ISIS and the theology of end-times.

March 10, 2015

“The spark has been ignited in Iraq, and its flames will grow until they burn the Crusader armies in Dabiq”
– Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Less than 3000 people live in the small Syrian town of Dabiq. It sits right in the north of the country in A’zaz district. It is an unassuming town that would command little attention, if it wasn’t for the fact that ISIS has carried out brutal beheadings, and even named its magazine ‘Dabiq’ in its honour.

When discussing the motivations for ISIS’s brutal regime, we find Western commentators quick to deflect from religious dogma, by narrowing the context to the Iraq war, or Blair, or Bush, or more recently… MI5. They insist that not all religious folk are out beheading aid workers, and so religious dogma can be dismissed, failing to apply the same logic that not all those opposed to the Iraq war are out beheading aid workers either. The importance of the geo-political context must be taken into consideration, but not at the complete dismissal of Islamic dogma. Dabiq is central to that dogma.

ISIS chose Dabiq for one very specific reason; a Sahih-Muslim Hadith states:

“The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them)”

– Dabiq is centre stage for the coming apocalypse to take place between Muslims, and Christians. A battle between Romans (whom no longer exist, and so Islamists – rather than accept that their Prophet might have been wrong, have decided “Romans” is code for “Christians”) and a resurrected Caliphate (as well as the conquest of Istanbul) is necessary to usher in the end of days. ISIS, is an end-times cult.

End times (eschatology) is central to all of the Abrahamic traditions (including offshoots – like Heaven’s Gate). The concept of the final confrontation between the chosen few, and the enemy, cannot be divorced from the religions that spawn them. They tend to see certain World events – natural and man-made – as evidence that the end is on its way. Indeed, the earliest traditions of Jesus in the Bible have him as what appears to be a man convinced that the end of time will occur within the lifetime of his followers. To this day, Christians in the US predict the World is about to end at least once a year. By the time the Biblical Jesus’ companions had died, Christians began becoming suspicious that end-times may not be on the way. Contradictory writings attributed to Paul in the Bible try to deal with that, but simply work to confuse the matter more; 2 Thessalonians sets out conditions required before the day of judgement occurs, directly contradicting 1 Thessalonians that insists that Jesus’s return would be sudden and that the Thessalonians should be prepared. By the time Islam comes along, the writers of the Qur’an make sure not to make the same mistake, and to be as teasing and ambiguous as possible:

“Lo! the Hour is surely coming. But I will to keep it hidden, that every soul may be rewarded for that which it striveth (to achieve)
Surah 20:15”

– It’s far easier if a Holy Book has God teasing – like a child – His creation. Though this is also problematic, because a truly all-knowing God would be able to look down the line and see the violent mess that His little tease had inspired, and perhaps be a little more cautious. But that’s a digression.

The arguments from all major religions for end-times – and the expectations placed on believers by their God – tend to be Theologically wide. They are divisive by their very nature. They provide – by the judgement of a divine overlord as of yet unproven to exist – a dichotomy between the morally good, waiting to be saved, and the evil non-believers deserving of the torture that awaits them. The dogma creates the extremist atmosphere, independent of the geopolitical context.

The reason ISIS chooses to murder innocent people in Dabiq, and to make sure we all know it is Dabiq, is in order to fulfill a religious prophecy of provoking the ‘Romans’ to confront the Islamic State there, bringing on the conditions for the return of Jesus, the Mahdi, and the end of times in which they will be saved. Several ISIS propaganda videos are filmed in and around the town of Dabiq for the same purpose; to fulfill a theological prophecy, providing legitimacy to their incredibly flawed cause.

This was perhaps most notable when ISIS horrifically murdered Abdul-Rahman Kassig. After the murder, the ISIS killer said:

“Here we are burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.”

– Suddenly, ‘Romans’ actually means ‘Americans’ (not at all what Muhammad supposedly said, requiring a great deal of creative rewriting of his words to justify). But it goes back further than 2014. Before his death in 2006, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq – had already alluded to the importance that Dabiq would play in the following years. In 2004 al-Zarqawi said:

“The spark has been ignited in Iraq, and its flames will grow until they burn the Crusader armies in Dabiq.”

– Iraq may have been the spark, but the fuel itself was the religious dogma that inspires such an irrational and violent desire to watch the World burn. The beheading of Western aid workers, is not in response to the Iraq war, or even the civil war in Syria, instead it is an attempt to provoke a fictional battle – rooted entirely to the context of the time period that Sahih-Muslim was put together – in order to fulfill a religious prophecy. Religion is at the very core of the hideous acts of violence that have taken place – and publicised across the World – in and around Dabiq.

In the fourth edition of the magazine ‘Dabiq’, ISIS produced an article entitled:

“The revival (of) slavery before the Hour”

– The article calls for the re-establishing of slave holding, and the kidnapping of women, before the final judgement. The implication is that out-dated religious rules must be re-established prior to the anticipated apocalypse. The consequence has been the capturing and sexual abuse of Yazidi women and girls.

It is worth noting that provoking the conditions necessary to fulfill the prophecy is not the only reason for ISIS to use Dabiq in its media propaganda, it also works as a recruiting technique. The constant reference and use of Dabiq emphasises the distinctly Islamic nature of the cause (with Hadith to back it up), by linking back to the purported words of the Prophet and highlighting the idea that the final battle is on the horizon, in the hope of enticing young, disaffected kids seeking a purpose with a divinely promised victory.

The fact that a state based almost solely on what is deemed to be the necessary rape, torture and murder bestowed upon innocent people required to bring about the end of the World, is being left to flourish in an already volatile region, is hugely unnerving. Those who adhere to the end-times theological narrative cannot be defeated simply by dismissing them as “not real Muslims” (the far-right – in bizarre agreement with Islamists – also dismiss liberal, progressive Muslims as “not real Muslims”, leaving a completely undefined religion). Nor is it acceptable to dismiss the clear religious dogma that ISIS are based upon, in order to progress a very anti-Western narrative, as many on the Western ‘liberal’ left insist upon progressing far too often. Islam as a set of ideas, words, and deeds, rooted to the time in which it sprang, must be scrutinised, its most out-dated elements detoxified, and the extremes made as undesirable as Soviet Communism is to the modern left, if groups like ISIS are to be defeated. The religious element must not be dismissed.


As the Yazidi face extermination by ISIS: Where are the Western Left?

August 7, 2014


Vian Dakheel Saeed Khadher MP making an impassioned and emotional plea in the Iraqi Parliament for humanitarian solidarity in confronting the extermination of the Yazidi population by ISIS.

Where are the protests in the streets of London and beyond for the people trapped on Sinjar? Where is the Western outrage? Where is the solidarity movement? Where are the angry demands for the right to return for the thousands displaced from their stolen lands? Where is Mehdi Hasan (currently Tweeting his distaste at ‘Conservative Friends of Israel’)? Where is Owen Jones (currently blaming the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East on the war in Iraq, obviously)? Where are the Ministerial resignations from a government remaining silent on constant torture, beheadings, and mass slaughters? Where are the ‘Free Iraq’ banners? Where is the pressure on the UN to uphold its human rights declaration and protect the most vulnerable? Where are the constant stream of images showing the grotesque result of what is slowly turning into a genocide? Where is the solidarity with the Kurds resisting ISIS? Will the Galloway’s of the World be cynically using the slaughter of the Yazidi people as a badly masked pretext to express how much they dislike Blair again? What use is a modern left that traditionally transcended international borders, if it now picks and chooses its relentless fight for basic human rights, based entirely on that population’s relation to US/UK foreign policy? The crisis in Syria and Iraq with ISIS is quickly highlighting the failures of the 21st Century Western Galloway-left’s outrage machine. It is a machine that is focused entirely on expressing its distaste for the US/Israel/Blair and will seemingly, and without a sense of shame, use any crisis to highlight that distaste. It is a left I no longer identify with.

The quickness in which the Western left springs into collective action became apparent over the past two weeks, when it responded with pictures, demands, articles, leaflets, debates, protests, and pressure over Israel’s violent incursion into Gaza and the awful human suffering that followed. This response from the Western left was admirable at times, and manipulative and slightly unsettling at others. It saw Mo Ansar try to underplay the effects of Hamas’s rockets. It also saw writers like Mehdi Hasan and musicians like Brian Eno try to justify a lack of anything close to a similar reaction to any other humanitarian crisis when that crisis doesn’t directly involve Israel or the US. A cynical attempt to justify singling out people, based on incredibly faulty, desperate logic, that may lead one to conclude that behind the poor justifications, lies the stench of bigotry. Because right now, ISIS has captured an area larger than Great Britain, controlling the lives of 6,000,000 people, whilst tens of thousands of innocent human beings – many children – from a religious minority are stuck on Mount Sinjar, threatened with starvation and dehydration if they stay, or execution for apostasy by ISIS if they leave. The women and young girls face enslavement. The men face slaughter. A further 130,000 have fled to the Kurdish north to escape death, forcing a humanitarian refugee crisis in the north of Iraq. Amnesty has noted how desperate the displaced people are for aid in the region. Unicef noted the deaths of 40 children as a result of dehydration and violence. This isn’t a crisis that the World can ignore. As ISIS spreads its net further, more human lives will absolutely fall into its hands to be crushed. It threatens to engulf the region, and beyond, and we have seen what this group is capable of. It is a crisis of massive proportions, and through it all, there is barely a mention from the Galloway, Jones, Hasan Western Left, unless they can find a way to use the human suffering to express their dislike of Blair or the US. A whole new meaning to the term ‘disproportionate response’.

After witnessing how quickly people can mobilise – especially in the age of social media – when it came to the crisis in Gaza and the constant stream of anger from protesters across the World, the quickness by which images were shared (some manipulated from previous conflicts) to create a sense of outrage, article after article, news report after news report, and international pressure rightly put on Israel for its violent incursion, I am left wondering why that Western liberal left moral compass has now been securely locked away during one of the biggest humanitarian crises in living memory.


Iraq: Don’t blame Blair. Blame sectarianism.

June 17, 2014

There seems to be a slight undertone of glee in the writings of the rabidly anti-Blair brigade since ISIS began its hideous incursion into Iraq a couple of weeks ago. A sort of “We told you so” smugness to their tone. Owen Jones’s article for The Guardian is horribly self serving. This attitude is then qualified with an incredibly simplistic analysis that seems to draw a direct line from Blair in 2003 (the beginning of all history), to ISIS in 2014. To do this, requires ignoring the Arab Spring, it requires ignoring ISIS’s earlier incarnation in 2000 under a different name whose goal was to overthrow “UnIslamic” regimes in the Middle East before, it requires ignoring a power play between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Syria, it requires ignoring the policies of al-Maliki and a largely Shi’ite heavy-handed military, it requires ignoring the decades long desire for a resurrected Caliphate from militant groups across the World, it requires ignoring the Syrian civil war in its entirety and the tensions between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, it ignores the fact that most ISIS fighters are Syrian, and most of all it requires stopping at 2003, rather than perhaps laying an ounce of the blame at the door of an historically militant Sunni inability to accept that Shi’ite Muslims have a right to life and participation in government. It’s as reasonable an assessment, as blaming Ali and Abu Bakr.

April this year marked the 20th anniversary of the genocide that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon insisted the UN should be ashamed for not preventing. Rwanda was the very epitome of what happens when dogmatic non-intervention is adopted. The World has seemingly learnt nothing in those 20 years, given that the the international community is largely ignoring another genocide on the horizon, in which intolerant Sunni extremists attempt to wipe Shia Muslims from the face of the planet knowing full well that Western powers are chained by their own internal soul searching over the invasion of Iraq, rather than internally soul searching since the sectarian genocide in Rwanda.

This is a problem that has existed for generations, is perpetuated by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, was utilised by Saddam, was not adequately addressed at the constituting of a new Iraq, leads to reprisal attacks, and has now fallen into the hands of ISIS. It did not begin in 2003. In fact, in June 1992, Human Rights Watch noted:

“In Karbala, as in al-Najaf, there were reports that Shi’a clerics found walking on the streets were rounded up and never seen again.”

– A year earlier, and three years before Blair became leader of the Labour Party in the UK, Saddam had been responsible for – with Taha Yassin Ramadan overseeing – the hideous massacre of around 100,000 Shi’ite Muslims in and around Karbala and al-Najaf and had previously restricted pilgrimage in Karbala (a holy Shi’ite city) to Iraqi citizens only. In all, The New York Times reported that Saddam was responsible for around 1,000,000 deaths of his own people; a figure that permits the term ‘genocide’. During the repressions, al-Najaf was hit heavily, including the Shi’ite shrine of tomb of the Imam Ali, which Saddam’s security forces didn’t seem to care too much for. Karbala was opened up in 2004 to Shi’ite pilgrims, with over 1,000,000 Shia from all over the World attending for the first time, but the day was marred by the brutal slaughter of many Shi’ite pilgrims, by car bombs and rocket fire planted by a group led by Sunni anti-Shia Abu Abdallah al Hassan Ben Mahmoud. The slaughter of the Shia is a continuation of supremacist Sunni attitudes. The Shia genocide is not new. It was simply institutionalised and easily hidden under the rule of Saddam.

Ten years earlier, in 1982, Saddam had ordered the rounding up of 393 men, and 394 women, and children, on suspicion of being part of a Shia uprising in Dujail that attempted to assassinate him. Some died in captivity after taking a beating by security forces, others were exiled. Hundreds were routinely tortured, and executed, including ten children between the ages of 11 and 17, who were held in secret, and executed in 1989.

In Balochistan in 2011, 29 Shia Muslims were murdered by Islamist terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, whose main reason for being, is to murder Shia Muslims where ever they find them. Some estimate that around 30,000 Shia have fled Balochistan because they feel threatened, and Pakistan refuses to acknowledge the problem, largely due to their ties with Saudi Arabia. This is reflected in Pakistan’s treatment of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s leader Malik Ishaq, who is routinely arrested and released instantly, despite his clear involvement in the deaths of hundreds.

In 2012, armed Hamas men stormed a gathering of Shi’ite worshipers, brutally assaulted them, and continued the attack even as the victims were on their way to hospital. Incidentally, George Galloway spent Sunday on Radio 4 denouncing Blair for the troubles in Iraq, rather than acknowledging that funding Hamas – as they perpetuate a narrative of violent sectarianism, and anti-Shia hate – to the tune of £25,000 might not have helped matters either.

Today coordinated attacks against Shi’ite communities simply for not being Sunni continues, and not just in Iraq. Shi’ites in Parachinar, Pakistan have been the focus of violent attacks from Sunni extremists for years. In July 2013, extremists deliberately targeted Shi’ite mosques in a town next to the market place, because families were out shopping for Iftar. Instead of a family day out at the market, 56 people were killed, and another 100 injured in coordinated bomb blasts simply for being Shia. In fact, between January 2012, and July 2013, over 635 Shia have been killed in Pakistan, in separate attacks.

It isn’t just the Middle East either. Indeed, it is illegal in Malaysia for Shia to promote their faith. Middle Eastern academic Vali Nasr insists that Shia living in Bahrain are basically living under a system of apartheid (largely ignored by the Western left, who focus the term ‘apartheid’ on Israel only). Similarly, Shia are often accused of crimes they didn’t commit in Saudi Arabia and imprisoned, a country that also bans Shia from leading government positions. Shia in Saudi Arabia also have to live with the fact that school books refer to their interpretation of their faith as a heresy. All over the Middle East, Shia Muslims are disenfranchised, abused, tortured, oppressed, and murdered. It’s been going on for years, and ignored for those same years.

Today, the growth of ISIS – to the point in which they are a threat to the World, not just Iraq – and the mentality and anti-Shia hate – as well as a rabid desire to reconstitute a Caliphate – that drives groups like them did not begin in March 2003. It has a long and deep history, it is rooted in intolerant religious sectarianism autonomous of Western foreign policy, Saddam’s Iraq made it the order of the day, Pakistan turns its head and ignores the problem for global political reasons, Saudi Arabia perpetuates it, a Galloway funded Hamas plays on it, Iraq’s government has left it to fester, scripture is used to justify it, and the complexity of this is slowly leading to a Rwandan-like genocide, as an international left that cared not an ounce when Saddam was doing it, nor takes a moment to consider its poison in Saudi Arabia, haven’t mentioned the attacks in Pakistan, do not know the name of liberal, secular, democrats fighting for a just and peaceful Iraq, but suddenly developed a sense of humanity the moment they recognised the potential to ceaselessly denounce Blair as the principle architect of the problem.

The end of the war in Iraq failed to provide a substantial constitutional framework for the institutional protection and political equality and a fair distribution of power between both Shia and Sunni minorities in different parts of the country and on local levels. The scales tip from one sect, to another, and a balance seems to evade Iraq’s politics. It was a key issue in providing the base for a working democracy, and it was largely mishandled, and a heavy handed Shi’ite military seems now to be viewed with contempt by Sunni minorities feeling alienated. For years Anbar province has complained that Maliki’s government in Baghdad ignored them and that they had been practically left out of the political process. So they rebelled, some joined militant Al Qaeda inspired groups, and Maliki inflamed the sectarianism by referring to all of them as al-Qaeda, rather than refusing to acknowledge his own shortcomings. He ignored the fact that the same Anbar province largely supported the US surge in 2007. Again, this has nothing to do with Blair, and everything to do with religious sectarianism and a failure to address the issue on a political level. It is not the fault of the Iraq war that Iraq now slips back into sectarian violence. It is both global inaction in Syria, and the deficiencies in the democratic settlement that require immediate redress, because Iraq still deserves a safe, democratic institutional framework that caters for all, rather than leaving it to fall into the hands of violent Theocratic thugs. For the West to leave Iraq to burn, is to tacitly agree with ISIS that Iraq cannot handle democracy, human rights and political equality, and can only be controlled by dictatorship.