GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
U.S. Air Force Capt. Iskandar Atajanow, 17th Training Wing chaplain, presided over a panel discussion at the base theater. The panelists, Dr. Anthony Celso, Angelo State University professor of security studies, and Dr. Yahya Michot, Hartford Seminary professor of Islamic thought and Christian –Muslim relations, gave context and understanding as to who the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is historically and theologically.
Each gave a lecture focusing on different points.
“Terrorism is not stopping. We need to get used to it,” said Celso.
More than likely, for the foreseeable future, Celso is right. ISIS has made a geographically free army. Celso points out that we’ve effectively destroyed their state, their capitals, but it’s irrelevant. He quotes Abu Muhammad al-Adnani al-Shami at length:
“Would you be victorious if you kill ash-Shishani, Abu Bakr, Abu Zayd, or Abu Amir?” asked al-Adnani, quoted by Celso. “No! Indeed victory is the defeat of one’s opponent. Or do you, Oh America, consider defeat to be the loss of a city or the loss of land? Were we defeated when we lost cities in Iraq and were in the desert without any city or land? And would we be defeated, and you victorious, if you were to take Mosul or Sirte or Raqqah, or even take all of the cities and we were to return to our initial condition? Certainly not! True defeat is the loss of willpower and the desire to fight.”
What ISIS has done is invented an ideal separate from its state, something endurable, where no matter what external form will represent it, the internal core idea will remain. ISIS will more than likely fade, but the extremist won’t, Celso warns.
He harped on al-Adnani’s propaganda methods, citing them as genius. ISIS has named two magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah. Rumiyah meaning Rome in Arabic. Deriving from a quote in hadith: The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them).
“What sets ISIS apart from other terrorist cells is their apocalyptic flavor,” said Celso. “They think that by bringing the fight to Dabiq, they’ll begin the apocalypse. And since losing the city of Dabiq, they switched to another apocalyptic area in their theology, al-A’maq.”
And that’s what sets ISIS further and further apart from other foes facing America and her allies. None have an apocalyptic vision, none seek to bring an end to the world. If they do, none wear it on their sleeves, and express it with such glee, naming their magazines and tools of propaganda after apocalyptic symbols. This kind of mindset is what sets ISIS on its path of unhinged craving for bloodletting. Their foreign policy is simple: if you aren’t with us, then greet death.
This sense of borderless yearning goes both ways, for they recruit the world over for soldiers, bringing in men from every class, nation and race. One need only believe in their interpretation of Islam and acknowledge them as caliphate and they are in.
It’s with this nature of ISIS that makes Celso claim terrorism isn’t going away. And if it is to go away, it isn’t soon, for ISIS. Though in contradiction to their name, ISIS doesn’t need a centralized state to function.
Thankfully, Michot’s portion provided a lens of hope, a solution to the problem of terror that isn’t rooted in military might.
“You show them the mistranslations and their ideology begins to come apart,” said Michot.
Taking an intellectual approach, he believes the radical jihadist will fall from radicalism when shown the flaws of their approach to Islam. A heavy amount of jihadist and Wahhabism ideologies are based off the teachings and writings of Ibn Taymiyyah, who is heavily mistranslated by the modern world, especially terrorist cells.
“Ibn Taymiyyah wrote in ancient Arabic,” said Michot. “This leads to many mistranslating him. I have seen on internet forums users posting scripts of Taymiyyah, painting violent rhetoric. In one instance, one man posted a Taymiyyah quote and asked if it was legitimate. Another second user asked where he got the original quote, and the first user provided him with it and the second user demonstrated that it was in fact Taymiyyah, but mistranslated. This, I think, is how you destabilize violent extremism. You take their reasons away and they have nothing but the truth.”
After the two spoke, they sat down and took questions from the crowd. Col. Jeffery Sorrell, 17th Training Wing vice commander, closed the panel discussion and coined both professors.
“It’s important we stay informed,” said Sorrell. “Things like this need to happen so we remain educated on what we’re up against.”