ISIL, ISIS – Now QSIS? Top Sunni Cleric Says Stop Calling Terrorists ‘Islamic’

Patrick Goodenough | August 25, 2014 | 4:25am EDT
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Dar al-Iftaa, Egypt’s top Islamic authority, wants people to stop using the word “Islamic” when referring to the ISIS terrorist group. (Graphic: Dar al-Iftaa)

( – Stand by for a new acronym for the ISIS/ISIL terrorist group causing havoc across Syria and Iraq.

One of the Arab world’s top Sunni authorities launched a campaign Sunday urging media to drop all names for the group that incorporate the word “Islamic,” in favor of “al-Qaeda separatists in Iraq and Syria” (QSIS).

Dar al-Iftaa (“the House of Fatwas”) in Cairo, headed by Egyptian grand mufti Shawki Ibrahim Allam, has launched an Internet-based campaign aimed at distancing Islam from the group known variously as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or simply Islamic State.

The campaign includes the launching of a Facebook page entitled “Call it Qa’ida Separatists not Islamic State,” and calling for people to post messages or video clips opposing ISIS terrorism.

“This page aims at clarifying the tarnished image of Islam across the globe due to the terrorist group’s horrendous act of attaching the name of Islam to their appalling acts which could not be justified under any religion or creed,” Dar al-Iftaa said.

“Muslim and non-Muslim thinkers across the world are invited to post their opinions, videos and posts against Qaeda Separatists.”

The 119-year-old Cairo institution, which issues fatwas or religious rulings on a wide range of topics, said it hoped Muslims and non-Muslims would actively support the campaign, “which does not only seek to exonerate the name of Islam from the terrorist group’s heinous acts but also to condemn these dreadful acts under the name of humanity.”

Dar al-Iftaa launched the campaign after the appearance last week of an online ISIS video showing a masked militant railing against America before beheading U.S. journalist James Foley.

Allam’s spokesman, Ibrahim Negm, said the beheading provided “a chance for ill-hearted opportunists to deliberately promote distorted images of Islam and level false and appalling accusations against it.”

Other atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria include mass executions, crucifixions and other killings, with minority Christians and Yazidis targeted in particular, as well as rapes and sexual slavery.

The group claims to be acting in the name of Islam, has declared an Islamic “caliphate,” invokes the Qur’an in its propaganda messages and videos, and is led by a man who, by naming himself “caliph,” lays claim to the mantle of Mohammed, Islam’s revered 7th century founder.

ISIS’ early roots were in a radical Sunni group called Tawhid and Jihad (“monotheism and holy war”), led by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant. During the Iraq war he pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2004 and renamed his group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). After Zarqawi’s 2006 death in a U.S. bombing his successors started calling themselves Islamic State in Iraq (ISI).

After broadening its focus and activities to the Syrian civil war, current leader Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi aka Caliph Ibrahim) renamed the group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and tried to subsume the Syria-based al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Nusrah, into the ISIS fold.

Al-Qaeda’s Pakistan-based leader Ayman al-Zawahiri then declared Al-Nusrah to be the only sanctioned affiliate in Syria and ordered Badri to focus on the fight in Iraq. After his instruction was ignored, Zawahiri disavowed ISIS.

By urging media and others to start calling ISIS “al-Qaeda separatists in Iraq and Syria” Dar al-Iftaa is not just trying to sever the association with Islam but is also arguing against differentiating between ISIS and al-Qaeda, despite the purported rivalry between them.

‘Nothing to do with Islam’

Egypt’s grand mufti’s is the latest attempt by regional religious leaders to dissociate Islam from the terrorist group. Last Tuesday Saudi grand mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh declared that “extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on earth, destroying human civilization, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam.”

On Friday – after saying nothing about Foley’s murder for two days – the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the killing.

In a statement the bloc of Muslim nations said its secretary-general, Iyad Ameen Madani, “reaffirmed the OIC position that the practices of IS have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.”

Decapitation of captives is not unique to ISIS or to the conflict in Iraq and Syria. Although Zawahiri has frowned on the gruesome practice on the grounds it is bad PR, al-Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to having beheaded Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl was in Pakistan in 2002.

Al-Qaeda terrorists are also accused of beheading American engineer Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia in 2004.

In the southern Philippines, the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group has beheaded dozens of hostages and other victims during its ongoing jihad, including Catholic priests and nuns and kidnapped American tourist Guillermo Sobero in 2001. (Last month a video posted online showed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon leading a group of men pledging allegiance to ISIS.)

Beheadings were a feature in the early days of Islam. According to historical texts Mohammed ordered that a Jewish leader, Kinana al-Rabi, be made to suffer to reveal the whereabouts of hidden treasure. He was tortured to the point of death, and then beheaded. Mohammed subsequently took Kinana’s widow, Safiyya, as his eleventh wife.

A verse in the Qur’an (8:12) declares: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”

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