If there is a positive side to the rise of ISIS, it is that the West has had its head jerked from the sand and has been made to witness a bottomless, bloodthirsty evil: crucifixions, beheadings, enslavement of women, live burial of children, mass executions. Even John Kerry, a man not known for grasping (or admitting) the truth about jihad, acknowledges that this brutality “underscores the degree to which [ISIS] is so far beyond the pale with respect to any standard by which we judge even terrorist groups.” But as one analyst writes, this violence is not “whimsical, crazed fanaticism, but a very deliberate, considered strategy” – one that seems to derive in part from a book called The Management of Savagery.
In the spring of 2004 a strategist who called himself Abu Bakr Naji published online The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Ummah Will Pass (later translated from the Arabic by William McCants, a fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center). The book – what the Washington Post calls the Mein Kampf of jihad – aimed to provide a strategy for al-Qaeda and other jihadists. “The ideal of this movement,” wrote Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker, “as its theorists saw it, was the establishment of a caliphate that would lead to the purification of the Muslim world.”
Naji believed that a civil war within Islam would lead to that Sunni caliphate, so he recommended a merciless campaign of violence in Muslim lands to polarize the population, expose the inability of the state to maintain control, attract followers, and create a spreading network of “regions of savagery.”
“The management of savagery” refers to controlling the chaos that results from that breakdown of order. The requirements for the administration of savagery are:
- Establishing internal security
- Providing food and medical treatment
- Securing the borders against the invasion of enemies
- Establishing Sharia law
- Establishing a fighting society at all levels and among all individuals.
The manifesto proposes that the jihadists exhaust an overstretched America through a patient war of attrition and a manipulation of the media to dismantle the superpower’s “aura of invincibility.” It demands that the enemy be made to “pay the price” for any and all attacks carried out against the jihadists, even if the retribution takes years, in order to instill in the enemy “a sense of hopelessness that will cause him to seek reconciliation.” No mercy must be shown: “Our enemies will not be merciful to us if they seize us. Thus, it behooves us to make them think one thousand times before attacking us.”
Shocking violence is a key element of that strategy. “The beheadings and the violence practiced by [the Islamic State] are not whimsical, crazed fanaticism, but a very deliberate, considered strategy,” writes British analyst Alastair Crooke. “The seemingly random violence has a precise purpose: It’s [sic] aim is to strike huge fear; to break the psychology of a people.” For example, Naji recommends that in instances in which hostage demands are not met, “the hostages should be liquidated in a terrifying manner, which will send fear into the hearts of the enemy and his supporters.”
Naji believed that “we need to massacre” others as Muslims did after the death of Muhammad. “We must make this battle very violent,” the book says. “If we are not violent in our jihad and if softness seizes us, that will be a major factor in the loss of the element of strength.”
But the violence isn’t intended merely to terrify, but to “drag the masses into battle.” Naji’s strategy requires polarizing the Muslim world and convincing any moderates who had hoped for U.S. protection that it is futile.
Paradoxically, this violence is actually a part of Allah’s mercy to all mankind. Putting apostates and infidels to the sword is merciful compared to the wrath that Allah himself would rain down:
Some may be surprised when we say that the religious practice of jihad despite the blood, corpses, and limbs which encompass it and the killing and fighting which its practice entails is among the most blessed acts of worship for the servants… Jihad is the most merciful of the methods for all created things and the most sparing of the spilling of blood.
Among those who are hostile to this mercy are “infidels among the Jews and the Christians and others who accused Islam of severity and mercilessness in all of its religious practices,” as well as “those who say that Islam is a religion of mercy and peace and that jihad is immoderate and excessive and that it has nothing to do with Islam!” Clearly Abu Bakr Naji is one of the many misunderstanders of Islam who didn’t get the memo about its peaceful nature.
In Naji’s conclusion, he stresses that “our battle is a battle of tawhid [the oneness of Allah] against unbelief and faith against polytheism. It is not an economic, political, or social battle.” [Emphasis added] The recent documentary feature released by ISIS called Flames of War, used as a recruiting tool for Muslim brethren in the West, confirms their religious aim and motivation. In addition to missing the memo about Islam meaning peace, apparently Naji also neglected to read all the memos from Western apologists about Islamic terrorism being spawned by poverty and Western oppression and exploitation.
Unfortunately, it seems that President Obama and Secretary Kerry, who continue to insist that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, never got Abu Bakr Naji’s memo either – the one entitled The Management of Savagery.
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