The latest edition of ISIS' propaganda magazine reveals a group set on tearing global Islam apart in its efforts to prove its own righteousness
The latest edition of ISIS’ propaganda magazine Rumiyah was published this week in multiple languages, including English, French, and Russian. The publication, which is available online, discusses a range of topics, from the group’s combat operations to its interpretation of Quranic verses. But, while this edition includes some familiar rhetoric regarding ISIS’ hatred of the West, its focus is on the perceived apostasies and heresies of global Islam.
In this most recent edition, ISIS reminds readers that the group adheres to the “prophetic methodology” – a true and punctilious following of the Prophet Mohammad and his companions – as opposed to the “paths of the deviant.” In identifying itself with the prophetic methodology, ISIS claims to be a righteous government that is prophesied to follow tyrannical regimes. It repeatedly condemns sinful murtaddin (apostates) and kafr (infidels), in its eyes encompassing everyone from the Taliban, Hamas, and Muslim Brotherhood, to Islamic scholars and mainstream Muslims.
ISIS denounces the actions of Syrian opposition forces fighting in alliance with the Turkish government and other state actors. It says these forces, “who claimed to be Muslims, claimed to care about Muslim blood, and claimed to support Muslims,” should be viewed as enemies of Islam equal to Western powers. The group says these “claimants” are “prepared to commit the same crimes – or even worse – as those committed by the Crusaders.”
Showing ISIS’ concern following recent successful anti-ISIS cooperation in northern Syria, Rumiyah pays particular attention to the Muslim Syrian rebels who are allying with the Turkish, Russian, and US militaries. These forces have recently pushed ISIS from its territory in towns such as al-Bab.
The jihadi group’s application of takfir – which it uses freely to declare other Muslims apostates, and as a result liable for death – is also directed at Western Muslims. A female, Finnish ISIS member describes “the lack of religious adherence by so-called ‘Muslims’” in Europe. Cooperation with the ‘taghut’ (tyrannical) authorities in Europe – including by voting or participating in elections – is repeatedly portrayed as an act of apostasy.
A united, tolerant Europe that is inclusive of its Muslim populations does not fit ISIS’ desire for a binary division between Islam and the rest of the world. Rather, in the same vein as far-right extremists, the group encourages separation and segregation, perpetuating its worldview. The inclusion of a European-focused article is also fitting as the group loses territory in the Middle East. In order to remain a serious, global threat, ISIS has encouraged attacks and terror within the European continent.
"A united, tolerant Europe that is inclusive of its Muslim populations does not fit ISIS’ desire for a binary division between Islam and the rest of the world."
ISIS uses this edition to remind readers that it is the true follower of Allah's "straight path," and – despite claims from other Islamist militant groups – it is the only actor that understands "the upright methodology for establishing" Islam. It contrasts itself with the "experimental" movements of the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood, and extremist 'scholars,' who it condemns as counter-productive frauds that have produced "heresies and evils."
As military efforts continue to put pressure on ISIS it is clear the group will need to maintain its ability to recruit new militants. As Western governments cross off 'kill-lists' in the Middle East and beyond in order to prevent waves of returning jihadi fighters, the group will need to perpetuate the idea that it is the true defender of Islam. Indeed, in this edition, ISIS promises to present "future segments" that explain how "the people of misguidance" – who wrongly claim to be fighting for jihad and Islam – are following "crooked paths" that do not adhere to the prophetic methodology as ISIS does.
Despite the group's frequent declarations that it is engaged in a violent jihad against a 'Crusader-Zionist alliance' seeking to destroy the Islamic faith, this edition of Rumiyah is a reminder that its victims are mainly Muslim groups that it says do not ascribe to its extremist worldview.
The magazine does not include any reference to US President Donald Trump, who has gained headlines for his tough rhetoric regarding Islamist extremists and policies like the travel ban. It is more intent on dividing and condemning followers of Islam. This edition should act as a reminder to the West – where election campaigns in France, Germany, and the Netherlands have seen anti-Islamic sentiments – that mainstream Muslims reject and fear ISIS, a group that would condemn them to death.