Islamic State

ISIS, The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are a hard line Islamic extremist group who has in recent months captured large swaths of territory in Syria and northern Iraq. This new group is unprecedented in, their use of brutal tactics, their goals, and perhaps the most freighting of all, their ability to mobilize foreign Muslim fighters to join their battle in Syria and Iraq. Recent counts have put the number of foreign fighters fighting for ISIS at around 3000, 150 of these are confirmed to be from Canada. There are about 50 others who have traveled to the region in recent months and are suspected of fighting for ISIS. While ISIS origins can be traced back to the US led Iraq War, there command structure and goals have drastically evolved over time. ISIS began its journey as an Al-Qaeda based affiliate fighting in the insurgency in the starting years of the Iraq War. During the 2006 troop surge designed to stop the insurgency, their current leader, Abu Al-Baghdadi was captured. He was released 6 months later, and engaged in a power struggle for Al-Qaeda in Iraq with Al-Qaeda top leadership. This power struggle was created by a raid by US Special Forces which had killed the previous leader of Iraqi Al-Qaeda. Abu Al-Baghdadi, took this as opportunity to seize control of the group, however his bid for leadership was rejected by top Al-Qaeda officials. They felt that under Baghdadi’s leadership the group was too brutal, especially against other Muslims. ISIS, in a sense, is able to accomplish objectives that Al- Al-Qaeda has been trying desperately to achieve since its entrance into the world stage as a terror group in the 90s. One of the most important goals of Al-Qaeda was to mobilize western Muslims to help join the fight. While a few westerns did go and join Al-Qaeda the number was relatively small. ISIS has been able to be successful, where Al-Qaeda failed, and that is the mobilization of a large number of western Muslims to come and fight for their goals in Iraq and Syria. Also, the goals of ISIS differ greatly from the goals of Al-Qaeda, as they claim their goal is establish a new Islamic caliphate, one that stretches from Iraq, through Syria to the Mediterranean. It can undoubtedly be said, that in the long term they wish to control the entire Middle East. This is a stark contrast to Al-Qaeda who just strives for reducing American influence in the Middle East. This fundamental difference of state building is the key for all the success this group has been able to obtain. They justify all of these under the guise of religion through the use of narrative paradigms. Their leader Abu Al-Baghdadi has been renamed Caliph Ibrahim, which is supposed to represent a passing of direct political from the prophet Mohamed. They have used Islam as a tool to justify their actions as well as validate their rule. The group’s ability to connect to western born Muslim males is unprecedented. By using the power of myth they are able to mobilize these males into action through the promise of being a part of something larger than themselves. Through giving a sense of belonging to a great cause, and through videos with high production values they are able to recruit from a wide range of countries. This kind of extremism must be fought against valiantly as it poses a great danger to not only the region, but the communities of from where these foreign fighters travel from.


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