How can we defeat ISIS? How do you overcome an ideological foe? This is a complicated topic and will require a multi-part discussion. This first installment is about knowing and understanding your enemy.
PART ONE: KNOWING THE ENEMY
On December 6, 2015 a few days after the massacre in San Bernadino, President Obama outlined his suggestions about ISIS. His plan for defeating ISIS left most Americans looking for other solutions. Presidential candidates Cruz and Trump have let their opinions be known as well, but all these ideas just seem lacking to me. So I have decided to provide the Church with my thoughts on how Christians should proceed.
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I think our political leaders (Obama, Cruz, Trump, etc.) realize as most Americans do that we are facing an enemy. The reason their suggestions are insuccifient, however, is because they really don’t know and can’t articulate who the “enemy” truly is. If we are going to defeat a foe, we need to know and understand that foe. ISIS is not the “JV” team that President Obama labeled them only two short years ago in Jan. 2014. They have proven much more dangerous than that. IMO, they are also not the final expression of the “enemy” either. These are days of deception and the true “enemy” is lying hidden to many. So defeating ISIS means more than incapacitating the Islamic State. Like the myth of the “Hydra” in Greek mythology, we may cut off this head (ISIS) only to have it grow two more back!
This article is the first of a three part series on “Defeating ISIS” which covers many aspects of this complex issue.
But ISIS is where we must start because it is the visible expression of the enemy. We need to learn all we can about them. Understanding the enemy will help us decide what the proper response should be in regard to the refugee crisis, terrorism, relations with Muslims, etc.
The “Islamic State,” is a rogue state based on and governed by an ideology: “Orthodox Islam.” Islam is an ideology based on a book (the Koran) and an example of a man’s life (Mohammed). The goal of this ideology is to implement Sharia Law world-wide and to encourage the worship of Allah by every person on the planet. The people who follow this ideology believe in their false god in the same way Christians believe in the true God. IMO, you cannot carpet bomb an ideology, you cannot invade an ideology. You must prove the ideology inferior to another ideology. In this case, one based on a book (the Bible) and a man (Jesus). So if we are going to ultimately defeat ISIS, we need to know and understand Orthodox Islam, the ideology.
ISIS is governed as an Islamic Caliphate. A Caliphate is a totalitarian Islamic government under Sharia Law and governed by a Caliph. The Caliph is more than just the political leader of the Islamic government, he is the religious leader as well, sort of a combination of Pope and President. Islam teaches that once a Caliphate is established, it is the obligation of all faithful Muslims to obey the Caliph, their political and spiritual leader. To orthodox Muslims, to die without first pledging alligience (baya’a) to the Caliph is to die in unbelief. Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi, who is the current Caliph is one of a long line of Caliphs that stretch back to the days of Mohammed (the second of whom was named Abu Bakr incidently). Unlike most Caliphs since 1000 AD, Al-Bagdadi is from the tribe of Mohammed himself which Muslims believe is necessary for any true Caliph. Despite this, he has only been recognized by a tiny minority of Muslims. Much of what we see ISIS doing is trying to establish his credibility to be the Caliph of all the Muslims. He wants Muslims to see that the actions he has ordered are consistent with the Koran and consistent with the life of Mohammed.
When Mohammed won a victory in Medina, he caused his defeated enemies to dig a trench. He then slaughtered them and buried them in the trench. When ISIS captured Mosul in Iraq, they did the identical thing to the captured Iraqi soldiers. They also videotaped it so Muslims world-wide could see they were following in the footsteps of Mohammed. This was to build Al-Bagdadi’s credibility to be Caliph. One of the primary reasons for all of ISIS’s actions and videos of those actions is to develop this credibility.
Al-Bagdadi will probably never achieve this credibility with those with whom it really counts: the Sunni clerics and also the Shia (primarily Iran). The Sunni believe that a true Caliph needs to be elected by all Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood are looking for a re-establishment of the Ottoman Empire to be the Caliphate. The Shia believe he is to be an Iman appointed by God. It is therefore highly unlikely that ISIS and al-Bagdadi will be able to convince these groups to pledge alliegence to him.
However, the Caliphate “cat is out of the bag.” It is my opinion that even if ISIS is defeated, the Caliphate will continue to evolve and morph until it finally forms the Beast Empire that will torment the world during the 70th Week of Daniel. If I am correct about this, the emergence of the Caliphate in June 2014 becomes very significant.
The Religion of Peace
ISIS is attempting to model “Orthodox Islam,” and Islam says they are a “religion of peace,” I assume they are completely sincere when they state this. But we need to understand that they don’t consider peace like a westerner would. They only mean that peace will come after they have conquered the world and all people submit to Allah and Sharia Law. The Koran prescribes violence until then. This is an incredibly important nuance to understand and explain to others. Muslims only tell the world half the story.
Irish Muslim leader, Raied al-Wazzan, who has brought charges against an Irish Pastor who dared preach against Islam had this to say about the city of Mosul in Iraq after ISIS conquered it:
Mosul, where jihadists have murdered or expelled all of the city’s 2,000-year-old, 60,000-strong Christian community, is “the most peaceful city in the world . . . the Islamic State came to protect a section of society that had been marginalised.”
This Muslim leader further stated that Sunni Muslims (who agree with ISIS) could now walk the streets of Mosul without fear. This is the “peace” Muslims claim: totalitarian control and the conversion or murder of Christians and everyone else who doesn’t pledge submission to the Caliph. That is the peace they are looking for. Islam is the most violent ideology on the planet towards those who don’t submit to it.
This aspect of Islam is challenging to Christians who don’t want to believe that the Muslims they befriend and work with accept this violent ideology. The correct answer is that all don’t. There is a reform movement in Islam that attempts to distance itself from “Orthodox Islam,” because human conscience naturally rejects violence against innocents. However, it is important to understand that these reformers are rejecting their own scriptures and the “model” life of their prophet.
Although most Muslims are reform Islamists, a quick study of Islamic based governments (Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.) show the governments accept and follow most of the traditional Sharia Law at a societal level. Additionally a 2013 Pew Research Study has shown that although a majority of Muslims world-wide are “reform,” the number of Orthodox Islamists is substantially larger than the 0.1% USA President Obama has claimed. Here are some statistics about Islamic beliefs from that study of 39 countries:
|Islamic Belief||% of Muslims Favoring|
|Execution of those leaving the Faith||27%|
These are radical beliefs held by over 300 million people world-wide! Shockingly even in the USA, 26% of Muslims under 30 favor suicide bombing of innocents to acheive politcal causes! This is not a majority, but a very substantial percentage of all Muslims.
That is why the rise of a new Caliphate is so dangerous. There has not been a Caliphate on the earth since 1924 when the Allied forces broke up the Ottoman Empire. Now that there is one, there will be religious pressure on all Muslims to pledge allegience to a Caliph and accept the more radical Orthodox tenets.
Additionally, the presence of a Caliph allows Muslims to begin “offensive” jihad; to agressively attack non-Muslim lands. Participating in war to expand the Caliphate is required by their law.
An additional aspect of a Caliphate is that they are not permitted to join the UN. They believe this is accepting a power beyond Allah. This is an interesting concept for those believing the UN will be the Beast.
In addition to attempting to institute and govern under “Orthodox Islam,” ISIS is also opperating under a belief that we are living in the end times and that ISIS will help usher in an Islamic “Day of Judgment.” This also creates an extemely unstable world-wide environment. Many western journalists have labeled ISIS a “suicide cult” bent on establishing an environment of chaos, but even the most conservative journalists underplay ISIS’s desire to bring on the end of the world as we know it.
ISIS’s literature and even their coins describe a “prophetic methodology,” and Islamic prophecy drives their organization. Central to those beliefs is a prophecy that Islam will defeat the Roman (they interpret this as “western infidel”) armies in a battle around the town of Dabiq, Syria. Much of their strategy is designed around luring western armies into ground combat to fulfill this prophecy. They also believe that they will sac and conquer Istanbul, but then be beaten back by the armies of the Muslim Antichrist (this is the Antichrist of their scriptures NOT our Antichrist.) They further believe that this Muslim Antichrist will be defeated when only a handful of jihadists remain alive. This aspect of ISIS’s belief give all the jihadists as sense of fighting for an ulitmate cause and a sense of ultimate coming martrydom. This is a dangerous combination.
Is ISIS Islamic?
As we stated, ISIS is attempting to implement “Orthodox Islam” as defined in the Koran and as lived by the example of the life of Mohammed. Most westerners state that “Orthodox Islam” is just a radical sub-set of the religion of Islam, and that “true Islam” is peaceful like most other religions of the world. For this reason, most westerners discount ISIS as not being “Islamic.” This is highly problematic. All Muslims have to do is look at their scriptures to see that ISIS is fulfilling the Koran to an extent that no other nation state has for a 1000 years. Being classically Islamic is ISIS’s greatest recruiting strength. Discounting it as some westerners do as non-Islamic is probably the worst thing that we can do and it only incites more radical adherance to Islam.
The real question should be “is Islam a viable choice in today’s world?” In order to answer that we need to understand more about the religion and ideology of Islam.
Do we worship the same God?
Muslim scriptures explictly say that they worship the same God as the Christians and Jews. In addition most westerners (including many Christians) believe that because Muslim scriptures have some of the same characters as we do in our Bibles (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jesus) that they also worship YHWH. Muslims accept the Torah and the Gospels as divinly inspired, and additionally the Pope (who holds many heretical concepts BTW) has stated Muslims worship our same God.
They do not our same God, however, contrary to what the Pope has stated. This is an incredibly important nuance to understand and communicate. To agree that we worship the same God is to support their scriptures and deny the truth of ours!! Be prepared to face persecution over this issue, however. It is coming. Be armed with a strong understanding of this issue so you can answer the culture.
- Islam has rewritten our scriptures and replaced them with counterfits. We know the true God through scripture. The “god” Islam worships cannot be the same as ours if the scriptures are different and even contradictory to ours.
- This is especially true of the nature of Jesus. Islam claims he was only a prophet and is not the son of God. John 2:22 tells us those who deny the Father and the Son are Antichrist. Christians beleive Jesus is God.
- Jews and Christians pray to God as our Father, an intitmate title. Muslims reject this view and consider Allah a creator who is distant.
- Based on the Islamic re-writing of scripture, the attributes of God are different in Islam. Our scriptures teach God is love. Jesus teaches “love your enemies, do good to those that hate you.” Allah prescribes violence against his enemies. Allah cannot be the same god as YHWH if he has different attributes.
- We beleive our God is “one” (Deut 6:6 “hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Heb.: ECHAD). Our belief of “oneness” is a trinity, however. Most of the first uses of the Hebrew word ECHAD in the Bible refer to a unity of oneness with a multiplicity of individual things. Gen. 1:5 talks about evening and morning making up ONE day, Gen. 1:9 speaks of all the water being gathered into ONE place, Gen. 2:24 speaks of Adam and Eve becoming ONE flesh. In the same way the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are ONE God. Muslims believe Allah is a single individual. This difference over the very nature of who God is explicitly shows they cannot be the same. Jesus is God. They don’t believe that so obviously they don’t worship the same God.
- Finally, I hope you notice that Islam does not honor the Holy Name (YHWH) or the Name above all names (Yehoshua or Jesus). They have renamed God and our Lord as “Allah” and “Isa.” This is not accidental. They cannot be same beings.
I recommend three levels of explanation of this issue: one for other Christians, one for secular humanists, and one for Muslims. When explaining this to Christians use all six points above. When explaining this to secularists I suggest the simple explanation, “Christians believe Jesus is God. Muslims do not.” Go into more detail only if needed.
Muslim scriptures tell Muslims that they worship the same God we do, so to blatantly tell them otherwise is to profane their scriptures. In a future installment of this series of articles we will explain how to discuss this issue with Muslims so as to maximize your opportunity for evangelism. But for now know that we worship different Gods and have radically different scriptures.
Taqiyya is a policy prescribed by the Koran that permits a Muslim to lie to a non-Muslim to deceive them if it furthers the cause of Islam. They are even permitted to lie about their faith and pose as a Christian. This is contrary to nearly all other religions that condemn lying. This is yet another aspect of Islam that confuses westerners who expect its adherants to value honesty.
The Koran has hundreds of contradictory verses
The Koran contradicts itself continually. This is another aspect of Islam that is difficult for Christians to understand. Our God, YHWH, is the same yesterday, today and forever. Every verse of our scriptures is consistent with the rest. Islam is not that way. The writers of the Koran understood this. For this reason, the Koran claims that later verses abrogate or replace earlier verses. Since the later verses are the violent ones, a Muslim can quote a “peaceful” sounding earlier verse all the while knowing that it has been abrogated by a later violent one. They do this to deceive the non-Muslim into believing Islam teaches peace.
An example of this deceptive practice (Taqiyya) by Islamists is the use of verse Sura 5:32 that is quoted (actually misquoted) to “prove” Islam doesn’t condone killing.
“whosoever killeth a human being… it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.”
This certainly seems like it states Islam doesn’t condone killing. However close examination of the first part of the verse and the following verse (Sura 5:33) show this to be in error.
“For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind . . . The only reward for those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.”
What a difference this full quoting of the passage makes! First notice it is the “Children of Israel” who are prohibited from killing not Muslims (this section of the verse quotes from the Hebrew Mishna BTW). Instead Muslims are instructed to kill, crucify, and cut off hands and feet of those who make war on Allah!
This understanding is very important. News corporation CNN quoted (misquoted) Sura 5:32 after the Fort Hood masacre to claim Islam was not responsible and was a peaceful religion. This verse is also frequently misquoted online to defend Islam. You are now equipped to provide a proper answer.
Muslims are victims of Islam
The final aspect of Islam that even many conservative Christians miss is that the greatest victims of Islam are the Muslims themselves who are imprisoned by this ideology and condemned to hell unless they repent. We need to work to free them. As we continue to look at defeating ISIS we must never forget his key fact: Muslims are not the enemy of God. God loves them and desires all to repent. This is the most important aspect of all.
So in conclusion,ISIS is attempting to live out perfect “Orthodox Islam.” Their primary purpose in videotaping their horiffic slaughters is to build credibility for their Caliph and rogue nation. They are attempting to demonstrate to the Muslims of the world that they are true followers of this ideology and thus recruit them into obedience and loyalty to ISIS.
In Part Two of this series we will examine what the Bible says about ISIS then in Part Three we will examine what Christians can and should do right now to combat this evil.