OpEd for Washington Times — June 26, 2014
There is a great deal of confusion and ignorance about the jihadist organization ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) which has been waging a terror campaign in those two nations for some time now, culminating most recently in the seizure of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul.
ISIS isn’t acting out of anger over borders or “politics” as the West understands the term. ISIS has a specific goal in mind and that is the formation of an Islamic state ruled by Shariah.
This is very important to understand because this is a common goal of all the major jihadist organizations across the world. It is shared by al Qaeda, Hamas, Lashkar e Taiba, Abu Sayyef, Jemaah Islamiyah, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and others. The shared goal transcends any disagreements over borders and pure politics.
For instance, Israel could evaporate tomorrow and the overriding goal of the formation of Islamic states ruled by Shariah would not change a bit. It’s based in their thousand-year-old doctrine, which is far more fundamental and overarching than mere political ideology.
If we ever hope to win this war against radical Islam we better understand that the goal of establishing an Islamic state ruled by Shariah is based on doctrine and not just ideology.
Islamic doctrine is not derived from the thoughts or ideological vision of a man or woman brought to the fore in recent years. Islamic doctrine is based on the Islamic trilogy, the Koran, the Hadith and the Sira.
The Koran is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be a direct revelation from Allah. The Hadith is a series of traditions documenting the teachings, deeds and sayings of the prophet Muhammad. The Sira is the biography of Muhammad, considered to have been the perfect man who set an example for all Muslims to follow always. In order for an individual to be a good Muslim, it is not enough for him to worship Allah, he must worship Allah in the same way that Muhammad did.
The name given to Islamic doctrine is Shariah. Not only does Shariah form the basis of the doctrine to which jihadists, such as those of ISIS, adhere, it is also the common goal of jihadists to establish rule by Shariah in an Islamic state.
All other considerations — economic, political and military — take a back seat to adhering to and establishing Shariah.
It is this doctrinal basis that is the key to understanding the threat from jihad.
Too often the West becomes tied up in contemporary considerations and issues that have nothing to do with doctrine and assign too much significance to them.
Islamic doctrine — Shariah — transcends geography, politics and even different Islamic sects. It is the common thread that ties Boko Haram in Nigeria to ISIS in Iraq and Abu Sayyef in the Philippines to Lashkar e Taiba in Kashmir.
Jihad is not a local phenomenon. When a variety of terrorist groups all wage violence for the same reasons, with the same goals, this should be considered a clue that there is something more at work here than just “local” conflicts.
Make no mistake — ISIS does not just pose a threat to Iraq. History has shown that when an Islamic state ruled by Shariah is established, such as Taliban Afghanistan, that state becomes a launching pad for jihad elsewhere.
Already we have seen reports that American jihadis have joined ISIS to fight alongside jihadists from around the globe. While the conflict in Iraq is portrayed in the Western media as a civil war, the truth is that most of the ISIS fighters are not Iraqi. They are jihadi warriors from around the world, including from the West.
What happens when these jihadists head home? Will they leave the war behind in Iraq and Syria? Or will they bring jihad home?
In warfare, your enemy’s reality becomes your reality and you must go to great lengths to understand your enemy. Unfortunately, we have largely failed on that score as a nation.
Our elected and appointed officials must come to terms with the doctrinal basis for jihad so we can properly and effectively defend America, protect American lives and face our enemies.
Brigitte Gabriel is an international terrorism analyst and the president of ACT for America.org.