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Op-Ed: ISIS and Apocalyptic Islam — The threat and how to overcome it

Graeme Wood recently published an in-depth feature in The Atlantic on the motivations behind ISIS, providing clarity on their history and on their tactics and on their overall long-term objectives. The assessment put forward in the feature was as much about ISIS as it was about Apocalyptic Islam.

What is Apocalyptic Islam?

According to New York Times bestselling author Joel Rosenberg, Apocalyptic Islam is a genocidal death-oriented perspective that seeks to hasten the return of the Islamic messiah, Mahdi. According to a 2012 report released by the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of Muslims residing in the Middle East and North Africa believe in Mahdi’s imminent return. Seventy-two percent of Muslims residing within Iraq believe that the Mahdi will return within their lifetimes, citing the Pew report.

The Islamic State and other Islamic terrorist organizations are not feeding from Radical Islam but are instead drawing from vast populations that embrace the death cult of Apocalyptic Islam. This is a more considerable challenge than has been previously documented by the world’s reigning and predominantly non-Muslim governments. The messianic death cult that defines Apocalyptic Islam also defines the Iranian government, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Joel Rosenberg — so one can appreciate the concern in the present nuclear conversations spearheaded by the Obama administration.

Apocalyptic Islam set loose by ISIS knows no restraint, but it has shown its colors for those willing to examine its ugliness and the solution to its budding sustenance.

The Islamic State requires a state; it demands territory in its pursuit of an Islamic caliphate, and it has been successful in acquiring land across the failed states of Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Within the territories ISIS has taken, the populations have reacted in three distinct manners: they have fled and become refugees; they have stayed and fought back; or they have stayed and attempted to sustain their current lifestyle.

These behaviors present our leadership and our military planners with opportunities, but our populations have to become more comfortable with the notion of a considerably more expanded and aggressive war against ISIS and the Apocalyptic Islamists that support them. Consider the populations that have made the conscious decision to remain peacefully within ISIS-held territories. Are we to consider them sympathizers with the Apocalyptic Islamist cause? If so, how comfortable are we with razing their environments?

The prior U.S.-led attacks on Iraq under Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Bush — and the U.S.-led attack on Libya under President Obama — have yielded failed states in both nations. In both Iraq and Libya, the air assaults were entirely surgical in nature — meaning that civilian infrastructure was predominantly left off the target lists. This is what our politicians refer to when they say that airstrikes are not effective.

However, if we are to fight ISIS and the populations that support ISIS within ISIS-controlled territories, we should not limit the scope of our airstrikes — nor should we hold back on the devastation of our more impressive conventional explosives. Wars are not ended with surgical strikes. If we are to finish ISIS and their supporters, we are to do so without quarter and without ambivalence.

The Islamic State has proven that talk and diplomacy are futile, and the populations that remain within ISIS’ employ are quite likely supporters of Apocalyptic Islamism and as such are not collateral damage.

The coming war with ISIS needs to be a decisive one, and the nations participating in the destruction of the Islamic State need to do so with resolve. The caliphate is well marked; it is currently a three-state target.

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