Blog: Taking the ‘Islam’ out of ISIS

February 3, 2015.

The death of 1st Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian pilot, is confirmed.

This time, it is not another beheading, but an incineration.

The next day, The New York Times published an article titled, “Militants’ Killing of Jordanian Pilot Unites the Arab World in Anger.” And what a marvelous thing it has become to boast about: this “anti-Daesh unity.” Even the Muslim brotherhood and the Egyptian government, as this article goes on to state, agree on the brutality of this murder. Finally, we share something, even if it is only our anger.

And united after all these years, how do we proceed to respond?

With vows of retribution. Multiple airstrikes.

Now allow us to pause to consider the origin of this militant group that goes by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – ISIS.

In 2014, CBS News “traced ISIS back to a U.S. military prison” called Camp Bucca, one of many notorious prisons established by the U.S. in the Middle East. The article goes on to cite that “at least 12 of the top leaders of ISIS served time” at this prison, commonly known as one of the “toughest” in Iraq.”

However, this prison – contrary to its depiction in the CBS article – was not a place wherein Iraqi militants of radical ideology were gathered and acquainted with one another. Instead, these current leaders of terrorists are themselves the product of the terrorism with which they were dealt with. The man who comes out of this prison is not the same as the one who enters it. He is the conclusion of a story that they began.

How, then, could we heighten our military presence today when this monster is the product of our military presence from yesterday?

From the direct military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the indirect military intervention through armed drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Libya, we have seen radically-charged men emerge, vowing for revenge.

Individuals with no ill-feelings toward Americans now overflow with anti-American sentiment and an irrepressible desire to avenge the deaths of innocents. And even in such instances, when we kill a “terrorist,” we are only pulling a weed by its stem and leaving the root to bear another in its place.

Then, after years of weeding, as American troops are withdrawing from the region, ISIS enters the scene and provides a convenient excuse for America to stay.

The result? A perfect circle of terrorism; a cycle of war; a re-occurrence of occupation.

In truth, far more political figures are guilty of terrorism than just ISIS. Countries that kill innocents, which is nearly all, could rightly be deemed as terrorists. Hundreds of governments are at fault for inflicting terrorism on scores of innocent people. The difference is that some go about terrorism in less sanitized, less subtle ways.

We deem drone killings as more sophisticated, systematic killings, while we castigate ISIS for its unclean, outdated terrorist attacks.

This is not an effort to determine which side bears greater guilt. Nor is this an effort to say the atrocious murder of 1st Lt. al-Kasasbeh was justified due to America’s brutal history of murdering innocents. This is only said to point out commonly-overlooked parallels that arise from our fervor for revenge and our obsession with being the hero.

Something else must be known. ISIS is not the product of a failed revolution, though it certainly appears that way. Images of fire and rubble seem to show us what happens when “these barbaric tribesman are granted some freedom.” In truth, years of tyranny and oppression will make a tyrant and an oppressor out of any man.

ISIS provides the necessary outlet through which these men release their despair and find purpose within a society that granted them none.

And have we been so quick to forget about the bigger terrorist whom the little ones imitate? What about the president of Syria, whose barrel bombs have killed far more civilians than ISIS has? If the intentions of the countries involved is to protect the lives of the innocent, why have they continued to expend energy and resources fighting the smaller and less powerful?

This is why: ISIS has conquered 300 oil wells, and this excludes the number of wells they have captured in Syria. The massacres we witness today have been occurring long before America intervened and threw the world into a craze over this monster. But it was not until ISIS entered Kurdistan, conquering oil wells and petroleum reserves, that America and several other countries intervened.

Let it be clear that these terrorists have nothing to do with Islam.

ISIS slaughters innocent people while sacrificing their own lives and the lives of their children in the name of a nonexistent commandment. Their actions are more akin to a cult rather than a religious sect. Their misinterpretations of Islam are not misinterpretations at all, but rather, a creation of something entirely new.

headshotAiyah Sibay is a sophomore English literature major and can be reached at

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