Archive for the ‘ISIS’ Category

19-year-old Arvada woman, Shannon Maureen Conley, charged with aiding ISIS terror group, FBI says
Alan Gathright
7NEWS Denver | Jul 2, 2014

DENVER – The FBI says a 19-year-old Colorado woman has been arrested while trying to board a flight at Denver International Airport with the goal of meeting with a terrorist group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS.

A federal criminal complaint states that between Sept. 7, 2013 and April 8, 2014, Shannon Maureen Conley, together with others, tried to provide material support and resources, including personnel and expert advice, to a foreign terrorist organization.

Conley, a Muslim convert, was arrested April 8 at DIA after telling FBI agents she was traveling to Syria to use her American military training from the U.S. Army Explorers to aid Islamic militants waging jihad — or holy war — even though she knew that it was illegal, according to federal court records released Wednesday.
She said "legitimate targets of attack" included U.S. military bases, government employees and public officials, the documents say.
Against her parents wishes, Conley planned to marry a Tunisian man, who was fighting in Syria for ISIS, an al-Qaida splinter group. She’d met the man online and communicated with him on Skype.
Conley has been charged with conspiring to help a foreign terrorist organization. She’s being held in Denver County Jail without bond.

ISIS insurgents have been fighting to topple the governments of Iraq and Syria.

— Conley raised suspicions at church —

Authorities began investigating Conley on Nov. 5, 2013, when the pastor at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada called local police and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to report a teen had been spotted suspiciously taking notes at the church’s main campus at 6120 Ward Road on several Sundays at October, according to a federal affidavit supporting the criminal complaint.

Church officials have a heightened awareness about security because Faith Bible Chapel was the scene of a shooting in December 2007 when a man named Matthew Murray opened fire at the church’s Youth with a Mission Training Center, killing two missionaries. A few hours later, Murray went on a shooting spree at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, killing two more people. He was shot by a church security guard and eventually took his own life.

So Faith Bible Chapel staff reacted quickly when they believed Conley was taking notes on various locations and the layout of the campus, the affidavit said.

Church staff approached Conley and asked to see her notes, but she refused.

Conley then became confrontational with FBC staff, citing her own Islamic religious views, church officials told federal investigators.

"Conley made spontaneous statements to church staff to the effect of: ‘Why is the church worried about a terrorist attack?’ and, that terrorists are: ‘… not allowed to kill aging adults and little children,’" the complaint said.

Church officials told Conley not to return to the church campus.

— FBI interviews Conley in November —

On Nov. 7, 2013, an Arvada police detective and an FBI agent interviewed Conley, asking her why she has been visiting Faith Bible Chapel.

Conley said, "I hate those people." She added that she initially started attending Sunday services and taking classes at FBC because she wanted to meet people of other faiths and learn about them.

But Conley said she did not share her Islamic religious views or wear her hijab, a head covering worn in public by Muslim women.

Conley told the investigators she does not like Israel or FBC’s active and vocal support for Israel.

Conley said she noticed she was being followed by church staff on the campus and felt they treated her like a terrorist. Conley told the investigators that she reasoned that, "If they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am," according to the affidavit.

She started keeping a notebook and acted like she was diagramming the church to alarm them. Conley soon got into an argument with the pastor and was asked to leave.

— Conley tells FBI she supports Jihad —

Conley said that Jihad to her is war against "kafir" (which the affidavit describes as a derogatory Arabic term for non-Muslims) to protect Muslim lands.

The investigators asked her opinion about harming innocent people while waging Jihad and Conley stated that it depended on the circumstances.

"To Conley, it is okay to harm innocents if they are part of a target. She felt that if wives, children, and chaplains visiting a military base are killed during an attack, it is acceptable because they should not have been at a legitimate target. She repeatedly referred to US military bases as ‘targets,’" an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit.

On Dec. 6, 2013, Conley was again interviewed by FBI Special Agent Karim Khomssi and another agent.

— Conley joined U.S. Army Explorers —

Conley told the FBI she joined the U.S. Army Explorers to be trained in U.S. military tactics and in firearms. She said she intended to use that training to go overseas to wage Jihad, according to the affidavit.

Conley said she previously wanted to serve in the U.S. military, but no longer wanted to because she felt the military would not accept her because of her religious beliefs and her wearing of a hijab and niqab.

"Conley stated she wanted to wage Jihad and would like to go overseas to fight," the affidavit said. She added that if she’s not allowed to fight because she’s a woman, she would use her medical training, as a licensed nurse’s aide, to help Jihadi fighters.

"According to Conley, it is acceptable to attack westerners when engaged in ‘defensive Jihad.’ Conley stated that legitimate targets of attack include military facilities and personnel, government facilities and personnel, and public officials," the affidavit stated.

When agents asked if her notion of legitimate targets includes law enforcement, Conley replied that it does, the affidavit said. Conley said, "Law enforcement is included because police enforce man-made laws that are not grounded in God’s law. Conley stated targets to be avoided include women, children, and the elderly," the affidavit said.

— Conley cannot be dissuaded by FBI —

Over the next five months, the FBI repeatedly interviewed Conley as she underwent U.S. Army Explorers training in Texas in early February.

During a March 27 interview, two FBI agents made an "overt attempt to dissuade Conley from violent criminal activity and give her the opportunity to turn away from her intention to participate in supporting terrorist activities."

Special Agent Khomssi "admonished Conley twice in the conversation that travel with intent to wage Jihad may be illegal and result in her arrest. Conley told SA Khomssi said she would rather be in prison than do nothing" to help the Jihadi cause, the affidavit said.

Conley earlier showed the agents a book called "Al-Qaida’s Doctrine for Insurgency: Abd Al-Aziz Al-Muqrin’s A Practical Course for Guerilla War."

"The book had several passages underlined by Conley, including motorcade attacks and waging guerilla warfare. Conley stated that attacking a motorcade in the US was not viable because security in the US is too good. Conley thought she could plan such an attack, but not carry it out," the affidavit said. "Conley liked the idea of guerilla warfare because she could do it alone."

"When asked if she still wanted to carry out the plans, knowing they are illegal, Conley said that she does," the affidavit said.

The agents repeatedly asked Conley if she’d consider helping Muslims by doing humanitarian work, like using her nursing skills with the Red Crescent Society.

"Conley stated she has no interest in doing humanitarian work. Conley felt that Jihad is the only answer to correct the wrongs against the Muslim world. Conley said she preferred to wage Jihad overseas so she could be with Jihadist fighters," the affidavit said.

— Plans to meet ISIS fighter in Middle East —

Conley and her parents told FBI agents that she planned to travel to the Middle East to meet her "suitor," a 32-year-old Tunisian man who is an ISIS fighter in Syria. The teen said a one-way airline ticket had already been purchased for her.

In February, the FBI agents met with the teen’s parents, John and Ana Conley, with whom she lives in Arvada.

John Conley told the agents his daughter had "described Jihad to her father as struggles to help the oppressed or the poor."

But the teen also expressed some doubts.

"Conley explained to her father she felt conflicted with what she thought Islam required of her. Conley believed she, as a Muslim, needed to marry young and be confrontational in her support of Islam. She conceded her knowledge of Islam was based solely on her own research that she conducted on the Internet," the affidavit said.

The parents said that they owned guns and that Shannon and a girlfriend had recently taken one of their rifles to practice marksmanship at a local shooting range.

The agents warned the parents that "their daughter has expressed, to overt FBI agents, her intention to travel overseas and commit violent Jihad." By "overt," the agents meant they weren’t operating undercover and she clearly knew to whom she was talking.

The agents asked the parents to engage their daughter in "candid conversation" to learn "her true views on Islam." The agents also asked the parents to encourage Shannon to speak with "elders at her mosque to discuss more moderate views," the affidavit stated.

— Conley’s family refuses to bless marriage —

After talking with his daughter, John Conley told an FBI agent her views on Islam "were far more extreme than he had previously thought."

The father said he found Shannon talking with her Tunisian suitor on Skype. At the time, Shannon and the man asked John Conley for his "blessing" for them to marry and for her to travel to Syria to marry the man as soon as possible.

The father told the FBI he denied both requests and Shannon and the man appeared surprised.

In April, John Conley called an FBI agent and reported that he’d found Shannon had a one-way ticket to fly from Denver International Airport to Turkey on April 8.

He and his wife confronted Shannon, telling her that they didn’t provide their blessing, nor did they support her travel to Syria and marriage.

"[Shannon] Conley was aware that Islam required the blessing of her family for her marriage, but told John she had thought about it and disagreed with Islam on the issue and was going to travel and marry anyway without their blessing," the affidavit said.

The FBI learned that she was scheduled to fly from Denver to Frankfurt, Germany and then on to Istanbul, Turkey, and then to Adnan, Turkey, where it is only a three-hour drive to the Syrian border.

On April 8, the FBI followed Shannon Conley as she traveled to DIA, checked in her bags and walked to the gate for her United Flight to Frankfurt.  Agents arrested her as she was walking down the jetway to board the plane.

In her luggage, agents found several CDs and DVDs labeled "Anwar al-Awlaki," a senior Al Qaeda leader and recruiter who was killed by a CIA-led U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Agents also found a folder with materials about providing first aid in the field. The teen was also carrying a list of contacts, including phone numbers for a person whose name was blacked out in the affidavit.

The FBI also searched Conley’s Arvada home.



I, the complainant in this case, state that the following is true to the best of my knowledge and belief:

Between and on or about September 7, 2013 through April 8, 2014, inclusive, in the State and District of Colorado and elsewhere, the defendant, Shannon Maureen CONLEY, together with others, did knowingly attempt to provide material support and resources, to wit: personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself) and expert advice or assistance, to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq (“ISI”) or Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AAQI@), continuously designated since December 17, 2004, knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization, that the organization had engaged in and was engaging in terrorist activity and terrorism, and the offense occurred in whole or in part within the United States.

All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B.

View the complaint @


My Neighbor the Terrorist: A Bizarro Cinderella Story
Anne Evans
American Thinker | July 19, 2014

It’s a Bizarro Cinderella story. Nineteen-year-old Colorado girl, Shannon Conley, meets thirty-two year old Tunisian terrorist online. He asks her to marry him. She enthusiastically accepts and allegedly pledges to devote her life, (between most likely having innumerable babies), to using her nursing skills to bring wounded terrorists back to health.

There’s only one little hitch. This April, the U.S. Marshals showed up at Denver International Airport and arrested Miss Conley before she could hop aboard a jet bound for the Middle East.

Miss Conley lived only a few miles down the road from me. She attended our local high schools, (3 of them before dropping out for a GED), and briefly attended Faith Bible Church, which I drive by every day. Despite her rocky high school years, she ended up at a private university, Regis, and was working as a certified nurse aide. Not bad for a nineteen-year-old in this economy.

How does a local girl born and raised in normalcy start ranting about terrorism? U.S. Marshals laid the transformation at the feet of radical Islam. In a series of meetings with Miss Conley, Marshals tried to dissuade her from terrorism. Accordingly, they asked her to speak with her local mosque and have the elders there teach her about why terrorism is not commanded by the Qur’an.

Miss Conley doesn’t seem to have been interested in speaking with the Mosque elders. (She admitted the only things she knew about Islam were learned online.) Instead, despite having converted to Islam, she hung out at Faith Bible Church. People there thought she was trying to blow the place up. According to her, she first went there to learn about Christianity and then had fun scaring them.

Admittedly, Faith Bible Church, and all the churches in my community, are a bit on the jumpy side as far as security goes. I remember first attending church in Arvada in 2011 and noticing that an off-duty cop sat in the back every Sunday. My eyes widened when I learned he had a concealed gun on his person. The vigilance is because of a sad shooting incident that occurred at a local church-affiliated function in 2007.

Since Miss Conley barely even went to Mosque services yet transformed from regular Colorado girl to radical Muslim in six months, did she really get deceived by violent religious ideas? Is her flight into terrorism actually a result of religious indoctrination? I doubt it. I think her case has more in common with domestic violence victims.

Women who become victims of domestic violence fall into classic types. A significantly older man preys on a teenaged or young 20s girl. Miss Conley’s 19. Terrorist Fiancé is 32.

The victim is usually attracted to the abuser’s powerful personality and makes her life revolve around him. Miss Conley was moving halfway around the world and giving up all her family.

The abuser engages in mind control to get his victim to follow his every whim. Miss Conley was even willing to kill her own countrymen for her fiancé. Yet, Miss Conley said she didn’t want to kill anyone personally. She preferred to nurse the terrorists back to health. Terrorists enjoy killing people; abused women blindly serve their man.

Miss Conley seems more concerned about pleasing Terrorist Fiancé than following Islam. According to Islam, you need the father’s permission to marry. Miss Conley’s dad was wise enough to give an emphatic “no” when Terrorist Fiancé skyped him to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Yet, far from being bound by religious conviction, Miss Conley shrugged that off to fly to meet Terrorist Fiancé anyway.

Abusive men are notorious liars. Miss Conley said nothing of Terrorist Fiancé having other wives. But the Qur’an allows four wives (plus raping female slaves). Do you really think a notorious terrorist made it to age thirty-two without taking any other wives?

Some papers are complaining about Miss Conley’s imprisonment saying, how can you punish someone for a crime they haven’t committed yet? While being in jail isn’t pleasant, the U.S. Marshals rescued Miss Conley. Radical Muslims take the Quranic command to beat your wife very literally. Add emotional abuse to that equation, and a woman can’t even leave the house without her husband’s permission.

Miss Conley might have had honeymoon visions of romance, but in reality she was in for a nasty fate. Despite embracing radical Islam, she wouldn’t have been able to erase the self-respect she was raised with in only six months. Many of the abuses the other women in the camp would have been used to, (imprisonment in the house, husbandly beatings, unwanted polygamy and a cheating husband), Miss Conley would have rebelled against. This “rebellion” would have given Terrorist Fiancé even more reason to beat her, starve her, or worse.

Miss Conley is in an American jail where she’s not getting beaten, is served three meals a day, and can read and pursue some educational interests. The reason the U.S. Marshals found her before she got on the plane, (i.e. the reason she is in jail right now), is because her dad called the Marshals. Dads don’t call the police on their little girls to save the nation. Dads call the police on their daughter when they think the alternative would hurt their girl more.

Miss Conley might hate the U.S. Marshals or be furious at her parents right now, but they saved her life. Terrorist Fiancé would have treated her much worse.

So this is my advice to the U.S. Marshals. What Miss Conley needs is not a moderate Imam speaking to her about Islam. What she needs is an experienced counselor telling her about the warning signs and mind control tactics in an abusive relationship.

Anne Garboczi Evans holds a Master’s in Counseling and specializes in working with domestic violence victims and teenage moms. She is also an author with Hartline Literary Agency and is currently working on a world religions book entitled, No Fear: My Tale of Hijabs, Witchcraft Circles, and the Cross.


Arvada teen tied to terror
Jesse Paul
Denver Post | July 3, 2014

An Arvada teenage girl arrested in April on suspicion of attempting to support al Qaeda and its affiliates including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was warned for months by federal agents investigating her that her support could lead to her incarceration.

One FBI agent met with her seven times, trying to dissuade her from supporting jihad and suggesting that she instead commit herself to humanitarian work, court papers say.

Shannon Maureen Conley, 19, was taken into custody at the Denver International Airport by the FBI as she attempted to board a plane on her way to Turkey, according to Dave Joly, an FBI spokesman. The case against Conley was not unsealed until Wednesday because of an "ongoing, active investigation," when news of her arrest and alleged activities became public, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Denver.

Investigators from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated Conley for roughly eight months before arresting her April 8, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in the Denver U.S. District Court.

During that time, she repeatedly told federal agents who identified themselves and met with her on a near weekly basis from November to April that she was committed to waging jihad in the Middle East.

Conley went ahead with her plans, led by a man she met on the Internet who identified himself as a terrorist associated with ISIL and with whom she built a romantic relationship online as he encouraged her to travel to Syria to fight alongside him.

Even after federal agents met with her parents, warning them of their daughter’s radical beliefs, and even after her parents tried to dissuade her, Conley purchased a plane ticket to Turkey, where she planned to meet the man she met online, court filings say.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Denver declined to comment on the case, and attempts to reach Conley’s attorney, a federal public defender, were unsuccessful. If convicted, Conley could face up to 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.

In 2013, Conley encountered the man online and the two shared their views of Islam as "requiring participation in violent jihad against any non believers," according to court filings. The person, identified in documents as "Y.M.," told Conley that he was fighting in Syria with ISIL, which is one of several rebel factions locked in a bitter civil war with the Syrian government.

The two planned for Conley to provide support for ISIL and "fight should it become necessary," court documents say. In September, Conley joined the U.S. Army Explorers, a nonprofit youth exploration group, to be trained in military tactics and guns, court papers said.

Law enforcement began looking into Conley after a security guard and pastor at the Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada the site of a 2007 active shooter attack contacted police and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to report that a woman had been wandering the campus taking notes, court records say.

The woman also became "confrontational" with church staffers when they asked to see her notes. The guard thought Conley was suspicious and that she seemed to be visiting the church in preparation for an attack.

An Arvada police detective and a special deputy U.S. marshall interviewed Conley in November about her time at the church, according to court documents. Conley told investigators that she hated "those people," specifically their support of Israel, and "if they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am."

She also referred to U.S. military bases as "targets," according to court papers.

A month later, Conley was interviewed by an FBI special agent, at which point Conley said she was training in military tactics and that she hoped to share what she learned with Islamic jihadi fighters, a federal agent said.

A few weeks later, the complaint said, Conley told the FBI agent she was "ready to wage jihad in a year."

The agent interviewed Conley several more times over the next few weeks leading into 2014, during which time Conley repeatedly said that she wanted to travel to the Middle East and East Africa to wage jihad.

Federal agents warned Conley’s parents around February that their daughter’s beliefs were becoming alarmingly violent, according to the complaint. Her parents were "asked to attempt to engage Conley in candid conversation and to get her to expose her true views on Islam."

"We’ve been advised not to comment," Ana Maria Conley, the teen’s mother, told The Denver Post Wednesday evening. "We ask you to please respect our privacy."

When Conley told her parents on April 1 that she was leaving for Syria to marry a "soldier," her parents expressed their disapproval.

Seven days later, Conley headed to the airport and checked some bags. Inside them were CDs and DVDs labeled Anwar al Awlaki, who was an American dissident turned Islamic militant who was killed by 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

As Conley walked down the jetway to board her flight, federal agents arrested her.

Staff writer Kirk Mitchell contributed to this report.

Teen’s activities raised concern at Israel event
Kirk Mitchell
Denver Post | July 4, 2014

As an Arvada congregation prepared to welcome more than 1,000 area Jews into their chapel for an annual fall homage to the Holy Land last year, a young Muslim woman appeared to be plotting a terrorist attack in plain sight.

"It was very obvious. Her acts were just continually suspicious," said senior pastor George Morrison of the Faith Bible Chapel of Arvada.

Shannon Maureen Conley, 19, now faces a federal charge of material support to al Qaeda and affiliates including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

She was arrested in April after receiving military training and developing a close relationship online with an avowed terrorist who had invited her to join the jihad in the Middle East, according to court documents unsealed this week. Authorities began investigating Conley after learning of her unusual activities at the Arvada church.

Morrison, who had spoken to Conley and others who had interacted with her, said he thought Conley had a romanticized view of a religious jihad but wasn’t truly dangerous. However, because a 2007 murder spree had directly affected the church, members were compelled to call the FBI.

"I still think she falls in the category of a terrorist wannabe. I didn’t think she had the wherewithal to harm anyone … but we didn’t want to take any chances," he said.

Conley faces a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison, according to U.S. District Court records in Denver.

She was raised in Loveland and Arvada and attended Ralston Valley and Arvada West high schools. She later became a certified nurse’s aide.

The young woman had aspirations of serving in the U.S. military, but when she converted to Islam, she believed fellow soldiers wouldn’t accept a woman wearing a hijab and niqab, according to federal court records. In September, she joined the U.S. Army Explorers to learn how to handle guns. She believed her destiny was to join a Muslim suitor she met online and fight a guerilla war in the Middle East or to work as a nurse, she told the FBI.

But along the way, her enthusiasm for jihad frightened members of the Faith Bible Chapel still traumatized by what happened in 2007.

In early December that year, a shooter gunned down two people at Youth With a Mission, a missionary training center on the Faith Bible campus. The same man later killed two teenage sisters during a shootout at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

Last year, some of Faith Bible’s members began making comments to security officers and Morrison about the Muslim woman who suddenly began attending services in September.

"It became apparent that she wasn’t interested in church doctrine," said Rhoda Schultz, Morrison’s assistant. Conley wore a burka covering her head and long flowing gowns, but she didn’t carry a Bible, some church leaders recalled.

"She was dressed in all black. She looked very much like you see an Arab woman," said Betty Miller, the church’s Kids of Faith director.

Unlike many people who visit the church for possible permanent affiliation, Conley became annoyed when approached by a church leader asking if she wished to attend a small gathering at a coffee shop with a church group of young, unmarried adults, Schultz said.

On Sundays, Conley would wander from one Sunday school class to another. She was taking notes and making drawings but seemingly not of church discussions, Schultz said. Members saw her walking the halls in a section where children attended separate Sunday school classes, always taking notes.

Morrison said church security officers took surveillance pictures of Conley. She became confrontational when security officers asked to see the notes, refusing to show them, according to court records.

Schultz said she spoke with Arvada police officers, who had attended Sunday services since the attack in 2007, and they explained that they were well aware of the issue.

In fact, "Pastor George" had already contacted local FBI agents about the woman’s suspicious activities. FBI agents began watching and investigating Conley’s activities in September.

Church leaders and security officers began getting more nervous about their new visitor as a well publicized annual fellowship, called Annual Israel Awareness Day, approached in October, Schultz said. Dating back more than 35 years, Faith Bible Chapel had invited area Jewish people to hear informative discussions about Israel. The congregation swells from about 1,000 to 2,700 that night.

Specifically with her in mind, church leaders established a new security protocol. Anyone with backpacks or large bags would be asked to open them for a quick inspection or take them to their cars.

When security officers asked to look inside her backpack, she refused, telling them "that’s none of your business," Morrison said. They asked her to take her backpack to her car, which she did.

The next month, in November, FBI agents introduced themselves to Conley, according to federal court records. Between November and April, she repeatedly vowed her support of a jihad and was openly antagonistic about Faith Bible because of its support for Israel.

After two months of her visits, it was apparent she was not interested in learning about the faith, and so when she refused to show security her drawings, that was the last straw, Morrison said. "We asked her to leave," he said.

Conley told an FBI agent that she hated "those people" at Faith Bible for their support of Israel, adding that "if they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am."

Conley transferred to Jefferson County Public Schools from Loveland as an eighth grader and went to Drake Middle School beginning in 2008. After beginning her freshman year at Arvada West High in 2009, she bounced to Ralston Valley High in 2010 and then back to Arvada West in 2011. She received a GED in 2012.

She took college courses in the fall of 2012 at Regis University in Denver, where her mother, AnaMaria Conley, is an associate professor of economics.

Staff writer Zahira Torres contributed to this report.


Shannon Conley Coverage–02 Sep 14

Posted: September 2, 2014 in ISIS, Jihad, Terrorism

Romance, jihad led American woman to jail and terrorism charge
Shannon Conley of Arvada, Colo., 19, is charged with conspiring to help ISIS, the militant group wreaking havoc in Syria and now Iraq. Newly public court documents describe the backstory leading to her April arrest.
Noelle Swan, Staff writer
CSM | July 3, 2014

Federal agents appear to have gone out of their way to persuade Shannon Conley of Arvada, Colo., to abandon plans join jihadists in Syria, but ultimately arrested her in April at Denver International Airport as she allegedly pursued her intent, according to court documents released Wednesday.

Ms. Conley, a 19-year-old nurse’s aide and a Muslim convert, planned to travel to Syria to join an online suitor, who told her he was affiliated with the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the militant group that has recently overtaken parts of northern Iraq, the FBI affidavits allege. She has been held in Denver County Jail since her arrest and faces a federal charge of conspiring to help a foreign terrorist organization, which carries a penalty of 15 years in prison, according to The Associated Press and the Los Angles Times.

FBI agents arrested Conley on April 8 at the airport as she was boarding a plane to leave the US. Details of the investigation leading up to her arrest came to light with Wednesday’s release of previously sealed court documents.

During a series of interviews with Conley between November and March, FBI agents encouraged her to join humanitarian efforts to aid Muslim lands rather than supporting violence, but she reportedly insisted that such aid could not solve the problems she wanted to address. She maintained that she wished to carry out jihad, but lacked the means and opportunity to do so, the documents state. When cautioned that she was discussing illegal activity with overt law enforcement officers, she replied “she would rather be in prison than do nothing.”

The agents reached out to Conley’s parents to help dissuade their daughter from her plan. Her father told an agent that Conley had asked for his blessing to marry, which he refused, the documents state.

In an FBI interview on April 4, four days before her arrest, Conley told agents there was no way to stop her from traveling to Syria to meet her suitor, where she planned to be a housewife and serve as a nurse at his camp. Agents apprehended her on April 8, while she was walking down the jetway toward a plane bound for Germany – what would have been the first leg of a trip to Syria.

Conley first came under FBI scrutiny in November, when the pastor and security director of the Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada alerted local police that she had been wandering around and apparently taking notes about the layout of the FBC campus, court documents show. She reportedly became confrontational when church staff approached her and started talking about terrorism.

During a November interview, Conley told officers that she had started attending FBC services to meet people of other faiths, but was put off by the church’s support for Israel. In multiple subsequent interviews during the next several months, the 19-year-old told the FBI about her desire to wage jihad abroad.

More than 100 American-born Muslims have left US soil to train with Al Queda-inspired groups such as ISIS, New York Police Department terrorism chief John Miller told the New York Daily News. The majority of these fighters have been men, but Conley is not the first American woman to be apprehended for plans to carry out jihad. Michigan-born Coleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane,” is currently serving a five-year sentence for plotting to kill a Swedish cartoonist whose illustration of the head of the prophet Mohammed on the body of a dog sparked outrage among the international Muslim community.


Colorado woman’s quest for jihad baffles neighbors
Jenny Deam
Los Angeles Times | July 25, 2014

Reporting from Arvada, Colo.

To those who knew her, Shannon Maureen Conley was a bright teenager lost in middle-class suburbia who went searching for love and purpose.

She thought she found it half a world away with a Tunisian man 13 years her senior who promised marriage and holy war. The plan went only as far as Denver International Airport, where Conley was arrested in April as she tried to board a plane to support Islamic fighters in Syria.

Conley told the FBI she was determined to be "defending Muslims on the Muslim homeland against people who are trying to kill them." If that was illegal, she added, she "would rather be in prison than do nothing."

The 19-year-old Colorado woman is now under federal indictment, charged with conspiracy to aid Islamic State, the extremist military force with ties to Al Qaeda that has been on the march across Iraq and Syria.

Her transformation from a smiling girl, often clad in shorts or jeans and a floppy hat, who chatted with friends, to a solemn, dreamy young woman wearing the long dresses and flowing head scarves of traditional Islam, is one that neighbors and school administrators said came relatively suddenly.

She had been "among the brightest kids" at Arvada West High School, said principal Rob Bishop, adding that she was the daughter of a professor at a Catholic university, was enrolled in honors courses and presented no discipline problems.

Sometime during her junior year, Bishop said, Conley had begun to wear traditional Muslim dress. Several girls complained that she was kneeling on the bathroom floor three times a day for her prayers.

"I talked to her about accommodating her to get her out of the bathroom and move her into an office in our school’s front offices," Bishop said. Conley told him she was converting to Islam and seemed grateful for his support.

Neighbors, too, noticed the change in her appearance, and said she often seemed lonely and reflective. Many neighbors were not closely acquainted with Conley or her parents. Her mother, Ana Marie Conley, is an associate professor of economics at Regis College, while her father, John Conley, works in the computer field and teaches martial arts out of his garage on weekends, according to neighbors.

Robert Taylor, who lives nearby, said he would sometimes see Conley sitting alone in a neighborhood park, drifting silently on the playground swing.

"She just seemed kind of lost," he said.

On Conley’s Facebook page, she began calling herself Halima, an Arabic name meaning "gentle and mild-mannered," and described her work as a "slave to Allah."

In fall 2013, Conley began showing up at Faith Bible Church, a Christian mega-church not far from her home known for its support of Israel. Pastor George Morrison said members became unnerved by the frequent sightings of the young woman in Muslim dress, carrying a large backpack and wandering in and out of classes and services.

The church has a history. In December 2007 a gunman opened fire at the dormitory of a missionary group that shares campus space at the church, killing two and wounding two others.

Morrison said staff repeatedly asked Conley if she had questions about the church or wanted to join.

She declined, saying she was a Muslim doing research. Morrison said he didn’t see her as a threat: "I felt like from the beginning she was a wannabe," he said. Still, on Nov. 3, the church finally asked her not to come back, and four days later, the FBI conducted what was to be the first of many interviews with Conley.

According to an affidavit filed in court, Conley was asked why she had gone to the church. "I hate those people," she replied, adding that once church leaders began to watch her, she decided to goad them by pretending to take notes. "If they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am."

She told FBI agents she had signed up for a weekend with the U.S. Army Explorers, a career program offered under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America, to be trained in military tactics and firearms. Her intention, she said, was "to use that training to go overseas to wage jihad."

FBI agents initially interviewed Conley’s parents in February, asking them to engage their daughter in "candid conversation" about Islam.

Though they have declined to be interviewed by reporters, it is apparent from court documents that the Conleys’ alarm about their daughter was growing. On March 10, the FBI said, John Conley called the FBI and told agents he had not realized that his daughter had become so extreme. A few days later, he recounted walking in on a Skype conversation his daughter was having with a man she said she had met online.

The man, whose name is redacted in the complaint, asked Conley if he could marry his daughter and bring her to the Middle East.

Her father refused, but Conley said she was going anyway. On April 1, John Conley said, he found on his desk a one-way ticket to Turkey for his daughter and called the FBI.

In all, federal agents met with Conley eight times between Nov. 7 and April 8, and six times with her parents. Court documents describe agents trying to dissuade her from the notion of jihad, and suggesting the option of working for a humanitarian organization. But Conley’s determination only appeared to grow.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as the group was called until recently, fighter she had met online was her "suitor," she said, and she planned to travel to meet him. They would live near the border between Turkey and Syria. She would be "a housewife and the camp nurse," and if necessary take up arms, she said. "I wouldn’t like it … but I would do it."

She made it as far as Denver International Airport, where on April 8 she checked in for her flight to Frankfurt, with a connection to Turkey, and made it halfway down the jetway before she was confronted by the FBI and taken into custody.

The U.S. attorney and FBI have declined to comment on the case, as has Conley’s public defender.

Since her arrest, the initial complaint charging her with providing material support to a terrorist group has been reduced to a conspiracy charge that carries a maximum of five years in prison rather than 15.

Back in Arvada, neighbors along Taft Circle are more saddened than fearful. When Conley disappeared in April, they thought she had moved.

Once the news broke July 2 and TV trucks began arriving, Taylor slipped a note into the Conleys’ front door offering support. So far, they haven’t responded.

Recently at Faith Bible Church, Morrison offered a special prayer for the young woman sitting in a jail cell.

"I never thought she was dangerous, but you never know," he said later. "She ignored every warning they gave her. She was crossing a line, stepping into an area that could’ve sucked her into something really bad. I think maybe getting arrested just might have saved her life."


Neighbors: Teen Arrested In Terror Investigation Seemed Typical
July 3, 2014

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) – The Arvada teenager accused of trying to gather information for a Muslim terrorist group was seemingly typical, as described by her neighbors, before her behavior started to change.

The FBI arrested Shannon Maureen Conley in April but her case was just made public. She is accused of helping the radical Islamic group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS.

Shannon Conley (credit: CBS)

Conley seemed to be a typical teen. She attended middle school in Loveland, then Arvada West High School before transferring to Ralston Valley then back to Arvada West.

Her neighbor, Bob Taylor, said Conley and her family have been living at the same home in Arvada for about two years. They also saw the changes.

“When she first moved in she seemed normal, wore clothes most kids wear, then she started wearing the long Islamic garb,” said Taylor.

According to court documents, she converted to Islam after meeting a Muslim man online who convinced her to take part in a holy war.

Conley was first picked up on the FBI’s radar at the Faith Bible Church in Arvada where she was wearing Islamic garb. She told investigators, “If they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am.”

She was arrested while boarding a plane with a ticket to Turkey. Her arrest happened after the FBI repeatedly to talk her out of her plans.

“Tried to suggest other things she could do to help folks and after all those attempts she was committed to Jihad,” said FBI Special Agent In Charge Denver bureau Jim Davis.

Neighbors said they started to notice changes in her behavior.

“She would go down the street here to a park and sit on the swing. Swing in that attirre for maybe half an hour at a time. I don’t know if she was contemplating or meditating,” said Taylor.

The FBI said Islamic terrorists are recruiting American women through offers of love and going after those most vulnerable in attempts to gain access to the United States.


Coloradan In Terror Investigation Agrees To Change Plea To Guilty
August 11, 2014

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) – An Arvada woman charged with aiding a foreign terrorist organization has agreed to change her plea to guilty.

Conley, 19, is charged with conspiracy to provide support to ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Jeff Dorschner said in a statement released Monday morning that a plea hearing has yet to be scheduled in the case.

Court documents claim Conley joined the Army Explorers to be trained in U.S. military tactics and firearms, and that she told the FBI she wanted to wage Jihad and to go overseas and fight.

She attended middle school in Loveland, then Arvada West High School before transferring to Ralston Valley then back to Arvada West.

Conley was first picked up on the FBI’s radar at the Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada where she was wearing Islamic garb. She told investigators, “If they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am.”

She also had a number of CDs and DVDs labeled “Anwar Al-Awlaki” that were recovered. Al-Awlaki was the Colorado educated terror suspect assassinated by a U.S. drone missile in Yemen.

According to a criminal complaint, Conley’s parents told the FBI they failed to talk their daughter out of her plans. Conley was living with her parents in their Arvada home.

The FBI also tried repeatedly to talk her out of going but arrested her earlier this year at Denver International Airport with a ticket to Turkey.

Details of the agreement were not part of the court filing. Deals cannot be disclosed until a change of plea hearing, according to Dorschner.

This is Agreement (of Jizya) that implemented by the Islamic State for the Christians!
Al Mustaqbal Channel | July 25, 2014

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture (Jews & Christians) – [fight] UNTIL they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.” (At-Taubah, 9:29)

This Aayah states to not stopping fight against the disbelievers until they giving Jizya! in the Saheeh of Al-Bukhaari that Al-Mugheerah Bin Shu’bah said to a Persian during the battle of Nahaawand (Refer to Fat’h-ul-Baari 264/6) in the land of the Persians: “Our Nabi, the Messenger of Allah has ordered us to fight you until you worship Allah alone or that you give the Jizyah.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaari 3159, Fat’h-ul-Baari 258/6).

The following came in the Hadeeth: “Then if they refuse (i.e. entering into Islaam) then ask them for the Jizyah. If they respond positively to you, then accept this from them and refrain from (fighting) them.” (Saheeh Muslim 1731).

So this Hadeeth & Aayah is a text in regards to fighting the Kuffaar (disbelievers) until one of two matters comes to pass: Either they worship Allah alone i.e. entering into the folds of Islam, or for the Jizyah to be given. The meaning of this is the obligation of refraining from Al-Qitaal (fighting) and ceasing the state of war with the disbelievers who have responded positively to the payment of the Jizyah in the case where they have refused to convert into Islam. This is our religion! and we will implement it! Allahu Akbar!

Islamic State of Caliph Ibrahim is the only state in this world right now that implement jizya after 150 years ago implemented in Islamic Caliphate. This is real proof for us, this state is under right path, ahlus sunnah wal jama’ah, inshallah! and the text below, is the text of agreement between Islamic State with christians in Islamic State region which choose to stay, pay jizya and don’t want to convert into Islam.


Security Contract (agreement) given to The Christians in Daulah Islamiyyah

Praise to be Allah, who has glorified Islam with his help, humiliating mushrikeen with his strength,

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture (Jews & Christians) – [fight] UNTIL they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.” (At-Taubah, 9:29)

We testify that there is no god but Allah, he always keep his promises, help for his servant and glorify His army. There is no god but Allah, and we not worship except Him, worship Him with purifies, though the disbelievers hate.

We testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad Sholallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, a kind man, and brave on the battlefield, God has sent him with the sword so that human only worshiped Allah, and imposed on those who against him, will get torture and war.

We testify that Isa ibn Maryam, he is a servant of God and His Prophet, and sequences of sentences are read for Mary and become a spirit for her, Allah says: “Never would the Messiah (Christ) disdain to be a servant of Allah , nor would the angels near [to Him]. And whoever disdains His worship and is arrogant – He will gather them to Himself all together.”(An-Nisa: 172)

Praise Belongs to God for the give us glory of Islam..

Wa ba’du: Sentences of this letter as given by the Servant of God, Abu Bakr al-baghdady, the ruler of Christians in Islamic State Region to give peace and security for them:

Their lives, their property, places of worship and their descendants throughout the region Raqqah will be safe, they church will not be destroyed, their property will not be diminish , they will not be required to hate their trust (i.e convert into Islam), and no one of them will be harmed. For it all, with conditions/terms:

§ They are not allowed to build a new churches, monasteries, and ascetic pries in the city, they should not repair the damaged from the existing building.

  • They are not allowed to openly show up the cross and their holy book (bible) in the croweded place of Muslims, they should not use the loudspeaker in they worship ceremony.
  • So that the Muslims will not hear their holy book (bible) and their speech, all their worship activity must be in the church.
  • Must not conduct activities that will lead to hostility against Dawla Islamiyyah (Islamic State), such as deploying a spy,  find any information about Dawla Islamiyyah, or helps the enemies of Dawla, such as hiding enemy of Dawla, kidnapped the Muslims, and etc, if anyone know about it, should submit the information to Dawla.
  • They must be committed, eliminating all forms of worship that appears outside the church.
  • Should not prohibit anyone from the Christians who want to convert to Islam, if he want to convert into Islam.
  • They should not be insulted, disregard Islam and the Muslims, they should not denounce the teachings of Islam.
  • For those who have grown up among them, must be committed to pay jizya, for those who are rich should pay 4 gold dinar (dinars in question is a gold dinar used in buying and selling, weighing 4.25 grams), for the middle-income economy people should pay 2 gold dinars, and for the poor people among them, should pay 1 gold dinar. They should not hide the wealth that they have, they have to pay 2 times a year.
  • Not allowed to have weapons
  • Should not sell pigs and alcohol to Muslims in the market, and drink it in public places
  • If they break this agreement, the cemetery has been provided for them, as it could be.
  • They should perform decently in a dress, and buying or selling with rules of Daulah Islamiyyah.

If they fulfill all the requirements above.

Their  soul, their property and their homes, will get the protection (as it had been given) Messenger of Allah.  Their belief/religion will not be disturbed and reduced, Islamic law is very fair to them, and they will not be punished entirely if one of them made ​​a mistake.

Those who agree to the terms contained in this agreement. For they are God’s protection and the protection of Muhammad shalallallahu alaihi wa sallam, until God bring with Him affairs.  If they violate this agreement, their protection will gone, and the Islamic State will fight them like the others.


How Dissimulation about Islam is Fuelling Genocide in the Middle East
Mark Durie
Lapido Media | August 12, 2014

In northern Iraq religious genocide is reaching end-game stage. Islamic State (IS) soldiers, reinforced with military equipment originally supplied by the US, are driving back Kurdish defenders who had been protecting Christians and other religious minorities. While hundreds of thousands of refugees have been fleeing into Kurdistan, around 40,000 Yazidis and some Christians are trapped on Mount Sinjar, surrounded by IS jihadis. (Yazidis are Kurdish people whose pre-Christian faith derives from ancient Iranian religious traditions, with overlays and influences from other religions.)

The Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq has reported that children and the elderly are dying of thirst on Sinjar. Parents are throwing their children to their deaths off the mountain rather than see them die of thirst or be taken into slavery by IS.

The IS jihadis are killing the men they capture. In one recent incident 1500 men were executed in front of their wives and families. In another incident 13 Yazidi men who refused to convert to Islam had their eyes plucked out, were doused with gasoline and burned alive. When the men are killed, captured women and children are enslaved to be used for sex, deployed as human shields in battle zones, or sold to be used and abused as their new owners see fit.

The United States has ironically called for greater cooperation. UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, urged ‘all parties to the conflict’ to allow access to UN relief agencies. She called on Iraqis to ‘come together’ so that Iraq will ‘get back on the path to a peaceful future’ and ‘prevent ISIL from obliterating Iraq’s vibrant diversity’.

Of course it is not ‘vibrant diversity’ which is being wiped out in Iraq, but men, women and children by their tens of thousands. This is not about the failure of coexistence, and the problem is not ‘conflict’. This is not about people who have trouble getting on and who need to somehow make up and ‘come together’. It is about a well-articulated and well-documented theological worldview hell-bent on dominating ‘infidels’, if necessary wiping them off the face of the earth, in order to establish the power and grandeur of a radical vision of Islam.

The American administration, according to Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute, ‘withholds arms from the Kurds while awaiting a new, unified Iraqi government with a new prime minister. Meanwhile … no Iraqi troops are in Nineveh province.’ Only at a few minutes to midnight on the genocide clock has the US begun to launch military strikes against IS forces.

These events ought to be sobering to the West, not least because thousands of the IS jihadis were raised and bred in the mosques of Europe, North America and Australia, not to mention the madrassas of nations such as Malaysia, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Having been formed by the theology of radical Islam in their home societies, would-be jihadis are flocking to Syria and Iraq where they seek victory or martyrdom, killing and raping as they go.

Why is this so? How did the Arab Spring, hailed by so many armchair western commentators as the next best thing for the Middle East, blossom bright red into a torrent of blood?

Theological illiteracy

Part of the answer is that the West is in the grip of theological illiteracy. It has stubbornly refused to grasp the implications of a global Islamic revival which has been gaining steam for the best part of a century. The Islamic Movement looks back to the glory days of conquest as Islam’s finest hour, and seeks to revive Islamic supremacy through jihad and sacrifice. It longs for a truly Islamic state – the caliphate reborn – and considers jihad to be the God-given means to usher it in.

This worldview was promoted in compelling, visionary terms by Indian scholar Abul A’la Maududi, whose writings continue to be widely disseminated by Islamic bookshops and mosques across the West. Maududi argued in his radicalisation primer Let us be Muslims that the only valid form of government is Islamic theocracy – i.e. sharia rule – and Muslims are duty-bound to use whatever power they can muster to impose this goal on the world: ‘whoever you are, in whichever country you live, you must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God. … The name of this striving is jihad.’ And ‘If you believe Islam to be true, you have no alternative but to exert your utmost strength to make it prevail on earth: you either establish it or give your lives in this struggle.’

My own copy of Let us Be Muslims, which lies open before me as I write, was bought from a well-respected mainstream Islamic centre here in Melbourne, Australia.

Violent protests

When Pope Benedict gave a lecture in Regensburg in 2006, in which he suggested that Islam had been spread by force, the Muslim world erupted in violent protests.

Sheikh ‘Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, responded with a revealing defence of Islam’s record. Without a glimmer of irony he argued that the Pope was wrong to say Islam had been spread by force, because the infidels had a third choice, apart from death or conversion, namely to ‘surrender and pay tax, and they will be allowed to remain in their land, observing their religion under the protection of Muslims.’ He claimed that those who read the Qur’an and the Sunna (the example and teaching of Muhammad) will understand the facts.

The reality unfolding in north Iraq today reveals to the cold light of day exactly what the doctrine of the three choices means for conquered non-Muslims populations, and why the dogma of the ‘three choices’ is no defence against the assertion that Islam was spread by the sword.


It is crystal clear that IS is not playing by the world’s rules. It has nothing but contempt for the Geneva Convention. Its battle tactics are regulated by sheikhs who implement the sharia’s rules of war. Many of the abuses committed by IS being reported by the international media are taken straight from the pages of Islamic legal textbooks.

Consider IS’s announcement to Christians in northern Iraq: ‘We offer them three choices: Islam, the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this, they will have nothing but the sword.’

These words are cobbled together from the pages of Islamic sacred texts. It was Sa’d b. Mu’adh, a companion of Muhammad, who said of the pagan Meccans ‘We will give them nothing but the sword’ ( A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, OUP 1955 p. 454). Muhammad himself was reported to have said ‘When you meet your enemies who are polytheists [i.e. they are not Muslims] invite them to three courses of action. … Invite them to Islam… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the jizya. … If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them’ (Sahih Muslim. The Book of Jihad and Expedition [Kitab al-Jihad wa’l-Siyar] 3:27:4294). When the Caliph ‘Umar attacked Persia, he announced to them ‘Our Prophet [Muhammad] … has ordered us to fight you till you worship Allah Alone or pay jizya’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, The Book of al-Jizya and the Stoppage of War 4:58:3159).


I have analysed the doctrine of the three choices in my book The Third Choice: Islam, dhimmitude and freedom, drawing extensively on Islamic sources to explain the worldview of jihad and the dhimma. That book now reads as a grim prophecy of the tragedy unfolding in Syria and Iraq.

The Arabic word jizya is derived from a root j-z-y which refers to something given as compensation, in substitution for something else. According to Arab lexicographers, jizya is tribute taken from non-Muslims living under Islamic rule ‘as though it were a compensation for their not being slain’. It is paid by defeated communities to compensate or reward their attackers for forgoing the right to kill, enslave or loot them.

The nineteenth-century Algerian Qur’anic commentator Muhammad ibn Yusuf at-Fayyish explained that jizya is ‘a satisfaction for their blood. It is … to compensate for their not being slain. Its purpose is to substitute for the duties of killing and slavery … It is for the benefit of Muslims.’ Over a thousand years earlier, Abu Yusuf Ya’qub, a Hanafi jurist wrote ‘their lives and possessions are spared only on account of the payment of the jizya.’


In 1799 William Eton, in a survey of the Ottoman empire, reported that Christians under Ottoman rule, on paying the jizya, were addressed with a standard form of words to the effect that ‘the sum of money received is taken as compensation for being permitted to wear their heads that year‘ (Eton’s emphasis).

To be sure, there are other ways to interpret the Qur’an, but the point is that this understanding of jizya has become the operative one in Northern Iraq and Syria. It also has the backing of centuries of Islamic jurisprudence and practice. It was with this understanding of Islam that the Middle East, South Asia and large parts of Eastern Europe were conquered and occupied under Muslim rule until modern times.

This grim fact – that the IS jihadis can ably defend their theology on the basis of Islam’s history and religious traditions – means that it will be no easy task to persuade Muslim clerics and intellectuals to ‘debunk’ them. Such a strategy, which has been proposed by Peter Leahy, former head of the Australian Army, will be fraught with difficulties. Debunking would be a whole lot easier if radical ideologies were in fact bunkum. The problem is, the jihadis hold far too many theological trump cards from the Qur’an and the precedent of Muhammad’s example to be so easily routed on the field of ideas. Indeed it is the radicals who have become expert at debunking, as their successful global recruiting drive shows.

Let us consider some of the weight behind the radicals’ theology.


According to Islamic law, Christians and other non-Muslims who agree to keep their religion and their lives by paying jizya are subject to a dhimma treaty of surrender.

The word dhimma is derived from an Arabic word meaning ‘to blame’. It implies a liability or debt arising from fault or blame. The idea is that the non-Muslims, known as dhimmis, owe a debt to their conquerors for their lives, and non-observance of the treaty of surrender would attract blame and thus incur punishment. The dhimma conditions include payment of jizya by adult men, but also many demeaning legal disabilities which are enforced upon non-Muslims and apply in one form or another across most of the Muslim world right up to the present day: one example is widespread restrictions on building new churches in areas formerly conquered by Islam; another is restrictions on freedom of religious expression.

The imposition of these disabilities upon non-Muslims is in accordance with a command of Muhammad:

‘… I have been sent with a sword in my hand to command people to worship Allah and associate no partners with him. I command you to belittle and subjugate those who disobey me, for whoever imitates a people is one of them’ (cited from Musnad (chain of) Ahmad Ibn Hanbali, founder of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence).


One of the means of belittling non-Muslims has been to ensure that they would not ‘look alike’, by requiring that they wear discriminatory clothing, patches or even, in ancient times, seals around their necks.

A modern-day manifestation of the principle of not ‘looking alike’ is the application of the Arabic letter nun (for Nazrani, the Arabic word for Christians) to the exterior of Christian homes in Mosul. Using similar reasoning, the Taliban required that Afghan Hindus should wear discriminatory patches on their clothing, so their non-Muslim status could be instantly recognizable.

IS is even looking to the model of first century Islam to set the level of the jizya tax. Early Islamic sources state that the jizya was a minimum of one gold dinar, and up to four dinars, depending upon the wealth of the individual dhimmi. Following these provisions to the letter, IS has made the following declaration:

‘Christians are obligated to pay Jizya tax on every adult male to the value of four golden dinars for the wealthy, half of that for middle-income citizens and half of that for the poor . . . they must not hide their status, and can pay in two installments per year.’

A gold dinar weighs about 4.5 grams, which at $45 a gram means that a tax regime of one to four dinars equates to $200 to $800 US dollars per non-Muslim adult male. This is a heavy burden for a conquered people in a war zone, and the reality on the ground in both Syria and Iraq has been that the jihadis demand much more, and not once a year as its textbooks state, but again and again.

Convert or die

Reports show that IS has been setting jizya so high in both Syria and northern Iraq, and levying it so often, that it cannot be paid. This gives Christians who wish to stay in their homes but two choices: convert or die. Most have fled, but some, including those who are too frail or disabled to flee, have had to convert to save themselves. The fleeing refugees are in a particularly desperate situation, because they are progressively stripped of their belongings by IS checkpoints as they escape.

There is nothing new here. Throughout history the jizya has been a heavy imposition for non-Muslims. Large numbers of Christians converted to Islam in the early centuries of Islamic rule in order to avoid this tax. Dionysius, a Syrian patriarch writing in the eighth century, reported that the jizya often had to be extracted from Christians by beatings, extortion, torture, rape and killings. Many fled destitute from town to town after they had sold everything they owned to pay the tax.

Arthur Tritton reported in The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects about eighth-century Egypt that for ordinary day labourers the jizya tax was around a quarter of annual earnings, or ten times the zakat tax paid by Muslims. Shlomo Dov Goitein, writing on the situation of Jews in medieval Egypt, reported that men would enslave themselves or their family to pay the tax. Centuries after Dionysius of Antioch, he also reported that many, having sold all they had to pay it, took to wandering homeless as beggars.

Rules of war

The treatment of captives by IS is also in accordance with orthodox rules of war in Islam, which permit men to be killed, while women and children are enslaved. Sex slavery – concubinage – is permitted by the sharia principles which guide IS. The Reliance of the Traveller – a respected Sunni manual of sharia law – states: ‘When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled’ (chapter o9.13). The option of converting to Islam to avoid death or capture – which is being urged upon non-Muslims by IS – is also clearly supported: ‘Whoever enters Islam before being captured may not be killed or his property confiscated, or his young children taken captive’ (chapter o9.12).

The widespread looting of property is also validated by Islam’s rules of war: ‘A free male Muslim who has reached puberty and is sane is entitled to the spoils of battle when he has participated in a battle to the end of it’ (chapter o10.1). And ‘Anyone who … kills one of the enemy or effectively incapacitates him, risking his own life thereby, is entitled to whatever he can take from the enemy, meaning as much as he can take away with him in the battle, such as a mount, clothes, weaponry, money or other’ (chapter o10.2).

The grim reality is that the fate of Christians and Yazidis in northern Iraq today all too often matches the stipulations of Islamic textbooks: non-Muslim men are killed, their women and children enslaved, and their property and possessions looted.

It is regrettable that the hard cold reality of Islamic imperialism and the dhimma system have been denied and obscured by scholars. For example Bernard Lewis claimed that ‘The dhimma on the whole worked quite well.’

As part of this obscurantist veil, the true meaning of the words jizya and dhimma have been hidden by scholars.

Anglican priest Colin Chapman, who was the then Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, claimed in his widely-ready book Cross and Crescent that Jews and Christians were ‘protected’ and implied that the jizya was paid in compensation for them not doing military service or paying the Muslims’ alms tax (zakat). In reality the main protection afforded to dhimmis is that they can keep their heads away from the sword of jihad, and it was in return for this privilege that the jizya is exacted. John Esposito similarly claimed that jizya is an ‘exchange’ in return for keeping one’s religion, protection from ‘outside aggression’, and exemption from military service.

Islamic rule

Such dissimulations, also advanced by Muslim apologists, have served to prop up the myth of convivencia and a golden age in which Christians and Muslims lived contentedly side-by-side under Islamic rule.

Architects of multiculturalism and advocates of interfaith dialogue have repeatedly promoted this mythical Islamic construct as a model for different religions to flourish side by side in Europe today. This has gone hand in hand with the claims that European culture owes an unacknowledged debt to Islam, and Islam’s historical record has been misrepresented by hateful, bigoted people.

In reality Islamic coexistence with conquered Christian populations was always regulated by the conditions of the dhimma, as defined above, under which non-Muslims have no inherent right to life, but had to purchase this right year after year.


Willful historical ignorance has been deeply debilitating for the intellectual elites of the West, who feel righteous in dismissing evidence that contradicts their corrupted worldview, on the grounds that they are taking a stand against the bigotry of Islamophobia. They have been schooled in this self-hatred by their Muslim dialogue partners.

Also debilitating has been the trend among scholars to deny or downplay the military meaning of jihad. An extreme example is Yale theologian Miroslav Volf’s preposterous claim that the use of military force to expand Islam is ‘rejected by all leading Muslim scholars today’.

The promotion of the idea of the ‘greater jihad’ as a personal spiritual struggle has also served to distract western leaders, such as CIA director John Brennan, who stated that ‘jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community’.

True meaning

In reality the meaning of jihad in all sharia textbooks is warfare against unbelievers. If the true meaning of jihad was a spiritual struggle with the self, IS would not be attracting so many willing volunteers from around the globe to the killing fields of Syria and Iraq.

There is a chronic and urgent need for a dialogue of civilizations between Islam and the post-Christian West. However this dialogue cannot be based upon myths. At the top of the agenda must be the twin institutions of jihad and the dhimma. It is essential for Western people to emphatically reject and stigmatize these two pillars of Islamic law, and to deplore to Muslims their application both throughout history and in the contemporary world.

Cultural blindness

One of the effects of enforced cultural blindness and intellectual amnesia is rampant theological illiteracy among Western policy makers. This is now having the direst of consequences for Christians and others in the Middle East. Those who managed the Western occupation of Iraq were deeply ignorant of the dangers to non-Muslim minorities posed by the Islamic revivalism combined with Western inference, and in particular by the re-establishment of the jihad-dhimma system. They overlooked the fact that re-establishing the dhimma has always been part of the agenda of Islamic revivalist movements. They did not grasp that jihad war zones always prove especially deadly to non-Muslims, even when the main conflict is between Muslims.

It had also been forgotten that advances in the rights of non-Muslim populations across the Middle East – such as the official dismantling of dhimma laws by the Ottomans in the mid-nineteenth century – were only achieved due to sustained political and military pressure from the Great Powers, and at the cost of suppressing mainstream Islamic dogmas. Indeed this ‘humiliation’ of Islam is one of the very things the global Islamic revival is supposed to be winding back: this is why the deterioration of the human rights of non-Muslim minorities – from Malaysia to Egypt – has been so marked in recent decades.

Today Islamic revivalist dogmas, which have become deeply entrenched in Muslim communities both throughout the West and in Muslim majority states, eulogize Islam’s glory days, when Christians and other non-Muslims paid jizya to keep their heads. Revivalists look forward to a time when sharia principles, implemented through unfettered jihad, will enforce the view that non-Muslims do not have an inherent right to life, but only a conceded right for which they must compensate Muslims in gold. We need not be surprised or shocked when young men from around the globe, reared on this poisonous theological cocktail, volunteer for jihad in Syria and Iraq to usher in a longed-for Islamic utopia. It should not shock us that they have no qualms about shedding non-Muslim blood.

The effect of the cultural jihad, waged not only by Muslim apologists, but also by Western elites, is that Western policy makers have become blind to the enormity of present-day non-Muslim suffering under the yoke of Islam, for they have no reference points to comprehend it. To engage with this suffering and develop policies to counter it would require acknowledgement of its root causes, namely the theological framework of jihad and the dhimma, but that is simply too frightening for societies who have multicultural dogmas rusted onto their psyches, having embraced a false view of history and stubbornly obscurantist views about theology.

As long as policy makers continue to seek intellectual solace in calls for ‘conflict resolution’ and ‘reconciliation’, the vulnerable will continue to be killed, raped and looted in the name of Islamic revivalism. The lives of tens of thousands of vulnerable and peaceful Christians, Yazidis and others, whose crime is that their religion is unacceptable, now hang in the balance in northern Iraq, while the West sits paralyzed on the side lines, stunned and stupefied by the lies it has told itself for so many years.

Infidel West

This is not to say that reconciliation is unnecessary. Usama Bin Ladin got it right when he asserted that the doctrine of the three choices is the crux of the West’s problem with Islam: ‘The West avenges itself against Islam for giving infidels but three options’:

‘Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue – one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice – and it is: "Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually?" [The answer is:] Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword – for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.’

Bin Ladin was right about this, that Islam’s doctrine of three choices, encompassing the theological institutions of jihad and the dhimma, is and must be the central issue for the West in its dialogue with the Islamic world. An understanding of this doctrine and its implications for the human rights of non-Muslims should be a cornerstone of public policy in relation to Islam, both now and in the foreseeable future.

This will not be an easy or comfortable dialogue, judging from the howls of protest that greeted Pope Benedict’s comparatively mild Regensburg lecture in 2006. Yet appeasement of howling objectors through conflict-avoidance manoeuvers will bring nothing but grief, as we are seeing in northern Iraq.

According to the ‘Vicar of Bagdad‘, Canon Andrew White, what is needed right now to help non-Muslim victims of Islamic jihadism is three things: Protection, Provision and Perseverance. The lie foisted upon the world was that there was nothing non-Muslims needed to be protected from.

Right now IS’s victims deserve military intervention, food, water and medical supplies. Many will need permanent sanctuary outside of their homelands.

Longer term, much more is needed. Certainly the will to persevere, because the world is in but the early stages of a (now resumed) centuries-long war with militant Islam, but above all, in order to make sustained progress in the long struggle ahead, we will require a greater appetite for the truth.

Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist, pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and director of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom. A graduate of the Australian National University and the Australian College of Theology, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA and Stanford, and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1992.


Convert, pay tax, or die, Islamic State warns Christians
Jul 18, 2014

(Reuters) – Islamist insurgents have issued an ultimatum to northern Iraq’s dwindling Christian population to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death, according to a statement distributed in the militant-controlled city of Mosul.

The statement issued by the Islamic State, the al Qaeda offshoot which led last month’s lightning assault to capture swathes of north Iraq, and seen by Reuters, said the ruling would come into effect on Saturday.

It said Christians who wanted to remain in the "caliphate" that the Islamic State declared this month in parts of Iraq and Syria must agree to abide by terms of a "dhimma" contract – a historic practice under which non-Muslims were protected in Muslim lands in return for a special levy known as "jizya".

"We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword," the announcement said.

A resident of Mosul said the statement, issued in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, had been distributed on Thursday and read out in mosques.

It said Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which the group has now named Caliph Ibrahim, had set a Saturday deadline for Christians who did not want to stay and live under those terms to "leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate".

"After this date, there is nothing between us and them but the sword," it said.

The Nineveh decree echoes one that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the former name for the Islamic State, issued in the Syrian city of Raqqa in February, demanding that Christians pay the jizya levy in gold and curb displays of their faith in return for protection.

The concept of dhimma, governing non-Muslims living under Islamic rule, dates back to the early Islamic era in the seventh century, but was largely abolished during the Ottoman reforms of the mid-19th century.

Mosul, once home to diverse faiths, had a Christian population of around 100,000 a decade ago, but waves of attacks on Christians since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein have seen those numbers collapse.

The resident of Mosul who saw the Islamic State announcement estimated the city’s Christian population before last month’s militant takeover at around 5,000. The vast bulk of those have since fled, leaving perhaps only 200 in the city, he said.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans and Isra’ al-Rube’i; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

ISIS-4 Aug 14

Posted: August 4, 2014 in ISIS

From Theory to Action: The Rationale behind the Re-establishment of the Caliphate
Michael W. S. Ryan
Terrorism Monitor | Volume: 12 Issue: 15 – July 25, 2014

According to most public analysis, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or its latest iteration as the Islamic State (IS), is a serious regional threat but not yet a direct threat to the United States on the order of 9/11. [1] Reforms instituted after 9/11 have protected the American public for the most part, but the system struggles with a threat that is serious but not imminent. In the case of ISIS, it might well be that the United States is within the Islamic State’s lengthy planning cycle for attack – and the blow could fall first on the world petroleum market through subversion of regional partners such as Saudi Arabia.

Relationship to al-Qaeda

Before determining what kind of threat the IS poses to the United States, one must first define what it is and what strategy it is likely following. Despite the well-known rift with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, ISIS under any of its previous names has never been more than a nominal member of al-Qaeda, occupying a space somewhere between a fellow traveler and an affiliate. On October 17, 2004, after months of negotiation, Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi pledged allegiance (bay‘ah) to Bin Laden. However, al-Qaeda leaders could try to persuade but could never give direct orders to al-Zarqawi or his successors. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or “Caliph Ibrahim” as he now styles himself, claims never to have sworn allegiance to al-Zawahiri after Bin Laden’s death. Thus, IS does not consider itself a splinter of al-Qaeda. Instead, the Islamic State is a rival to al-Qaeda’s leadership within the larger “jihadist movement.” In its area of operations, ISIS has been more successful than al-Qaeda, while the Islamic State is the fulfillment of al-Zawahiri’s constantly foiled dream as expressed in his 2001 book, Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner:

The jihadist movement must build its plan on the basis of controlling a portion of land in the heart of the Islamic world in which to establish a defensible Islamic state from which it will launch its battle to restore the Rightly Guided Caliphate according to the program of prophethood (manhaj al-nubuwah). Just as armies cannot achieve victory except through the occupation of a portion of land, likewise the jihadist Islamic movement will not achieve victory against the global infidel alliance without possessing a base in the heart of the Islamic world. Without the establishment of a caliphate in the heart of the Islamic world, everything we have reviewed, the means and the plans of assembling and mobilizing the ummah, will be left hanging in the air without a concrete result or demonstrable benefit… [2]

Controlling a portion of land proved elusive in the face of an American campaign using weapons for which al-Qaeda has no defense. The closest al-Qaeda has come to its goal has been through its most dangerous affiliate, the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Al-Suri’s Analysis of the Failure of the 1982 Insurrection in Syria

To appreciate ISIS’s approach to its operations in Syria and Iraq, it is useful to review the record of the 1982 Muslim Brotherhood insurrection in Syria that ended in utter failure. Syrian jihad ideologue Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri established his reputation in jihadist circles by writing a strategic history of this insurrection against Hafiz al-Assad. Al-Suri participated as part of the self-styled “Fighting Vanguard” and was in a position to provide his observations on the reasons for the failure (for which he accepted a share of responsibility). He published these observations separately in short articles that formed the basis for jihadist training in Afghanistan and elsewhere. [3] These lessons are certainly known to the leaders of the major jihadist groups in Syria and have been influential in Iraq since al-Zarqawi launched his “jihad.” [4] Al-Suri identified 17 general “bitter lessons” of the failed insurgency and one hopeful lesson – the possibility of mobilizing a Sunni Muslim population for “Islamic jihadist revolution.”

The overarching reason for the Brothers’ failure, according to al-Suri, was the lack of a comprehensive strategy before the insurrection was launched. ISIS has been following a clear plan based on the same strategic outline that inspires AQAP. This plan, given in broad strokes by Abu Bakr Naji and in keeping with Maoist dictates, urges local commanders to compose detailed plans based on the salient economic, geographic and social aspects of the area targeted for insurrection. [5] ISIS has both an overarching plan and different detailed approaches in Syria and Iraq – harsh in its relations with other groups in Syria and more accommodating in Iraq. It is worth noting that Naji advised his readers/students (who often came from urban settings) to study books on the sociology of tribal groups that could end up becoming allies. Tribal groups have become a major factor in both Syria and Iraq.

Al-Suri urges jihadists to avoid weaknesses such as failing to explain the ideology and objectives of the revolution; low political and revolutionary awareness and weak religious indoctrination within the population and recruits. Clearly, ISIS has made its ideology, objectives and required indoctrination trademarks of its operations in response to al-Suri’s guidance.

A key weakness noted by al-Suri, the practice of having jihadists spread in numerous competing organizations, is one of ISIS’s intractable problems. Its attacks on fellow jihadist groups in Syria form major propaganda material for competing jihadists and other rivals. ISIS’s call for other groups to offer allegiance to the newly proclaimed caliph is aimed at this problem but is far from being able to solve it. In Iraq, an important number of its allies do not share the movement’s ideology. Over time, this weakness, if not ameliorated, could become an existential liability for the Islamic State.

Another ISIS liability often cited in the Western press, its relatively small fighting force, could be considered a strength. Al-Suri points out that when the first bullets began to fly in Syria in 1982, the Muslim Brothers accepted a large number of recruits whose lack of preparation or dedication to a central ideology weakened the group’s effectiveness. Al-Suri characterized this as a dependence on “quantity rather than quality” in recruiting. ISIS has chosen to keep its ranks small and highly flexible while depending on allied groups from local areas to provide additional manpower to ease the consolidation of captured territory and increase its capability to conduct further terrorist attacks.

Other causes of the failure of the 1982 Syrian insurrection addressed by ISIS include the inability to communicate ideas internally and externally; dependence on outside support rather than self-sufficiency; dealing with neighboring regimes as though they were reliable supporters; maintaining a leadership in exile away from the theater of operations; allowing the leadership to operate openly rather than clandestinely and failing to learn lessons from earlier jihadist insurrections. The point is not that ISIS has excelled in these areas; but their actions demonstrate that they thought through these issues and applied corrective actions in many cases. For example, they make use of outside sources, but they are mostly self-sufficient for resources.

In his eighth “bitter lesson,” al-Suri criticizes the Muslim Brotherhood for allowing its fighters to become mired in a war of attrition with the powerful central regime on its terms rather than using proven terrorist and guerrilla tactics. ISIS’s leaders appear to have decided that they would take the criticism of other jihadists when they minimized operations against Bashar al-Assad’s forces inside Syria and devoted themselves to setting up a rudimentary state straddling the border with Iraq instead. Their pragmatic willingness to sell Assad oil from captured fields and to attack other jihadist groups has prompted conspiracy theories that ISIS is a product of the Assad regime and is working closely with it. The reality is simpler: ISIS wanted a state of its own over any other objective.

ISIS has demonstrated various levels of success in addressing the remaining “bitter lessons.” Unlike the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS has successfully regionalized its operations. One may well criticize ISIS’s handling of populations under its control, but it has a deliberate system of governance, which has enjoyed mixed success. It has applied its harsh interpretation of Islamic law in conquered areas, but it has also promoted vaccination campaigns and even a consumer protection service. It has also shown the ability to step back from its harshest practices on occasion. [6]

Al-Suri noted that the Brotherhood had not been able to use religious scholars to mobilize the people. Although the most influential Salafi-Jihadist scholars such as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qutada al-Filastini continue to support al-Qaeda, ISIS has been able to engage the allegiance of lesser figures such as Abu Humam al-Athari. As early as July 21, 2013, al-Athari wrote an essay not only arguing for al-Baghdadi’s role as the Amir al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful), but also asserting that he is the most qualified to sit “in the caliph’s seat.” [7] The cleric provided a genealogy tracing al-Baghdadi’s lineage to the Prophet Muhammad and asserting that the leader is a member of the noble Quraysh tribe, as well other attributes associated with the ideal Muslim leader that neither al-Zawahiri nor Bin Laden could claim. One may judge how powerful al-Athari’s arguments were by the fierce refutations issued by ISIS opponents. In this way, al-Baghdadi engaged at least part of the religious community to lay the groundwork for his self-declaration as caliph almost a year later. Successfully inspiring al-Athari and other religious figures in Syria, Iraq and beyond addresses another shortcoming cited by al-Suri, the failure to transform preachers into active jihadists.

One of the most important of the “bitter lessons” cited by al-Suri was the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood to mobilize Sunni Muslim Arab tribes and Kurds. There is little doubt that a great measure of ISIS’s success in both Syria and in Iraq is due to its alliances with tribes. [8] Without tribal allies, the relatively small ISIS force would struggle to gain territory and find it impossible to hold it. At the same time, the tribes will always have their own agenda, which will diverge from ISIS’s goals, especially if ISIS stops winning. The Kurds have resisted efforts by ISIS to co-opt them and will fight the jihadists when necessary. The best the Islamic State can hope to gain from the Kurds in current conditions is a stalemate. Taking on the patriotic Kurds in their own homeland would be a dangerous gamble.

The Strategy: Next Steps

We should expect IS to continue to foil predictions. However, if they are following Abu Bakr Naji’s strategy for establishing an emirate, we should be able to see the broad strokes of the Islamic State’s strategic thinking. [9] Naji’s strategy has been adopted by AQAP’s leader, Nasir Abd al-Karim al-Wuhayshi, and extolled by another influential ISIS supporter, Abu Sa‘ad al-Amili. To paraphrase the AQAP leader’s advice to other Muslims about judging al-Qaeda, we should look at Naji’s book, Idarah al-Tawahhush (Administration of Savagery), and look at what ISIS is doing before deciding whether this jihadist group is following a rational plan or simply running boldly on a tightrope over a deep canyon.

Naji’s plan would have ISIS conquering areas after the mujahideen have driven out central government forces by using terrorist tactics and mobilizing the population to their side by polarizing society using money and sectarian politics. They would place these areas under the control of a primitive government one step above a state of nature, which would be accepted by people desperate for security. The mujahideen would introduce more government services over time and expand these areas while defending them from government counterattacks by arming the local population where possible and continuing mujahideen guerrilla operations to compel government forces to defend fixed locations, such as the capital, major religious shrines and economic targets. They would expand each area they control and merge them with others under their control or controlled by ex-military or tribal groups. They would offer the tribes booty taken during their insurgency to gain their allegiance.

As a real state begins to appear viable, the mujahideen leaders would send out a worldwide call for administrative experts, managers, judges and others who might help govern a complex state. We know from abundant reporting and IS’s first magazine Dabiq that ISIS and now IS have already engaged in all these practices and more in Naji’s playbook. This does not mean ISIS is following Naji as a recipe, but it does mean that more attention needs to be paid to Naji’s work as experts devise a strategy to defeat ISIS without the use of U.S. military ground forces. More importantly, if the Islamic State is following Naji we should expect them to focus on undermining Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and developing a plan to disrupt the flow of energy to the world’s economies from the Arabian Peninsula. We should also expect the Islamic State to eventually inspire attacks inside Europe and the United States, with AQAP apparently ready to help in both endeavors if the opportunity arises.

Dr. Michael W. S. Ryan is an independent consultant and researcher on Middle Eastern security issues and a Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. He is the author of Decoding Al-Qaeda’s Strategy: The Deep Battle Against America (Columbia University Press, 2013).


1. This article is based on a presentation the author delivered at a recent symposium at the U.S. Naval War College’s Center for Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups.

2. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Knights under the Prophet’s Banner (Fursan Tahta Rayah al-Nabi), 2nd ed., As Sahab Publishers, p. 215, See also Michael W. S. Ryan, Decoding Al-Qaeda’s Strategy: The Deep Battle against America, New York, Columbia University Press, 2013, p.72.

3. Al-Suri, Mulahazat Hawla al-Tajribah al-Jihadiyah fi Suriya (Observations concerning the jihadist experience in Syria),

4. Compare Murad Batal al-Shishani, “Jabhat al-Nusra’s New Syria Strategy” (in Arabic), al-Hayat, January 14, 2013, (English trans. by Al-Monitor,

5. See Abu Bakr Naji, Idarah al-Tawahhush: Akhtar Marhalah Satamurru biha al-Ummah (The Administration of savagery: the most dangerous phase through which the ummah will pass),

6. For an analysis of the soft and hard aspects of ISIS’s governance, see Aaron Zelin, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Has a Consumer Protection Office,” The Atlantic, June 13, 2014,

7. See Abu Humam al-Athari, Madd al-Ayadi li-Bay’ah al-Baghdadi (Extend hands in allegiance to al-Baghdadi), July 21, 2013. This essay may be found on the Free Syrian Army’s website, but is also available in a number of formats on various online storage sites, e.g.,

8. For an analysis of the relationship between ISIS and tribes in Iraq, see Nicholas A. Heras, “The Tribal Component of Iraq’s Sunni Rebellion: The General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries,” Terrorism Monitor, June 27, 2014. For tribes in Syria, see Aaron Zelin, “Al-Qaeda in Syria: A Closer Look at ISIS,” parts I & II, Policy Watch 2137 & 2138, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 10-11, 2013.

9. See also Alistair Crooke, “The ISIS’ ‘Management of Savagery’ in Iraq,” Huffington Post, June 30, 2014,


While West Dithers, ISIS Creates Facts on the Ground
Max Boot
Commentary Magazine | 08.04.2014

“ISIS now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations. It possesses the means to threaten its neighbors on multiple fronts, demonstrating a military effectiveness much greater than many observers expected.”

So wrote my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Janine Davidson on July 24. And that was before this weekend’s reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had routed Kurdish fighters from the town of Sinjar near the Iraq-Syria border–one of the few border posts it did not already control–and that it may have taken control of the Mosul dam, which if blown up could flood much of northern Iraq with a 65-foot wave.

Other reports indicate that ISIS has taken control of a Syrian oil field near Homs. As the Washington Post notes in a very comprehensive round-up of depressing news: “Experts estimate the group is pocketing as much as $3 million per day in oil revenue by selling off resources on black markets in the greater Levant.” Oh and ISIS also just staged an attack in yet another country–Lebanon.

In short, the news is about as bad as it could be. The question that remains is: What is the U.S. doing about it? So far President Obama has dispatched 825 military personnel to Iraq to make a survey of the situation and to conduct some liaison work with the Iraqis in two headquarters. That’s about it, aside from some fiery rhetoric from Washington denouncing ISIS excesses. One wonders if the president is once again assuming that denouncing something is the same thing as doing something about it.

There are no air strikes, no Special Operations raids, no attempts to rally Sunni tribesmen to resist their new overlords. Granted, one should not rush willy-nilly into action before gaining an accurate assessment of the situation and deploying the resources necessary to be successful. That is why, for example, the Bush administration did not start bombing Afghanistan until weeks after the 9/11 attacks. But one fears that this time around the U.S. is not preparing a devastating response–or any meaningful response at all–to the alarming expansion of Islamist terrorist control in Iraq and Syria.

One fears that Washington is busy analyzing while ISIS is altering facts on the ground. And that eventually we will hear about Iraq the same thing we have been hearing about Syria: that the situation is so grim that there is nothing we can do about it. That, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy–the less we do, the worse the situation gets, and the less likely we are to intervene in any form.


ISIS Hasn’t Gone Anywhere—and It’s Getting Stronger
Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking
Defense in Depth | July 24, 2014

Amid dangerous escalation in eastern Ukraine following the MH17 tragedy and a widening war in Gaza, it’s easy to dismiss last month’s lightning offensive into Iraq by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq’s (ISIS) as “old news.” Unfortunately, as global attention has shifted elsewhere, ISIS has only grown more virulent. The self-proclaimed caliphate has redoubled its efforts in Syria, launching a series of unprecedented offensives last week that now leave it in control of 35 percent of Syrian territory and nearly all of Syria’s oil and gas fields. The tumor is growing.

ISIS has shown remarkable military capability. A full-fledged July 21 counterattack by Syrian government troops failed—on two fronts—to reverse ISIS’ gains. Indeed, as Brett McGurk, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran, stated in Congressional testimony on July 23, “[ISIS]…is now a full-blown army.”

Meanwhile, these gains from Syria are being used to bolster the war effort in Iraq. As McClatchy reports:

The capture of nearly all Syria’s oil and gas has proved a financial bonanza for the Islamic State, which appears to be trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis and Syrians by guaranteeing low oil prices.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based anti-government group, said fuel tankers with Iraqi license plates and driven by Iraqi nationals have entered Syria and reached Al Omar oilfield near Deir el Zour in the last few days, waiting to be filled with oil before they return to Iraq through the territory controlled by the Islamic State.

The observatory said the group is selling oil to Syrian dealers for $12 a barrel, on the condition that those dealers sell them for no more than $18 a barrel to civilians, in an attempt to win support from people living in territories under its control.

That’s not all. As cities fall more firmly under ISIS’ grasp, the jihadists attempt to govern.  They are building and running schools in Syria and delivering “justice” across the Levant.  As the New York Times reports, the result is a mix of public executions and imposition of harsh religious law, supported by a surprising level of order. While ISIS has “removed” old leaders from their positions of power, it has made a practice of compelling mid-level bureaucrats and technocrats to stay through the change in management. As a result, ISIS rule has not been as disruptive as some analysts thought—so long as citizens do what the “caliphate” says.

In Iraq, things are a mess. Government forces have seen little progress in winning back territory. On July 10, ISIS ambushed and captured an Iraqi armor convoy, including several U.S.-made and donated M1A1 main battle tanks. On July 21, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States called for U.S. air strikes against ISIS positions. Meanwhile, according to updated monitoring by the Institute for the Study of War, ISIS continues to close off vectors into Baghdad.

ISIS now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations. It possesses the means to threaten its neighbors on multiple fronts, demonstrating a military effectiveness much greater than many observers expected. Should ISIS continue this pattern of consolidation and expansion, this terrorist “army” will eventually be able to exert a destabilizing influence far beyond the immediate area.

For now, serious options for the United States remain limited. A decapitation strike targeted against ISIS leader al-Baghdadi could fragment the organization—but he still remains a very elusive target. There are signs that Iraq’s moderate Sunnis are cooling to ISIS rule, but it’s unclear what effect this might have in stemming ISIS’ gains, or how capable they could be in routing ISIS by force.

Overall, news from the region is grim. ISIS is in the process of evolving from jihadi network to outlaw state. Meanwhile, the unprecedented number of foreign fighters who have streamed to Iraq and Syria—some 3,000 of whom have Western passports—will bring their newly tempered ideology and combat experience with them when they return home.

As ISIS turns increasingly to the task of governing, internal pressures on the organization will grow considerably. The uneasy coalition will be strained; damage done to local civic infrastructure and institutions will take its toll. Yet the atrocities committed in ISIS-occupied territory, terrible now, will likely get worse.

In this case, simply “waiting it out” might be a viable strategy, perhaps leaving the work of direct intervention to Iran. After all, Iran has plenty of reasons of its own to stymie ISIS’ spread. But is this a strategy the United States can—or should—accept?

Emerson Brooking is a research associate for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Michael W. S. Ryan
The Jamestown Foundation | August 1, 2014

Executive Summary

On the first day of Ramadan (June 28), the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared itself the new Islamic State and the new Caliphate (Khilafah). For the occasion, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling himself Caliph Ibrahim, broke with his customary secrecy to give a surprise khutbah (sermon) in Mosul before being rushed back into hiding. Al-Baghdadi’s khutbah addressed what to expect from the Islamic State. The publication of the first issue of the Islamic State’s official magazine, Dabiq, went into further detail about the Islamic State’s strategic direction, recruitment methods, political-military strategy, tribal alliances and why Saudi Arabia’s concerns that the Kingdom may be the Islamic State’s next target are well-founded.

Published in several European languages, including English, the magazine has a number of purposes. The first is to call on Muslims to come help the new caliph. Next, the magazine, comprising 50 vivid pages of color pictures, illustrations and artfully crafted text, tells the story of the Islamic State’s success in gaining the support of Syrian tribes, reports on the success of its recent military operations and graphically portrays the atrocities committed by its enemies, as well as vivid pictures of its own violence against Shi’ites. The premier issue also used classic Islamic texts to explain and justify the nature of the caliphate, its intentions, legitimacy and political and religious authority over all Muslims. Throughout its carefully constructed allusions, the magazine subtly appeals to the followers of other jihadist groups including the followers of the Islamic State’s foremost jihadist critics and potential followers in the Arabian Peninsula.

Another important purpose of Dabiq in the service of recruitment is to establish the Islamic State’s cosmic destiny by combining an eschatological account of coming battles gleaned from popular apocalyptic literature, the classical traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, prophecies and modern tactics taken from Salafi-Jihadist strategic literature. The strategic portion of this message is attributed to the original leader of the jihadist insurrection during the American occupation of Iraq, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. Taken together this mix is intended to capture the imagination of young warriors and inspire them to come and fight for Islamic State. This presentation will not solve the array of challenges facing the Islamic State, but it probably will help attract more young adherents as well as prove that al-Baghdadi and his advisors have developed a serious plan. It is important for Western countries to appreciate the dangerous instability this new movement, despite its obvious flaws, is capable of generating if left to its own devices.


The hard part is just beginning for the Islamic State. Its predecessor ISIS swept across Sunni Iraq in a whirlwind of success it had prepared by using clandestine cells, terrorism and guerrilla tactics to harass, distract and exhaust the central government. In the north, the badly disorganized and dispirited Iraqi armed forces in Mosul panicked before the mere specter of ISIS shock troops. The tribes in the rest of the north became what Clausewitz referred to as the levee en masse (arming of the people) with ISIS suddenly in the lead role. Historically, the tribal leadership did not follow ISIS’ ideology, but the Islamic State now serves as the best organized and funded “enemy of my enemy” in both Iraq and Syria. It also has a windfall of money and arms to dispense to those willing to follow its lead.

In the long run the chips are stacked against the Islamic State. Hostile neighbors and other jihadists are determined to thwart its success; moreover, managing and governing territory requires a different skill set than conquering it. On the other hand, Islamic State guerrilla cadres and leadership have real world experience from both Iraq and Syria with sudden success followed by sudden failure. Its leaders’ ability to understand this reality and adapt to the challenges that are coming should not be underestimated, however. In addition to their own experience, the Islamic State’s leaders are eclectically drawing on extensive Arabic literature on global jihadist theory of guerrilla war, politics and governance, such as the writings of Abu Bakr Naji and Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri. Thus, Islamic State leaders know they must learn the political game in this new environment and make use of the best practices in public relations, which have served them well despite the horrific violence they have inflicted on all those perceived as enemies.

Dabiq: Symbol of Armageddon

The most significant of the Islamic State’s recent efforts at public relations and recruiting is the publication of the first issue of its official magazine Dabiq. Published in multiple languages (including English), Dabiq’s cover theme is “The Return of Khilafah” (caliphate). [1] According to the magazine, its title:

… is taken from the area named Dabiq in the northern countryside of Halab (Aleppo) in Sham. This place was mentioned in a hadith describing some of the events of the Malahim (what is sometimes referred to as Armageddon in English). One of the greatest battles between the Muslims and the crusaders will take place near Dabiq. [2]

This area, at the time of publication under the control of Syrian forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, is a symbol of the great clash-to-come between the forces of the new caliphate and the West in which the forces of Islam will be triumphant. This prophecy is traced to a classic hadith and was used by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi to the effect that the promised victory in Dabiq will be the first step in the conquest of the world as symbolized by the anticipated defeats of “Constantinople” and then “Rome.” [3] In the apocalyptic tradition, Issa ibn Maryam (the Christian Jesus) will descend near Damascus to lead the army arriving from “al-Madinah of the best people.” [4] “Al-Madinah” can mean simply “city” as well as the city of that name in Saudi Arabia. By featuring this eschatology in such a prominent place, the magazine attempts to connect Islamic State and its new caliph to a cosmic purpose, obviously meant to have a romantic appeal to recruit young men looking for a cause.

The magazine is carefully crafted with symbolism that would be meaningful to jihadists, some amounting to “dog whistles” perhaps to signal to potential recruits that Islamic State is pursuing the stated goals of various jihadist groups and individuals that might otherwise be considered rivals or even enemies. For example, the use of the term “Millah Ibrahim” means the religious community or path associated with the patriarch Ibrahim (Abraham). The magazine has an extensive discussion of leadership entitled: “The Concept of Imamah (Leadership) is from the Millah (Path) of Ibrahim.” However, Millah Ibrahim is also the Arabic title of an influential 1984 jihadist tract written by the famous Palestinian-Jordanian ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Al-Maqdisi was a former teacher of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, but broke with him because of al-Zarqawi’s extreme violence against fellow Muslims. Accordingly, al-Maqdisi has not been a supporter of ISIS, but supports Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda instead. By using this reference in its first magazine issue, it is most likely that the Islamic State is attempting to appeal to al-Maqdisi’s followers and admirers over the head of al-Maqdisi himself [5]

Among other things, al-Maqdisi’s book, Millah Ibrahim, attacks the Saudi royal family’s rule. Thus, this book and others by al-Maqdisi were popular with Juhayman al-Utaybi, the leader of the group of insurrectionists responsible for the violent takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. Some of these admirers later joined AQAP. [6] The message here could well be received as: the Islamic State follows al-Maqdisi’s jihadist views on the apostasy of Saudi Arabia, but unlike al-Maqdisi, Islamic State is willing to act on its views, not just theorize about them. Is the Islamic State appealing directly to young members and the leadership of AQAP in Yemen as well as to the disaffected youth in Saudi Arabia?

To cite one other potential appeal among numerous signals embedded in the terminology used in the glossy Dabiq, we need to consider the apparently straightforward subtitle of the magazine: “The Return of the Khilafah.” On March 18, 2012, the radical Pakistani extremist group, Hizb-ut Tahrir Wilayah Pakistan (The Liberation Party of the State of Pakistan) issued an online English language white paper with the same title. [7] Hizb-ut Tahrir, which is not a guerrilla group, argues that the caliphate should be based in Pakistan, but their arguments, though based in the circumstances of South Asia, are similar to Arab jihadist ideological discourse. Could it be that the Islamic State is trying to appeal to English-speaking Hizb-ut Tahrir radicals in Pakistan and Great Britain who want action rather than white papers? The most likely answer to this and other question is that ISIS appears to be appealing to all young, ideologically compatible Muslim men who crave action rather than words and might be lured to join the new caliphate’s army.

Khilafah Declared

Dabiq asserts that the Islamic State is synonymous with the caliphal state. To this end it features selections of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s public address in Mosul as the new self-declared caliph. The selections of statements are meant to demonstrate that one of the Islamic State’s major purposes is to return dignity to oppressed and humiliated Muslims, a theme consistently used by al-Qaeda’s media propaganda as well. The Islamic State emphasizes that it is a place for all races, ethnic groups and nationalities to gather together to fight in the trenches together as brothers. Reminiscent of al-Zawahiri’s message on numerous occasions, the new caliph announces the “heavy boots” of Muslims “will cause the world to understand the meaning of terrorism… will trample… the idol of nationalism, destroy the idol of democracy, and uncover its deviant nature.” This is a highly polarizing call for all Muslims to come and fight for the Islamic State, which claims to be the best path to liberating Mecca and Madinah from the Saudi government and Jerusalem from the Jews.

Reports on the Tribes

Dabiq features the purported results of two Sunni tribal assemblies near Aleppo, Syria. The magazine asserts that the Islamic State:

… has an extensive history of building relations with the tribes within its borders in an effort to strengthen the ranks of the Muslims, unite them under one imam [leader]… [and that] its practice of attending tribal forums, addressing the concerns of the tribal leaders and accepting their bay’ah [pledge of allegiance] is regularly met with success. [8]

The “report” lists the tribal groupings in Syria that attended the assemblies complete with pictures of elders sitting in a forum and young men pledging bay’ah to the Islamic State and its caliph. The “head of tribal affairs” for the Islamic State announced that its mission was “neither local nor regional but rather global.” He related that Islamic State intended to implement Shari’a and listed recent successes in Iraq to include taking over the state of Ninewah, freeing Sunni prisoners, taking over the Mosul airport and military bases, demolishing the “Sykes-Picot” borders and opening a way between “Iraq and Sham.”

According to the magazine, the Islamic State representative stressed that he wanted the tribes help with their “wealth, their sons, their men, their weapons, their strength and their opinion, and encourage their sons and their brothers to join the military body of the Islamic State.” [9] The Islamic State representative also wanted to hear their advice and respond to their concerns; concerns, for example, about the Islamic State’s classic guerrilla strategy of taking ground and then leaving it when a conventional force challenges it. The Islamic State does not clarify what its response is to such concerns but its magazine reported what it promised to the tribes in concise bullet points. These include

· “Returning property to rightful owners,”

· “Pumping millions of dollars into services that are important to the Muslims,”

· “Security and stability,”

· “Availability of food and consumer products in the market, and a

· “Reduced crime rate.”

Dabiq also reports that the tribes, for their part, asked the Islamic State to collect and distribute the widows and orphans tax and to give tribes weapons acquired from the regime or FSA.

From Hijrah to Khilafah

Dabiq spends considerable space using hadith to explain how the imamah (leadership) envisioned in the Millah Ibrahim is political as well as religious, and moreover, is the same as the leadership established by the Islamic State. Embedded in this discussion is an argument against democracy, which separates religious from political leadership. Towards the end of the magazine, the discussion turns to the strategy and tactics the Islamic State uses and how young men can help in the global struggle by migrating to support the caliph in his struggles to consolidate and expand the Islamic State.

The magazine calls for scholars, judges and people with military, administrative and other expertise as well as physicians and engineers to come serve in the Islamic State. Naji and al-Suri’s ideas (without attribution) are then described as lessons learned in the fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere and applied by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, the founder of what became ISIS. In a general outline, Dabiq describes a three-stage guerrilla warfare structure based on Maoist ideas as interpreted by numerous left-wing insurrectionists in the 20th century and jihadist groups in the 21st. [10]

The political-military stages in Abu Bakr Naji’s writings mirror the ones Dabiq ascribes to al-Zarqawi and uses similar technical vocabulary: “nikayah” (damage or terrorist tactics), “tawahhush” (mayhem or savagery) and “tamkin” (consolidation or establishing a state). All of these stages ideally take place in a country with a weak enough central government with regions that jihadist guerrillas can target. The first stage, nikayah operations, involves terrorist attacks to frustrate the central government and create as much chaos as possible to cause the central government to withdraw forces from the target region. When the chaos is sufficient, referred to here as “tawahhush,” a region is so destabilized that the mujahideen are able to take control of the area or areas in a primitive government that Naji called “administration of savagery” in his work Idarah al-Tawahhush (Administration of Savagery). [11]

Dabiq comments that al-Zarqawi had intended to initiate wider and more complex attacks in Iraq to consolidate these jihadist-administered areas into a state, using Naji’s term for establishing an Islamic state, “tamkin.” This third stage occurred, according to Dabiq, when al-Zarqawi’s successor, Abu Omar al-Husayni al-Baghdadi, established the Islamic State of Iraq. Furthermore, the magazine asserts, this was the first state “set up exclusively by the mujahideen – the active participants in the jihad – in the heart of the Muslim world just a stone’s throw away from Mecca, al-Madinah, and Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem].” After Abu Omar’s death, new leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi established the khilafah. It is the clear intention of Dabiq to show that the Islamic State is the realization of the life-long dream of Ayman al-Zawahiri, currently the Islamic State’s most prominent jihadist critic. All this is standard jihadist grand strategy and signals that the two holy cities in Saudi Arabia and then Jerusalem are the ultimate targets. Overlaid onto this political-military strategy is a related action plan belong to the current phase when the caliphate is newly established. This five-phase plan appeals to Sunni Muslims and those desiring to convert:

· Travel to the Islamic State;

· Join up;

· Help destabilize the tyrant to further the goal of expansion;

· Consolidate new areas;

· Extend the caliphate over the new areas.


Dabiq provides the first admission, albeit indirectly, that the Islamic State and previously ISIS have been following a strategy as laid out in broad strokes by Abu Bakr Naji and informed by the teachings of Abu Mus’ab al-Suri. This strategy is linked to the founder of this Salafi-Jihadist current, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, in his terror campaign in Iraq until his death in 2006. The magazine anecdotally connects the Islamic State to tribal coalitions inside Syria and Iraq. Through its allusions and usurpation of terms and titles, the magazine seeks to connect the Islamic State to the goals of major organizations and jihadist thought leaders even when they are known to oppose the Islamic State. The appeal encompasses the entire jihadist movement, including al-Qaeda affiliates and non-al-Qaeda extremists like Hizb-ut Tahrir with its large clandestine following in Pakistan, Great Britain and elsewhere. With its apocalyptic aura the Islamic State is attempting to appeal over the heads of other communities to disaffected youth and motivated young professionals. In its context, it is a powerful message; despite its serious shortcomings, the Islamic State will continue to create savagery and mayhem until the new state and its fighting vanguard can be checked, either by an outside force or, more likely, by the very people now under its harsh rule.

Dr. Michael W. S. Ryan is an independent consultant and researcher on Middle Eastern security issues and a Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. He is the author of Decoding Al-Qaeda’s Strategy: The Deep Battle Against America (Columbia University Press, 2013).


1. For an online version of Dabiq, see

2. Ibid. p.4.

3. Ibid. p.2.

4. See Jean-Pierre Filiu, Apocalypse In Islam, trans. M. B. DeBevoise, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011).

5. For a purported switch of allegiance from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State, see the jihadist forum al-Melahim wa’l Fitan claiming to record the pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State of nine “al-Qaeda soldiers,” including one claiming to be al-Maqdisi’s brother. The document is addressed to AQAP indicating that the signers were members of AQAP, Aaron Zelin, who brought attention to this document, referred to the group as a “breakaway faction” of AQAP; see Aaron Zelin, “The War between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement,” Research Note 20 (June 2014, The Washington Institute For Near East Policy).

6. For a full account of al-Maqdisi’s thought, influence, and relationship to Saudi Arabia and visits with Juhayman’s followers, see Joas Wagemakers, A Quietist Jihadi: The Ideology and Influence of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

7. See www.hizb-ut for an online version of Hizb ut Tahrir’s “Return of the Khilafah;” For a profile of this group see Farhan Zahid, “The Caliphate in South Asia: A Profile of Hizb-ut Tahrir in Pakistan,” in Terrorism Monitor, July 10, 2014,

8. Dabiq, p.12.

9. Ibid. p. 13.

10. For an analysis of jihadist political-military strategy, see Michael W. S. Ryan, Decoding al-Qaeda’s Strategy: The Deep Battle Against America, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013).

11. Abu Bakr Naji, Idarah al-Tawahhush: Akhtar Marhalah Satamurru biha al-Ummah (The administration of savagery: the most dangerous phase through which the ummah will pass), N.p.: Markaz al-Dirasat wa al-Buhuth al-Islamiyyah, Nd.),

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2 books on the ISIS

Posted: August 3, 2014 in ISIS

The Islamic State: A Counter-Strategy for a Counter-State
Jessica D. Lewis
Institute for the Study of War

Many have asked what needs to be done about the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the terrorist organization that recently took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Questions range from the acceptability of airstrikes and the viability of a national unity government in Iraq to the feasibility of a counter-offensive that depends upon the remaining capacity of the Iraq Security Forces. These are important and worthy questions, and timely, because ISIS is growing stronger. But these questions preempt the rigorous analysis that is required in order to determine what the U.S. should do about ISIS and why.

ISIS is no longer a mere terrorist organization, but one that operates like an army. It is no longer just an army, but one that is conquering land in Iraq and Syria to establish new ideological rule, in line with al-Qaeda’s endgame. This is no longer a war of ideas against an extremist group with sparse networks, flashy strategic messaging, and limited technical offensive capability. It is necessary to avoid framing a U.S. counter-terrorism strategy to defeat ISIS as if it were. It is particularly important to move beyond narratives of simple or piecemeal solutions. Individual actions are insufficient to dislodge what has become an entrenched strategic adversary.

ISIS draws strength from the complex circumstances that are independently causing Iraq and Syria to fail, including domestic civil and sectarian cleavages, authoritarian leadership, and polarizing regional stressors. Any counter-strategy to defeat ISIS also requires a nuanced strategy to preserve all U.S. foreign policy objectives in the Middle East that are deeply affected by the recent take-over of Iraq’s major cities by ISIS. And yet these considerations call for action rather than deterrence. The ISIS threat is growing, and it threatens the permanent destruction of Iraq and Syria, which will generate exponential threats to U.S. interests abroad.   

ISIS is already a threat to the United States. ISIS is not only dangerous in a regional context because it is overthrowing modern state boundaries in ways that incur massive ethno-sectarian killing and cleansing. ISIS is also a global jihadist organization that shares al-Qaeda’s ideology, such that its progress drives towards a post-state and apocalyptic vision that involves the destruction of the modern state system. ISIS already threatens to escalate violence between states in the Middle East that have been fighting proxy wars in Syria for several years such that ISIS military operations may cascade into a broader regional conflict. ISIS is now a direct threat to neighboring states in the Middle East, and ISIS is broadcasting the intent to attack Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the West. The threat of attacks against the U.S. is present.

It is therefore necessary for the U.S. to consider ways to defeat ISIS, not only to preserve the integrity of the Iraqi state, but to preserve our own security. Defeating the Islamic State will, in fact, be very difficult. Developing a strategy to do so will be very hard. But hard is not the same as impossible. As pressure grows in Washington for a response to the crisis that has engulfed the region, policymakers must move beyond the assessment phase and begin building a comprehensive strategy. This effort must begin with a close examination of the sources of strength, intentions, and vulnerabilities of the Islamic Caliphate created by ISIS. Only then can a coherent counter-strategy emerge. First, we must understand the threat.

This report provides a strategic analysis of the sources of strength and weakness for ISIS. It adapts existing military frameworks to support the development of meaningful national security strategies to counter ISIS. This report does not attempt to formulate a comprehensive counter-strategy, but instead provides a way of conceptualizing such counter-strategies in light of how ISIS forms its own strategy for military and political gain. The frameworks in this study include an evaluation of the ISIS grand strategy and its military objectives in Iraq and Syria; a Center of Gravity analysis to identify the core sources of ISIS’s strength; and a rubric to understand how main efforts and supporting efforts can combine to bring out the strategic defeat of ISIS. 

This report finds that the defeat of ISIS must address two Centers of Gravity. The first is a classical military center of gravity that ISIS uses to wrest physical control from modern states and hold what it has gained. The second ISIS center of gravity is a political capacity to provide essential state functions within the territory that ISIS controls. ISIS strength emanates from the ability to translate military control into political control, and thereby to claim that the Caliphate is manifest. A strategy to defeat ISIS must break this synergy among the military and political operations of ISIS and its layered leadership. The U.S. must consider ways to accomplish this in order to propel the strategic defeat of ISIS. Destroying its Critical Capabilities, denying its Critical Opportunities and Critical Requirements, and exploiting its Critical Vulnerabilities are additional component effects that must be synchronized in order to achieve this strategic effect.

A strategy whereby ISIS remains in control of Mosul, Raqqa, and other urban centers in Iraq and Syria will fall short of the desired outcome. Settling for lesser aims or resolving to do nothing are equal. The threat of ISIS is real and expanding, but ISIS is also vulnerable at its present political formation stage. It is vital to design a cogent counter-strategy, and soon, or this door will close.

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ISIS Governance in Syria
Charles C. Caris & Samuel Reynolds
Institute for the Study of War

The Islamic State’s June 2014 announcement of a “caliphate” is not empty rhetoric. In fact, the idea of the caliphate that rests within a controlled territory is a core part of ISIS’s political vision. The ISIS grand strategy to realize this vision involves first establishing control of terrain through military conquest and then reinforcing this control through governance. This grand strategy proceeds in phases that have been laid out by ISIS itself in its publications, and elaborates a vision that it hopes will attract both fighters and citizens to its nascent state. The declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, however, raises the question: can ISIS govern?

Available evidence indicates that ISIS has indeed demonstrated the capacity to govern both rural and urban areas in Syria that it controls. Through the integration of military and political campaigns, particularly in the provincial capital of Raqqa, ISIS has built a holistic system of governance that includes religious, educational, judicial, security, humanitarian, and infrastructure projects, among others. Raqqa is the central city in ISIS’s territorial network and thus it offers the most fully developed example of ISIS’s Caliphate vision. However, Raqqa is not the only striking example of ISIS governance. Towns in Aleppo province, in particular al-Bab and Manbij, are also host to a number of governance programs, as are select towns in other provinces to varying degrees.

ISIS divides governance into two broad categories: administrative and service-oriented. Administrative offices are responsible for managing religious outreach and enforcement, courts and punishments, educational programming, and public relations. ISIS begins by establishing outreach centers and rudimentary court systems first because these are less resource-intensive and less controversial among the Syrian population. After consolidating militarily, ISIS generally progresses towards religious police, stricter punishments, and a concerted educational system. These types of programs require more dedicated personnel, resource investments, and greater support from the population. 

ISIS’s service-oriented offices manage humanitarian aid, bakeries, and key infrastructure such as water and electricity lines. In a similar fashion to its administrative offices, ISIS begins by offering humanitarian aid, particularly during Ramadan, and coordinates with religious outreach events to provide food aid to attendees. This is seen as less threatening and requires little personnel or resources from ISIS. As ISIS takes sole control over territory, it expands to provide more services, often operating the heavy equipment needed to repair sewer and electricity lines. ISIS has also attempted to manage large industrial facilities, such as dams and a thermal power plant in Aleppo province. 

In conjunction with these governance projects, ISIS has worked to legitimate its vision for a caliphate as laid out in publications such as the English-language magazine Dabiq. ISIS has argued that it has the duty to govern both the religious and political lives of Muslims. Under this model, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is both ISIS’s chief religious official and its senior statesman. ISIS sees itself as an all-encompassing entity, one that eventually is meant to shoulder all the responsibilities of a traditional state. Though maintaining some practical state functions that derive from effective urban management may not be within his capacity. 

ISIS’s sweeping yet exclusionary method of governance is potentially one of the organization’s greatest strengths, but it may also become one of ISIS’s greatest weaknesses. ISIS maintains social control by eliminating resistance, but this in turn places technical skills that are essential to run modern cities in shorter supply. In the process of establishing its governance project, ISIS has dismantled state institutions without replacing them with sustainable alternatives. The immediate provision of aid and electricity, for example, does not translate into the creation of a durable economy. The consequence of ISIS’s failure, however, may not be the dismantling of the Caliphate, but rather the devastation of the cities and systems that comprise Iraq and Syria such that they never recover.

Thus far in Syria, ISIS has provided a relative measure of organization in a chaotic environment. This may prompt assessments which overstate ISIS’s efficacy in conducting state functions. Though ISIS certainly has demonstrated intent to commit resources to governance activities, it is yet to demonstrate the capacity for the long-term planning of state institutions and processes. Translating broad military expansions from the summer of 2013 into a well-governed contiguous zone will be ISIS’s most daunting task yet, and may prove to be a critical vulnerability.

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Natalie Johnson
The Heritage Foundation | August 03, 2014

Al Qaeda may have been seriously degraded in recent years, but the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, is rising to take its place as the top terror organization in the Middle East.

The group is sweeping through Iraq in a terrorizing campaign to reestablish the Muslim caliphate. Its rapid defeat of Iraqi military troops in the seizure of Mosul last month destabilized the already fragile country, causing what panelists at a Heritage Foundation event titled “The Iraqi Meltdown: What Next?” described Wednesday as a “disastrous setback” for U.S. counterterrorism.

“[The Islamic State] is metastasizing rapidly by feasting on the corpses of the failed states in Iraq and Syria,” said James Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at Heritage, who was joined on the panel by Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., Jessica Lewis of the Institute for the Study of War, and Steve Bucci, director of Heritage’s Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy.

Phillips described the group as a more “malignant, cancerous outgrowth” of al Qaeda that goes beyond terrorism to see itself as a “vanguard of global insurgency.” Although the group’s current focus is regional, Phillips warned it could become a global threat even greater than al Qaeda.

Bridenstine said President Obama’s “politically motivated” decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq was a key factor in the country’s recent deterioration. He said the “disengagement … created a situation for ISIS to destabilize Iraq and establish the caliphate.”

Phillips said the U.S. had “severely degraded” al Qaeda before it withdrew, but the group has proven “extremely resilient” and was able to rebound by “exploiting the mistakes of the Iraqi government and by taking advantage of the negligence of the U.S. government.

“Heritage warned about the dangers of not leaving behind a residual U.S. presence to help the Iraqis train and to give them greater intelligence and greater counterterrorism capabilities against al Qaeda in Iraq,” Phillips said. The comeback was “predictable.”

Bridenstine said Obama made a big mistake when he upset the “historical precedent” of negotiating status of forces agreements through an exchange of diplomatic letters and rather asked the Iraqi Parliament to establish the agreement.

“The Iraqi Parliament cannot agree on what day of the week it is, let alone try to come up with a status of forces agreement for the United States in Iraq,” Bridenstine said. “[Obama did this] not because it was in the best interest of the United States of America, but because it was in the best interest of his political prospects because he wanted the troops out.”

The U.S. now has a status of forces agreement in Iraq, but the troops are gone and the Islamic State has assumed control of much of the country.

“The president backtracked because it is now in his political interest to have a stable Iraq as people see how ISIS is destabilizing the region and destroying democratic institution,” Bridenstine said.

In addition to this agreement, Phillips said the U.S. must work with a coalition beyond the Iraqi government to defeat the Islamic State. He said this coalition should include the Kurds, Turkey and Jordan along with Sunni Muslims who soon will be “fed up” with living under the Islamic State’s harsh rule.

“This is a regional problem that needs a regional solution before it evolves into a global threat,” he said.

Bucci said the Iraqi government must lead with political and religious aspects in its efforts to defeat the Islamic State, but he says leaving out the military is a “fools errand.

“The military is not the solution for everything, but when you’re fighting hardcore Islamists like the Islamic State is made up of, you’re just as wrong if you leave the military component out,” Bucci said. “Some of those people don’t want to talk to anybody, they don’t want to have negotiations. That’s not their thing. Some of those people you just have to fight.”

Natalie Johnson is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.


How to respond to the ISIS threat
Just a day after overunning Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, militants from the al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gained nearly complete control of the northern city of Tikrit. How should the Iraqi government and United States respond? And what are their chances for success? Leading analysts offer their take on what to look for. The views expressed are their own.
CNN | June 12th, 2014

U.S. should deal with Iraq and Syria together
By Brian Katulis, Special to CNN

The astonishing advances of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across parts of northern and central Iraq has reignited a debate about what the Obama administration should do in Iraq and Syria. For now, the centerpiece of the struggle is sharply focused on how Iraq’s government responds and how countries in the region react.

The first key question is how Iraq’s government, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, responds to this assault. Al-Maliki, a leader from a Shia party who has led Iraq for the past eight years, has been accused by his opponents of becoming increasingly authoritarian and not inclusive when it comes to reaching out to people in the Sunni minority community.  Some have gone so far to say that his neglect of the Sunnis created the opening for extremist groups like ISIS to achieve the rapid gains over the past few days.

If al-Maliki can put together a cohesive response that cuts across the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide and the Arab-Kurd split, this would go a long way toward building a more stable political foundation to address Iraq’s dangerous security problems.  These events come just as Iraqi leaders are negotiating a new governing coalition after national elections on April 30.

The second key question is how Iraq’s neighbors react to these events. It is difficult to imagine Iran, a Shia-majority country that has seen its regional influence grow considerably after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, will just passively watch events inside of Iraq. Iran has also strongly backed the al-Assad regime in Syria, which is a sworn enemy of ISIS, the group that seeks to establish a new Islamist emirate on both sides of the Iraqi and Syrian borders. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni country that strongly opposes Iran’s regional role, will not likely sit on the sidelines if sectarian violence continues to rise back up again in Iraq. Finally, Turkey, a NATO member that has built stronger ties with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government during the past year, continues to be directly impacted by the violence.

It’s easy for this complicated regional picture to induce policy paralysis in the United States – but this need not be the case. Iraq and the United States have mechanisms to coordinate security and intelligence activities – it should increase this cooperation and elevate the level of diplomatic engagement to encourage an effective and inclusive response that isolates these militants.  This doesn’t require any U.S. boots on the ground. In Syria, the United States should reexamine its current policy posture – its rhetorical support for a negotiated political transition is out of sync with the reality on the ground and isn’t matched with sufficient commitment to change the battlefield dynamics there. Finally, the United States should develop a more cogent and integrated policy approach that deals with Syria and Iraq together – the challenges in both countries are becoming more interlinked.

But the real action is in the region – and it will largely be up to Iraq and its neighbors to respond.

Brian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Provide arms, intelligence to Baghdad
By Mark N. Katz, Special to CNN

What has been especially shocking about the takeover of Mosul was that Iraqi government forces did not resist it, but actually facilitated this by cutting and running. This development, along with the ISIS takeover of Tikrit, raises ominous questions about whether ISIS will be able to seize control of any more – or even all – of Iraq.

Can anything be done to prevent this? One thing is clear: the Obama administration, which presided over the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, is highly unlikely to send them back there under any circumstances. But America, as well as other countries, could provide arms, intelligence, and possibly even advisers to Baghdad to bolster it in the fight against ISIS. Equally important, Washington could help the al-Maliki government increase cooperation with important Iraqi groups it now has bad relations with – including the Kurds and those Sunni Arabs who are also threatened by ISIS.

Hopefully, these steps – as well as the desire for self-preservation – will result in the al-Maliki government being able to contain further expansion on the part of ISIS and even to roll back its gains. But if al-Maliki is not willing or able to do this, then the United States and others must work with other, more capable Iraqi actors – including the Kurds in the north, Shia Arab militias, and anti-al Qaeda Sunni tribesmen. The result may be the permanent division of Iraq into Kurdish, Shia Arab, and Sunni Arab segments. But a divided Iraq with ISIS defeated or contained inside the Sunni Arab zone is preferable to a united Iraq in which the central government is too weak to fight effectively against ISIS.

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University and author of Leaving Without Losing: The War on Terror After Iraq and Afghanistan.

Time to push al-Maliki out of power
By Anthony Cordesman, Special to CNN

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s seizure of Mosul is a major threat to Middle East stability, not just Iraq. ISIS is now moving on Iraq’s main refinery, may be taking control of other western cities like Tikrit, has already threatened Samarra and is simultaneously fighting to create a much larger enclave in Syria.

This highlights the risk Sunni Islamist extremists with past ties to al Qaeda will create an extremist enclave in both Iraq and Syria. This could make any hope of a serious moderate rebel force emerging in Syria impossible. It could create an extremist sanctuary that could threaten Jordan and the other Arab Gulf states, make the conflict between Sunni and Shiite even worse, and push the Iraqi regime closer to Iran in self-defense.

The United States and its allies, however, face a second threat. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has become steadily more authoritarian, corrupt, and repressive. He has made the Iraqi security force his political tool, deprived it of effective leaders, used security funds for his own profit, and brought his supporters and relatives into the command chain. His ruthless repression of legitimate Sunni opposition and pressure on the Kurds – and lies and broken promises to Sunni tribal leaders – have lost him the support of Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds and empowered ISIS. His broader failure to govern has led institutions like the World Bank and United Nations to give the same or worse ratings than Saddam Hussein, and his ties to Iran have helped it ship arms and volunteers to Syria, Hezbollah – which now presents a massive rocket and missile threat to Israel – and helped create the same rising threat in Gaza.

Yes, the United States might have to help in spite of his total unfitness to rule and Iraq’s desperate need to expel him and his cronies from the country, but U.S. aid must be conditional and tied to the fact that al-Maliki is an authoritarian thug. The United States should also quietly do everything possible to push him out of power and into exile.

Anthony Cordesman is Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

No time to turn back on world’s most combustible region
By Will Marshall, Special to CNN

Suddenly, Iraq is coming apart at the seams. Its government seems powerless to stop the rapid advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a group so extreme and aggressive that even al Qaeda has disowned it. Let’s hope President Obama has a contingency plan to prevent Islamist extremists from destroying the tenuous order that’s existed there since U.S. forces pulled out two and a half years ago.

The new war in Iraq calls into question four key decisions that have shaped President Obama’s approach to the old one, and Middle East policy in general.

The first was the decision not to press harder to keep a residual U.S. force in Iraq. Now Sunni insurgents have reclaimed large swaths of Anbar Province, which U.S. forces had pacified at considerable sacrifice, as well as the important northern city and oil hub of Mosul. At a minimum, the White House seems to have placed too much confidence in the Iraqi army, which despite intensive U.S. training and billions of dollars’ worth of advanced equipment, has failed to check the insurgency. The president needs to act swiftly to use U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism assets to stiffen the resolve of Iraqi forces and help them launch an effective counteroffensive against ISIS.

Obama’s decision to stand aloof from the Syrian crisis also deserves a second look. Foreign policy “realists” have heaped fulsome praise on the president for this supposedly wise rebuff to interventionist hotheads. But over the last three years, the Syrian conflict has turned into a major humanitarian and strategic debacle, prompting our ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, to resign in protest.

ISIL drew jihadis from Sunni countries to fight the “apostate” regime in Damascus, has now apparently invaded Iraq from Syria, and is busy setting up an Islamic Caliphate in the ungoverned spaces straddling the two countries’ borders. That gives the President Obama a strategic rationale for arming the moderate Syrian opposition, which as Ford notes will have to grow strong enough to topple Bashar al-Assad and drive foreign fighters from Syria.

Third was the administration’s decision to treat al Qaeda, rather than its ideology, as the main danger to be contained. This implied that our fight against terrorism would be over once the original al Qaeda organization was smashed. To the president’s credit, that’s happened. Unfortunately, though, the persistent threat we face comes not from any particular group of Salafist terrorists, but from the fanatical beliefs they share in common. Thus we’ve seen al Qaeda-inspired offshoots crop up in Yemen, in Somalia, in North Africa, in Syria and now Iraq again. The Obama administration needs to develop a patient, long-term strategy for countering the extremist narrative.

The president’s fourth decision was to declare America’s intention to pivot to Asia. Of course, there’s a powerful strategic argument for shifting U.S. attentions and assets to the Pacific, the world’s new epicenter of growth and power. But the administration has given friends and foes alike in the Middle East the impression that it can’t wait to extricate the United States from the miserable place once and for all.

The truth is, we can’t afford to turn our backs on the world’s most combustible region. The ripples and spillover from its endemic disorder and violence have already hit us, hard, and will continue to threaten our interests and friends. We aren’t leaving the Middle East anytime soon, and we might as well say so.

Will Marshall is the president of the Progressive Policy Institute.

By Raymond Ibrahim | July 17, 2014

The Ridda wars against “apostates and hypocrites”

The new “caliphate” of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—the Islamic State, formerly “ISIS”—recently made clear that it means to follow in the footsteps of the original caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Sadiq (632-634), specifically by directing its jihad against fellow Muslims, in Islamic parlance, the “hypocrites” and “apostates,” or in Western terminology, “moderates.”

This came out in the context of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, with some Muslims asking the newly formed “caliphate” when it would launch a jihad on the Jewish state.

The Islamic State’s response? “Allah in the noble Koran does not command us to fight Israel or the Jews until we fight the apostates and hypocrites.”

On one of the Islamic State’s question-and-answer websites, some asked why it was “not fighting Israel but instead shedding the blood of the sons of Iraq and Syria.”  The new caliphate responded:

The greater answer is in the noble Koran, when Allah Almighty speaks about the near enemy.  In the majority of verses in the noble Koran, these are the hypocrites, for they pose a greater danger than the original infidels [born non-Muslims, e.g., Jews and Christians].  And the answer is found in Abu Bakr al-Sadiq, when he preferred fighting apostates over the conquest of Jerusalem [fath al-Quds], which was conquered by his successor, Omar al-Khattab.

There’s much to be said about this response, rife as it is with historical allusions.

First, it is true.  After the prophet of Islam died, a great number of Arabian tribes that had submitted to his rule by becoming Muslims—the word muslim simply means “one who submits”—thought they could now renege, and so they apostatized in droves.  This sparked the first Ridda, or “apostasy wars,” waged by Abu Bakr al-Sadiq, who became the first caliph on Muhammad’s death in 632.  For nearly two years, till his own death in 634, his caliphate’s entire energy was focused on waging jihad on all the recalcitrant Arab tribes, forcing them by the edge of the sword to return to the fold of Islam.

Tens of thousands of Arabs were burned, beheaded, dismembered, or crucified in the process, according to Islamic history, especially by the “Sword of Allah.”  It was only afterwards, under the reign of the second caliph, Omar al-Khattab (634-644), that the great Islamic conquests against the “original infidels”—those non-Arab peoples who had never converted to Islam, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, etc.—took place.

Islam’s war on the apostate, so little known in the West, figures prominently in Islamic history.  Indeed, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential Islamic clerics today, while once discussing the importance of killing any Muslim who apostatizes from Islam on Al Jazeera, correctly stated that “If the [death] penalty for apostasy was ignored, there would not be an Islam today; Islam would have ended on the death of the prophet.”

In short, and as the Islamic State is now arguing, the first and greatest enemy of Islam—the “nearest” enemy—is the “apostate” and “hypocrite,” for they are the most capable of subverting Islam from within.

The Islamic State executes “apostate and hypocrite” Muslims

This phenomenon of “pious” Muslims fighting and killing “lukewarm” Muslims, or Shia and Sunnis fighting one another—while the original infidel stands by or gets away—has many precedents throughout history.  For example, in its response, the Islamic State further justifies not fighting Israel by saying:

The answer is found in Salah ad-Din al-Ayubi [Saladin] and Nur ad-Din Zanki when they fought the Shia in Egypt and Syria before [addressing] Jerusalem.  Salah ad-Din fought more than 50 battles before he reached Jerusalem.  And it was said to Salah ad-Din al-Ayubi: “You fight the Shia and the Fatimids in Egypt and allow the Latin Crusaders to occupy Jerusalem?”  And he responded: “I will not fight the Crusaders while my back is exposed to the Shia.”

All of this history quoted by the Islamic State is meant to exonerate the new caliphate’s main assertion: “Jerusalem will not be liberated until we are done with all these tyrants, families, and pawns of colonialism that control the fate of the Islamic world.”

Some observations:

  • Although the Islamic State is trying to suggest that only autocrats like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad are “apostates” and “hypocrites,” and that most average Muslims are eager for Sharia, the fact is, a great many of the world’s Muslims fit under this rubric.  The largest revolution in history, Egypt’s June 2013 anti-Brotherhood revolution, attests to this.  Thus the new caliphate’s jihad is not just against “tyrants,” but many average Muslims as well, as the organization’s carnage in Iraq and Syria attests.
  • The Islamic State’s declaration justifying non-confrontation with Israel is not winning it much popular support in the Arab world and is naturally portrayed as a copout. It further validates the popular Arab narrative that the United States is siding with the Islamists to create havoc in the region; to have the various sects (Sunni vs Shia, Moderate vs. Islamist) fight each other in order to divide and weaken the region.  Thus Dr. Ahmed Karima, a leading professor of Islamic jurisprudence in Al Azhar, said that the Islamic State’s position concerning Israel proves that “it is a creation of U.S. and Israeli intelligence” and that the new caliphate “is the biggest of all hypocrites.”
  • Alternatively, others, especially Islamists, appreciate that the Islamic State is patterning itself after the first caliphate of Abu Bakr—hence why its first caliph chose that name—because it finds itself operating in the same circumstances.  Nascent and without much support, it first mission, like Abu Bakr, is to re-subjugate Muslims to Islam.  Only then can it focus on the “original infidels.”
  • While this approach may be temporarily good for Israel (and all infidel states), in the long run, a fully functioning and unified caliphate with “reformed” Muslims next door is not a pretty picture.  After all, the Islamic State is not exonerating the infidel, but rather saying his turn will come once the caliphate is capable of an all-out assault.  At best, it’s a temporary reprieve.

Jihadists in Iraq Erase Cultural Heritage
Nour Malas
WSJ | Jul 25, 2014

People walk through the rubble of the Prophet Younis Mosque after it was destroyed in a bomb attack by militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the city of Mosul, July 24, 2014. —REUTERS

A campaign by Sunni insurgents to establish an Islamic caliphate across Iraq and Syria and expel other Muslim sects and religions is taking a severe toll on the countries’ cultural heritage.

The latest casualty was a shrine in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul said to contain the tomb of Jonah, who is revered as a prophet by Jews, Christians and Muslims—who call him Younes. The Nabi Younes Mosque, a towering structure that housed the shrine, was also destroyed in Thursday’s blast.

Militants from Islamic State, the al Qaeda spinoff that seized Mosul on June 10, wired the periphery of the mosque with explosives and then detonated them, residents said, erasing a revered piece of Iraqi heritage. It collapsed in a massive explosion that sent clouds of sand and dust tumbling into the air.

“They turned it to sand, along with all other tombs and shrines,” said Omar Ibrahim, a dentist in Mosul. “But Prophet Younes is something different. It was a symbol of Mosul,” said Mr. Ibrahim, a Sunni. “We cried for it with our blood.”

Though its population is predominantly Sunni, Mosul was a symbol of religious intermingling and tolerance in Iraq. Nineveh, the wider province, is a Assyrian Christian center dating back thousands of years. That Jonah’s shrine was in a mosque was a proud reflection of that coexistence.

Visitors used to stream from across Iraq to pray at the mosque, unique in the country for its grand ascending stairs and alabaster floors. Its large prayer rooms had arched entrances inscribed elaborately with Quranic verses.

The site was a monastery centuries ago before it was turned into a mosque, said Emil Nona, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. “Nabi Younes was famous in the city of Mosul, the most famous mosque in the area,” Archbishop Nona said. “I’m very sorry to see this place destroyed.”

Islamic State and other groups following ultraconservative Sunni ideology believe the veneration of shrines or tombs is unholy. Many also denounce the veneration of any prophet besides Muhammad, believed by Muslims to be God’s messenger.

The group has announced by decree its plan to destroy graves and shrines, a strategy it has already followed in neighboring Syria, where the militants have thrived in parts of the north and east.

Iraqis inspect the wreckage of the Nebi Younes mosque in Mosul on Thursday. European Pressphoto Agency

In Mosul, they have already destroyed at least two dozen shrines, as well as Shiite places of worship, and raided the Mosul Museum, officials said.

"This most recent outrage is yet another demonstration of the terrorist group’s intention to shatter Iraq’s shared heritage and identity," said Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations secretary-general’s special representative for Iraq, on Friday.

Iraqi officials at the tourism ministry and religious officials in Mosul confirmed the shrine as destroyed in a militant attack on Thursday. The attack is captured in amateur video footage shot by locals and posted online. In one, a thick plume of brown smoke rises in the air, presumably over the mosque as it collapsed, as the narrator says: "No, no, no. There goes the Prophet Younes."

The shrine held particular significance for Iraqis because Jonah—who in stories in both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale—"was a prophet for all," said Fawziya al-Maliky, director of heritage at the tourism ministry. "We don’t know what these backward militants are thinking, what kind of Islam they are pursuing," she said. "They are pursuing the end of civilization."

The attack was another blow to the country’s Christian community. The Islamic State has been pursuing a deliberate anti-Christian campaign in Iraq.

Thousands of Christians fled Mosul last week after Islamic State posed an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a tax, flee or face death. Christian residents said they were terrorized and humiliated in their own city as militants singled out their homes.

Candida Moss, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, called it "part of the irreversible eradication of Christian history and culture in Iraq."


Islamic State destroys sacred shrine in Mosul
Ali Mamouri
Al-Monitor | July 25, 2014

The Islamic State (IS) bombed and destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Jonah east of Mosul on July 24.

Previously, IS had carried out numerous bombings, destroying important cultural sites such as the shrine of the Prophet Daniel west of Mosul, the shrine of one of the grandchildren of the second Caliph Omar Bin al-Khattab, as well as mosques, various shrines and numerous other churches. These sites are not only for Shiite Muslims or non-Muslims. Most of them are sacred places for Sunni Muslims as well, and some are even only affiliated with them, in addition to a significant number of statues of famous figures and other cultural sites that also were destroyed.

Sources inside the city confirmed this information to Al-Monitor. Activists on social media networks uploaded pictures and several videos showing the magnitude of the destruction of cultural sites around the city. Sources told Al-Monitor that a state of sorrow and regret reigns in the city and that they have seen plenty of people crying while witnessing the destruction of Jonah’s tomb. Jonah is considered sacred by all Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

What these groups are doing is based on an endemic Salafist principle common to most Salafist movements, whether they are jihadists or not. This principle underlines the need to purify the earth of polytheism and disbelief. These groups consider religious shrines or any other sites related to a certain person to be a kind of sanctification, which is, according to them, a true sign of polytheism.

The destruction of these sites is part of the process of returning to the authentic Islam and eliminating all alien elements, according to the Salafist understanding. This contradicts the traditional understanding of Islam by all Muslim confessions, which means that Islam does not contradict other sanctities, but rather understands them and considers them sacred, especially when the people of these sacred places are prophets of the Quran, such as the prophets Jonah and Daniel and many others from both the New and Old Testaments.

Therefore, international Muslim figures, such as the mufti of Egypt, condemned the destruction of sacred places by IS. The mufti also called for an urgent intervention from the authorities in Iraq and international organizations such as UNESCO to protect these sacred places.

The destruction of sacred places also happened during the establishment of Saudi Arabia, which was described as the first political entity for Salafists in the Islamic world. Hundreds of shrines of the prophet’s companions and family have been destroyed, in addition to other important historical sites related to different eras of Islamic history, from the establishment of the first and second Saudi states until this day. These actions also occurred in Afghanistan, Syria and certain areas in Iraq that fell under the control of Salafist groups.

IS threatened to continue the process of destroying sacred places of other confessions and religions, as well as others related to Sunnis. These threats raised the concerns of most Iraqis, especially the Shiites and the religious minorities, in addition to Sunnis who share the same respect and sanctification for these shrines and religious places.

It’s mandatory for the international organizations concerned about human rights and preserving religious freedom and heritage, specifically UNESCO, to work harder and on a larger scale to put an end to this destruction. This is essential since a large number of these places are sanctified and respected by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The concerns about the destruction of sacred places are not limited to them being historic and cultural sites; they include forgiveness and coexistence between different religions and confessions in Iraq. Such destruction harms the long history of coexistence among Iraqi religions. It targets the symbols and main sites which attracted and gathered all confessions and paved the path for communication and understanding, and thus, their coexistence.

It also heightens intolerance and religious hatred and hostility between different confessions. This usually does not quickly fade away, and could create social divisions and demographic subdivisions on a large scale across Iraq. This could eliminate any sort of communication between the various elements of society and create severe conflicts between them.

Iraq is heading toward total destruction of its historic and human heritage, which will turn it into a barren desert isolated from its time-honored cultural and religious history. This is taking place in light of chaotic circumstances involving terrorism that is on the offensive, Iraqi government ignorance, global silence and an international letdown — specifically from the United States, which completely abandoned its responsibilities toward the situation in Iraq.


The silence is deafening
The Arlington Catholic Herald | 7/29/14

Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf took to the House floor July 29 to speak out for Christians and other religious minorities who are being systematically targeted for extinction in Iraq. It is the fifth time in the past week that he has addressed the subject. Following is the text of his remarks:

I want to read the following piece that was posted on yesterday. The headline was: “Has last Christian left Iraqi city of Mosul after 2,000 years?”

Here is how it began: “Samer Kamil Yacub was alone when four Islamist militants carrying AK-47s arrived at his front door and ordered him to leave the city. The 70-year-old Christian had failed to comply with a decree issued by the Islamic State of Iraq and [Syria] (ISIS). Yacub’s hometown of Mosul had boasted a Christian community for almost 2,000 years. But then the al Qaeda-inspired fighters who overran the city last month gave Christians an ultimatum.

“They could stay and pay a tax or convert to Islam – or be killed. Yacub, 70, was one of the few Christians remaining beyond last Saturday’s noon deadline. He may have even been the last to leave alive.

“[A] fighter said, ‘I have orders to kill you now,’” Yacub said just hours after the Sunni extremists tried to force their way into his home at 11 a.m. on Monday. ‘All of the people in my neighborhood were Muslim. They came to help me – about 20 people – at the door in front of my house. They tried to convince ISIS not to kill me.

“The rebels spared Yacub but threw him out of the city where he had spent his entire life. They also took his Iraqi ID card before informing him that elderly women would be given his house.”

Mr. Speaker, this is but one example of what is unfolding in Iraq right before our eyes. The end of Christianity as we know it is taking place in Iraq.

This is the fifth time I have come to the floor over the last week to try to raise awareness of what is happening. To talk about the genocide. It is genocide. Yes, genocide: the systematic extermination of a people of faith by violent extremists seizing power in a region.

Churches and monasteries have been seized. Many of them looted then burned. Last week it was widely reported that ISIS had blown up the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Christians – threatened with their lives if they do not leave the region – are being robbed as they leave lands they have lived on for more than 2,000 years.

With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country. The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur. Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq. Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons – the 12 tribes of Israel – were born in northwest Iraq. The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Many of Iraq’s Christians still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

The pope has spoken out.

His Beatitude Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan, overseer of Syriac Catholics around the globe, has spoken out.

His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, has spoken out.

Archbishop Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, has spoken out.

Russell Moore, a key leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, has spoken out.

Despite these Christian leaders speaking out about the systematic extermination of Christians in Iraq, the silence in this town is deafening. Does Washington even care?

Where is the Obama Administration? The president has failed.

Where is the Congress? The Congress has failed.

Time is running out. The Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq are being targeted for extinction. They need our help.

Literally, during our time, we will see the end of Christianity in the place it began.,26738


Assyrian Christians Demand Protection
By Mardean Isaac

(AINA) — Following the invasion of northern Iraq by the Islamic State, Assyrian Christians and other minorities have found themselves in grave peril. On June 10th, the Islamic State captured Mosul from the Iraqi state. Those Christians who returned after the dwindling of violence following that original onslaught — lacking the means to secure accomodation elsewhere — found their property tagged with an ‘N’ for ‘Nassarrah,’ the Quranic word for Christians.

Last Saturday, the Islamists declared that Mosul’s Christians had three choices: to convert to Islam, pay a hefty jizya tax, face murder, or flee permanently. A mass exodus of Christians ensued. They were not permitted to keep any of their possessions. Louis Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, has declared that no Christians remain in Mosul. As evinced by the seizure of the ancient monastery of Mar Behnam, the apparent destruction of the tomb of Jonah, and several other acts of vandalism and looting perpetrated on historic churches, Iraq’s architectural heritage is also threatened by the extremist group.

The Assyrian town of Qaraqosh, located in the Nineveh Plains around 32 km from Mosul, was emptied of almost all of its inhabitants as ISIS assailed it on June 26. Around 40,000 people fled north, often with nothing but the clothes on their back.

The migration was desperate and chaotic, and the destination entirely uncertain.

These recent events follow a broader pattern of persecution and atrocity unleashed against the Assyrians. Since the 2003 invasion, 73 churches have been attacked or bombed across Iraq. Dozens of priests have been kidnapped or murdered. Thousands of Assyrians have been the victims of violence, and regions and cities, including neighbourhoods Baghdad, have been largely emptied of their indigenous Christian inhabitants.

Marginalised and discriminated against for asserting their ethnic identity under the Fascist Ba’ath regime, the Assyrians now find themselves on the receiving end of violence because of their religion.

Assyrians have absolutely no means of self-defence, let alone legal or political recourse. A chronic failure to create and buttress local security forces populated by members of local communities has led to a state of desperate insecurity in Iraq. As the country’s army and security forces disintegrate, minorities, who are bereft of the patronage fuelling militia activity as well as any effective representation in the state, have been left exposed to violence and dispossession. A similarly grim fate is being forced upon the Assyrians of Syria as large swathes of that country fall to Islamist militants. More than half the Christians of Iraq have fled, and the same exodus is being repeated in Syria. For the first time in history, there are more Assyrians in diaspora than in their ancient homelands of Iraq and Syria.

I am a British-Assyrian writer and the UK leader of a new campaign, A Demand for Action, spearheaded by the tireless Swedish-Assyrian journalist Nuri Kino, which seeks to protect Christians and other minorities in their ancestral homelands.

We are not affiliated with any existing political organisaions or religious groups: we are a free association comprised of the Assyrian diaspora in over a dozen countries who have organised over social media.. On a daily basis, we disseminate media, coordinate e-mail and letter campaigns, write and publish articles, and contact parliamentarians, ministers, officials, and persons of authority and influence.

Please join our group to strengthen our efforts and keep abreast of developments as well as responses to them.

If we do not act immediately to protect and support the Assyrians of Iraq and Syria, they will be exterminated. And with their extermination, the legacy of one of the oldest indigenous peoples on the planet will disappear. This tragedy will never be lifted from the conscience of the world. We must act now.

Why Did ISIS Destroy the Tomb of Jonah?
Mark Movsesian
First Things | 7 . 28 . 14

On Friday, the media reported that ISIS, the Islamist group that has established a “caliphate” in parts of Syria and Iraq, had destroyed the centuries-old Tomb of Jonah in Mosul, Iraq. Present-day Mosul encompasses the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, where, the Bible teaches, the Prophet Jonah preached. Although this is disputed, a tradition holds that Jonah was buried within the city, on Tell Nebi Yunus, or Hill of the Prophet Jonah.

An Assyrian church stood over the tomb for centuries. After the Muslim conquest, the church became a mosque; the structure that ISIS destroyed last week dated to the 14th century. In addition to the tomb, the mosque once held the supposed remains of the whale that had swallowed Jonah, including one of its teeth. At some point, the tooth disappeared. In 2008, the U.S. Army presented the mosque with a replica.

Last week, ISIS closed the mosque and prevented worshipers from entering. Then it wired the structure with explosives and reduced it to rubble. You can see a video of the explosion here, taken by a Mosul resident, who mutters, in Arabic, “No, no, no. Prophet Jonah is gone. God, these scoundrels.”

Some commentators have explained the destruction of the tomb as part of ISIS’s anti-Christian campaign. Scholars Joel Baden and Candida Moss point out that, in Christian interpretation, the Old Testament story of Jonah prefigures the death and resurrection of Christ. “The destruction of his tomb in Mosul is therefore a direct assault on Christian faith, and on one of the few physical traces of that faith remaining in Iraq.” Another scholar, Sam Hardy, told the Washington Post that the destruction of the tomb shows that ISIS is willing to destroy “pretty much anything in the Bible.”

On this analysis, ISIS destroyed the tomb because of its Christian associations. But that mistakes ISIS’s motives in this case. True, ISIS has no respect for Christians or their sites of worship and, in fact, has driven Mosul’s Christians from the city. The fact that the tomb was sacred for Christians as well as Muslims—and contained a present from the US Army—cannot have endeared it to ISIS. But something else is going on here. The shrine was, after all, a mosque, and Jonah figures in the Quran as well as the Bible. To understand why ISIS destroyed the tomb, one has to appreciate something about the version of Islam the group espouses.

ISIS is part of the Salafi movement, a branch of Sunni Islam that seeks to return to the practices of the earliest Muslims – the salaf— who lived at the time of the Prophet Mohammed and just after. The movement rejects the centuries of subsequent developments in Islam as unjustified innovations–pagan accretions that adulterated the faith. In particular, the movement opposes the veneration of the graves of Islamic prophets and holy men. Salafis see this practice, which is associated most frequently with Sufi Islam, as a kind of idolatry, or shirk, that detracts from the absolute transcendence of God.

Salafi Islam prevails in Saudi Arabia, where it enjoys the patronage of the royal family. On the Arabian Peninsula, as now in Iraq, Salafis have destroyed the tombs of Islamic holy men. Indeed, when the Saudi royal family captured the city of Medina in the 19th century, Salafis systematically destroyed the tombs of several of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions and family members, leaving only the Prophet’s tomb itself unmolested. There is some thought that the Saudi government plans on dismantling even that tomb, but hesitates to do so because of the uproar that would result in other Muslim communities.

In short, one should see ISIS’s destruction of the tomb of Jonah as an act principally directed at other Muslims, not Christians. That doesn’t make it any better, of course. Will the outside world do anything in response? Unlikely. Besides, as Professor Hardy told the Post, “If we didn’t intervene when they were killing people, it would be kind of grotesque to intervene over a building.”


Iraqi Christians’ nightmare
Thanks to ISIS persecution, Mosul is without Christians for the first time in 2,000 years
Kirsten Powers
USA Today | July 29, 2014

Iraq’s Christians are begging the world for help. Is anybody listening?

Since capturing the country’s second largest city of Mosul in early June, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has ordered Christians to convert to Islam, pay jizya taxes levied on non-Muslims, or die. The extremist Sunni group is also persecuting and murdering Turkmen and Shabaks, both Muslim religious minorities.

Human rights lawyer Nina Shea described the horror in Mosul to me: "(ISIS) took the Christians’ houses, took the cars they were driving to leave. They took all their money. One old woman had her life savings of $40,000, and she said, ‘Can I please have 100 dollars?’, and they said no. They took wedding rings off fingers, chopping off fingers if they couldn’t get the ring off."

"We now have 5,000 destitute, homeless people with no future," Shea said. "This is a crime against humanity."

For the first time in 2,000 years, Mosul is devoid of Christians. "This is ancient Nineveh we are talking about," Shea explained. "They took down all the crosses. They blew up the tomb of the prophet Jonah. An orthodox Cathedral has been turned into a mosque. … They are uprooting every vestige of Christianity." University of Mosul professor Mahmoud Al ‘Asali, a Muslim, bravely spoke out against ISIS’ purging of Christians and was executed.

Lebanon-based Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, who heads the Syrian Catholic Church, called the crisis "religious cleansing" in an interview. "I want to tell American Christians to stand up, wake up and no longer be a silent majority. American-elected representatives need to stand up for their principles on which the U.S. has been founded: the defense of religious freedom … and respect for human rights."

Mosul’s Christians have fled to Kurdistan, which is providing refuge. Going back to Mosul is not an option: ISIS has given their houses and businesses away. There is nothing to go back to even if ISIS left.

Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf has taken to the House floor three times in the past week to plead for action from the U.S. and world community.

Wolf told me, "The Kurds have done a good job, but they are bearing the burden. President Obama should thank and encourage the Kurds for protecting the Christians. He also needs to provide (humanitarian aid), including funds for water and food."

Though many Iraq War boosters have claimed that keeping U.S. troops there would have avoided this atrocity, Shea pointed out that a million Christians left Iraq in the decade before ISIS’ purge campaign. The U.S. invasion "did not benefit the Christians at all. Back in 2007, jihadists moved into Baghdad’s Christian Dora neighborhood and did just what they are doing in Mosul now. We had 100,000 troops on the ground and we pushed them out, but the Christians never got back their property."

Patriarch Younan concurred, telling me, "Christians used to live (peacefully) and get educated. But since the invasion in 2003, there is…no safety."

Kirsten Powers writes weekly for USA TODAY.


Does Jonah’s tomb signal the death of Christianity in Iraq?
Opinion by Joel S. Baden and Candida Moss, Special to CNN
July 25th, 2014

(CNN) The destructive force of  the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the militant Sunni movement, is epitomized in a video released Thursday of ISIS members smashing a tomb in Mosul, Iraq.

The tomb is traditionally thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, a holy site for Christians and many Muslims.

Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, is built on and adjacent to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, the setting for the biblical book of Jonah and once the most powerful capital of the ancient world.

Indeed, for most people familiar with the Bible, Nineveh is inseparable from the figure of Jonah.

In Christian tradition, the story of Jonah is an important one. Jonah’s descent into the depths in the belly of the great fish and subsequent triumphant prophetic mission to Nineveh is seen as a reference to and prototype of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The destruction of his tomb in Mosul is therefore a direct assault on Christian faith, and on one of the few physical traces of that faith remaining in Iraq.

Despite its acknowledged antiquity, however, it is a virtual certainty that the tomb destroyed by ISIS was not that of the biblical prophet.

His purported tomb was in a mosque dating back to the time of the Muslim conquest in the middle of the first millennium. The mosque, known as the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus (Arabic for Jonah), was built on an even earlier Christian church that stood on the spot.

It’s likely that the association of the site with Jonah’s burial goes back to the early Christian period when the practice of linking geographical features with biblical figures was all the rage. (See: Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, David’s Tomb in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, etc.)

Jewish tradition suggests that Jonah returned to his hometown of Gath-Hepher after his mission to Nineveh (as we read in the book 3 Maccabees, from around the first century B.C.).

This was certainly the belief held by the church father Jerome, and was local tradition in Gath-Hepher in the 12th century and remains so today.

(Perhaps less likely is the rabbinic claim that his experience in the belly of the great fish was so terrible that God granted Jonah a rare exemption from the travails of death and he went up to heaven alive.)

In the end, speculations about the actual location of Jonah’s burial are probably moot, as virtually all scholars agree that the book is a work of pure fiction is perhaps even a comedic novella of sorts and that it is quite likely to have been written around the fifth century B.C., around 200 years after the city of Nineveh was destroyed.

But it is not the historical reality that is at stake in Mosul today.

The destruction of Jonah’s tomb was not an attack on archaeology. It was an attack on both those Christians living in Iraq today and on the rich, if little-known, Christian heritage of the region.

When people think of ancient Christianity, they don’t ordinarily think of Iraq. But the Christian communities there are among the oldest in the world.

According to church tradition, Christianity was introduced to the region by the Apostles Thomas and Thaddeus. These stories may be legendary, but by the second century we have references to Christian converts with names associated with the region and later histories refer to the persecution of Christians in Iraq in the fourth century. The Mar Behnam Monastery, for example, is believed to go back to the fourth century.

In the past two millennia, Iraq has been a center for Christian theological enquiry, learning and devotion. Important monasteries were built there in the sixth and seventh centuries, and various forms of ancient Christianity that had died out elsewhere persisted in Iraq into the 21st century.

Mar Mattai, which is to the southeast of Mosul and is maintained by the Syriac Orthodox Church, became one of the most important Christian monasteries by the eighth century, and was particularly renowned for its library.

The significance of Christianity in Iraq extends beyond even religion.

It is likely that Syriac monks were partly responsible for the preservation of Greek philosophical, medical and scientific texts by translating them into Syriac and Arabic. A ninth-century Syriac patriarch named Timothy wrote that the best Syriac manuscripts of Greek writers were to be found at Mar Mattai.

All that has been erased in a matter of days.

Last week, ISIS reportedly issued an ultimatum to Christians that they must convert to Islam, flee or face the sword. Earlier this month ISIS had allowed Christians to pay a non-Muslim tax known as jizya. On July 17, Christians were notified that jizya was no longer an option. They must now convert, flee or die.

Among the last Christians to leave the city were monks residents of the ancient Mar Behnam Monastery who left behind them 1,400 years of rich Christian tradition, as ISIS refused to let the monks take any of their precious relics with them.

Despite its antiquity and rich tradition, Christianity in Iraq is on the brink of eradication.

The heirs to those who first discovered the tomb of Jonah, and those who helped to keep Greek philosophy alive in the medieval period, are being ejected from their homes and from a land they have held sacred for centuries. This is the face and reality of Christian persecution.

Jonah was one of the earliest symbols of the resurrection for Christians. Will Christianity ever rise again in Iraq?

Joel S. Baden is professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School. Candida Moss is a professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame. The views expressed in this column belong to Baden and Moss.