What is the Islamic State?

Not that I talk about terrorism on a regular basis, but on the occasion that foreign threats come up in conversation, I have noticed a trend. It seems that within the past few years, the acronym “ISIS” is immediately brought up when concerning terrorist attacks or radical militant groups of any form.

Before I became interested in world news, my knowledge of what ISIS really was did not exceed the idea that ISIS is a group of terrorist in the Middle Eastern area. It wasn’t until I read of the horrific beheading of American journalist James Foley, and later Steven Sotloff, that I understood the severity of ISIS.

So I researched. It turns out that I am not the only 18 year old who did not know much about this group. So, for all of those curious minds, here is some basic information to help better understand what the militant group, commonly known as ISIS, is:

· There is controversy about what to call this group. In English, they are commonly referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS. However, in Arabic, they can be referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham; al-sham being a region that includes parts of Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan. Al-Sham in English means “The Levant”, so it is often called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL. The group has referred to itself as The Caliphate or the Islamic State.

· The goal of the group is to restore an Islamic state in the area.

· They oppose Western ideas.

· The Islamic State has been more successful and powerful than Al-Queda because of their territorial gain.

· The Islamic state controls Syrian oil reservations. It is estimated that they make between $1 million and $2 million daily.

· The leadership of the Islamic state is similar to western government, with cabinets, governors and financial and legislative bodies. Although the Islamic state is seen as one state, it has different government in Syria and Iraq. There is also the Shura Council, which reports to the executive branch, is the religious monitor responsible for making sure that the caliphate is adhering to their interpretation of religious standards.

· The head of the Islamic State is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

· It is estimated that about 30,000 people have traveled abroad to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS. Of these people, about 250 are Americans.

Now that we know some basic information about the Islamic State, you may be asking the common question, why are people joining and supporting the terrorist acts? The Islamic state works to appeal to young, often isolated and vulnerable individuals. They appeal to those searching for themselves, and to people’s religious ideals and offer an escape to western ways of life, according to a CNN article. ISIS has launched a massive propaganda campaign through social media outlets such as Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp and more. By intriguing the young and curious, these recruiters introduce the beliefs and practices of the Muslim religion, send gifts, and soon persuade their new friends to travel to Syria. Recruiters are actively online, eager to teach curious young people, and offer what they view as a progressive community in an attempt to grow their revolution efforts.

Although we may not always see the relevance in staying in the loop with foreign affairs, it is pertinent that we see that the growth of the Islamic state does affect us. Though not directly right now, there is no telling what will happen in the future.

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