, ISIS published a statement explaining that they carried out “In the Name of Allah…” The statement quotes the Quran several times; “Allah… cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by… the hands of the believers.” It frame the murders as part of “a blessed battle whose causes of success were enabled by Allah” targeting Paris, “the capital of prostitution and vice”. It claims that “Allah granted victory upon their hands and cast terror into the hearts of the crusaders in their very own homeland.” It finishes with “Allah is the greatest”, a familiar refrain after murders committed by Islamic jihadists.
The statement cites Allah 14 times, the Prophet Mohammed twice and frames the attacks as part of a wider war between muslims and non-believers. The lead terrorist in the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud is pictured above holding a Qu’ran and an ISIS flag.
Despite all this, many politicians and pundits claim that ISIS is not religiously motivated or that ISIS in no way represents Islam. Such claims are wishful thinking at best, willful deception at worst.
A growing number of thought leaders are trying to defeat ISIS by defeating their ideas. They point to the Quran as the terrorists playbook, citing verses such as 2:191, 4:89, 5:33, 8:12, 47:4. But Islamists and regressive liberals such as Glen Greenwald and Reza Aslan are quick to label them as Islamophobes. They frame Muslims as a victimized minority, refusing to acknowledge that Islam is an ideological super power that has conquered over 70 countries and 1.5 billion minds.
But some of those minds refuse to submit. Here is a partial list of ex-muslims who suffer death threats from Islamists and opposition by regressive liberals.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Somali-born activist, author, and politician. Critic of honor killings and female genital mutilation and Islam. Supporter of women’s rights and freedom of thought. Author of Infidel, Nomad and Heretic. Founder of the AHA Foundation.
Wafa Sultan – Syrian born medical doctor. Author of The God who Hates. Co-founder of Former Muslims United.
Arzu Toker – Writer, journalist, publicist and translator of Turkish descent. Co-Founder of the Central Council of ex-muslims.
Taslima Nasreen – Bangladesh-born, award-winning writer, physician, secular humanist and human rights activist. Has risen to global attention for her essays and novels with feminist views and criticism of religion.
Raif Badawi – Saudi Arabian writer, dissident, and activist, and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals. Currently suffering internment and torture at the hand of the Saudi Royal family.
Asra Nomani – Indian born journalist, 15 years with the Wall Street Journal where she was a close colleague of Daniel Pearl. Author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.
Sarah Haider – Humanist, author, speaker. Founder of Ex-Muslims of North America.
These courageous individuals risk the ultimate sacrifice in fighting the ideas that inspire ISIS. What can you do to support them?
Start by promoting them on social media. Like their Facebook accounts, follow them on Twitter, up vote their comments, share their blog posts.
Call out their detractors. When you see regressive liberals accusing them of Islamophobia, remind them that true liberals stand with the victims of Islam, not with those who believe in beating women and killing homosexuals.
Buy their books and donate to their causes. These people need money to carry on their work and to protect themselves. They are fighting against oil rich Islamists that have billions at their disposal.
Write to Universities such as Berkeley and Brandies who try to silence criticism of Islam and remind them they have lost their credibility as centers of free speech.
If you are too scared to do this under your own identity, create a pseudonym. You will be joining a long list of free thinkers in history who challenged oppressive regimes.
Defeating Islamic extremists like ISIS will require fighting their ideas. Ex-muslims are doing the heavy lifting. All you need to do is stand with them. Are you ready?