The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a radical Islamist organization which aims to establish an Islamic empire on the territories of Iraq and Syria, believing that this is God’s will. They ultimately hope to extent it into a global empire. This extremist organization has organised multiple killings of innocent people, as a way to punish their victims’ governments for interfering in the wars in Iraq and Syria, and as an attempt from discouraging them to do so in the future. ISIS has already taken over parts of Iraq and Syria and has risen to importance by displaying raising military force and brutality (Shane and Hubbard). It is very violent organization and even more menacing because it propagates its message rapidly on the internet and has attracted a great number of followers. Among them, there are a lot of westerners, for whom it is easy to organize criminal acts worldwide. What puzzles me is that they believe that their actions are justified, and that they have God on their side, when most Muslims in the world would disagree with them, and call them terrorists.
Plato and Aristotle both agree that philosophy starts when people begin to wonder, or to be puzzled by different aspects of life or by different paradoxical situations. The situation of ISIS and other terrorist groups may be considered such a puzzle because ISIS members consider themselves to be righteous people, superior in their belief and Islamic practice than most other Muslims. Yet, they commit incredible acts of violence against innocent people. The puzzle here is how these people can consider themselves good Muslims and good people ultimately, and still commits these acts. In order to demonstrate that this is a puzzle, I must first show that Islam does not encourage them to behave like this, and that their acts are recognized by most Muslims are contradictory to what Islam teaches.
Islam is a religion of peace, and for this reason, most Islamic scholars disagree with ISIS’s acts, and consider that they are committing great sins by behaving the way they do. As the news website RT shows, a large group of Islamic scholars have addressed an open letter to the Islamic State, in which they show that the organization is wrong to believe that their violent acts are approved by God, and even to call themselves jihadists, which means “striving for Allah”. According to these scholars, ISIS has committed great violations of Islamic principles. The letter also argues that one group, however large, cannot rule over a billion-and-a-half Muslims of the world, particularly since their group is a self-assigned caliphate. They have decided upon the caliph and they decided also that whoever does not accept him, is not a Muslim. This is a circular and illogical idea because nobody gave them the authority to speak for all Muslims, and because they have no reason to consider themselves better Muslims than all the other Muslims in the world.
ISIS clearly ignores and violates important Islamic laws. For example, the killing of innocent, prisoners and emissaries is strictly forbidden in Islam and yet, ISIS has killed journalists, who may be considered emissaries, and who were also prisoners (RT). They also should not harm other “people of the book”, namely Christians and Jews, who also believe in the Scriptures, and they should have not declared caliphate without the consensus of all Muslims, which is impossible today, when there are over a billion Muslims in the world.
Furthermore, they are wrong to call themselves Jihadists, which is a very honorable Islamic concept that has been stained by the actions of the terrorist groups. Jihad in Islam means a defensive war, and it has to be declared by a state, and to follow proper rules of conduct, typical of any war, such as the protection of women and children, and the humane treatment of war prisoners. In addition Jihad also has a more abstract connotation, meaning the personal fight with oneself for moral and spiritual improvement. None of ISIS’s actions entitle its members to call themselves Jihadists, and it is a wonder how these people, although they proud themselves with knowing the Quran, and with being Muslims, even superior in belief and action to their brothers and sisters, could ever commit such acts. Logically, if a group wanted to be perceived as good Muslims, and followers of the Sharia, they would act justly and exemplary, in a way that would make other Muslims proud, and would want to follow their example. Instead, their followers are deranged people who enjoy violence and join their ranks to be able to kill and torture other human beings.
There are several ways to solve this puzzle, although none seems perfectly suitable. The first would be that the members may be confused people who think that this is in fact what God asks of them, but I think that only people who know very little about actual Islam, or people with a predisposition towards violence, could join them. The problem with this is that even when respected Muslim scholars show them that they are wrong, they do not give up their actions. The second solution would be that they know they are wrong, and that they only use Islam to reach their purpose of gaining power at any cost. The problem here however is that, if they know they are wrong, they could not expect, and claim, real Muslims to join them. Therefore, this is a puzzle to which I did not find any viable solution, and which continues to intrigue people around the globe, as they witness the terrible acts committed by this organization.