Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or commonly referred to as ISIS, is not a group that dates back hundreds of years. In fact, the militant group’s reign of terror does not even go back twenty years. It was originally seeded before 9/11 in Iraq, with the purpose of performing suicide missions against Shiite Muslims. The first true presence of ISIS emerged when the U.S. invaded Iraq and dethroned Saddam Hussein. Muslims are generally either Sunni or Shia, learn more about the differences here. The Sunnis who supported, guarded, and fought for Saddam Hussein, not only lost lost a leader, but began to lose their way of life as a Shiite-based government took control.

The militant group, ISIS, pledged its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and joined al-Qaeda in 2004. It officially became known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI.  AQI seized the opportunity to recruit Sunnis in Iraq, who were bitter and disillusioned. The focus of the attacks expanded from Shiites to Westerners to anyone who does not agree with the group’s extremist beliefs. The recruiting efforts were incredibly successful in a war-torn Iraq. AQI was able to fold in numerous other insurgent groups. By 2008, when the Western forces believed AQI was dying down, it was still recruiting, working towards establishing a religious authority as their leader -a caliphate, and spreading the conflict to neighboring countries.

Through a renewal of leadership and a change in strategy, AQI moved beyond their al-Qaeda alliance and took up the name “ISIS” in 2010. The Syrian Civil War began soon after. ISIS sent groups into Syria during the chaos to establish cells and recruit. Training camps opened and ISIS soon had a force ready to fight the Assad government.

Perhaps the most horrifying part of being conquered by ISIS is that it immediately imposes Sharia law. The single-sighted goal of spreading it’s extremist views is likely what lead to the split between al-Qaeda and ISIS in 2014. ISIS does not seem to have been impacted by this split and has only continued to gain ground and support in Syria. While those captured or cut off from the rest of the world suffer immensely. According to a 2016 United Nations report, ISIS is believed to be holding at least 3,500 people as slaves.  In February 2017, CNN reported that ISIS has been responsible for 143 attacks in 29 countries that have killed 2,043 people.

In addition to those haunting numbers, there are the thousands of ISIS members that have been able to infiltrate Europe by posing as refugees, fleeing from the lands they themselves have destroyed. Unfortunately, these terrorists are mixed in with actual refugees, many who have experienced horrors we cannot even begin to fathom. Lastly, there are risks of lone wolves who find solidarity within the extremist views spewed by ISIS. Some of these lone wolf attacks have even happened here on United States soil.

Muslims everywhere are experiencing unfair treatment due to damaging extremist interpretations of the Koran that are propagated by ISIS – views that are not shared by others, over a billion, who practice the Muslim faith. ISIS has turned its fellow Muslims into widows, orphans, sex slaves, refugees, and victims. 

Paige D