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The ISIS Apocalypse by William McCants

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The ISIS Apocalypse
In the March 2015 issue of the Atlantic, writer Graeme Wood described the rise of the Islamic State in incredibly apt words. He said that the way the Islamic State has achieved a powerful stature in the Middle East is less like the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, but like a prelude to the establishment of a dystopian future where the likes of David Koresh and Jim Jones are not only in power, but also have control over the lives of millions of people CITATION Woo15 p “par 4” l 16393 (Wood par 4).
The Islamic State has been a matter of debate and a bone of contention for authorities and governments all over the world ever since it came into power, principally during the Syrian Civil War. However, in the light of the recent Paris Terror Attacks, which killed a 153 people and left many injured, it has become critical to deciphering exactly where IS originated from, and what are its intentions.

The Rise of Islamic State
William McCant, in his book, the ISIS Apocalypse narrates how Islamic State came to gain the power that it has now, and what the repercussions of the same have been so far. The ISIS found its origins in the terror group Al-Qaeda. It was established by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was assassinated by America in 2006. The invasion of Iraq by the United States was the tipping point for what was a movement brewing within the sect from a long time. By uprooting the reign of the Baath Party, and disbanding the respective army, the US inadvertently created a power vacuum in the Iraq, a society that was already torn apart by ruthless politics and a weak social structure CITATION McC15 l 16393 (McCants).

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The aftermath of the invasion was a brutal civil war that ultimately ended up with most of the power going to the Shia ascendants. The local Shunni Muslims were already reeling from years of oppression under the Baathist rule, but the Shia ascendancy only exacerbated their problems. Furthermore, their efforts to rally support in Baghdad and Washington went in vain, and the sect was left rudderless yet again CITATION McC15 l 16393 (McCants).
The Islamic State utilized this vacancy of a powerful position and leaped at the chance to patronize people by manipulating their grievances. Radical Sunnis, fed up of the reign of terror, and wanting to be a part of what they call liberation, became a part of IS, and thus began the rise of what is now one of the most dangerous terror groups in the world CITATION McC15 l 16393 (McCants).
What are the ISIS’s beliefs?
Just using the words ‘ISIS’ and ‘beliefs’ in the same sentence sparks a controversy and debate like no other. Some believe that ISIS is justified in its goals and approach towards the establishment of what they deem to be Allah’s reign. Others, however, condemn this as an attack on humanity, and all of mankind.
The foreword of an evidently pro-Islamic State Magazine states what seems to be the policy and the innate belief of the group. The introduction contains excerpts from a speech by Zarqawi, who condemns the Western world for misleading Muslims all over the world. He says that those with the disease in their hearts will try to persuade Muslims from believing in the power of the state and that it will never be established. Believing in Allah, however, will give them strength, and help them move forward CITATION Ahm15 p 4 l 16393 (Ahmad, Dāwūd and Mājah 4).
The piece also openly condemns the former President Bush and calls him an enemy of Allah in a direct quote from Baghdadi. The conclusion, however, seems to be the most disturbing, and in line with McCant calls the ISIS’s doomsday vision CITATION Ahm15 p 4 l 16393 (Ahmad, Dāwūd and Mājah 4).
Quoting Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani, and glorifying him as Sheikh, the piece speaks of the ISIS’s vision for Rome, and their aim of capturing it. Speaking against the Crusaders, or the rebels against IS, Adnani says that the group will invade and capture Rome, take the women prisoners, and break their crosses. If they fail in their goals in this life, the legacy will be carried forward by their children, who will sell Rome’s sons as ‘slaves in the slave market’ CITATION Ahm15 p 5 l 16393 (Ahmad, Dāwūd and Mājah 5).
Aiming for a more objective debate on the topic, a clearer vision of the debate can be obtained by comparing the opposing viewpoints two authors. In his article How Islamic is the Islamic State? Not at all, Mehdi Hasan condemns Graeme Wood for calling the IS a ‘hermit kingdom’, a place where few people go to and return from alive. He expounds on the experiences of the French journalist Didier François, who was an ISIS captive for ten months. He states that the Islamic State seldom concerns itself with religion and that the larger discussion is almost always about politics CITATION Has15 p “pars. 2-4” l 16393 (Hasan pars. 2-4).
Graeme, on the other hand, called the Islamic State very in tune with the religion’s beliefs and policies, sometimes even ardently so. He claimed that the IS’s interpretations of Islam were coherent and learned, an insight that was opposed by Hasan, who is of the opinion the Islamic State uses the religion as the justification for their need of an identity. They identify with the victims and condemn the enemies because they need to maintain their legitimacy CITATION Has15 p “pars 7-8” l 16393 (Hasan pars 7-8).
In addition to this, many analysts have also condemned US’ treatment of the IS as non-Islamic, stating instead that it may be perverted, but its roots are definitely in Islam CITATION Has15 p “par 9” l 16393 (Hasan par 9).
What are the reasons for the success of the ISIS?
There have been numerous terror groups across the world, each with their agenda and list of their actions. However, in the recent years, the ISIS has been able to capture the forefront of authorities’ minds owing to its extremist policies and its strong presence in Iraq and Syria. Thus, it is inevitable for one to wonder what the reasons for the climb of this terror group have been.

One of the reasons, as elaborated by Graeme Wood, is the confusion surrounding the ISIS and its nature. The Obama administration has, repeatedly, called IS a non-Islamic entity, while others have claimed its intention to be directly in line with an extremist Islamic agenda CITATION Woo15 p “par 1” l 16393 (Wood par 1).
Another reason for its steady and deadly climb is the opportune moment that it came to power. When Islamic State stepped in to fill the power void in Iraq, the country was home to countless Sunnis who had been living under attack for several years. The Islamic State’s successful patronizing of these people, and using their grievances as religious agendas and crutches helped them amass armies of supporters, and eventually establish itself as a successful reign in the country. In fact, the hailing of Baghdadi as a Sheikh in many parts is testimony to his authority: he has been able to establish a power in less than years that even Osama bin Laden could not achieve during his entire reign CITATION Ger14 p 1 l 16393 (Gerges 1).
Another reason it is as infamous as it is is because it is concentrated in one region. The Islamic State’s parent organization, the al-Qaeda, could not be more different in structure from it. While al-Qaeda was geographically diverse and spread over various parts of the world, the Islamic State has largely concentrated itself to Iraq, Syria and now most of Middle East CITATION Ger14 p 1-2 l 16393 (Gerges 1-2). Additionally, while Osama’s functioning of the organization was flexible, with a lot of groups with varied leaderships, the IS follow a strict approach, with the power of authority trickling down from the top to the bottom CITATION Woo15 p “pars 4-7” l 16393 (Wood pars 4-7).
What has the impact of the Islamic State been?
Ever since the recent attacks on Paris on November 13, 2015, the ISIS is being considered as the biggest contemporary threat to world peace and harmony. The current President of the United States, Osama bin Laden; and the British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attacks on Paris as a blow against humanity itself. The French President Hollande has vowed a merciless retaliation against the ISIS.
On a communal level, the ISIS has managed to accomplish exactly the opposite of what they have envisioned. A survey conducted on an American audience in September 2014 revealed that following the rise of the ISIS, favourable views of Islam had declined to 27%, as opposed to the 35% in 2010. Furthermore, in February 2014, more than a quarter of the American audience said that they believed the reign of the Islamic State to be a stark and correct picture of life and living conditions in a quintessential Islamic society CITATION Has15 p “pars 4-7” l 16393 (Hasan pars 4-7).
References
BIBLIOGRAPHY Ahmad, Imām, et al. “Foreword.” The Failed Crusade n.d.: 4-5. Document. 18 November 2015.
Gerges, Fawaz A. “ISIS and the Third Wave of Jihadism.” Current History December 2014: 339-343. Web Document.Hasan, Mehdi. How Islamic is the Islamic State? Not at All. . 13 March 2015. Web. 18 November 2015.
McCants, William. The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. St. Martin’s Press , 2015. Print .
Wood, Graeme. “What ISIS Really Wants .” The Atlantic March 2015. Web.

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