By REBECCA KOLIMAGA
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), also known as Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL) and Islamic State (IS), has become an increasingly threatening organization from Iraq. ISIS began as part of al Qaeda, but they separated in February 2014. Cumberland County College history professor Richard Curcio notes that the Sunnis “really want to dominate…they’ll practically stop at nothing,”
The group currently goes by Islamic State because ISIS and ISIL are names that geographically restrict from establishing legitimacy and supremacy.
Najib Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia believes that “We shouldn’t call them Islamic State…they are not Islamic and they are not a state.” Over 60% of Malaysia’s population is Muslim and Razak comments that ISIS is not an accurate representation of Islam.
Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the caliph of ISIS, is recruiting people from all over the globe with promises of camaraderie and results. Most western recruits are high school and college students with no prior connection to Syria. Many of these recruits crave the mentor-recruit that ISIS offers them. Members include people from Australia, England and France. ISIS’ population was originally estimated between 10,000 and 17,000 members, but it is now estimated to be as high as 20,000 to 31,500 members.
Salafis, members of a strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect that want to return to early Islam, believe the military and political actions of this time deserve to be resurrected. Although the violent military actions were acceptable then, today it would be considered barbaric.
ISIS has engaged in acts such as stoning, crucifixion, slavery, and beheading those who refuse to convert to Islam. They have taken control of areas in Syria and Iraq. In Aug. 2014, ISIS captured and killed hundreds of members of the Shueitat tribe from eastern Syria. They currently have control of Raqqa, a city in northern Syria and use it as their capital. They have set up training and intelligence centers, weapon depots and housing for their members there.
Concerns about ISIS have been growing because of ISIS’ resources. They use stolen American equipment such as Humvees and they have up to 20 Russian tanks. The majority of their income comes from extortion, taxes and smuggling. ISIS has control over local businesses, which allows them to generate profit through taxes. It has been estimated that ISIS makes between $1 million and $2 million a day because of the oil they smuggle from oil fields.
However, ISIS is gaining the support of Iraqis and Syrians in exchange for social services like welfare, which Irani and Syrian governments cannot provide.
The ISIS situation is really “a division between two sects of Islam and we happen to favor the interest of one side. We’re not so much involved in that,” Curcio comments, “we’re kind of a third party that this group just wants to hurt.” As of Sept. 26, 2014, there have been 200 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and 43 strikes in Syria to destroy training compounds, headquarters and storage facilities. On Sept. 23 the U.S. sent the first airstrikes targeted at Raqqa. The U.S. is also arming, training and providing rebels against ISIS.
The U.S. and Britain are intent on defeating ISIS after two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines were beheaded, their executions video recorded and posted online. ISIS’ current hostage, Alan Henning, a British aid worker, is facing a similar fate. Neither the U.S. nor Britain will pay ransom.
The U.S. is still undecided on what to do. Some of the republicans in Congress have taken a more aggressive stance and think that we should send troops but Curcio believes that the public isn’t ready.
CCC English professor Kevin McGarvey commented, “There is an old saying that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia…you have a number of countries that aren’t fond of each other that have all come together because they all fear ISIS.”
“ISIS is a continuously growing threat and the American public needs to become aware of that, “ McGarvey reveals.
“We don’t really care or pay any attention to things that are happening in the world until they happen to us and then all of a sudden we pay attention,” he says.
“As long things aren’t affecting us we are very good at ignoring things and I hope that something cataclysmic doesn’t have to happen for Americans to wake up.”