ISIS, and the twisted use of social media, ISIS

ISIS, a self-proclaimed Islamic
state, is a wealthy terrorist group that defies the reputation of the Fertile
Crescent. What was once the “cradle of civilization,” is now a hotspot of ISIS
terrorist activity. ISIS has begun to make headlines in the news for the
continued violence that they continue to spread throughout the Middle East.
Through the combination of: barbarism, military skill, strong religious
beliefs, and the twisted use of social media, ISIS has become one of the most
notorious terrorist groups in the world, and the actions of this group of
outlaws have prompted reactions from various world leaders. If ISIS is not
combatted, they could become powerful enough to wreak havoc amongst the entirety
of the Middle East.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,
more commonly known as ISIS, is an Islamic jihadist group that has recently
gained notoriety. ISIS was formed from former members of the terrorist group,
Al Qaeda, who claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. They started in
2004, and became known by the name ‘ISIS’ in 2013. They have only been gaining
recognition recently because of the fact that they are winning. They are led by
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The majority of ISIS members are Sunni Muslims, who are
the largest branch of Muslim and have been involved in sectarian violence
against Shi’a Muslims, who have a different ideology and have previously held
power in Iraq and Syria. They were one of many rebel groups who took and are
still taking part in uprisings against the government. ISIS used the confusion
created from the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars to their advantage and managed to
gain control as a result of all of the chaos.

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ISIL is a theocracy, proto-state and
a Salafi or Wahhabi group.  It follows an
extremist interpretation of Islam, promotes religious violence, and regards
Muslims who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or
apostates.  According to Hayder al Khoei,
ISIL’s philosophy is represented by the symbolism in the Black Standard variant
of the legendary battle flag of Prophet Muhammad that it has adopted: the flag
shows the Seal of Muhammad within a white circle, with the phrase above it,
“There is no God but Allah”.

Since at least 2004, a significant
goal of the group has been the foundation of a Sunni Islamic state.  Specifically, ISIL has sought to establish
itself as a caliphate, an Islamic state led by a group of religious authorities
under a supreme leader—the caliph—who is believed to be the successor to Prophet
Muhammad.  In June 2014, ISIL published a
document in which it claimed to have traced the lineage of its leader
al-Baghdadi back to Muhammad,  and upon
proclaiming a new caliphate on 29 June, the group appointed al-Baghdadi as its
caliph. As caliph, he demands the allegiance of all devout Muslims worldwide,
according to Islamic jurisprudence. ISIL has detailed its goals in its Dabiq
magazine, saying it will continue to seize land and take over the entire Earth
until its: Blessed flag…covers all eastern and western extents of the Earth,
filling the world with the truth and justice of Islam and putting an end to the
falsehood and tyranny of jahiliyyah state of ignorance, even if American and
its coalition despise such.  According to
German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, who spent ten days embedded with ISIL in
Mosul, the view that he kept hearing was that ISIL wants to “conquer the world”
and all who do not believe in the group’s interpretation of the Koran will be
killed. Todenhöfer was struck by the ISIL fighters’ belief that “all religions
who agree with democracy have to die”, and by their “incredible
enthusiasm”—including enthusiasm for killing “hundreds of
millions” of people.

According to Jason Burke, a
journalist writing on Jihadi Salafism, ISIL’s goal is to “terrorize,
mobilize, and polarize”. Their efforts to terrorize are intended to
intimidate civilian populations and force governments of the target enemy
“to make rash decisions that they otherwise would not choose”.
Mobilize its supporters by motivating them with, for example, spectacular
deadly attacks on enemy soil such as the November 2015 Paris attacks. Polarize
by driving Muslim populations—particularly in the West—away from their
governments, thus increasing the appeal of the ISIS caliphate among them.
“Eliminate neutral parties through either absorption or elimination”.

The group is headed and run by Abu
Bakr al-Baghdadi, with a cabinet of advisers. There are two deputy leaders, Abu
Muslim al-Turkmani (KIA) for Iraq and Abu Ali al-Anbari for Syria, and 12 local
governors in Iraq and Syria. A third man, Abu Ala al-Afri, is also believed to
hold a prominent position within the group, having been rumored to be the
deputy leader of ISIL. All three are believed to be ethnic Turkmen. The former
Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was also said to have had senior Turkmen within
his inner circle.  While al-Baghdadi has
told followers to “advise me when I err” in sermons, according to
observers “any threat, opposition, or even contradiction is instantly
eradicated”. Beneath the leaders are councils on finance, leadership,
military matters, legal matters—including decisions on executions—foreign
fighters’ assistance, security, intelligence and media. In addition, a shura
council has the task of ensuring that all decisions made by the governors and
councils comply with the group’s interpretation of sharia.

According to a 2015 study by the
Financial Action Task Force, ISIL’s five primary sources of revenue are as
followed (listed in order of significance): proceeds from the occupation of
territory (including control of banks, oil and gas reservoirs, taxation,
extortion, and robbery of economic assets), kidnapping for ransom, donations
from Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, often disguised as meant for “humanitarian
charity”, material support provided by foreign fighters and fundraising
through modern communication networks.

In 2014, the RAND Corporation
analyzed ISIL’s funding sources from documents captured between 2005 and 2010.
It found that outside donations amounted to only 5% of the group’s operating
budgets, and that cells inside Iraq were required to send up to 20% of the
income generated from kidnapping, extortion rackets and other activities to the
next level of the group’s leadership, which would then redistribute the funds
to provincial or local cells that were in difficulties or needed money to
conduct attacks.

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