Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims

Can an ISIS member teach Islam?

If you have been reading about ISIS, you know that a big part of its success has been its use of technology to recruit volunteers.  As I’ve posted earlier, ISIS tries to convince people that its violent methods represent true Islam. This is why ISIS loves it when American politicians and media describe them with terms like “radical Islam.” You get more volunteers if you can convince people that your actions serve a higher purpose, than if you call your group “extremists” or “terrorists.”

Many non-Muslims, of course, help ISIS out by arguing that ISIS actually does represent a kind of Islam. Actual Muslims, who presumably know a little more, overwhelmingly insist that ISIS is not Muslim. But for those of us who are not specialists, how can we tell whether ISIS really represents a kind of Islam?

One way to tell may be to look at the volunteers who join ISIS. If volunteers tend to be knowledgeable about Islam, then we might have to admit that ISIS is genuinely Muslim.  If recruits know very little, then perhaps ISIS really practices a kind of “pretend” Islam.

The Associated Press recently analyzed leaked ISIS documents, including forms filled in by applicants.  (Yes, part of ISIS’ sophistication is an application form!)  According to the article, 70% of applicants checked the box indicating the lowest knowledge of Islam (“basic”).  Only 5% checked the box for the highest category (“advanced knowledge”).

It appears then that people who know a lot about Islam tend not to join ISIS.  This meshes with the claim that most Muslims make, that terrorism violates fundamental Islamic teaching.  Most ISIS recruits know very little about Islam, except that ISIS represents “radical” Islam. They didn’t learn this at the mosque, of course; instead, they know it from TV and the internet.  Thanks, US politicians and media!

And that’s good for ISIS. Recruits who know little about Islam are much more willing to believe that Islam teaches terrorism. Informed Muslims would only object when ISIS violates the basic teachings of Islam.


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This entry was posted on August 23, 2016 by .
The Text in Context

Helping modern readers engage with ancient biblical texts

Mark Biddle

Mostly on the Bible

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