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Who Is ISIS? 18 Facts To Make You Think

Posted November 17, 2015

On Thursday and Friday of last week, there was a series coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, France, two suicide bombers who detonated explosives in Beirut, Lebanon, and a terrorist attack in Baghdad, Iraq. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for all these attacks, which left hundreds dead and even more injured. For many of us our screens are covered with news about ISIS, Paris, and Beirut. Beyond anything, it is important that we keep those people and communities who lost love ones in our hearts and minds. But many of us do not know who ISIS is or what kind of organization they are. It is also important to know more about ISIS because their actions have not only caused death and destruction, but they also have a major affect on the refugee crisis. How did we get here? And as people of faith where do we go from here?


Here’s a few facts about ISIS (and links to other sources) so you can stay informed:

1. 2003: The U.S. invades Iraq, one of the major events in the Middle East leading to terrorist uprising.

2. ISIS claims connection with Sunni Islam, but they are certainly on the extreme fringe of the Muslim group. There are 2 majority branches of the Muslim faith: Sunni and Shia. Beyond the religious split between Shias and Sunnis, extremist organizations who claim affiliation with both groups are opposed to each other and do not work together.

3. 2006: There was a civil war in Iraq. During this time, al‑Qaeda and their terrorist activity began to grow.

4. al-Qaeda is different than ISIS in several ways. Most notably, ISIS requires territory in a top down structure and al-Qaeda was a flexible, autonomous group cells. 

5. Iran and Saudi Arabia do not have a separation of religion and government, and both governments are wealthy. Saudi Arabia is primarily Sunni and has supported groups that fight other religious orientations.  

6. The previous fact is significant because it has been widely speculated that Saudi Arabia supports the Islamic State financially. However Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz has denied all accusations repeatedly. The U.S. and Saudi governments made an agreement to “roll back” ISIS’s access to funds, so that there could be a joint effort to block the financing of terrorist groups by private citizens.  

7. In 2010, the Arab Spring occurred, leading to unrest in the region.  You can read more about what happened in Syria here.  

8. ISIS joined the fighting in Syria and became ISIS: the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They are also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and simply the Islamic State (IS).

9. ISIS has killed members of other Muslim terrorist groups, which is considered radical even for other terrorist organizations. The rules of ISIS are so radical that even members of alQaeda withdrew their support.

10. ISIS is responsible for killing women and children, sex trafficking, targeting people because of sexual orientation or religious beliefs, chemical weapons, and so much more

11. ISIS is the richest terror organization on Earth.

12. The group took control of Mosul, Iraq and now rules an area larger than the United Kingdom.

13. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been the leader of ISIS since 2010.  He has only spoken on camera once, but there is endless amounts of propaganda. 

14. ISIS is open about their plans - offensive jihad that expands the caliphate. We know they reject peace as a matter of principle and they consider themselves a major player in the end of the world.

15. This is the first terrorist group to use social media extensively in their cause for destruction and domination. Collectively, the group posts 90,000 tweets per day, even though there are only a little over 30,000 ISIS members. 

16. November 12: Beirut, Lebanon 43 people were killed by 2 suicide bombers in Beirut, Lebanon. Here is the heroic story of one person who saved many lives. 

17. November 13: 26 people killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq.

18. November 13: 129 people were killed and 433 people injured in coordinated attacks in and around Paris, France. This is the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II.


After reading this information, how do you feel people of faith should respond to ISIS and their actions? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.