Speaking as someone who has some authority on the topic, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed in a message this week that moderate Muslims have it wrong when they declare Islam the religion of peace.
“O Muslims, Islam was never for a day the religion of peace. Islam is the religion of war,” said al-Baghdadi, the mysterious figure in charge of the Islamic State. The message was released to radical social media sites this week in the form of an English-language transcript. In it, he calls on Muslims around the world to follow the example of Mohammad and wage war against the infidels. “The Jews, the Christians, and the rest of the disbelievers will not approve of you nor abandon waging war against you until you follow their religion and apostasize from yours.”
While it’s absurd to think that the rest of the world gives the slightest damn what religion Muslims follow, al-Baghdadi has a point with his description of Islam. Certainly, he is not the only Muslims who thinks the same way. Not only is his terrorist network growing by the day – despite U.S.-led bombing raids – but surveys have shown that a significant amount of Muslims in the Middle East support violent jihad.
To hear President Obama and the rest of the Islam apologists, al-Baghdadi and other radical terrorists are merely using the religion as an excuse for their violence. Anyone who listens to these terrorists when they speak, however, can plainly see that these are true believers. Whether or not they are promoting the TRUE ISLAM is beside the point. It is a grave mistake to pretend as though they are anything but serious about their efforts.
U.S. officials are at a loss as to how they can combat ISIS on the social media battlefield. Small wonder. When you are determined to defend Islam at every opportunity, you don’t have a lot of room for effective counter-messaging. The best you can do is what the Obama administration has been doing, which is to take away the religious legitimacy of ISIS and al Qaeda. But, again, when you listen to leaders like al-Baghdadi, you cannot doubt their sincerity. They may be psychos. They may be evil. But they really do believe that they are on a spiritual mission from God.
The United States can’t get drawn into a theological battle of semantics when it comes to Islam, and it is important to let moderates know that our war is not with them. But unless we have the courage to understand that this enemy is one driven by faith, we cannot hope to overcome their message.