Renowned Atheist Declares: The world’s Best Defense Against Radical Islam Is CHRISTIANITY!

Despite spending years criticizing Christianity, well-known atheist Richard Dawkins is now admitting that Christianity is much better than Islam.
Dawkins even conceded that “Christianity may actually be our best defence against aberrant forms of religion that threaten the world,” according to The Gospel Herald.

Dawkins noted that Christianity, unlike Islam, does not make use of violent methods to fulfill its teachings. “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death,” he said.
He admitted that he has “mixed feelings” concerning the decline of Christianity, because this faith-based group might just be “a bulwark against something worse.”
The atheist reasoned that he constantly attacked Christianity in the past simply because it is the religion he is most familiar with, having attended Christian schools while growing up. Even though he was born in Africa, Dawkins and his family moved to England when he was nine years old.

His disdain towards the religion might have stemmed from the sexual abuse he encountered in school, although he used to say: “Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.”
Because of his parents’ deep love of science, Dawkins followed suit and pursued the field of biology. Even though Dawkins appears to be a logical-thinking scientist, the atheist argues that he is often misunderstood by the media and the public.
“I seem to be perceived as aggressive and strident and I don’t actually think I am strident and aggressive. What I think is that we have all become so accustomed to seeing religion ring-fenced by a wall of special protection that when someone delivers even a mild criticism of religion, it’s heard as aggressive when it isn’t. I like to think I’m more thoughtful and reflective,” he said.

Read Original Article Here

Pakistan’s Schoolbooks Deliver ‘Public Shaming’ to Christians

Textbooks in Pakistan’s public schools have become more antagonistic toward Christians and other religious minorities in the past five years, a new report says.

“The trend toward a more biased curriculum towards religious minorities is accelerating,” it says. “These grossly generalized and stereotypical portrayals of religious minority communities signal that they are untrustworthy, religiously inferior, and ideologically scheming and intolerant.”

 

The source

The report, scheduled to be released 12 April in Washington, D.C., is sponsored by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an advisory body to the U.S. Congress and state department. By law, the commission’s assessments of religious freedom in other countries are required to figure in to American diplomatic relations around the globe. Click here to download the report.

 

Why it’s important

1. Textbooks are an expression of national policy. According to the report: “School textbooks represent the political perspectives and national ideologies of whole educational and government systems. As such, school textbooks are one of the most important indicators of official and popular perspectives of the cultural and political communities they depict both in words and images.”

2. The textbooks “continue to violate the constitutional rights of religious minorities by integrating Islamic ideology into most subjects and to promote a national Islamic identity at the expense of Hindu, Christian, and Sikh children.”

 

About the study

It was conducted for USCIRF by the Peace and Education Foundation, a Pakistan-based non-governmental organization. It claims to have “trained more than 11,000 religious actors in Pakistan, including madrasah teachers and faculty, mosque imams, and interfaith leaders.”

The researchers started by consulting a 2011 USCIRF review of textbook bias. From that review, the researchers took 25 examples of religious bias, and examined 78 current textbooks to see if they had changed. The books are used in grades 5-10 in four Pakistan provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Together, those four encompass 95 percent of Pakistan’s population. Pakistan has more than 260,000 schools where more than 1.5 million teachers have contact with 41 million students.

 

What it found

  • 16 of the biased elements had been removed
  • 9 remained, either in their 2011 form or changed in ways that did not remove the bias
  • 70 new examples of religious bias in 24 textbooks

Pockets of improvement were found in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Why? Researchers said they had been able to meet directly with the Punjab governor, and with education ministers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

More than eight of every 10 new examples of bias were found in Balochistan and Sindh.

 

Examples:

Removed by 2016

“Anti-Islamic forces are always trying to finish the Islamic domination of the world. This can cause danger for the very existence of Islam. Today, the defense of Pakistan and Islam is very much needed.”

 

Grade 5, Punjab

A 2011 example that was changed but without removing bias

2011: “Christian Missionaries took full advantage of the British occupation of Asia and, under their patronage, started converting people of different religions to Christianity.”

2016: “The influence of Christian pastors had increased immensely and they were openly preaching their religion aided by their rule. They freely visited the cities and villages, organized gatherings to describe the qualities of Christianity and degraded other religions.”

 

Grade 8, Sindh

Added since 2011

“After getting rid of the proscribed and ignorant rule of the Church, Europeans progressed in the fields of knowledge/education, political acceptance and in arts and crafts.”

 

Grade 6, Punjab

Key findings

Heavy emphasis on pre-partition period. A major thrust of Pakistan’s public-school curriculum is “the desire to teach a sense of patriotism and nationalism and instruct students about the rationale for creating Pakistan,” the report said. The result is a focus on the “alleged animosities Hindus have of Muslims and tensions between Muslims and the British (and Christian) colonial power in pre-partition India.”

Islam is key to Pakistani identity. “Students are taught a version of history that promotes a national Islamic identity of Pakistan and often describes conflicts with India in religious terms,” the report said.

Overemphasis of military war heroes, “educating Pakistanis in the most superficial way.”

Suspicious of Christians. “Christians also are portrayed as untrustworthy missionaries, and as aligned with British oppressors who were colonizers and continue to conspire against Muslims.”

In sum: Pakistan’s curriculum “places religious minority students in a precarious status of either inherently flawed Pakistani citizens at best, or foreigners and enemies of the state at worst. If the theme is carried further, religious minority students are not only outsiders, but also dangerous contaminants to the Islamic national identity by virtue of their non-Muslim faith.”

 

Conclusion

“The public school system is still fundamentally intolerant of religious minorities and Christian children are taught that ‘Christians learned tolerance and kind-heartedness from Muslims.’ This represents a public shaming of religious minority children that begins at a very young age, focusing on their religious and cultural identity and their communities’ past history.”

 

Recommendations

“Constitutional guarantees provided to all Pakistanis of religious freedom should be reflected in textbooks’ contents.

“Negative indoctrination must end and impartial content for better critical learning should be adopted.

“The curriculum should inculcate a sense of constructive patriotism rather than a sense of fear.

“Overemphasis on Islam as being the ‘only correct’ faith must be eliminated from the textbooks. “Historical omissions and misrepresentations of different events must be eliminated to avoid controversial historiography, and diverse viewpoints should be included.”

 

Read Original Article Here

 

Keep praying for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

 

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Pakistan: Christian teenager kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam shares her testimony

pakistani-christians-protesting

Komal, 15, was abducted from her home in Pakistan, raped and forced to convert from Christianity to Islam in June last year. She suffered unrelenting abuse and was forced to marry one of her rapists, who acted as her pimp and she fell pregnant. Throughout her captivity, she had faith that Jesus would be faithful and rescue her from the hell she was experiencing. In February, she managed to escape, and has since shared her story with International Christian Concern (ICC).

“I was sleeping along with my mother on a single bed during a power-cut time in my house yard,” Komal told ICC, describing the evening she was abducted.

“At around midnight, five armed men with masks climbed over the boundary wall and entered into [our] house.

“The armed men brutally beat the entire family and threatened them [with] severe consequences if they shouted for help,” she said.

“Then, the kidnappers dragged me from my mother’s lap to their car in the street. My eyes and mouth were covered with a piece of cloth and they took me to [an] unknown place where five of them raped me in front of each other, taking turns.”

Her kidnappers continued to abuse her during her six months in captivity.

“Burning my female parts with cigarettes was a routine exercise for them,” she said. “Almost for two months they beat me every day for nothing and did not give [me] enough food to eat.”

Komal was forced to legally change her religion from Christianity to Islam and marry one of her captors with forged documents claiming she was 18.

“After almost two months of inhuman treatment and humiliation, they took me to the courthouse and forced me to put my thumb impression on a document that declared me the wife of a Muslim,” she said.

In Pakistan, a woman’s husband has full legal custody of his wife.

“I did not want this to happen, however, I had no other option because they threatened to kill my parents if I did not obey. Therefore, they forcefully married me to a Muslim and converted me to Islam.

“Without my wish they changed my religion, my identity and even my name,” she said.

“My new husband, who continued to rape me for the next two months, then moved to another city. This man already had two wives at his house.”

Her new husband forced Komal to become a prostitute, which she described as “the worst agony of all”:

“I felt like dying every day… I had become a forced prostitute. He even hired a watch-woman to keep an eye on me almost round the clock.”

Throughout this, Komal said: “I had faith that Jesus would get me out of this hell.”

In February, the opportunity to escape arose.

“Before sun rise, I managed to sneak away from the house to an urban area after walking about five hours. I begged for money from the people there to cover a bus fare and was able to reach my home after sunset on the same day.

“I am thankful for this mercy and the miracle of rejoining my parents now. I couldn’t stop crying when I hugged my parents and family for the first time,” she said.

“One can hardly imagine the painful situation which I and my parents experienced. It was like rising from the dead.”

During her captivity, Komal became pregnant. “I am confused about what to do with my unborn baby. What will the future of my child be if I give birth to him or her?”

Komal’s story is not unique – there are as many as 700 Christian women and girls, often between 12-25, who are abducted and forcibly converted to Islam each year, according to research by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace.

“I want justice, but do not want to put my parents in danger,” Komal said.

“Those people are very rich and influential and therefore we cannot go into the legal process against them. I just want to be divorced and try to plan a happier life.”

 

Read Original Article Here

The Forgotten Genocide: Why It Matters Today

April 24, marks the “Great Crime,” that is, the Armenian genocide that took place under Turkey’s Islamic Ottoman Empire, during and after WWI.  Out of an approximate population of two million, some 1.5 million Armenians died. If early 20th century Turkey had the apparatuses and technology to execute in mass—such as 1940s Germany’s gas chambers—the entire Armenian population may well have been annihilated.  Most objective American historians who have studied the question unequivocally agree that it was a deliberate, calculated genocide:

More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse.  A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years [more than double the amount of time the invading Islamic Turks had occupied Anatolia, now known as “Turkey”] lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century.  At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000….  Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.

A still frame from the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, which portrayed eye witnessed events from the Armenian Genocide, including crucified Christian girls.

Indeed, evidence has been overwhelming.  U.S. Senate Resolution 359 from 1920 heard testimony that included evidence of “[m]utilation, violation, torture, and death [which] have left their haunting memories in a hundred beautiful Armenian valleys, and the traveler in that region is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all the ages.”  In her memoir, Ravished ArmeniaAurora Mardiganiandescribed being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war).  Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.”  Such scenes were portrayed in the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, some of which is based on Mardiganian’s memoirs.

What do Americans know of the Armenian Genocide?  To be sure, some American high school textbooks acknowledge it.  However, one of the primary causes for it—perhaps the fundamental cause—is completely unacknowledged: religion.  The genocide is always articulated through a singularly secular paradigm, one that deems valid only those factors that are intelligible from a modern, secular, Western point of view, such as identity politics, nationalism, and territorial disputes. As can be imagined, such an approach does little more than project Western perspectives onto vastly different civilizations of different eras, thus anachronizing history.

War, of course, is another factor that clouds the true face of the Armenian genocide.  Because these atrocities occurred during WWI, so the argument goes, they are ultimately a reflection of just that—war, in all its chaos and destruction, and nothing more.  Yet Winston Churchill, who described the massacres as an “administrative holocaust,” correctly observed that “The opportunity [WWI] presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race.”  Even Adolf Hitler had pointed out that “Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention.”

It is the same today throughout the Muslim world, wherever there is war: after the U.S. toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the nation’s Christian minority were first to be targeted for systematic persecution resulting in more than half of Iraq’s indigenous Christian population fleeing their homeland.  Now that war has come to Syria—with the U.S. supporting the jihadis and terrorists—the Christians there are on the run for their lives.

There is no denying that religion—or in this context, the age-old specter of Muslim persecution of Christian minorities—was fundamental to the Armenian Genocide.  Even the most cited factor, ethnic identity conflict, while legitimate, must be understood in light of the fact that, historically, religion—creed—accounted more for a person’s identity than language or heritage.   This is daily demonstrated throughout the Islamic world today, where Muslim governments and Muslim mobs persecute Christian minorities—minorities who share the same ethnicity, language, and culture, who are indistinguishable from the majority, except, of course, for being non-Muslims.

If Christians are thus being singled out today—in our modern, globalized, “humanitarian” age—are we to suppose that they weren’t singled out a century ago by Turks?

Similarly, often forgotten is the fact that non-Armenians under Turkish hegemony, Assyrians and Greeks for example, were also targeted for cleansing.   The only thing that distinguished  Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks from Turks was that they were all Christian.  As one Armenian studies professor asks, “If it [the Armenian Genocide] was a feud between Turks and Armenians, what explains the genocide carried out by Turkey against the Christian Assyrians at the same time?”

Today, as Turkey continues moving back to reclaiming its Islamic heritage, so too has Christian persecution returned.  If Turks taunted their crucified Armenian victims by saying things like “Now let your Christ come and help you,” just last January, an 85-year-old Christian Armenian woman was repeatedly stabbed to death in her apartment, and a crucifix carved onto her naked corpse.   Another elderly Armenian woman was punched in the head and, after collapsing to the floor, repeatedly kicked by a masked man.   According to the report, “the attack marks the fifth in the past two months against elderly Armenian women,” one of whom lost an eye.  Elsewhere, pastors of church congregations with as little as 20 people are targeted for killing and spat upon in the streets.  A 12-year-old Christian boy was beaten by his teacher and harassed by students for wearing a cross around his neck, and three Christians were “satanically tortured” before having their throats slit for publishing Bibles.

Outside of Turkey, what is happening to the Christians of today from one end of the Muslim world to the other is a reflection of what happened to the Armenian Christians of yesterday.   We can learn about the past by looking at the present.  From Indonesia in the east to Morocco in the west, from Central Asia in the north, to sub-Sahara Africa—that is, throughout the entire Islamic world—Muslims are, to varying degrees, persecuting, killing, raping, enslaving, torturing and dislocating Christians.  See my new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians for a comprehensive account of one of the greatest—yet, like the Armenian Genocide, little known—atrocities of our times.

Here is one relevant example to help appreciate the patterns and parallels: in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria, Muslims, led by the Islamic organization, Boko Haram (“Western Education is Forbidden”) are waging a bloody jihad on the Christian minorities in their midst.  These two groups—black Nigerian Muslims and black Nigerian Christians—are identical in all ways except, of course, for being Muslims and Christians.  And what is Boko Haram’s objective in all this carnage?  To cleanse northern Nigeria of all Christians—a goal rather reminiscent of Ottoman policies of cleansing Turkey of all Christians, whether Armenian, Assyrian, or Greek.

How does one explain this similar pattern of Christian persecution—this desire to be cleansed of Christians—in lands so different from one another as Nigeria and Turkey, lands which share neither race, language, nor culture, which share only Islam?  Meanwhile, the modern Islamic world’s response to the persecution of Christians is identical to Turkey’s response to the Armenian Genocide: Denial.

Finally, to understand how the historic Armenian Genocide is representative of the modern day plight of Christians under Islam, one need only read the following words written in 1918 by President Theodore Roosevelt—but read “Armenian” as “Christian” and “Turkish” as  “Islamic”:

the Armenian [Christian] massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and the failure to act against Turkey [the Islamic world] is to condone it… the failure to deal radically with the Turkish [Islamic] horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense.

Indeed, if we “fail to deal radically” with the “horror” currently being visited upon millions of Christians around the Islamic world—which in some areas has reached genocidal proportions—we “condone it” and had better cease talking “mischievous nonsense” of a utopian world of peace and tolerance.

Put differently, silence is always the ally of those who would commit genocide.  In 1915, Adolf Hitler rationalized his genocidal plans, which he implemented some three decades later, when he rhetorically asked: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

And who speaks today of the annihilation of Christians under Islam?

 

Read Original Article Here

Benjamin Netanyahu: ‘Christians … are Suffering a lot because of Radical Islam’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel is the only Middle East country helping Christians from the violence of radical Islam.
Flickr_-_Government_Press_Office_(GPO)_-_P.M._BENJAMIN_NETANYAHU_LIGHTING_HANUKA_CANDLES_WITH_HIS_WIFE_AND_SONS
Netanyahu, speaking in a video message to the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, said that Christians are being persecuted and killed by radicals in the Middle East.
“You know very well that our region is in flames and Christians in Iraq, Syria and, unfortunately, under the Palestinian Authority, are suffering a lot because of radical Islam. These communities are persecuted, and unfortunately many people have lost their lives for their faith,” Netanyahu said.
“Radical Islam does not make any difference between Christians, Jews and Muslims who reject their extremism. They are all infidels who must be killed. For this now more than ever it is clear which is the only State in the Middle East that protects minorities, where Christians live in peace and where their community is growing: This state is the State of Israel,” he said.
Netanyahu has put a blockade on the region, which restricts the flow of goods.
Meanwhile, the Christian community in Gaza has fallen at a rate of 5 percent per year.
“People might think we’re leaving because of Hamas, but no it’s because of … [Israeli] policies on Gaza,” said Jaber Jilder, an official with the Greek Orthodox Church.

Why Are There Only 53 Christians Among America’s 2,184 Syrian Refugees? Amid claims of discrimination, World Relief points to other explanations.

Since civil war erupted in 2011, half of Syria’s nearly 22 million people have been displaced—including many of its Christians.

Before the conflict, approximately 1.1 million Syrians, or 5.2 percent of the population, were Christians. The majority—at least 700,000—have now fled.

That means that roughly 18 percent of Syria’s estimated 4 million refugees are Christians. So why have only less than 3 percent of the 2,184 Syrian refugees resettled in the United States from 2011 until now been Christians?

As Christians debate state bans on Syrian refugees after the Paris attacks, American Christians are “curious, and somewhat concerned, that there appear to be no Christian refugees in sight,” wrote Faith McDonnell of the Institute on Religion and Democracy for The Stream. She faults the Obama administration and US resettlement agencies which plan to increase the number of refugees resettled but have failed to support legislation that would fast track Christians for resettlement in America.

Christian refugees need special treatment, argues Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, because the United Nations refugee processing system “disproportionately excludes them.” According to Shea, it’s difficult for Christians to pass through the bureaucratic channels necessary to obtain refugee status, and they face dangers along the way.

No one is disputing the fact that the US has resettled 2,098 Muslims and 53 Christians from Syria since 2011, according to the latest statistics from the Refugee Processing Center.

However, the situation may not be as discriminatory as the numbers seem, said Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization for World Relief. The humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), World Relief is one of nine agencies authorized to resettle refugees in the US, and has resettled more than 250,000 over the past 35 years.

A typical security check for refugees takes 18 months—but it’s often longer for Middle Eastern refugees, he said. For example, the overwhelming majority of Iraqi refugees didn’t start arriving in the States until about five years after the beginning of the conflict in Iraq. So the bulk of Syrian Christian refugees are likely still waiting to be processed, he said.

“For a refugee, from the time they flee to until they’re in a permanent situation is 17 years,” said Soerens. “So five years is actually on the really short end. There are some refugees who might wait 30 years.”

And many Syrian Christians didn’t begin the resettlement process immediately after the civil war sparked in March 2011, he said. Instead, many Christians stayed longer in Syria because they felt protected by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Other Christians fled to neighboring Lebanon. Now home to more than one million refugeesmore than one-third of its population—Lebanon has taken the longest to resettle displaced people, says Soerens.

Socioeconomic status also plays a part.

“Christians tended to be better off economically than the average Muslim in Syria,” said Soerens. For the wealthier refugees, applying for a tourist visa is a quicker avenue of escape. Once they arrive as tourists, they can petition the US government for asylum.

Since the start of the war, the number of Syrian asylum petitions has steadily risen. In 2010, 36 petitions were filed. Last year, petitions totaled 1,586.

Since 2011, the US has approved just over one-third (37%) of the cases filed. Christians are likely overrepresented in these figures, said Soerens.

He rejected accusations that the US was trying to discriminate against Syrian Christians.

“I’m wary to assume a discriminatory factor here, given the reputation of the US resettlement program,” said Soerens. “It has helped more persecuted Christians than any other religious group.”

Since 2003, the US has resettled more than 762,000 refugees, and nearly 340,000 of them have been Christians, according to State Department statistics. The percentage of Christian refugees from each country varies greatly, depending on the circumstances.

For example, consider the countries that top Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian. Of the nearly 9,000 Afghani refugees resettled in the US in the past 12 years, just over 1 percent are Christians. But of the almost 15,000 refugees from Eritrea, 85 percent are Christians. By comparison, about 3 percent of Somali refugees, 30 percent of Iraqi refugees, 63 percent of North Korean refugees, and 75 percent of Nigerian refugees have been Christians.

“We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” President Barack Obama told Turkish reporters this week.

That might change, as several bills have popped up in the US House of Representatives this year, aimed both at expediting the process for religious groups threatened by ISIS and at beefing up the screening of anyone from Iraq or Syria. Some voices, including Franklin Graham, have even called for ending Muslim immigration to America.

“Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS,” said Leith Anderson, president of the NAE. “Our system is designed to keep terrorists out and to help desperate families with little children. We want to help the victims of terrorism in the Middle East, not punish them.”

Russell Moore argues in The Washington Post that it is time to “stop pitting security and compassion against each other.” The Gospel Coalition offers an explainer on the Syrian refugee crisis. CT previously spotlighted how refugees and asylum seekers are today’s pilgrims.

On Thursday, a veto-proof majority in the House voted in favor of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act. Nearly 50 Democrats joined with Republicans to approve legislation that forbids Syrian and Iraqi refugees from being resettled until the director of the FBI, the director of Homeland Security, and the director of national intelligence confirm that each applicant poses no threat, reportsThe New York Times.

But the bill would only duplicate security systems in place and “effectively end the program,” said World Relief’s CEO Stephan Bauman. “Refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country.”

Here is World Relief’s full response to the SAFE Act passed on Thursday:

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which would create an extra layer of certification in order for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to come to the United States as refugees in addition to additional reporting requirements.

World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, is strongly against this legislation and urges the United States to continue to welcome and protect Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

For 30 years, World Relief has partnered with local churches to resettle over 260,000 refugees to the United States and in addition since 1975, the United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees – three quarters of a million entered the U.S. in 2001 alone. During this time, there have been no recorded terrorists acts in the U.S. by a refugee. In fact, refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country.

“The refugee resettlement program is a life-saving program that has helped millions of those who have fled persecution start their lives anew in a place of safety. At a time when the U.S. needs to show humanitarian leadership, it would be a mistake to effectively shut down a program that has saved millions of lives,” said Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. “It is vital to maintain the integrity of this program by accepting the most vulnerable refugees, not excluding anyone based on their nationality or religion.”

World Relief strongly opposed H.R. 4038- The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act 2015 due to the following reasons:

H.R. 4038 creates a bureaucratic review process that could take years to implement and would effectively shut down refugee resettlement. The bill requires the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Department of National Intelligence for each individual refugee. The certification process will have to be created and agreed upon by heads of each agency and could take years to establish. In the meantime, refugees would languish in camps and dangerous situations, Syrian Americans would not be able to reunite with their family members, and there would be very real ramifications for international refugee protection and U.S. foreign policy interests in the region.

The process, once established, would add months or years to the security screening process, which is already the lengthiest and most robust in the world, routinely taking between 18 and 36 months. In addition to obtaining approval from three heads of federal agencies for each refugee, the bill requires reporting to thirteen congressional committees on each refugee that is considered for resettlement. This is unreasonably burdensome and will effectively end the program. Furthermore, for reasons of security and safety, security and medical clearances are only valid for limited periods of time. During the certification process, these clearances will expire. This will mean that refugees will be caught in an un-ending loop of security clearances that will never end.

Refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country. All refugees undergo thorough and rigorous security screenings prior to arriving in the United States, including but not limited to multiple biographic and identity investigations; FBI biometric checks of applicants’ fingerprints and photographs; in-depth, in-person interviews by well-trained Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings; investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center; and other checks by U.S. domestic and international intelligence agencies. Supervisory review of all decisions; random case assignment; inter-agency national security teams; trained document experts; forensic testing of documents; and interpreter monitoring are in place to maintain the security of the refugee resettlement program. Due to technological advances, Syrian refugees are also undergoing iris scans to confirm their identity through the process.

The bill is a waste of resources. Funds used to establish and run this certification process would be better used in conducting actual security reviews of refugees and others who are vetted by these agencies.

The bill is a pretext and requires differential treatment of refugees from Syria and Iraq without providing a justification for the additional verification. It is a disguised attempt to stop refugees from two countries long beset by internal conflict, including refugees who have been in neither Syria nor Iraq for four years. Differential treatment, with no clear justification, amounts to discrimination on the basis of nationality without rational basis.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t carefully vet refugees, but let’s get the facts first before making generalizations and shutting down a program that has literally saved thousands of lives.To turn our backs on refugees now would betray our nation’s core values to provide refuge for the persecuted and affirm the very message those who perpetrate terrorism would seek to send.

Now is the time to act. www.wewelcomerefugees.com

Stephan Bauman

President/CEO – World Relief

Read Original Article Here

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State

By Christoph Reuter

 

Aloof. Polite. Cajoling. Extremely attentive. Restrained. Dishonest. Inscrutable. Malicious. The rebels from northern Syria, remembering encounters with him months later, recall completely different facets of the man. But they agree on one thing: “We never knew exactly who we were sitting across from.”

In fact, not even those who shot and killed him after a brief firefight in the town of Tal Rifaat on a January morning in 2014 knew the true identity of the tall man in his late fifties. They were unaware that they had killed the strategic head of the group calling itself “Islamic State” (IS). The fact that this could have happened at all was the result of a rare but fatal miscalculation by the brilliant planner. The local rebels placed the body into a refrigerator, in which they intended to bury him. Only later, when they realized how important the man was, did they lift his body out again.

Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi was the real name of the Iraqi, whose bony features were softened by a white beard. But no one knew him by that name. Even his best-known pseudonym, Haji Bakr, wasn’t widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years. Former members of the group had repeatedly mentioned him as one of its leading figures. Still, it was never clear what exactly his role was.

But when the architect of the Islamic State died, he left something behind that he had intended to keep strictly confidential: the blueprint for this state. It is a folder full of handwritten organizational charts, lists and schedules, which describe how a country can be gradually subjugated. SPIEGEL has gained exclusive access to the 31 pages, some consisting of several pages pasted together. They reveal a multilayered composition and directives for action, some already tested and others newly devised for the anarchical situation in Syria’s rebel-held territories. In a sense, the documents are the source code of the most successful terrorist army in recent history.

Until now, much of the information about IS has come from fighters who had defected and data sets from the IS internal administration seized in Baghdad. But none of this offered an explanation for the group’s meteoric rise to prominence, before air strikes in the late summer of 2014 put a stop to its triumphal march.

For the first time, the Haji Bakr documents now make it possible to reach conclusions on how the IS leadership is organized and what role former officials in the government of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein play in it. Above all, however, they show how the takeover in northern Syria was planned, making the group’s later advances into Iraq possible in the first place. In addition, months of research undertaken by SPIEGEL in Syria, as well as other newly discovered records, exclusive to SPIEGEL, show that Haji Bakr’s instructions were carried out meticulously.

Bakr’s documents were long hidden in a tiny addition to a house in embattled northern Syria. Reports of their existence were first made by an eyewitness who had seen them in Haji Bakr’s house shortly after his death. In April 2014, a single page from the file was smuggled to Turkey, where SPIEGEL was able to examine it for the first time. It only became possible to reach Tal Rifaat to evaluate the entire set of handwritten papers in November 2014.

This document is Haji Bakr's sketch for the possible structure of the Islamic State administration. Zoom

This document is Haji Bakr’s sketch for the possible structure of the Islamic State administration.

“Our greatest concern was that these plans could fall into the wrong hands and would never have become known,” said the man who has been storing Haji Bakr’s notes after pulling them out from under a tall stack of boxes and blankets. The man, fearing the IS death squads, wishes to remain anonymous.

The Master Plan

The story of this collection of documents begins at a time when few had yet heard of the “Islamic State.” When Iraqi national Haji Bakr traveled to Syria as part of a tiny advance party in late 2012, he had a seemingly absurd plan: IS would capture as much territory as possible in Syria. Then, using Syria as a beachhead, it would invade Iraq.

Bakr took up residence in an inconspicuous house in Tal Rifaat, north of Aleppo. The town was a good choice. In the 1980s, many of its residents had gone to work in the Gulf nations, especially Saudi Arabia. When they returned, some brought along radical convictions and contacts. In 2013, Tal Rifaat would become IS’ stronghold in Aleppo Province, with hundreds of fighters stationed there.

It was there that the “Lord of the Shadows,” as some called him, sketched out the structure of the Islamic State, all the way down to the local level, compiled lists relating to the gradual infiltration of villages and determined who would oversee whom. Using a ballpoint pen, he drew the chains of command in the security apparatus on stationery. Though presumably a coincidence, the stationery was from the Syrian Defense Ministry and bore the letterhead of the department in charge of accommodations and furniture.

What Bakr put on paper, page by page, with carefully outlined boxes for individual responsibilities, was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover. It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an “Islamic Intelligence State” — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.

Graphic: A digital rendering of Haji Bakr's Islamic State organigram.Zoom

DER SPIEGEL

Graphic: A digital rendering of Haji Bakr’s Islamic State organigram.

This blueprint was implemented with astonishing accuracy in the ensuing months. The plan would always begin with the same detail: The group recruited followers under the pretense of opening a Dawah office, an Islamic missionary center. Of those who came to listen to lectures and attend courses on Islamic life, one or two men were selected and instructed to spy on their village and obtain a wide range of information. To that end, Haji Bakr compiled lists such as the following:

  • List the powerful families.
  • Name the powerful individuals in these families.
  • Find out their sources of income.
  • Name names and the sizes of (rebel) brigades in the village.
  • Find out the names of their leaders, who controls the brigades and their political orientation.
  • Find out their illegal activities (according to Sharia law), which could be used to blackmail them if necessary.

The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. “We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks,” Bakr had noted. “We will train them for a while and then dispatch them.” As a postscript, he had added that several “brothers” would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to “ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge.”

The spies were to find out as much as possible about the target towns: Who lived there, who was in charge, which families were religious, which Islamic school of religious jurisprudence they belonged to, how many mosques there were, who the imam was, how many wives and children he had and how old they were. Other details included what the imam’s sermons were like, whether he was more open to the Sufi, or mystical variant of Islam, whether he sided with the opposition or the regime, and what his position was on jihad. Bakr also wanted answers to questions like: Does the imam earn a salary? If so, who pays it? Who appoints him? Finally: How many people in the village are champions of democracy?

The agents were supposed to function as seismic signal waves, sent out to track down the tiniest cracks, as well as age-old faults within the deep layers of society — in short, any information that could be used to divide and subjugate the local population. The informants included former intelligence spies, but also regime opponents who had quarreled with one of the rebel groups. Some were also young men and adolescents who needed money or found the work exciting. Most of the men on Bakr’s list of informants, such as those from Tal Rifaat, were in their early twenties, but some were as young as 16 or 17.

The plans also include areas like finance, schools, daycare, the media and transportation. But there is a constantly recurring, core theme, which is meticulously addressed in organizational charts and lists of responsibilities and reporting requirements: surveillance, espionage, murder and kidnapping.

For each provincial council, Bakr had planned for an emir, or commander, to be in charge of murders, abductions, snipers, communication and encryption, as well as an emir to supervise the other emirs — “in case they don’t do their jobs well.” The nucleus of this godly state would be the demonic clockwork of a cell and commando structure designed to spread fear.

From the very beginning, the plan was to have the intelligence services operate in parallel, even at the provincial level. A general intelligence department reported to the “security emir” for a region, who was in charge of deputy-emirs for individual districts. A head of secret spy cells and an “intelligence service and information manager” for the district reported to each of these deputy-emirs. The spy cells at the local level reported to the district emir’s deputy. The goal was to have everyone keeping an eye on everyone else.

A handwritten chart shows Bakr's thoughts regarding the establishment of the Islamic State. Zoom

A handwritten chart shows Bakr’s thoughts regarding the establishment of the Islamic State.

Those in charge of training the “Sharia judges in intelligence gathering” also reported to the district emir, while a separate department of “security officers” was assigned to the regional emir.

Sharia, the courts, prescribed piety — all of this served a single goal: surveillance and control. Even the word that Bakr used for the conversion of true Muslims, takwin, is not a religious but a technical term that translates as “implementation,” a prosaic word otherwise used in geology or construction. Still, 1,200 years ago, the word followed a unique path to a brief moment of notoriety. Shiite alchemists used it to describe the creation of artificial life. In his ninth century “Book of Stones,” the Persian Jabir Ibn Hayyan wrote — using a secret script and codes — about the creation of a homunculus. “The goal is to deceive all, but those who love God.” That may also have been to the liking of Islamic State strategists, although the group views Shiites as apostates who shun true Islam. But for Haji Bakr, God and the 1,400-year-old faith in him was but one of many modules at his disposal to arrange as he liked for a higher purpose.

The Beginnings in Iraq

It seemed as if George Orwell had been the model for this spawn of paranoid surveillance. But it was much simpler than that. Bakr was merely modifying what he had learned in the past: Saddam Hussein’s omnipresent security apparatus, in which no one, not even generals in the intelligence service, could be certain they weren’t being spied on.

Expatriate Iraqi author Kanan Makiya described this “Republic of Fear” in a book as a country in which anyone could simply disappear and in which Saddam could seal his official inauguration in 1979 by exposing a bogus conspiracy.

There is a simple reason why there is no mention in Bakr’s writings of prophecies relating to the establishment of an Islamic State allegedly ordained by God: He believed that fanatical religious convictions alone were not enough to achieve victory. But he did believe that the faith of others could be exploited.

In 2010, Bakr and a small group of former Iraqi intelligence officers made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir and later “caliph,” the official leader of the Islamic State. They reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face.

Bakr was “a nationalist, not an Islamist,” says Iraqi journalist Hisham al-Hashimi, as he recalls the former career officer, who was stationed with Hashimi’s cousin at the Habbaniya Air Base. “Colonel Samir,” as Hashimi calls him, “was highly intelligent, firm and an excellent logistician.” But when Paul Bremer, then head of the US occupational authority in Baghdad, “dissolved the army by decree in May 2003, he was bitter and unemployed.”

Thousands of well-trained Sunni officers were robbed of their livelihood with the stroke of a pen. In doing so, America created its most bitter and intelligent enemies. Bakr went underground and met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Anbar Province in western Iraq. Zarqawi, a Jordanian by birth, had previously run a training camp for international terrorist pilgrims in Afghanistan. Starting in 2003, he gained global notoriety as the mastermind of attacks against the United Nations, US troops and Shiite Muslims. He was even too radical for former Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi died in a US air strike in 2006.

Although Iraq’s dominant Baath Party was secular, the two systems ultimately shared a conviction that control over the masses should lie in the hands of a small elite that should not be answerable to anyone — because it ruled in the name of a grand plan, legitimized by either God or the glory of Arab history. The secret of IS’ success lies in the combination of opposites, the fanatical beliefs of one group and the strategic calculations of the other.

Bakr gradually became one of the military leaders in Iraq, and he was held from 2006 to 2008 in the US military’s Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib Prison. He survived the waves of arrests and killings by American and Iraqi special units, which threatened the very existence of the IS precursor organization in 2010, Islamic State in Iraq.

For Bakr and a number of former high-ranking officers, this presented an opportunity to seize power in a significantly smaller circle of jihadists. They utilized the time they shared in Camp Bucca to establish a large network of contacts. But the top leaders had already known each other for a long time. Haji Bakr and an additional officer were part of the tiny secret-service unit attached to the anti-aircraft division. Two other IS leaders were from a small community of Sunni Turkmen in the town of Tal Afar. One of them was a high-ranking intelligence officer as well.

In 2010, the idea of trying to defeat Iraqi government forces militarily seemed futile. But a powerful underground organization took shape through acts of terror and protection rackets. When the uprising against the dictatorship of the Assad clan erupted in neighboring Syria, the organization’s leaders sensed an opportunity. By late 2012, particularly in the north, the formerly omnipotent government forces had largely been defeated and expelled. Instead, there were now hundreds of local councils and rebel brigades, part of an anarchic mix that no one could keep track of. It was a state of vulnerability that the tightly organized group of ex-officers sought to exploit.

Attempts to explain IS and its rapid rise to power vary depending on who is doing the explaining. Terrorism experts view IS as an al-Qaida offshoot and attribute the absence of spectacular attacks to date to what they view as a lack of organizational capacity. Criminologists see IS as a mafia-like holding company out to maximize profit. Scholars in the humanities point to the apocalyptic statements by the IS media department, its glorification of death and the belief that Islamic State is involved in a holy mission.

But apocalyptic visions alone are not enough to capture cities and take over countries. Terrorists don’t establish countries. And a criminal cartel is unlikely to generate enthusiasm among supporters around the world, who are willing to give up their lives to travel to the “Caliphate” and potentially their deaths.

IS has little in common with predecessors like al-Qaida aside from its jihadist label. There is essentially nothing religious in its actions, its strategic planning, its unscrupulous changing of alliances and its precisely implemented propaganda narratives. Faith, even in its most extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State’s only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price.

The Implementation of the Plan

The expansion of IS began so inconspicuously that, a year later, many Syrians had to think for a moment about when the jihadists had appeared in their midst. The Dawah offices that were opened in many towns in northern Syria in the spring of 2013 were innocent-looking missionary offices, not unlike the ones that Islamic charities have opened worldwide.

When a Dawah office opened in Raqqa, “all they said was that they were ‘brothers,’ and they never said a word about the ‘Islamic State’,” reports a doctor who fled from the city. A Dawah office was also opened in Manbij, a liberal city in Aleppo Province, in the spring of 2013. “I didn’t even notice it at first,” recalls a young civil rights activist. “Anyone was allowed to open what he wished. We would never have suspected that someone other than the regime could threaten us. It was only when the fighting erupted in January that we learned that Da’ish,” the Arab acronym for IS, “had already rented several apartments where it could store weapons and hide its men.”

The situation was similar in the towns of al-Bab, Atarib and Azaz. Dawah offices were also opened in neighboring Idlib Province in early 2013, in the towns of Sermada, Atmeh, Kafr Takharim, al-Dana and Salqin. As soon as it had identified enough “students” who could be recruited as spies, IS expanded its presence. In al-Dana, additional buildings were rented, black flags raised and streets blocked off. In towns where there was too much resistance or it was unable to secure enough supporters, IS chose to withdraw temporarily. At the beginning, its modus operandi was to expand without risking open resistance, and abduct or kill “hostile individuals,” while denying any involvement in these nefarious activities.

The fighters themselves also remained inconspicuous at first. Bakr and the advance guard had not brought them along from Iraq, which would have made sense. In fact, they had explicitly prohibited their Iraqi fighters from going to Syria. They also chose not to recruit very many Syrians. The IS leaders opted for the most complicated option instead: They decided to gather together all the foreign radicals who had been coming to the region since the summer of 2012. Students from Saudi Arabia, office workers from Tunisia and school dropouts from Europe with no military experience were to form an army with battle-tested Chechens and Uzbeks. It would be located in Syria under Iraqi command.

Already by the end of 2012, military camps had been erected in several places. Initially, no one knew what groups they belonged to. The camps were strictly organized and the men there came from numerous countries — and didn’t speak to journalists. Very few of them were from Iraq. Newcomers received two months of training and were drilled to be unconditionally obedient to the central command. The set-up was inconspicuous and also had another advantage: though necessarily chaotic at the beginning, what emerged were absolutely loyal troops. The foreigners knew nobody outside of their comrades, had no reason to show mercy and could be quickly deployed to many different places. This was in stark contrast to the Syrian rebels, who were mostly focused on defending their hometowns and had to look after their families and help out with the harvest. In fall 2013, IS books listed 2,650 foreign fighters in the Province of Aleppo alone. Tunisians represented a third of the total, followed by Saudi Arabians, Turks, Egyptians and, in smaller numbers, Chechens, Europeans and Indonesians.

Later too, the jihadist cadres were hopelessly outnumbered by the Syrian rebels. Although the rebels distrusted the jihadists, they didn’t join forces to challenge IS because they didn’t want to risk opening up a second front. Islamic State, though, increased its clout with a simple trick: The men always appeared wearing black masks, which not only made them look terrifying, but also meant that no one could know how many of them there actually were. When groups of 200 fighters appeared in five different places one after the other, did it mean that IS had 1,000 people? Or 500? Or just a little more than 200? In addition, spies also ensured that IS leadership was constantly informed of where the population was weak or divided or where there were local conflict, allowing IS to offer itself as a protective power in order to gain a foothold.

The Capture of Raqqa

Raqqa, a once sleepy provincial city on the Euphrates River, was to become the prototype of the complete IS conquest. The operation began subtly, gradually became more brutal and, in the end, IS prevailed over larger opponents without much of a fight. “We were never very political,” explained one doctor who had fled Raqqa for Turkey. “We also weren’t religious and didn’t pray much.”

When Raqqa fell to the rebels in March 2013, a city council was rapidly elected. Lawyers, doctors and journalists organized themselves. Women’s groups were established. The Free Youth Assembly was founded, as was the movement “For Our Rights” and dozens of other initiatives. Anything seemed possible in Raqqa. But in the view of some who fled the city, it also marked the start of its downfall.

True to Haji Bakr’s plan, the phase of infiltration was followed by the elimination of every person who might have been a potential leader or opponent. The first person hit was the head of the city council, who was kidnapped in mid-May 2013 by masked men. The next person to disappear was the brother of a prominent novelist. Two days later, the man who had led the group that painted a revolutionary flag on the city walls vanished.

“We had an idea who kidnapped him,” one of his friends explains, “but no one dared any longer to do anything.” The system of fear began to take hold. Starting in July, first dozens and then hundreds of people disappeared. Sometimes their bodies were found, but they usually disappeared without a trace. In August, the IS military leadership dispatched several cars driven by suicide bombers to the headquarters of the FSA brigade, the “Grandsons of the Prophet,” killing dozens of fighters and leading the rest to flee. The other rebels merely looked on. IS leadership had spun a web of secret deals with the brigades so that each thought it was only the others who might be the targets of IS attacks.

On Oct. 17, 2013, Islamic State called all civic leaders, clerics and lawyers in the city to a meeting. At the time, some thought it might be a gesture of conciliation. Of the 300 people who attended the meeting, only two spoke out against the ongoing takeover, the kidnappings and the murders committed by IS.

One of the two was Muhannad Habayebna, a civil rights activist and journalist well known in the city. He was found five days later tied up and executed with a gunshot wound to his head. Friends received an anonymous email with a photo of his body. The message included only one sentence: “Are you sad about your friend now?” Within hours around 20 leading members of the opposition fled to Turkey. The revolution in Raqqa had come to an end.

A short time later, the 14 chiefs of the largest clans gave an oath of allegiance to Emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There’s even a film of the ceremony. They were sheiks with the same clans that had sworn their steadfast loyalty to Syrian President Bashar Assad only two years earlier.

The Death of Haji Bakr

Until the end of 2013, everything was going according to Islamic State’s plan — or at least according to the plan of Haji Bakr. The caliphate was expanding village by village without being confronted by unified resistance from Syrian rebels. Indeed, the rebels seemed paralyzed in the face of IS’ sinister power.

But when IS henchmen brutally tortured a well-liked rebel leader and doctor to death in December 2013, something unexpected happened. Across the country, Syrian brigades — both secular and parts of the radical Nusra Front — joined together to do battle with Islamic State. By attacking IS everywhere at the same time, they were able to rob the Islamists of their tactical advantage — that of being able to rapidly move units to where they were most urgently needed.

Within weeks, IS was pushed out of large regions of northern Syria. Even Raqqa, the Islamic State capital, had almost fallen by the time 1,300 IS fighters arrived from Iraq. But they didn’t simply march into battle. Rather, they employed a trickier approach, recalls the doctor who fled. “In Raqqa, there were so many brigades on the move that nobody knew who exactly the others were. Suddenly, a group in rebel dress began to shoot at the other rebels. They all simply fled.”

A small, simple masquerade had helped IS fighters to victory: Just change out of black clothes into jeans and vests. They did the same thing in the border town of Jarablus. On several occasions, rebels in other locations took drivers from IS suicide vehicles into custody. The drivers asked in surprise: “You are Sunnis too? Our emir told me you were infidels from Assad’s army.”

Once complete, the picture begins to look absurd: God’s self-proclaimed enforcers on Earth head out to conquer a future worldly empire, but with what? With ninja outfits, cheap tricks and espionage cells camouflaged as missionary offices. But it worked. IS held on to Raqqa and was able to reconquer some of its lost territories. But it came too late for the great planner Haji Bakr.

Haji Bakr stayed behind in the small city of Tal Rifaat, where IS had long had the upper hand. But when rebels attacked at the end of January 2014, the city became divided within just a few hours. One half remained under IS control while the other was wrested away by one of the local brigades. Haji Bakr was stuck in the wrong half. Furthermore, in order to remain incognito he had refrained from moving into one of the heavily guarded IS military quarters. And so, the godfather of snitching was snitched on by a neighbor. “A Daish sheik lives next door!” the man called. A local commander named Abdelmalik Hadbe and his men drove over to Bakr’s house. A woman jerked open the door and said brusquely: “My husband isn’t here.”

But his car is parked out front, the rebels countered.

At that moment, Haji Bakr appeared at the door in his pajamas. Hadbe ordered him to come with them, whereupon Bakr protested that he wanted to get dressed. No, Hadbe repeated: “Come with us! Immediately!”

Surprisingly nimbly for his age, Bakr jumped back and kicked the door closed, according to two people who witnessed the scene. He then hid under the stairs and yelled: “I have a suicide belt! I’ll blow up all of us!” He then came out with a Kalashnikov and began shooting. Hadbe then fired his weapon and killed Bakr.

When the men later learned who they had killed, they searched the house, gathering up computers, passports, mobile phone SIM cards, a GPS device and, most importantly, papers. They didn’t find a Koran anywhere.

Haji Bakr was dead and the local rebels took his wife into custody. Later, the rebels exchanged her for Turkish IS hostages at the request of Ankara. Bakr’s valuable papers were initially hidden away in a chamber, where they spent several months.

A Second Cache of Documents

Haji Bakr’s state continued to work even without its creator. Just how precisely his plans were implemented — point by point — is confirmed by the discovery of another file. When IS was forced to rapidly abandon its headquarters in Aleppo in January 2014, they tried to burn their archive, but they ran into a problem similar to that confronted by the East German secret police 25 years earlier: They had too many files.

Some of them remained intact and ended up with the al-Tawhid Brigade, Aleppo’s largest rebel group at the time. After lengthy negotiations, the group agreed to make the papers available to SPIEGEL for exclusive publication rights — everything except a list of IS spies inside of al-Tawhid.

An examination of the hundreds of pages of documents reveals a highly complex system involving the infiltration and surveillance of all groups, including IS’ own people. The jihad archivists maintained long lists noting which informants they had installed in which rebel brigades and government militias. It was even noted who among the rebels was a spy for Assad’s intelligence service.

“They knew more than we did, much more,” said the documents’ custodian. Personnel files of the fighters were among them, including detailed letters of application from incoming foreigners, such as the Jordanian Nidal Abu Eysch. He sent along all of his terror references, including their telephone numbers, and the file number of a felony case against him. His hobbies were also listed: hunting, boxing, bomb building.

IS wanted to know everything, but at the same time, the group wanted to deceive everyone about its true aims. One multiple-page report, for example, carefully lists all of the pretexts IS could use to justify the seizure of the largest flour mill in northern Syria. It includes such excuses as alleged embezzlement as well as the ungodly behavior of the mill’s workers. The reality — that all strategically important facilities like industrial bakeries, grain silos and generators were to be seized and their equipment sent to the caliphate’s unofficial capital Raqqa — was to be kept under wraps.

Over and over again, the documents reveal corollaries with Haji Bakr’s plans for the establishment of IS — for example that marrying in to influential families should be pushed. The files from Aleppo also included a list of 34 fighters who wanted wives in addition to other domestic needs. Abu Luqman and Abu Yahya al-Tunis, for example, noted that they needed an apartment. Abu Suheib and Abu Ahmed Osama requested bedroom furniture. Abu al-Baraa al Dimaschqi asked for financial assistance in addition to a complete set of furniture, while Abu Azmi wanted a fully automatic washing machine.

Shifting Alliances

But in the first months of 2014, yet another legacy from Haji Bakr began playing a decisive role: His decade of contacts to Assad’s intelligence services.

In 2003, the Damascus regime was panicked that then-US President George W. Bush, after his victory over Saddam Hussein, would have his troops continue into Syria to topple Assad as well. Thus, in the ensuing years, Syrian intelligence officials organized the transfer of thousands of radicals from Libya, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia to al-Qaida in Iraq. Ninety percent of the suicide attackers entered Iraq via the Syrian route. A strange relationship developed between Syrian generals, international jihadists and former Iraqi officers who had been loyal to Saddam — a joint venture of deadly enemies, who met repeatedly to the west of Damascus.

At the time, the primary aim was to make the lives of the Americans in Iraq hell. Ten years later, Bashar Assad had a different motive to breathe new life into the alliance: He wanted to sell himself to the world as the lesser of several evils. Islamist terror, the more gruesome the better, was too important to leave it up to the terrorists. The regime’s relationship with Islamic State is — just as it was to its predecessor a decade prior — marked by a completely tactical pragmatism. Both sides are trying to use the other in the assumption that it will emerge as the stronger power, able to defeat the discrete collaborator of yesterday. Conversely, IS leaders had no problem receiving assistance from Assad’s air force, despite all of the group’s pledges to annihilate the apostate Shiites. Starting in January 2014, Syrian jets would regularly — and exclusively — bomb rebel positions and headquarters during battles between IS and rebel groups.

In battles between IS and rebels in January 2014, Assad’s jets regularly bombed only rebel positions, while the Islamic State emir ordered his fighters to refrain from shooting at the army. It was an arrangement that left many of the foreign fighters deeply disillusioned; they had imaged jihad differently.

IS threw its entire arsenal at the rebels, sending more suicide bombers into their ranks in just a few weeks than it deployed during the entire previous year against the Syrian army. Thanks in part to additional air strikes, IS was able to reconquer territory that it had briefly lost.

Nothing symbolizes the tactical shifting of alliances more than the fate of the Syrian army’s Division 17. The isolated base near Raqqa had been under rebel siege for more than a year. But then, IS units defeated the rebels there and Assad’s air force was once again able to use the base for supply flights without fear of attack.

But a half year later, after IS conquered Mosul and took control of a gigantic weapons depot there, the jihadists felt powerful enough to attack their erstwhile helpers. IS fighters overran Division 17 and slaughtered the soldiers, whom they had only recently protected.

What the Future May Hold

The setbacks suffered by IS in recent months — the defeat in the fight for Kurdish enclave Kobani and, more recently, the loss of the Iraqi city of Tikrit, have generated the impression that the end of Islamic State is nigh. As though it, in its megalomania, overreached itself, has lost its mystique, is in retreat and will soon disappear. But such forced optimism is likely premature. The IS may have lost many fighters, but it has continued expanding in Syria.

It is true that jihadist experiments in ruling a specific geographical area have failed in the past. Mostly, though, that was because of their lack of knowledge regarding how to administer a region, or even a state. That is exactly the weakness that IS strategists have long been aware of — and eliminated. Within the “Caliphate,” those in power have constructed a regime that is more stable and more flexible than it appears from the outside.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be the officially named leader, but it remains unclear how much power he holds. In any case, when an emissary of al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahiri contacted the Islamic State, it was Haji Bakr and other intelligence officers, and not al-Baghdadi, whom he approached. Afterwards, the emissary bemoaned “these phony snakes who are betraying the real jihad.”

Within IS, there are state structures, bureaucracy and authorities. But there is also a parallel command structure: elite units next to normal troops; additional commanders alongside nominal military head Omar al-Shishani; power brokers who transfer or demote provincial and town emirs or even make them disappear at will. Furthermore, decisions are not, as a rule, made in Shura Councils, nominally the highest decision-making body. Instead, they are being made by the “people who loosen and bind” (ahl al-hall wa-l-aqd), a clandestine circle whose name is taken from the Islam of medieval times.

Islamic State is able to recognize all manner of internal revolts and stifle them. At the same time, the hermitic surveillance structure is also useful for the financial exploitation of its subjects.

The air strikes flown by the US-led coalition may have destroyed the oil wells and refineries. But nobody is preventing the Caliphate’s financial authorities from wringing money out of the millions of people who live in the regions under IS control — in the form of new taxes and fees, or simply by confiscating property. IS, after all, knows everything from its spies and from the data it plundered from banks, land-registry offices and money-changing offices. It knows who owns which homes and which fields; it knows who owns many sheep or has lots of money. The subjects may be unhappy, but there is minimal room for them to organize, arm themselves and rebel.

As the West’s attention is primarily focused on the possibility of terrorist attacks, a different scenario has been underestimated: the approaching intra-Muslim war between Shiites and Sunnis. Such a conflict would allow IS to graduate from being a hated terror organization to a central power.

Already today, the frontlines in Syria, Iraq and Yemen follow this confessional line, with Shiite Afghans fighting against Sunni Afghans in Syria and IS profiting in Iraq from the barbarism of brutal Shiite militias. Should this ancient Islam conflict continue to escalate, it could spill over into confessionally mixed states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Lebanon.

In such a case, IS propaganda about the approaching apocalypse could become a reality. In its slipstream, an absolutist dictatorship in the name of God could be established.

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