Channel 4 broadcasted one of the most interesting documentaries I have seen in recent months: ‘ISIS: The Origin of Violence.’ The documentary was presented and written by historian Tom Holland and traces back from its very beginning’s the birth of one of the most feared extremist groups on Earth – ISIS.
Video footage from the terrorist attack in the Bataclan, Paris, horrifically reminded viewers of the terror, fear and anguish of so many before losing their precious lives. Footage of a pregnant woman holding onto the top floor window, her legs flailing in the air; a father crying out ‘Oscar!’ in despair having lost his child amidst the nightmarish fleeing and screams of many; streams of blood turning the roads into rivers of lost lives and deceased bodies.
Tom Holland wanted to find out why? A question many of us, both in the West and Islam generally, want to know.
Istanbul. Always on the periphery of Christendom and Islam, shaped the beginnings of Islam. In the early 8th Century it was a Christian capital, Constantinople. An Arab war fleet lay siege to its walls. Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Roman Empire, was the object of Muslim desire.The Arab’s believed the world was promised to them by God and, so, Constantinople was the space that they desired to conquer. They attempted many times, but failed. This was where the concept of jihad, the jihad we know now, formed.
In Islam jiihad means the ‘struggle to be a good Muslim’ – meaning the struggle of the self to become good enough for God.
The semantics were changed at the walls of Constantinople.
They decided what God wanted, what he meant, was no longer the struggle of the self by ‘jihad.’ Instead, he meant ‘sacred violence’ – pleasing God by struggling against the enemies of Islam and thus receiving the greatest rewards in heaven.
‘The sword scrapes away sin.’
Many historical events follow which, for the sake of the intrigue of the documentary, I encourage others to watch to understand the history in full.
Even so Holland explains that Paris is, for ISIS, a representation of the evils of the West – the enemy, they perceive, of Islam.
Paris is a place of sexual freedoms, debauchery: a picture of what ISIS deems as demonic. It is not, however, only Paris that is under the all-seeing judgment of ISIS.
The documentary shows a woman screeching in tears at a government conference in Iraq. She beseeches that the government, or that someone, do something to help the Yazidi’s who are currently facing mass genocide. ISIS believe people who do not follow Islam completely they are apostates. The punishment of apostasy is death.
Christians and Jews are offered a way out from this by paying the tax of jizzia – even though this means they are considered second-class citizens.
ISIS, however, look completely differently on Yazidi’s. They are not followers of the book, and, with strands of Islam interweaving in their belief system, they are perceived as one of the worst enemies for the jihad. Their belief in the ‘Peacock Angel’ has been perceived by ISIS as worshiping the devil himself.
‘They are dying – 500 Yazidi men have already been slaughtered, Mr Speaker we are being slaughtered under the banner of ‘There is no God but Allah.’ Women are being taken as slaves. I speak here in the name of humanity. Save us! Save us! We are being slaughtered. We are being exterminated. An entire religion, is being exterminated from the face of the earth. I appeal to you, brothers, save us! Save us!’
Watching the footage my heart wrenched, my hands went cold. To slaughter an entire religion – a people with an idea – because it does not fit with your warped interpretation of a holy book sickens me.
And, do you know what, I have no qualms in expressing that.
Vile, horrific, disgusting and unholy. That is the actions of ISIS are.
For all their claims of paradise they are merely sending themselves further into a hell of their own making. Yet it is not a hell they are able to make on Earth.
Goodness will always shine over evil.
So I hope that when you too watch this documentary you will see the horrors this group of extremists are causing under the banner of a peaceful religion, Islam. I hope it shows all the importance of unity – to stand up against the evils of this world.