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Nov 15

I is for?

Oh to be talking about pointless outrage over coffee cups. No, instead we have to address a vital issue in the wake of both the Paris attacks and the downing of the Russian jet liner.

Is ISL/ISIS really Muslim?

Which is a loaded question. It could mean any of the following:
Is ISIS made of members who are Muslim?
Does ISIS as an organization purport to be Muslim?
Does the ideology of ISIS conform to some interpretation of Islam?
Does ISIS represent Muslims or Islamic doctrine?

The first two are easy. Yes, ISIS is made of people who claim to be Muslim and are of Muslim backgrounds. Yes, ISIS claims to be a Muslim organization. The last two, on the other hand, can be a matter of perspective.

Does the ideology of ISIS conform to some interpretation of Islam? This is a question of both self-perception and adherence to an objective standard. Muslims across the world cringe everytime ISIS is mentioned. Every act of violence on the news is met with the prayer "please, don't let a Muslim be responsible for this." Nevertheless, ISIS is, in fact, Muslim.
A good, and long, discussion of this can be found in the Atlantic and on NPR if you would be more inclined to listen.

However, we have an important second question here: Does ISIS represent Muslims or Islamic doctrine?

The answer to that is a very clear: No, it does not. According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims around the world have a strong negative view of ISIS. Islamic nations are worried about ISIS because their first targets are always other Muslims.

Muslims around the world are shouting that ISIS is not Muslim, but such a claim is not exactly accurate. Specifically they are adherents of Wahhabism, an extremely radical Islamic movement. In their view the vast majority of people who claim to be Muslim are not true believers, but are takfiri, apostates who are worse than unbelievers. They account for about 0.5% of all Muslims.

That bears saying again: They account for 0.5% of all Muslims. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, roughly. That means about 8 million Wahhabisians. Almost all of which are under the rule of our good buddies the Saudis, who are themselves Wahhabisians.

It is kind of like asking if the Ku Klux Klan is a Christian movement. I certainly wouldn't want to claim it as such. However, from an outsider's perspective I would have to admit that the members believe themselves to be Christians, they use Christian symbols, they use Christian rhetoric. Objectively I would have to say that they fit the criteria for being classified as a Christian organization, as much as I truly hate that appellation as a Christian. By the way, at their height in the 1920s the KKK was about 4% of the population of the US, not people sympathetic to them but actual members totaled 4% of the US population.

So, is ISIS really Islamic? Yes. Does that mean we should see them as representative of Islam? No. Does their behavior justify any form of Islamaphobia? No.

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