Islamic State Faithfuls Mixing Murder and Religion

Deadly attacks by Islamic State (IS) linked suspects in Europe is becoming frequent with France and Germany as favorite targets. The killings are in retaliation for airstrikes on IS fighters and facilities in Syria and Iraq. It still baffles many how could these attackers, who supposedly pray five times a day based on their faith, carry such murderous rampage routinely. Even President Obama is confused when he said the terrorists have perverted Islam but they are not religious. So, do IS faithfuls really have a religion?

The name of the terrorist group speaks for its religion. Aside from Obama’s remarks, Muslims’ complaints that IS leaders and followers are tainting Islam with their penchant for bombings and executions make people aware that they are followers of Islam. However, Islam has evolved into many denominations like Christianity. Where does IS belong?

Wikipedia describes IS’s own version of Islam as Salafi jihadist, fundamentalist, Wahhabi and Sunni. The mix basically boils down to Salafi, the branch of Islam that advocates for the pure form of the religion. Salafi comes from the word “salaf,” which refers to the devout ancestors of Islam. The salaf emulates the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers through the strict application of the sharia or Islamic law. The term Salafi jihadist refers to one of three types of Salafi, the other being Salafi purist and Salafi activist.

Religious Beliefs of the ISIS Terrorist Group

Salafi jihadists are zealots wanting only one religion, Islam, for everyone and one community based on sharia. The kind of Islam is not the modern version but the unadulterated or unaltered one, where idolatry is unacceptable and punishable. The Salafi jihadists also use jihad to attain their desired political and social order. That is why the grouping includes radical Islamic groups like al-Qaeda, which also espouses violence to attain the same end.

The religion of IS is also described as Wahhabism, from the originator of the Salafi movement, Abd Al-Wahhab. But the term is shunned because it is considered derogatory. Ironically, Wahhabism is the Saudi version of Salafism with Saudi Arabia’s royal family as its most prominent adherents.

What Does ISIS Stand for?

Like the violent conversion of non-Muslims by its predecessors, IS left a bloody trail since its formation by Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in May 2010. Al-Baghdadi renamed his al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Iraqi division of al-Qaeda, into Islamic State of Iraq and launched a campaign of suicide, car and roadside bombings in Iraq. When the campaign spread into Syria by 2013, al-Baghdadi renamed ISI to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a.k.a. Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

IS recruits from the Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. are understood to be Muslims. Indian Muslim leader Choudhury, however, claimed that they are not Muslims. More scandalous was Choudhury’s comments that Islam, the Koran and Allah do not teach what IS people are doing. That makes the religion of IS still debatable for now.