ISIS Publication Aims to Lure Recruits; Justifies Atrocities by Citing Mohammed

Patrick Goodenough | September 2, 2014 | 12:11am EDT
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The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant produces a full-color digital magazine called Dabiq to spread propaganda, promote its successes and attract recruits in the West. (Image: ISIS/Al-Hayat Media)

( – The latest propaganda publication by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is clearly designed to lure more recruits from Western countries, portraying an idealized picture of a band of “strangers from the East and the West,” drawn together despite national and ethnic differences, in common allegiance to one leader and one sacred cause.

Entitled Dabiq, the slick, full-color digital magazine has been produced in English and several other European languages. The style and grammar suggest first-language English writer or writers, and the spelling is American rather than British.

The magazine’s inaugural edition appeared in early July, highlighting the “caliphate” announced by ISIS days earlier. A second edition underscored the religious basis for ISIS’ vision, arguing that those who oppose Allah’s will will be punished, just as those who mocked Noah when he built the ark were punished in the Flood.

The 42-page third edition, just released, reports on advances the group has made in Syria and Iraq, responds to U.S. airstrikes against the group in northern Iraq, and attempts to justify the beheading of American journalist James Foley by laying the blame for his death on President Obama.

It says the U.S. over many months refused to take the steps necessary to save Foley’s life, even as several unnamed European governments had negotiated to have “a dozen” of their hostages released.

“That left a number of British and American prisoners remaining in the cells of the Islamic State, only after their governments arrogantly refused to release our imprisoned brothers and our sister, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.”

The magazine also describes Foley’s beheading as retribution for the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, and says it was “a cooling balm for the believers’ hearts to witness the execution.”

Obama is labeled a “crusader” and “apostate” who – “with Allah’s permission” – will continue to follow in the footsteps of President Bush “and ultimately bring about the complete collapse of the modern American empire.”

The main intent of the third edition of Dabiq, as with the earlier two, appears to be to attract young Muslims from around the world. It is entitled “A call of hijrah” – or migration to the Islamic state.

One article says the caliphate has become “the largest collection of muhajirin [emigrants; Mohammed’s original followers]” and “a marvel of history.”

Was there ever a state in history, it asks, “established by the emigration of poor strangers from the East and the West, who then gathered in an alien land of war and pledged allegiance to an ‘unknown’ man [a reference to ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi], in spite of the political, economic, military, media, and intelligence war waged by the nations of the world against their religion, their state, and their hijrah?”

“And in spite of the fact that they did not have any common ‘nationality,’ ethnicity, language, or worldly interests, nor did they have any prior acquaintance! This phenomenon is something that has never occurred in human history, except in the case of the Islamic State!”

The article says ISIS commanders and fighters are “of different colors, languages, and lands: the Najdi [Saudi], the Jordanian, the Tunisian, the Egyptian, the Somali, the Turk, the Albanian, the Chechen, the Indonesian, the Russian, the European, the American and so on.”

“The Islamic State has become a reality that everyone can see. Even the apostates cannot ignore its threat, let alone the cross worshippers and the Jews.”

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant fighters in the vicinity of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria, where the jihadist group clashed with Sunni Shu’aytat tribesmen earlier this year. (Screenshot: ISIS propaganda video)

Mohammed as model

The magazine includes numerous quotes from the Qur’an and Islamic hadiths, providing context from the life of Mohammed to justify the group’s brutal actions. These are backed up by much more recent writings, notably the views of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who founded ISIS’ precursor al-Qaeda in Iraq and led it until his 2006 death in a U.S. bombing.

For instance, one article defends a decision to execute Sunni tribesmen in eastern Syria this year – a photograph of the mass shooting is featured – on the basis that they had agreed to submit to the caliphate but then “betrayed their covenant by rebelling.”

It then cites a hadith which recounted how Mohammed, when faced with treachery, ordered that the perpetrators have their hands and feet cut off, their eyes gouged out with hot irons, and be left to die.

“This hadith shows the severity of the prophetic punishment against the treacherous, false claimants of Islam,” the article says, saying that the Syrian tribesmen had been guilty of a similar “wicked deed.”

The magazine reports on major recent ISIS “conquests,” among them the capture just a week ago week of a Syrian regime airbase in Raqqa province, and the earlier seizure of areas of Iraq’s Ninawa (Nineveh) province, some of which it says were occupied by Yazidis.

It says hundreds of the Yazidis had repented and converted to Islam while others fled with the “apostate” Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

The publication does not refer directly to the mass killings of religious minorities, but leaves no doubt about how contemptuously ISIS regards the “cross worshippers” and the “devil-worshipping” Yazidis.

Muslims who do not embrace the caliphate are condemned as hypocrites, weak-hearted, and those who have deserted the obligation of jihad. The magazine observed that some Muslims had even publicly declared “their enmity against it in bizarre competition with the crusaders and the apostates.”

Dabiq is named for a town in Syria’s Aleppo governate that was the site of an important 16th century battle, and also features prominently in Islamic eschatology.

Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Fund and an expert on radical Islam, notes that Dabiq is mentioned in a hadith that prophesies an end-time battle in which Muslims will conquer Christians, en route to conquering the entire world.

“In Islamic eschatology, Jesus, whom Muslims call Isa, will descend via a minaret of the Great Mosque in Damascus, and from there he will lead his armies to victory,” Sookhdeo says.

“‘Victory’ means destroying every cross, killing every Jew and pagan, and either converting every Christian to Islam or killing them. This apocalyptic dimension is now shaping ISIS as it sees itself fighting an End Time battle.”

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