The current status on the “Islamic State” is still in a gray region: It still is operational in many regards yet is slowly being pushed by coalition forces. The void in Syria gives a large space for their operations in terms of conquest and economics. North Iraq continues to face the harsh punishments prescribed by IS forces. Kurdish forces are fighting the group and are making attempts at freeing the region.
A recent story has highlighted some of the atrocities being carried out by IS. In one set of images taken from an IS affiliated website, a man is thrown from a tall building for being gay, or “one of Lot’s people.” A woman is stoned, and two men are crucified in a public square.
The “Islamic State” has quoted religious texts or cited interpretations as a justification for these punishments and their rule over the region. Their goal has been to install an Islamic Caliphate across the center region of the Middle East and restore Islamic values and traditions. The irony in this statement is the diverse views, traditions, and classically liberal history of the Islamic religion.
Their strict enforcement echos another message: keeping their power status. The power religion gives to an individual or group as a legitimizing source is vital for keeping a position in society. Where there has been a void in the region and mixed sentiment over current events and government actions, those claiming religious superiority have muscled their way in. While the large segment of society widely denounces the group and their actions, it has taken this small group with military power and a few individuals scattered across the area in favor of IS to secure their place.
We ask ourselves, “why don’t the Iraqis and Syrians stand up and fight?” Some of them do (the Kurdish forces, Syrian fighters, ect) while many are too fearful to step out of line. They see what will happen just for minor crimes and criticism, and fear further punishment for standing up. They are unable to for many different reasons, whether it is lack of resources or out of fear.
IS has used a campaign of fear and terror masked by religion to give them power, and it has worked. Even in the West with the general public, there is a connection of IS with Islam as a whole, rather than a separation. Whether it has been media misrepresentation or far right officials linking IS to the entirety of Islam, there are a substantial amount of people who have given IS this power. It’s the power to blend in with a much larger society and become difficult to isolate.
In a sense, their tactics have been effective. They’ve established their interpretation of Islam, far worse than some of the many conservative branches. There is power behind their campaign and backing from those who see the West or moderates as evil and sinful. The fear of the unknown has generated a power that enforces through fear. The cycle continues. The means of taking down IS is not through solely military actions or violent reactions, but removing their ability to mobilize and punish.
Religion is a very powerful thing, especially with one being so widely followed. If used in the proper way, it can create a flourishing culture, with love and compassion thriving in every home. If it is misused, well, look no further than the “Islamic State.”
Photo Credit: NBC News