The term “jihad” is likely to become more common as ISIS wages its war, seeking sympathizers to grow their ranks. What does jihad actually mean? According to dictionary.com, a jihad is “any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle.” The Islam interpretation means “a holy war against infidels undertaken by Muslims in defense of the Islamic faith,” or “the personal struggle of the individual believer against evil and persecution.”
In the mission of jihad, ISIS publishes Dabiq, an online magazine in English. Their first issue declared that their ultimate goal is to “take over a good chunk of the Middle East – if not the entire Muslim world,” reported by CNN in mid-October. Using this magazine, they state to the readers that “a new era has arrived” for Muslims.
Articles contained in the issues of Dabiq (published monthly) use religion to rationalize the actions of ISIS, and strive to reassure readers that ISIS is an actual state (the Islamic State) that will provide social services and reconstruct critical infrastructure. It also attempts to point out the virtues of ISIS, while providing updates about the groups’ military campaigns.
CNN also reported about a Kurdish prison holding former ISIS fighters in their cells. The reporter spoke to a prisoner named Suleiman, who said that ISIS threatened the safety of his family, forcing him to join their ranks. He was offered $3,600 to detonate a remote control car bomb, believing he was fighting for Islam and justice. Then he stated, “They (ISIS) were lying to us. They took advantage of our minds and our poverty.”
Another fighter, Kareem, said he was given $2,000 to fight alongside ISIS on the Syrian frontlines for over a year. He had scars on his stomach and arms, and claimed that ISIS drugged him and other fighters before they were sent into battle so they wouldn’t care if they lived or died.
These prisoners appeared to know little about what is going on in the outside world, and had no clue about the U.S. led coalition. The former fighters acknowledged it was a mistake to join ISIS, but their Kurdish guards believe that if they were to let their prisoners free, they would rejoin ISIS.
A former U.S. soldier Jordan Matson, from Wisconsin, recently went to be a volunteer fighter for the Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. He was discharged from the U.S. Army in 2007. Due to problems with his record, the military will not let him re-enlist.
He contacted YPG through Facebook, determined to help out. “Someone has to do it,” Matson remarked. “If we don’t fight, ISIS will grow; they will become even more well-funded, and they will push their agenda.” After only a couple of days fighting on the Kurdish side, he was injured. While recovering, he is using social media to recruit more help for YPG.
Matson commented that he’s had a lot of response from ex-military personnel from Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, and other countries. He said, “They’ve been asking.” People from those countries don’t want to watch what is happening. They know ISIS has threatened their countries and that ISIS will continue to push their agenda on other nations as long as they can.
CNN reported that the United States has started providing air support to YPG fighters who are trying to defend the Syrian border town of Kobani. Matson stated that the air strikes have helped shift the balance of power, but emphasized that a lot more work still needs to be done.
ISIS continues to use social media propaganda tactics to increase their ranks from all over the world. Supporters of ISIS respond in-kind. British photojournalist, John Cantlie – who has been a prisoner of ISIS – appears in a video that looks like a mock current affairs series, reported online by the Guardian. They’ve recorded at least three episodes that the Guardian likens to Newsnight.
It appears that ISIS is attempting to make their hostage videos more professional and more entertaining, even to the extent of resembling American Reality TV – ISIS style. Other recordings look like a jihadi travel show, where ISIS fighters from other countries talk about how happy they are to be there.
The Guardian quoted Abu Abdullah al-Habashi, from Britain, saying, “I don’t think there’s anything better than living in the land of khilafah.” He continues, “We don’t need any democracy. We don’t need any communism or anything like that. All we need is sharia.”
- Khilafah refers to a civil and religious leader of a Muslim state considered to be a representative of Allah on earth. Many radical Muslims believe a Khalifah will unite all Islamic lands and people and subjugate the rest of the world.
- Sharia is the code of law derived from the Koran and from the teachings and example of Mohammed. It is only applicable to Muslims. Under Islamic law there is no separation of church and state.
– information found at www.audioenglish.org/dictionary/khalifah.htm
A recruitment video for ISIS on YouTube contains edited clips from the well-known game, Grand Theft Auto, and states, “Your games which are producing from you, we do the same actions in the battlefields!! [sic]” This is just another of many examples used by ISIS as reported by The Guardian. They also state, “ISIS is in competition with western news channels, Hollywood movies, reality shows, even music video, and it has adopted their vocabulary.”
ISIS’s use of this type of sophisticated social and global media is designed with two goals. They want to provoke the United States and its allies, and they want to recruit from outside of the Middle East – and it is working.
It is believed that the October attacks in Canada and New York were likely inspired by such ISIS propaganda. The United States Military has also warned that law enforcement officers and service members are legitimate targets, instructing the troops to keep a low profile and avoid public affiliation with the military.
Rumors have also sparked about the possibility of ISIS weaponizing Ebola. Spanish and British intelligence groups have reported hearing “chatter,” warning that they believe ISIS may try to infect human carriers with the Ebola virus. However, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, does not believe this to be a credible threat.
Amanda Teckman, who has a master’s degree in diplomacy and international relations, commented, “Just because this is not probable for ISIS, I do believe others will at least contemplate using such suicide infectors.” However, Nicholas G. Evans, bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, doesn’t believe that Ebola is a “viable bioweapon candidate.”
He explains, “Ebola does not spread quickly, and is only infectious when symptoms are shown. A terrorist who wants to infect others isn’t likely to be functional enough to run around spreading the disease for very long – and even then, will find it hard to transmit the virus.”
In addition to the propaganda war and lone-wolf jihadist attacks on the home-front, ISIS continues to gain ground and has reportedly killed hundreds of innocent men, women, and children, most recently from the Al Bu Nimr tribe in Iraq.
The Iraqi government has requested help from the United States, and according to NPR on Nov. 7, President Obama consulted the advice of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and agreed to send up to 1,500 more troops to help. According to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, they will serve “in a non-combat role to train, advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish forces.”
Officials reported that the United States has been studying the best way to attack ISIS and stated, “Now we are matching resources against that analysis.” The Pentagon explained, “U.S. Central Command will establish two expeditionary advise-and-assist operations centers outside of Baghdad and Irbil.”
They also informed NPR, “The Central Command will also establish several sites across Iraqi that will accommodate the training of 12 Iraqi brigades, specifically nine Iraqi army and three [Kurdish] Peshmerga brigades.”