The sixth issue of the Islamic State’s English-language magazine, Dabiq, has been released. There are 10 key takeaways, but the overall objectives are to recruit Western Islamists, discredit Al-Qaeda and address the Islamic State’s unpopularity among Muslims.
1. The issue is a political attack ad against Al-Qaeda.
The cover of the magazine is about “Al-Qaeda in Waziristan: A Testimony From Within.” Here, the Islamic State presents an op-ed by a former Al-Qaeda member as an expose of Al-Qaeda’s misdeeds and the group’s fall from Allah’s will.
In the op-ed, Al-Qaeda is accused of being a sell-out. The author says that Al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies have chosen tribal law over sharia, are embracing peaceful protests over mandatory violent jihad and are exalting nationalism. The piece also blasts Taliban chief Mullah Omar for focusing solely on Afghanistan.
The article is supportive of the Pakistani Taliban and alleges that other Taliban factions are helping the Pakistani military to fight against it. It also accuses Al-Qaeda of duplicity when it comes to Iran.
The official spokesman of the Islamic State issued a public statement in May claiming that Al-Qaeda’s orders were not to attack Iran in order to prevent a crackdown on its operations there. The U.S. government says that Iran and Al-Qaeda have a “secret deal” that allows Al-Qaeda to maintain a base in Iran with the regime’s consent.
The former Al-Qaeda operative describes the group’s leadership as completely intolerant of constructive criticism. He says it has isolated itself by viciously criticizing fellow Muslims.
2. The Islamic State is trying to capitalize on libertarian pessimism about the dollar.
An article attributed to British hostage John Cantlie is all about the impending doom of fiat currencies, specifically the dollar and petrodollar. The Islamic State’s creation of gold coins as currency is described as sound economics that will enrich the group once the dollar inevitably collapses. The author says that Russia and China are stockpiling gold in order to help make that happen.
The author even quotes from former congressman Ron Paul, a former Libertarian Party and Republican presidential candidate with a fervent following in America. The article presents the U.S. military involvement in the Muslim world as driven by a desire to ensure that oil continues to be traded in dollars and not in any other currency.
3. The captured Jordanian pilot is due to be executed, if he hasn’t been already.
The magazine features an interview with the Jordanian pilot where he “admits” that his aircraft was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile fired by the Islamic State. The U.S. and Jordanian governments say his crashing was accidental.
The interview ends with the Islamic State asking him if he knows his fate. He says, “Yes…they will kill me.”
Unlike the handling of other captives, the Islamic State does not offer his release in exchange for concessions. He is deemed an apostate and his execution is required.
4. The Islamic State is hurting from a lack of Muslim support.
Nothing has damaged the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda more than their practice of takfirism, where they unilaterally declare huge numbers of Muslims to be apostates in order to justify killing them.
The Islamic State is responding by saying that it understands the seriousness of declaring a Muslim to be an apostate. This issue cites an Islamic verse about Allah punishing a Muslim who falsely labels another Muslim as an apostate.
The article emphasizes that this should never be done “except to those who deserve it according to Allah.” The Islamic State is justifying its behavior as judge and executioner by basically saying that it’s obvious that its victims deserved it.
In the article, there is an implied admission that Islamic State members aren’t getting along well with each other, are alienating locals and that Muslims aren’t happy living under the Islamic State’s sharia governance.
A section giving advice to Islamic State members repeatedly emphasizes being nice, patient and charitable. Its explanation of basic kindnesses suggests that its membership is wrought with judgmental in-fighting and recruits who are simply unlikeable on a personal level.
The article also includes recommendations for making the population more accepting of sharia governance.
“Beware of making them fear Islam and its rulings. And if there’s a matter that our people will dislike, then work for that matter using sweet and pleasant words and deeds that will cause the people to accept its bitter aspects,” the article says.
The Islamic State criticizes the Muslim imams who have condemned it by including a statement about “misleading imams” being more dangerous than the Dajjal, the Islamic version of the Antichrist.
5. The Islamic State is trying to sound relatively moderate and tolerant.
This issue of Dabiq tries to give the impression that some of the most heinous acts committed by the Islamic State are actually the works of foreign enemies. It claims to have dismantled a cell that infiltrated the ranks and planned to attack the Islamic State with help from the U.S., Kurds and rival Syrian rebels.
The article says the Islamic State is following a centrist path between those who fail to follow Islamic doctrine and those who follow “the extreme path of the Khawarij,” a term that refers to Islamic puritans that arose shortly after the death of the Prophet Mohammed. Khawarij is a label often used to denigrate the Islamic State.
6. Islamic State beliefs have Saudi origins.
The Islamic State hates the Saudi royal family but the group is largely a product of the Saudi royal family’s funding for the propagation of the "Wahhabi" form of Salafism.
This issue twice defends the Islamic State by using quotes from Imam Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a founder of the state of Saudi Arabia. It praises the Pakistani Taliban because “they carry the Salafi creed.”
7. The Islamic State believes it can take Yemeni support away from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
One article focuses squarely on Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and Harith al-Nadhari, a senior leader and sharia scholar of the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They are accused of being “absent [of the] Yemeni wisdom” mentioned in Islamic holy texts.
8. End Times prophecies remain at the heart of the Islamic State’s appeal.
The name of the publication, Dabiq, is itself a reference to the apocalyptic ideology of the Islamic State. The first page in this issue features a quote about End Times prophecy from the former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
“The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify—by Allah’s permission—until it burns the Crusader armies in Dabiq,” Zarqawi said.
The Islamic State and many other Islamists believe that one of the most important battles in the End Times war will be in Dabiq, Syria, after modern-day Roman forces (widely interpreted to mean U.S. forces) will invade the area to rescue its soldiers from captivity. This battle will trigger the appearance of the Islamic messiah (the Mahdi) and the Islamic version of Jesus to defeat the infidels, institute sharia law globally and accomplish Islam’s ultimate triumph.
9. Violent jihad is presented as the only guaranteed method of salvation.
The Islamic State addressed the perverted and murderous past of Sheikh Haron, the Islamic State supporter who started a hostage crisis in Sydney this month. Its response was to emphasize that his sin is “irrelevant” as long as he genuinely asks Allah for forgiveness and repents.
The author quotes the Prophet Mohammed as having “declared that such a [sinful] person would be forgiven the moment his blood is first spilled.”
This is often overlooked point in Islamist ideology and recruitment. Westerners often incorrectly assume that the violent jihadists’ dedication to their faith means they’ll be equally dedicated to resisting sin. This is not the case.
There are so many moral regulations in sharia that it is nearly impossible for any human being to be free of violation. No matter how hard a Muslim tries, he or she will fall far short of Allah’s standards.
The result is immense guilt, anger towards the perceived sources of those sinful influences (such as the West), and much insecurity about gaining entry into paradise. There is no way to quantify whether your positive behavior is enough to atone for your sins, so Islamists are able to offer martyrdom as the only guarantee.
Once this is understood, it is easy to see why violent jihad is actually more appealing to Muslims with severe moral failings.
This same dynamic explains why the Taliban, an Islamist terrorist group that believes homosexuals should be executed, is known to molest boys. Brutal suppression under sharia is seen as a solution to their own evil inclinations. Jihad also offers excuses to carry out these sins for the sake of a greater purpose.
10. If Allah’s blessing is responsible for victory, then what does defeat mean?
The Islamic State’s rise in recruitment was largely sparked by its success in taking over large parts of Iraq very quickly. This drew in recruits for an important reason beyond the obvious factors of increased opportunity, boosted morale and excitement.
Victory is widely interpreted as Allah’s blessing in the Muslim world, especially among those influenced by Islamism. If the Islamic State violated Allah’s will, it wouldn’t win on the battle field, according to this thinking.
“Know that victory and consolidation are in Allah’s hands alone,” this issue reminds the reminder.
The flip side of this belief is that defeat means Allah is not approving of those fighters and may even be punishing them. This is a significant reason for Al-Qaeda’s decline and the Islamic State makes the case that Allah is on its side by contrasting its advances with Al-Qaeda’s lack of results.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.