I read a super-informative article about ISIS and their new caliphate, or Islamic state. I found the article on my iPhone News app (a new thing – not the Newstand app). It’s from The Atlantic which is a great magazine with very highbrow, in-depth reporting (I used to have a subscription, but I let it lapse). Read the whole article, titled What ISIS Really Wants.
The article explains that ISIS is actually following rules in the Koran, written about a time when Muslims were fighting Christians. Muslim military leaders ruled over large caliphates, or Muslim lands, and were expanding their territory into areas ruled by the Pope in Rome. In those days, the Pope had an army of knights. So the Koran has rules about what to do with captured Christians (these are different rules than would apply to fellow Muslims). For instance, if put to death a Christian would be crucified, whereas a Muslim would be beheaded. (I’m not sure why we have so many beheading videos, but there are photos of crucifixions by ISIS.) Christians were to be kept as slaves, but not Muslims. Christian women (or any non-Muslim women) were to be held as sex slaves.
In fact, just recently when ISIS took over Yazidi lands in Iraq, the leaders were unsure if the women could be taken as sex slaves. Were they pagans and therefore not Muslims? Or Muslims? The ancient Yazidi faith is a unique blend of Muslim beliefs, Zoroaster beliefs (from Iran) and pagan beliefs (worshipping the sun). If the Yazidi were lapsed Muslims, ISIS would kill them for leaving the faith. But if they were pagans, ISIS would enslave them. ISIS religious leaders convened to come to a decision. They decreed the Yazidi people to be pagans and the women were held captive as sex slaves. The women were so horrified at becoming sex slaves that they begged for coalition airstrikes to end their lives (some of the women had hidden cellphones in their dresses).
This is sharia law, the Islamic law outlined in the Koran. Some countries today practice sharia law, such as Saudi Arabia, but ISIS practices an even more extreme version. The article explains that Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, proclaimed himself the new caliph in June, 2014. (Baghdadi is believed to have been killed in October, 2015.) This is a very big deal because the Koran has different rules for Muslims when there is a caliphate (the last caliphate was the Ottoman Empire, around 1300 – 1450 A.D.). A good Muslim pledges his obedience to the caliph and, if possible, moves to the caliphate lands. Today, the caliphate is mostly in Syria and northern Iraq. This explains why so many Muslim men are willing to ditch their comfortable lives in Europe or America and move to Syria. A reporter for an earlier article counted 50 men a day crossing into the caliphate!
In Saudi Arabia, some of the sharia laws in the Koran are followed, like beheadings for serious crimes, hand amputations for thieves and whippings for adultery. But sharia law (according to the article) also provides free housing, free clothes, free health care and a job if they want one. This also helps explain why so many ISIS followers leave to go to Syria. Apparently in Raqqa, Syria, which is considered the capitol of the Islamic State, all of this is provided for the ISIS fighters and their families.