The Islamic State Is Building a Capital

While President Obama dithers over a strategy and considers cobbling a coalition together to implement it, the Islamist State in Syria is entrenching and enforcing its barbaric law on the local inhabitants, reports Bloomberg.

In the Syrian city of Raqqah on the banks of the Euphrates River, Islamic State militants are busy building a capital fit for their followers.

Human rights observers say they have stoned women to death for adultery, while residents report that religious textbooks have been imported for schools and the market flooded with black cloaks for girls as young as 6 years old. Even as it wages war on multiple fronts, the group has had time to focus on the details, recruit thousands into its forces and celebrate victories by parading the heads of its enemies.

This is not a passage in a history book about some band of savages who pillaged their way across territory a thousand years ago. It's happening right now.

The local victims mostly dislike the Islamic State's hyperviolence and radicalism. The Islamic State and its leaders and street thugs don't care. There is no force nearby that's capable of overthrowing them.

Mohammad, a Raqqah resident who declined to give his full name because of fear of reprisals, said people are unhappy with the strict social codes imposed by the Islamic State.

Women cannot leave home without a male guardian, shops have to close five times for prayer and people accused of theft have their hands cut off in public, he said. “People yearn for the pre-war days,” he said after arriving in Beirut. “But they’re too intimidated to speak out.”

President Obama and his national security advisers keep insisting that the Islamic State doesn't have any ideology beyond violence. That's not correct. The Islamic State has an ideology, based on the Muslim Brotherhood's desire to return Islam to its roots and the Koran. They are an expression of the Islamic revival that has been underway for about 30 to 40 years now, across the Islamic world. They're the most radical expression of that revival so far, but they are an expression of it.

By "revival," I'm using Christian terminology but this is nothing like a Christian revival, except in one sense. Christian revivals are efforts to bring believers back to what the New Testament actually says, about sin, about grace, about living the Christian life, about the Revelation. The New Testament never teaches war against anyone (the Old Testament does in some passages, but Christians revivals are almost always about the New Testament). It teaches peace, submission to even ungodly authorities, and many other things, but not violence.

The Koran teaches violence against non-Muslims, mainly Jews and Christians, in the portions thought to have been written after Mohammed had won secular power in warfare. Therefore an Islamic revival will not bear many similarities with a Christian revival. If both faiths have revivals aimed at getting them back to what their written teachings say, it matters a great deal what those teachings actually say. Contrary to soft beliefs that all religions basically teach the same things, they don't.

If the Obama administration's rhetoric that ISIS has no ideology is aimed at creating a split between IS and other Muslims, then it might be worthwhile as public relations. But this administration has had a cozy relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood for years. The Muslim Brotherhood started the Islamic revival. Even if the administration views the IS as too radical to have an ideology, the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology seems to be seeping into the administration's strategic thinking -- to the extent that there is any.

The strongest public relations with the most impact would be to destroy IS root and branch and therefore discredit them. But that doesn't appear to be the goal, at least not in any meaningful way.

I'll end this post with this shoutfest between Sean Hannity and terrorist imam Anjem Choudary from Fox Wednesday night. Choudary is an Islamic supremacist who supports terrorism and any other means to further what he sees as Islam's war against the rest of the world.

Most of the discussion is useless shouting, but near the end, Hannity gets Choudary to admit that the end game for him and al Qaeda and ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood is the same -- to impose Islamic sharia law on the whole world.

That's an ideology, as extreme an ideology as the world has ever seen. Sharia is the Islamic law behind everything from forcing women to cover themselves head to toe, to forcing all non-Muslims to pay a tax and live under repression, to beheading journalists and selling non-Muslim women into sex slavery. ISIS believes that its actions are in accord with sharia.

Most Muslims do not support the likes of ISIS or Choudary. But millions do support the global imposition of sharia, as part of the overall Islamic revival.

Anjem Choudary doesn't live in Syria and isn't taking up a gun to fight for the cause. He lives in London on welfare. He encourages other Muslims to live on welfare in the West and turn it into a "jihadi allowance." His weapon is his mouth. He may have radicalized the British Muslim rapper who joined ISIS and is believed to have beheaded James Foley.

Does Anjem Choudary have an ideology?