Two months after Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) renamed itself as ‘Islamic State’ and declared Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph in June 2014, the terror outfit carried out a chain of gruesome murders with the beheading of US journalist James Foley. Later, American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff and English aid worker David Haines too were beheaded in similar fashion. These acts of modern-day savagery stunned the world. In the past two years, ISIS has killed over 1,200 people outside Iraq and Syria.

A series of heinous acts by the ISIS in the name of Islam has put the world’s second largest and fastest-growing religion under global spotlight. Despite the fact that most of Muslims dislike and detest the ideology of the terror outfit according to a study by Pew Research Center conducted in 2015, the negative perception of Islam has touched an alarming level in the post-9/11 world. Every terror attack by the ISIS further fuels the existing trend of Islamophobia.

With each terror attack, there is an increasing intellectual churning in much of the Muslim world with a sizeable majority delinking terror with Islam and a faction within the community acknowledging the misinterpretation of Islam by ISIS and other terror outfits such as Taliban and Al-Qaeda. But ISIS has outdone all other outfits with its successful application of savagery.

ISIS, which takes pride in calling itself an ‘Islamic State’, is headed by a little-known person named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The self-appointed ‘caliph’ – a temporal head of the Muslim community – reportedly holds a PhD in Islamic studies. The members of ISIS are known to justify their barbaric and inhuman activities inflicted on other religious groups or human beings by selectively citing Qur’anic verses.

Does this all make Islamic State fundamentally ‘Islamic’?

According to Didier François, a French journalist who was among the few hostages who returned from the captivity of ISIS after 10 months, the dreaded organisation is not as religious as it claims. “It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Qur’an. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran. We didn’t even have the Qur’an; they didn’t want even to give us a Qur’an,” Francois told in an interview.

Former US President Barack Obama, heads of Muslim countries and other international leaders, except perhaps the US President Donald Trump, have denounced the terror activities of ISIS, reiterating that Islamic ideology does not promote terrorism. Prominent Islamic scholars, clerics and intellectuals have condemned the barbaric activities of ISIS and demolished its claim to be an “Islamic” state.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, quoting Qur’an, said, “They are not Islamic and they are not state. Their actions have absolutely no basis in anything written in Qur’an. What they believe have no resemblance whatsoever to the belief of more than billions of Muslims all over the world. Like all the other Islamist terror organisation they have caused the death of many hundreds of innocent Muslims. This hateful ideology has nothing to do with Islam.”

“Quran says, ‘O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other).’ It also says let there be no compulsion in religion. Let the message go out that we know Islam is the religion of peace and it has nothing to do with the ideology of our enemies,” said May.

Issuing the biggest fatwa against ISIS, as many as 1,050 muftis and imams from all over India condemned the killing of innocent people by its members and termed its bloodlust as “un-Islamic” and contrary to the tenets of Shariah, the Islamic law. Top clerics in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere have warned that the organisation is a threat to Islam and Muslims. “ISIS and Al-Qaeda are enemy number one of Islam,” declared Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al ASheikh recently.

International Union of Muslim Scholars denounced the declaration of ISIS “caliphate” as “null and void” by any “realistic or legitimate standards”. Influential Middle East scholar Allama Yusuf Qardawi and other conservative clerics dismissed the notion of  utopian world presented by the terror organisation.

Despite all these pronouncements against ISIS, the militant group has succeeded in luring a miniscule minority among young, educated and disaffected youth. The terror attack in Dhaka and the arrest of over a dozen Muslims in India for ISIS link clearly show the global outreach of the outfit.

Does the involvement of a ‘few’ Muslims make the Islamic State ‘Islamic’?

If you look at Muslims, who carried out terror activities in different countries, you will observe that most of them were not motivated by religion at all. Many of the attackers were NOT actually practicing Muslims. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the truck driver who killed 84 people in Nice, blatantly flouted the basic tenets of Islam. “He never visited the mosque for prayers. Neither did he fast during Ramadan. He ate pork and used to drink alcohol, the two things which are strictly prohibited in Islam,” revealed Walid Hamou, the cousin of Bouhlel’s wife Hajer Khalfallah.

ISIS terrorists claim that they are practicing the only true version of Islam. But many of the youth involved in terror activities were those who never practically followed Islam. Let’s take the example of Paris attack of November 2015 which claimed 130 lives. Two of the perpetrators Brahim Abdeslam and Salah Abdeslam had a bar which they sold two months before the mass shooting. If alcohol is prohibited in Islam, can a bar owner be a true face of Islam? If not, what right do they have to even talk about bringing-in a utopian world based on Islam? Practice, then preach!

Chérif Kouachi, who along with his brother Said stormed into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris and killed 11 people, used to drink alcohol and visit clubs. He was fond of rap music and smoked hash, daily – two known ‘vices’ prohibited in Islam.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, guilty of detonating two bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, was a dedicated pot smoker. Dzhokhar would often listen to rap music and drink alcohol. The 19 hijackers involved in 9/11 attacks were reportedly spotted in a strip club. Surely, they didn’t go there to preach Islam.

According to MI5 report on terrorism, a large number of those involved in terrorism don’t practice their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as ‘religious novices’. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households. Some of the extremists have been drug-addicts, alcoholics and regular visitor to red-light areas. MI5 report further says that there is evidence that well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization. Most of the Islamic State applicants turned out to be overwhelmingly ignorant about the religious teaching, reported Associated Press.

Conclusion:

Many, who joined the ISIS, killed people and called themselves holy warriors, aren’t motivated by Islam. Yes, ISIS is using Islam to woo Muslim youth, presenting their ideology of hate by wrapping it in religious language and their so- called only true ‘interpretation’. But this should not serve as a litmus test for Islam or Muslims. The world including Muslims should not fall in the trap of ISIS and swallow their version uncritically and wholeheartedly.

Currently, there are 1.6 billion Muslims on this planet and their number is rising with Islam set to become the world’s largest religion by 2050. Statistics reveal that around 10,600 Muslims have joined the extremist organisation. It means only 0.006 per cent of Muslims are terrorists and 99.993 per cent are not. Majority of the Muslims have rejected the hate ideology of ISIS and other terror outfits. One should think with a rational mind to decide which lot to deem as trustworthy. Should one believe in the Islam of 99 percent Muslims or the 0.006 percent?

President Donald Trump justifies his proposed ban on Muslims from entering the United States and registration of Muslims living in the country claiming that Muslim terrorists are a serious threat to the national security and responsible for killings of US citizens. But the statics about the murders and terror activities committed by Muslims rejects his nonsensical claims. According to a study done by University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sociologist Charles Kurzman, only 46 Muslim Americans were linked to violent extremism in US or abroad in 2016 while the total number of Muslim Americans stands at 3.3 million.  The study vividly says Muslim Americans commit very small numbers of killings.

Members of ISIS, Al-Qaeda or any terror outfit, portraying themselves as holy warriors in defence of Islam, desperately want religious legitimacy. By targeting Islam and Muslims in the name of terrorism, we indeed empower terrorists with what they want. We must not accept the premise that they put forth because it is a blatant lie. They are not Islamic, but just terrorists.

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