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Why the jihadis of ISIS hate us – in their own words

Dabiq is an online magazine published by ISIS, addressing Westerners, both Muslims and kafir, in English and other languages (their issues can be found here –attention, some include gory images). Its purpose is propaganda which aims to attract new members and support by Muslims in the West, as well as to boast on their achievements in the battlefield, and, by extension, to threaten and scare us for upcoming attacks, whether in the Middle East or in European cities and around the world. In other words, Dabiq presents ISIS as it sees itself and, therefore, its reading constitutes a necessary endeavor for the understanding of the ideology behind the organization’s activities. Its name derives from the Syrian city of the same name, in which the Apocalypse is supposed to start from according to the Islamic eschatology, as we read in the hadith al-Muslim 54/44: “The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq” (Romans meaning Westerners in general). The city was actually captured by ISIS in the summer of 2015.

Από το περιοδικό
Picture published in ISIS magazine, Dabiq

The 15th issue is called “Break the cross” and includes an article titled “Why we hate you and why we fight you” (you can read it here). From the first paragraph of the piece it is made clear that the jihadis’ rationale is explicitly theological, even deeming the gay nightclub that was attacked in June 2016 to be a “sodomite, Crusader” one. They continue with a listing of their reasons for hating the West, in order of importance. “We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers”, they claim, because we blaspheme against the oneness of Allah by believing in other gods or that god has a son (the Quran recognizes Jesus as a prophet but his divine nature). Our infidelities and our “devilish practices”, then, are the main reasons for their hate towards us, and not the foreign policy of the Western powers, and they justify this hatred with one of the many verses of the Quran which gives birth to hatred and animosity against infidels –“we are disassociated from you” and “there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone” are ideas which are repeated in the holy text of Islam, as are in the verse provided in the Dabiq article. “Your dis­belief is the primary reason we fight you”, they continue, offering us, as our only outlets for salvation, conversion to Islam, submission to Muslims by living as Dhimmis and paying the Jizya tax, or a temporary truce. Temporary, since the idea that jihad will not end until the whole world is Islam, is an idea shared among ISIS, bin Laden and the Quran itself, a verse of which is used once more to justify the writers’[1] rhetoric –“And fight them until there is no fitnah [paganism[2]] and until the religion, all of it, is for Al­lah”.

A second reason in their list is the secular and liberal nature of the Western societies –the separation of religion and state, which leads to the prohibition of all those which Allah allows and the approbation of all those which Allah condemns. This itself, the jihadists consider, is an attack on Allah, since it deprives him of his right to be obeyed by his subjects! Islam accepts only the sharia as a fitting system of laws for a human society, a sum of authoritarian rules attempting to control every aspect of human activity. “Legislation is not but for Allah”, says the Quran as the writers remind us, while it is considered a debauchery of secular liberalism to recognize gay rights, as is the presence of alcohol, drugs, fornication, gambling and usury. The very recognition of nations is deemed a perverted idea, alongside Christianity and atheism –Islam is a supranational ideology and the Quran deals with Christians, Jews and atheists collectively as infidels to be fought and conquered.

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Atheism alone constitutes their third reason of hatred. On the atheists’ dismissal of the existence of a Creator, even when they witness firsthand the complexity and perfection of nature, the writers don’t even bother to comment. It is merely referenced, as it is considered obviously deluded. The fact, of course, that they think atheists describe nature as a “result of accidental occurrence” proves that they don’t understand how atheists view the world or how the laws of nature work, which they so admire (but that’s another story). They call on the Quran again: “Or were they [the infidels] created by nothing, or were they the creators of themselves?”, they write, illustrating here that they share an arrogance with their corresponding Christian fanatics, which does not quite fit a religion that wants to consider itself as one of piety and peace. The paragraph ends with a promise of punishment for those who think “you only live once”, taken, once more, from the Quran: “you will surely be re­surrected; then you will surely be informed of what you did”.

Their fourth reason is the supposed crimes against Islam itself; our mockery of their faith and their prophets, our burning the Quran, and the vilification of sharia. So, while so far they have been condemning the West merely for not meeting their standards, now they claim that there is an open attack on the religion of Islam, even though it would be difficult to bring into mind any further “attack” on behalf of Westerners besides a criticism against religion; a practice which constitutes a tradition in the West and the jihadists cannot fathom. Their retaliation, as they inform us, will not be made of mottos and hashtags, but “bullets and knives”.

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The two remaining causes of hate concern, finally, the West’s foreign policy on lands where Muslims reside. The fifth one is the crimes against Muslims, including drone and jet strikes, imprisonment and torture, death and maiming of men, women and children –with a promise for revenge. Only with irony can one read the above, since ISIS is not at all interested in the well-being of Muslims, but rather of the right kind of Muslims. And only few can pass their theological test of authenticity, as is obvious in their daily declarations and actions. Let’s keep in mind that most of the victims of jihadis are Muslims themselves. How many have they imprisoned and tortured? How many have they executed? How many have they maimed for insignificant reasons (as per sharia law), how many women have they taken as sex slaves? How many infants have they killed because their parents were of the wrong denomination? One could easily imagine what they would do if they got their hands on drones and jets.

Lastly, they hate us “for invading our lands” and their aim is to repel us and drive us out of them. “Chomskyites” will surely take pleasure from this grievance of the jihadis, supposedly an obvious piece of evidence that the Islamic State is a mere reaction to West’s expansionism, imperialism or interventionism, if not its creation. But what can one assume from the claim that the lands to which the jihadis refer are “theirs”, but that ISIS constitutes the most absolute example of imperialism that the world has ever witnessed –that of the theocratic variation? In the tradition of Islam, the pious Muslims are called to simulate the life of Mohamed, who wasn’t at all alike a hippie carpenter who ended up being crucified, but was a warlord who acted exactly as we see ISIS acting today –the image we see, therefore, is not a novelty, a decadence, a degradation of society, but a regression, a relapse, a return to the “ancient glory” as created by Mohamed and carried on by the caliphs for centuries, occupying territories from Mecca to Spain and from India to Ukraine and Hungary, that dragged on until the fall of the Ottomans.

As if the writers expect from the “chomskyites” to wander on the denouement of this listing and thrown into a new anti-Western delirium, they make it clear that it is not “your foreign policies [which] are the extent of what drives our hatred”, but our infidelity. “The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, impriso­ning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our pri­mary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam”.

Το περιοδικό προσπαθεί να περάσει μια ειδυλλιακή εικόνα του χαλιφάτου. Οι τζιχαντιστές δεν φαίνεται να ενοχλούνται από τις γάτες, αλλά δεν έχουν την ίδια σχέση με τους σκύλους
The magazine attempts to present an idyllic view of the caliphate. The jihadis d not seem to take offence in thepresence of cats, in contrast to dogs

They go on to say that, in the end, the reason for fighting us is not mere punishment and deterrence, but an offering of true freedom, in this life and the next, the freedom of being enslaved to Allah[3]. “We fight you in order to bring you out from the darkness of disbelief and into the light of Islam”.

This self-righteousness of the jihadis is equaled only with the self-flagellation of the Western journalists, politicians and commentators who deny the long ago claimed motives of the former, making their actions seem irrational, senseless, one irrelevant from the other. Every terrorist act is contended as an isolated instance and detached from the ideology that unites them –Islamism- and every terrorist is deemed a “lone wolf” (how many lone wolves does a pattern consists of?). Perhaps this cognitive dissonance stems from their good intentions, so as not to demonize the entirety of Muslims, but it remains an awkward and counterproductive view of the phenomenon, which in the end makes it impossible to confront the threat; both ideologically and politically.

And if these ideologues hurried after reading the Dabiq article to say that we don’t have to believe what the jihadis tell us –it is propaganda after all-, they should consider whether they would think the same when confronted with the ideology and the intentions of Hitler in Mein Kampf. Of course the text is propagandistic, but it can only work as such if it’s also true. ISIS tries, with the use of texts like this, to enlist new members, and the members they want are as fanatic as themselves. The Islamists who perform terrorist acts in the West, even without direct contact with the Islamic State, ascribe to this exact ideology, and this is what the jihadis of ISIS want.

There are no legitimate political motives on the part of the jihadis, neither are there legitimate political reasons for their actions. There certainly aren’t any such motivations or reasons to be found in the Dabiq article. If you think there are, you’re merely projecting your own political inclinations and, perhaps, your ideology, towards a group of people who have found the meaning of life in the most dark corner of theology.

And this is what the writers wanted to make clear. As they say, they are addressing the masses who believe the “tired claim” that “Islam is a religion of peace”, to convince them that the politicians repeat this manner of speaking to gain votes and the journalists so as not to get in trouble for having said something “politically incorrect”. (And it is no accident at all that, in order to explain their hatred, they repeatedly cite verses from the Quran.) So, have all this in mind every time when after a terrorist act, performed by someone who chose the words “god is great” to be his last, journalists and citizens in the social media hurry to remind us that his actions had “nothing to do with Islam” or that what drove him to them was the interventions of the West in the Middle East. And set this hesitance against the ease by which we would know the motives of a murderer if he had shouted “heil Hitler” right before the deed.

[1] No particular writer is attributed in the magazine

[2] Christianity is deemed to be a pagan religion

[3] The Arabic word hurriya is translated as ‘liberty’ or ‘freedom’, but in the context of Islam, it means the recognition of the relationship between Allah as our lord and humans as his slaves who are completely dependent on him. Ibn Arabi has defined freedom as the “perfect slavery to Allah”.

Οι τζιχαντιστές απαριθμούν σε 'wordcloud' τους λόγους μίσους τους - απιστία, Χριστιανισμός, δημοκρατία...
The jihadis provide a wordcloud with their reasons to hate us

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