An Idiot’s Guide to ISIS

Isis fighters celebrate in Syria.

Next to Beyonce’s performance at The Grammys, one of the most confusing topics in the zeitgeist is ISIS and just what their terrorist threat means to the ongoing stability (see: survival) of the world.

We’ve been hearing the term or some iteration of it for more than a decade, but with so many re-brands, battlefronts and new frontmen, it’s hard AF to keep up with what the hell ISIS is after, and why.

So we did some digging and translated a series of essays into these bite-size pieces of knowledge to help us—and you—understand what the fuck ISIS is, where it came from and what they want from the rest of the world.

What is ISIS?

A fundamentalist militant group that enforces Sunni Islam and primarily operates in Iraq and now Syria.

What the hell is Sunni Islam?

Muslims are either Sunni or Shia, depending on which of Muhammad’s successors they follow. ISIS claim to be Sunni, but give zero fucks for the moderate Sunni and consider Shia Muslims deserters of true Islam. Hence, Shia (or Shiites)—like every other religion—are the enemy and must either convert or die.

What are they trying to do?

It’s an age-old campaign to enforce Sharia Law—think legal stonings, slavery, rape, and amputations—on the world and eradicate other religions in an attempt to bring about the apocalypse, when Jesus (yes, that Jesus) will return and eradicate Christianity, installing Islam as the only true religion. Seriously. It’s based on their interpretation of the Qur’an (bible equivalent). In essence, they’re a door-knocking cult with guns who aren’t simply happy following their own god, but need to convert people they’ve never even encountered, and have their choice of god vindicated. Popularity and insecurity at its worst.

Isis leader and self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Where did ISIS come from?

Effectively, they’re the evolution of al Qaeda but with a new frontman, who’s taken the band from methodically dropping one big album every few years, to releasing unpolished singles on the reg. It effectively dates back to the fall of Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-led government in 2003, when the US installed a Shiite-led Muslim government which al Qaeda—Sunni and bitter rivals of the Shiite—didn’t take kindly to. And vice versa. Different Sunni groups have joined forces over the years under the al Qaeda banner, before rebranding as ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) and then ISIS (+Syria) and then simply IS (aka Daesh).

Why didn’t we hear about them until recently?

Because it wasn’t until 2010 that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi rose to power as the man they believe to be the caliph—the successor to the prophet Muhammad. And as the new frontman, he seized upon instability in Egypt and civil war in Syria, and waged war to introduce Sunni rule. Under Baghdadi’s rule, brutal murders and the rape of innocent civilians who didn’t conform became even too much for al Qaeda, who renounced their support of Baghdadi in 2014. You know shit’s messed up when the guys from 9/11 don’t condone your tactics.

How did ISIS is get so strong?

Remember when Saddam’s Sunni-led government was overthrown and the US installed Shiites to power? Well, all of Saddam’s Sunni soldiers were left at a loose end, and eventually found a home with ISIS and gave military training to the would-be terrorists. Then like mentioned above, they capitalised on instability in the Middle East and recruited disenchanted and impressionable Sunni Muslims.

An Isis fighter addressing a room full of new recruits see also: young children.

Why do they hate America and the west so much?

This one’s easy because ISIS released a Buzzfeed-like listicle in 2016 of the top five things they hate about America:

1. Because the US (west) are disbelievers and don’t believe in the oneness of Allah (God, like, the God). And because Christians say he had a son (Jesus), it makes liars out of Islamic prophets.

2. Because Americans are liberal and allow themselves to be governed by elected officials instead of Allah, therefore allowing punishable-by-death things such as homosexuality in the US, while criminalising rape (in contrast to radical Islam, where a rape hasn’t occurred unless four men testify to witnessing it).

3. Because many Americans claim to be atheist and therefore reject Allah.

4. Because of crimes against Islam and Muslims, such as drone attacks and bombings.

5. For military invasion of ISIS territory.

When will they be happy?

Not until their flag is flying in the White House and the whole world embraces Islam as the only true religion. Not until all women wear the hijab and are enslaved, all girls have clitorectomies, and stonings and other similarly barbaric measures are the law of the land—as condoned and described in the Qur’an. Meaning there’s no end in sight.

Who are the ideal ISIS recruits?

Virgins. Gullible virgins who are conned into thinking that their path to nirvana—complete with the promised 72 virgins—is strapping C4 to their body and blowing themselves up, killing thousands of innocent people in the process.

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