France is at War

November 16, 2015

The extremist group Islamic State (IS) has taken credit for a series of terror attacks in Paris on Friday that killed 129 people and injured hundreds more. The attacks are the deadliest on French soil since World War II, and French President François Hollande has called them “an act of war.”

In Syria, U.S. fighter jets joined this morning with the French in bombing IS targets. In Paris, authorities continue to investigate the attacks, saying they have identified the mastermind as a Belgian man living in Syria. In the United States, opponents of the Obama administration say a stronger response to IS terrorism is required.

Much is happening in France as a response to the attacks. This morning, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that the country has subsequently conducted 168 raids, detaining 23 suspects and putting more than 100 under house arrest.

Salim Benghalem, a French national, is believed to have orchestrated the attacks, while Abdelhamid Abaaoud is believed to have ordered them. The two men are thought to currently be in Syria.

In the last few months IS has begun training their fighters on a battlefield, in real-life situations, which can make them more successful terrorists.

France and the United States are founding members of NATO.

A NATO response to the attacks will undoubtedly start with an enhanced level of intelligence-sharing and special operations from the NATO nations going in and supporting the current campaign. Secondly, NATO will probably take over the Syrian bombing campaign.

In the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January, the guns were traced back to Belgium, where there has been a series of arrests in recent days. Two of the gunmen, who died in Friday’s attacks, appear to have been Belgian.

Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State. Recruits hail from Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and many more. They immigrate with the intention to fight, and many expect to die.

The Islamic State rejects peace as a matter of conviction, and its members espouse enthusiasm for mass genocide. The religious views of IS followers specify that they consider the Islamic State to be a harbinger of the imminent end of the world; furthermore, they believe that IS will play a primary and specific role in bringing it about.

I cannot stress this enough, the kind of radical fundamentalism that IS promotes matters for its terrorist strategy. IS believes in a distinct variety of Islam that puts prominence on an end times scenario. The Islamic State’s strategy is to hit Western society with frequent and devastating attacks to provoke Western governments into a declaration of open war. The Islamic State actually wants to be attacked in a very specific Syrian location of its choice.

IS has attached pronounced significance to a Syrian city near Aleppo named Dabiq. IS members passionately rejoiced when they conquered Dabiq’s strategically inconsequential grasslands, and the organization named its propaganda magazine after the town. Dabiq is basically all farmland, but IS believes that Prophet Muhammad proclaimed that the armies of Rome would set up their camp there. The armies of Islam will then meet them in Dabiq, and the battle will lead to Rome’s demise as the world comes to an end.

Everything the Islamic State does is in anticipation of this event. IS awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will start the countdown to armageddon. The Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as an article of faith, and that means it is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration while remaining confident that it will receive divine rescue if it stays true to its religious model.

The prophetic tale that predicts the encounter at Dabiq refers to the enemy as Rome. The identity of who this Rome is remains widely debated among IS membership, because the Pope no longer controls a vast military. Some members argue that Rome is the Republic of Turkey. Other IS members suggest that Rome is an infidel army, and, if that is the case, many in IS are sure that must mean the Americans… or perhaps the French.

IS has captured large portions of land in Iraq and Syria since the summer of 2014.

The Islamic State has introduced forced conscription in the territories it has conquered. They’ve been going to the heads of families as well as tribes and saying, you have to give us one son from every family. And those young men are then taken to training camps.

The Islamic State’s principal forebear, al Qaeda, constructed its identity around extraordinary terrorist attacks because it aimed to “provoke and bait” the United States into “bleeding wars” throughout the Islamic world. Its ultimate goal was to use terrorism as a mechanism of change— to undermine the status quo and weaken Middle Eastern countries—so that radicals could turn those countries into an Islamic militant paradise. The Islamic State, in contrast, isn’t interested in creating a paradise on earth. IS wants to destroy the world in order to achieve a paradise in heaven.

Al Qaeda’s brand of Islamist ideology encouraged reconsideration of earlier Islamic religious positions. For example, a chief goal of bin Laden was to defend and preserve Sunni norms and laws against Western secular encroachment. Defensive arguments within bin Laden’s Salafi movement, often referred to as jihad, were accompanied by an unusual degree of openness to departures from past Islamic analysis and understanding. These departures included a call for a more rigid conservatism while promoting a militant vision and culture unheard-of in classical Islam.

The Islamic State takes these ideological departures further. IS has styled itself a state so that it can take up what Islamic law refers to as “offensive jihad,” the forcible expansion into countries that are ruled by non-Muslims. Without a caliphate, jihadists could only interpret their actions as defending themselves, because offensive jihad is still seen as an inapplicable concept. But the waging of war to expand the caliphate is an essential duty of the caliph. As an essential duty, IS hopes that its caliphate could potentially draw in millions of Muslims more for IS’s end of the world scenario.

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Apocalyptic Jihad

December 21, 2012

As many of you know, many assertions have been made about the year 2012 in the Gregorian calendar. One of the most well-known beliefs  is that today, December 21, 2012, is supposed to be the end of the world. This idea was originally popularized by New Age devotees in the 1960s who re-imagined what they thought was ancient Mayan spirituality. Of course this is not what the ancient Mayan actually believed. This apocalyptic furor draws more from American concepts of dispensational postmillennialism and their fantasies about ancient Greek mystery cults than it does authentic Mayan prophecy and religion. But, there is a long tradition in most of the world’s religions in having a belief in an imminent end to the world. Islam is no exception, and many modern terrorist organizations and Arab insurgent groups use these tropes of Muslim religiousity to further their own ends.

Atomic Explosion

The Muslim tradition of apocalypticism comes out of an age spanning from the seventh century through the ninth century where a strong belief among the Muslims of that era in an imminent end of the world helped fuel their military conquests and empire expansion. The appearance of comets in the sky during this time followed by plagues and war fueled their speculations. Much of the Qur’an is written in an apocalyptic tenor where celestial phenomena (such as comets) and war are given as possible signs for the world’s end (Qur’an 30:1-6; 53:1, 54:1). Other verses speak to the nearness of the last hour (Qur’an 42:17; 54:1).

Hadith literature is also full of apocalyptic predictions where Muslims fighting “holy war” is understood as having an especially strong connection to the imminent end of the world (Riyadh, 2002).

The scholar Patricia Crone has stated that Hadith literature has portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a doomsday prophet sent just before the end of the world to warn those who would listen and to punish those who would not. In doing so, Crone says that Muhammad performs the first recorded jihad, a process that is supposed to dilute the hold that materialism has over converted believers

Such jihad-centric Hadiths taught that a soldier’s life was impermanent, and the real world implications of those teachings were that many Muslim soldiers during those centuries broke with and dissolved their family ties and renounced their worldly possessions. The power that came from setting the early teachings on jihad within an apocalyptic atmosphere makes clear why a connection to the end of the world was maintained in later jihadi literature: without an imminent end to the world, it would have been much more of a problematic burden for Muslim soldiers to summon the necessary stamina to achieve their conquests up through the ninth century.

Jihad has continued to play a major role in Islamic apocalyptic literature.

Apocaylptic traditions in Islam focus on Muslim wars with the Byzantines who were the only serious opponents to the early Muslim community. The early Muslims dreamed of conquering the Byzantine capital of Constantinople; thereby, completing their conquest of the entire Mediterranean basin, the territory once controlled by the Roman Empire. When these early Muslims failed to achieve their goal, conquering the basin would became another sign for the world ending in future Islamic apocalyptic writings.

The Islamic messianic figure, known as the Mahdi, is understood to complete the conquests left undone by the early Muslims. He will conquer Constantinople, Europe, India, Asia, and the rest of the undiscovered world. It is understood that the Mahdi will not forcibly convert the populations of these regions, but he will expand the Muslim empire and will rule these populations according to just (sharia) law. Muslims will be required to dedicate their lives to fighting jihad with the Mahdi, recreating the warrior caste from early Islam.

The Mahdi is prophesied to rule for either seven, nine, or nineteen years. Sunnis Muslims view the Mahdi as the successor to Muhammad; however, belief in the Mahdi is more prevalent in Shi’a Islam where he is understood to appear at the end of time.

Tales of Muslim conquests, set in both the past and the future, have created a whole additional genre of Islamic literature available in Hadith collections, and much of it is devoted to jihad and the end of the world. These writings are intended to flesh out material from the Qur’an, but they are used today along with newer interpretations of jihad to inspire (and in some cases indoctrinate) individuals to the causes of militant groups and terrorist organizations.

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