While the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (or ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) might be a formidable and abhorrent foe, one mischaracterization of these terrorists — repeated far too often by politicians and many in the media — must be put to rest. The Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam — no matter what the group chooses to call itself.
For nearly perfect evidence of this fact, consider how many brutal massacres occurred during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan — a period of spiritual reflection, peace, and restraint during which Muslims fast from dawn until dusk and are encouraged more than ever to refrain from behavior that would be considered sinful. Islam, as many major religions, already teaches peace as a rule — and the Qur’an states that killing one person would be akin to slaying all of humanity.
Yet the so-called Islamic State has slaughtered thousands over the two years since it declared itself a caliphate — and Ramadan certainly didn’t halt its murderous rampage.
On June 21, Daesh claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing just across the border from Jordan in Syria, which killed six Jordanians — four border guards, a national security official, and a civil defense worker. Called a “cowardly terrorist attack” by the government of Jordan, CNN reported, the bombing led to border closures with Syria in the north and northeast.
A series of suicide bombings in Lebanon on June 27 left six people dead and at least 19 others injured, and also forced border closures. After one terrorist blew himself up outside a home in the village of Qaa, three others waited at the scene for help to arrive and then detonated themselves in the gathering crowd.
According to a statement by the Lebanese Army, cited by CNN, “the four suicide belts used by the terrorists contained 2 kg of explosives material and metal balls (ball bearings).”
Though Daesh hasn’t officially claimed responsibility for the attack, security analysts reportedly claimed it bore the hallmarks of the group.
At least 43 people were killed — among them, a child — and more than 30 wounded in four suicide bombings in Mukalla, a major port city in Yemen, on June 28. Though the attackers targeted military and government buildings, the child happened to be passing by as one of the bombs detonated. Amaq, the unofficial media agency for Daesh, claimed the group had specifically targeted a “joint security base,” CNN reported.
According to the Associated Press, “officials said two suicide bombers and other militants carried out at least seven simultaneous attacks in Mukalla targeting intelligence offices, army barracks and checkpoints. In one of the attacks, a bomb was concealed in a box of food brought to soldiers at a checkpoint to break their dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast.”
Also on the 28th, Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport came under attack when at“least three people with guns and suicide vests targeted the arrivals and departures areas, where they sprayed travelers with bullets and then detonated their explosives in a rampage that lasted just a few minutes but killed dozens and injured more than 250 more,” as the Guardian described.
Though Daesh hasn’t officially claimed responsibility, Turkish officials believe the group was behind it — particularly since one attacker began shooting and blew himself up, while others waited for the ensuing chaos and mass exodus to do the same, which is a typical tactic of the Islamic State.
After intense investigations, Turkey today charged 17 more people in connection with the massacre, bringing to 30 the total number now in custody. Akhmed Chatayev, a Chechen believed to be a recruiter for Daesh, has been named by Turkish officials as the attack’s primary organizer.
Beginning Friday night, gunmen in Bangladesh stormed Holey Artisan Bakery, a cafe popular with expats, taking more than 30 hostages before Bangladeshi troops performed a rescue operation. Attackers managed to kill two police officers and 20 hostages during the 11-hour ordeal before authorities shot all six, saving at least 13 hostages in the process.
“Everyone else ran away but you couldn’t make it,” one of the gunmen told a store employee known simply as Miraj the Baker, before strapping him with explosives and gas canisters to be used as a human shield. “That means God wants you to die.”
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Saturday night, a suicide truck bomb in a busy marketplace in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood killed 200 people and injured at least 175 more — and again, Daesh claimed responsibility.
Considered one of the worst single attacks in the wartorn country in years, Daesh chose the marketplace as Muslims would be preparing for Eid al-Fitr — the day marking the end of Ramadan.
“As people congregated, shopped and watched soccer matches,” CNN described, “the bomb-laden truck plowed into a building housing a coffee shop, stores and a gym. Firefighters rescued wounded and trapped people in adjacent buildings.”
Yet another wave of attacks occurred in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, and though at least two failed, one attacker detonated his explosive belt and killed four people at one of Islam’s holiest sites, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi Mosque — the place where the Prophet Muhammad is buried.
Officials believe Daesh carried out the attacks, though no one has yet claimed responsibility.
It is imperative to note Daesh purposefully chose Ramadan to unleash its hellish fury on scores of innocent victims — who, incidentally, were mostly Muslim. These terrorists do not hold to the tenets of the faith they boastfully — laughably — co-opted to name themselves. Islam is not a hateful, murderous religion, no matter what ignorant politicians and their ilk would have you believe — but that’s also precisely what Daesh wants you to think.
If we blame Islam and its adherents for giving rise to Daesh — instead of geopolitical wrangling carried out by the United States — then Muslims become victims of scaremongering, prejudice, and bigotry, leaving them alienated among a society normally leaving them in peace. Too much abuse from the ignorant masses forces some to radicalize and search out groups sharing those frustrations.
It isn’t Islam that recruits for the Islamic State. It’s ignorance.