A Quick Guide to Understanding How ISIS Perverts Islam To Recruit Its Followers
For too long, the canard of “Radical Islam” has been tossed around by our politicians as a catch-all bucket to explain the horrors of terrorism that occur here and abroad. “Radical Islam” was a term coined in the late 80s to describe the weaponization of the Taliban in Afghanistan and their turning against the West. It also applied to Al Qaeda, Al Shabab and a number of militant groups, but over the past 25 years, the landscape has changed.
Using the term Radical Islam or Islamism is a lazy way for politicians to get away from the complicated conversation of defining a complex foreign landscape and coming up with reasonable solutions to solve it. Islamism makes sense only when being applied to Al Qaeda or a militant Salafi organization – that’s not the world we live in anymore. Al Qaeda is no longer a major player in global terrorism, and many of the smaller players are now regional, affecting Pakistan, Gulf countries and Northern Africa.
First, let’s get the basic terms straight:
Islam is a religion that believes in the same God as Jews and Christians. Muslims also believe in the second coming of Christ, which makes us similar to Christians. The religion is practiced by 1.6 billion people globally and has more sects than Protestantism. Sunni and Shia are the primary branches, but sects are divided by both schools of thought and ethnic background.
Shariah is Islamic law and is very similar to Talmudic (Jewish) or Biblical law. For most of the Muslim world, it’s guidelines for marriage, divorce, how meat should be slaughtered, and how one should live. It’s application in the West is about as much as the application of Talmudic law.
Wali: Local or Tribal law – this is the misnomer when the term Shariah is used, as Wali is typically what a Wahabbi means when they start yelling “Shariah law” – what they want is their interpretation of local law imposed through Islamic law.
Islamism started as political Islam and became a “describer” of Islam for any militant purposes – it’s usually tied to a political goal but in recent years has lost its meaning as it’s applied liberally to too many global conflicts.
Radical Islam: Jihadism – basically a perversion of Jihad (which actually means struggle). Radical Islam and Jihadism were quickly developed terms to explain militants declaring war against the West, each other, and lone wolf attacks.
Faslis – (Pronounced: Fuzz-Lee) – Separatists, the new term for ISIS and Jamaat Islamiyya, as they advocate separating from Islam and the West. Faslis can also be used to describe any separatist movement.
The complicated relationship between ISIS / Jamaat Islamiyya and Salafi/Wahabi
The world we live in is complicated and filled with counterinsurgents that may be religiously motivated, but more often are politically motivated. This includes a broad number of groups – such as in Yemen, where there are Al-Qaeda, Northern Rebels, and Southern Secessionists. This gets further complicated when you take a step back and see that each region (Africa, Near East, Middle East, Asia, Baltics) have regional political aims and are often widely different.
What’s changed is the rise of religiously inspired groups like ISIS (Daesh) that operate as cults and are basically “Islam inspired,” packaged in carefully crafted cult wrapping. The Christian Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), responsible for massacres and genocide in Africa, is a comparison.
But how does ISIS recruit?
ISIS Cult Recruitment Funnel (copyright 2016 FFNY / WISE / SI, LLC)
We developed the ISIS Recruitment Process Diagram above to visually explain the process by which ISIS recruits and grooms members. They don’t start with the Shahadah or acceptance of Islam (in Christianity, this is akin to accepting Jesus). The first thing they start with is “Al Wala’ Wal Bara” or making a pledge to ISIS.
ISIS then takes a prospect through a vicious path to weaponization changes their definition of community (Ummah); requires them to excommunicate their families and Muslims they may know (Takfir), and indoctrinates them through Bayah (or pledging Allegiance to the Islamic State).
ISIS has taken terms that have meaning within the Islamic community and completely perverted them. Key example – Ummah, which refers to the global Muslim diaspora. ISIS has taken that to mean ONLY ISIS as your community. Similarly, Hijrah, which has a global historical context for Muslims, is warped to sell recruits on journeying to ISIS controlled territory.
Our research over the past 24 months has identified the target of this recruitment process: largely the non-religious or non-practicing Millenial or Gen-Zer. We call these targets “Jillenials,” referring to the global population of 18 – 28 year olds who can become lured by ISIS recruiters.
So what should we do to start winning the War?
The first thing we ALL can do is separate ISIS from Islam in speech. Leaders and pundits need to call them what they are – Faslis (Fuzz-lees) or separatists, so call them terrorists; call them Faslis – but start taking their power away. The term Islamism is meaningless in a world of terror cults. Their aim is to create a global war and by feeding into their rhetoric, we’re adding fuel to their fire.
Take away their terms and they stop having meaning. Take away their rhetoric and their ideology falls apart. If they start falling apart, we start winning the war.