What ISIS Is Really Trying To Accomplish


Islamophobia is a growing fear in our world today.

Politicians today are starting to waver, as more and more people are growing fearful of potential attacks coming upon them. The number of anti-Islamic attacks have grown significantly. In a study conducted by California State University, it was found that there were over 196 hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 alone, a 78 percent increase from 2014. [15] And in another study by CAIR found that there was another 44 percent increase from 2015 to 2016. [15] And some countries, such as the U.S., have implemented policies to slow the flow of Muslim refugees crossing their borders. [24]

But what would ISIS gain from Muslim refugees not being allowed to enter any Western countries? The Muslims that are forced to stay in these nations where ISIS have taken over have but two options at that point; to stay opposed and be killed, or to join the movement. ISIS is trying to expand their jihadist-extremist ideology, and with these anti-refugee policies that may be enacted, it is a golden opportunity for them, that they WILL take advantage of. Not only would it allow the organization to grow, but it could incite more hatred for the Western countries, as they would be seen as “turning away” the Islamic religion.

Background of ISIS

To describe ISIS in a few words, it is an organization based in Syria and Iraq that consists of far-right, Jihad extremists. But their background is much larger than that.

The tender beginnings of ISIS are said to have started in the early 2000s. [2] The forager of the group was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian with an unimpressive past. He grew up near a Palestinian refugee camp, and was a petty criminal in his youth. [1] Surely no one would’ve suspected he would create such a large movement, where his legacy lives on today.

During his years in prison from 1992-1999 [7], he began to grow a Jihadist mentality [2] (Jihad meaning “holy war”, but in this sense, it is being used to encourage violence against “the enemies of Islam” [8]). He grew a following while in prison, and once he was released, he was regarded as a leader of Jihad, deemed a “holy warrior”. [2] Out of prison, he also caught the attention of Bin Laden, and traveled all the way to Kandahar in hopes of meeting with him, but was dismissed as being too brutish. [2] Bin Laden initially thought of him as a poor recruit, but nonetheless, he gave him funds to start running a camp and by 2002, Zarqawi was training more “warriors”. [2]

Bin Laden and Zarqawi disagreed fundamentally on how they wanted to organize the group. Zarqawi wanted to focus on areas such as Jordan and Maliki government, while Bin Laden wanted to go straight for the U.S.. [1] Zarqawi also had a strong resentment for Shia Muslims, which Bin Laden didn’t agree with. [1]

Zarqawi’s group, known as Jama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jahad (JTJ), conducted their first attack in Jordan killing Laurence Foley, a USAid manager. [9] At the time, the events of 9/11 were still fresh in people’s minds, so President Bush was desperate to gain more intel on Al Qaeda. [10] Secretary of State Colin Powell presented an intel report to the American people, and used Zarqawi as a link between Hussein and Bin Laden. [2] This statement was refuted by foreign analysts, and it was said he “went off script”. [2] They believe he inflated the importance and role of Zarqawi at this time and that it was “counterproductive”. [10] This gave Zarqawi some notoriety [12], and led to more recruits.

This led to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but by then, JTJ conducted 40 explosions in Baghdad alone. [2] Hussein’s Sunni soldiers were disgruntled and out of work, so Zarqawi saw this as the perfect opportunity. [2] Zarqawi took them under his wing, and they soon became his loyal followers.

In 2003, there was a massive bombing at the UN headquarters, and it was a defining moment. It only led the U.S. troops to be more determined. [13] Another notable incident was the beheading of Nick Berg. [2] It was the first instance Zarqawi was on video, and created more sentiment among Muslims with similar ideologies. Some found it admirable that he carried out the beheading himself. [2]

A snapshot of the video with Nick Berg, just moments before the beheading. Source: http://ken-welch.com/Berg/the_beheading_of_nicholas_berg/

However, a majority of the Muslim population found the group’s actions to be deplorable, and they turned off a lot of possible recruits. [4] The group despised Shiite Muslims, and carried out numerous assassinations against them. Even Bin Laden argued that the attacks on fellow Muslims were not required, and much too barbaric. [2]

The beginning of the insurgency in Iraq was prompted by the bombing of an important Shiite shrine on February 22, 2006. [2] This resulted in 27 retaliatory attacks on the Sunnis in Baghdad, creating a Muslim civil war. [1]

Prior to the attack, Zarqawi revealed his intention to create an “Islamic State”, a caliphate. [1] However, on June 7, 2006, Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike. There was a surge of U.S. soldiers, and the local population began to resent Al Qaeda. [2] The group saw a decline, and a majority of the members went into hiding. [1]

From 2006 to 2008, the members of the group and other Islamic extremists were wound up and put into Camp Bucca, a crucial part of the group’s resurgence. [17] Here, several of the prisoners made contacts with one another, including Haji Bakr with future leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. [3][17] Bakr was a former soldier of Hussein, and was looking to join the Jihad movement. In this environment, it was the perfect place for them to plan, as the American soldiers couldn’t speak Arabic, so they took advantage of the situation. [17]

A man by the name of Masri held control of the group for a time, but in 2010 he was killed in an air raid. [1] Bakr, a then high-ranking official, made his move in finding a new leader. [3] The new leader is Baghdadi, and he was looking for an area to be their new target. The group looked to Damascus, the capital of Syria, where there was political unrest. The Syrian president, Assad, was met with protests that resulted in violence against the citizens, something the group could capitalize on. [2] They fought against the Assad regime [1] and by 2012, they had successfully overtaken Damascus. [1] Afterwards, there were two different terror campaigns; “Breaking Walls” of 2012, in which they released the group’s incarcerated members, and “Soldier’s Harvest” of 2013, in which they targeted Iraqi security forces. [1]

In April 2013, after the expansion into Syria, the group changed the name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). [1] Intelligence analysts encouraged the then-president, Barack Obama, to interfere, but he was reluctant. Once he finally decided to help, however, it was too late. [2] ISIS continued their slaughters, however, they wanted to move back into Iraq. They saw an opportunity after seeing the unrest in Iraq, due to the Shiite prime minister cracking down on the Sunnis. In this, ISIS successfully took over Fallujah, Ramadi, and Mosul. [2]

Somewhere around late June of 2014, Baghdadi declared himself Caliph of the “Islamic State”, and was seen in public conducting a sermon for the first time. He succeeded in what Zarqawi couldn’t. [2]

The first instance of Baghdadi on video, in which he declared the Caliphate. Source: http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/10/world/meast/iraq-baghdadi-watch/index.html


The group initially targeted American and Coalition forces, but they then began to aim for Maliki government. [1] During the Iraqi insurgency, the group also attempted to slow the transition of American troops, by attacking U.S. oil companies, humanitarian aid groups, and other Sunni opposition groups. [1]

Another thing high on the group’s agenda was killing Shiite Muslims, as they viewed them as apostates (those that renounce a religion), simply from the fact their branch of Islam has different beliefs. [16] They also successfully pinned Sunni and Shiite Muslims against one another, to the point of commencing civil wars (such as in Damascus and Baghdad). [2]

The group also utilized IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and had their members conduct suicide bombings. [1] The group also used chlorine gas. [1]

Their beheading videos gave the group publicity, especially when news outlets began to report on the events. The group relished in this fact, especially Zarqawi.

After Zarqawi’s death, however, they took up new, more refined techniques.

They first targeted government and opposition groups, but then moved on to taking over territory. [1] They often took areas that were fragile and with high Sunni populations.

Once Baghdadi took control, the group began initiating campaigns and using more sophisticated propaganda. Their “Breaking Walls” and “Soldier’s Harvest” proved to be fruitful endeavors [1], and the group even publishes their own magazine called Dabiq. [1] The magazine looks surprisingly sleek, and is even published in English, Russian, French, German, etc. [16] This produced a spike in foreign fighters.

From the “Breaking Walls Campaign” in Mosul, in which they released up to 1,000 prisoners. Source: http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/06/26/the-great-iraqi-jail-break

The group also grew a massive following on Twitter, employing hashtags for the group. The tool was useful for recruitment, and keeping contact with ISIS followers from around the world. [16] The group is very effective at inspiring international attacks, even if they experience setbacks of their own. [11]

A large leader of the group by the name of Haji Bakr (as mentioned earlier) used intelligence to his advantage. [3] He went about sending his henchmen into villages getting information and answer to questions such as:

  • Who are the powerful families?
  • Who are the most powerful individuals in these families?
  • What is their source of income?
  • List names, and sizes of any possible rebel groups.
  • Find out who the leaders are.

He conducted these tasks to use for blackmail later on. They would also gain information on things such as who may be homosexual, who may be in an affair, etc. [3] They were told to find info that could fragment and compromise the local population. The group also used “spy cells” [1] in areas that they intended to take over later. [3]

The Ultimate Goal

The main strategy of the group is completely dependent on the West. [4] The group, because of its tactics and the reputation they give, are hated by Muslim countries, so not a lot of the citizens actually join willingly. So the group must create a narrative of a global conflict, and further prove that these countries are not only turning against ISIS, but against Islam. [4]

The group has proven itself to be a well-grounded force, as foreign troops often come and leave, and never stay to fight. [34] This can give the impression to some Muslims that they may not care, and that ISIS is much more determined. It could also be the reason for foreign fighters joining at such an alarming rate.

Their intimidation also through their murders of groups that oppose them is also enough motivation for them to join. [34]

The group also strains relations between predominantly Islamic nations and Western society. [6] Every time after the U.S. withdrew their troops, the group saw a higher member rate, and it was easier for them to carry out their attacks. [2]

Seeing as how the group follows the Sunni branch of Islam, the fact that that the prime minister of Iraq, a Shii, had persecuted Sunnis was all the more reason to join, with the Sunnis seeing it as an act of resistance. [1]

These actions are knocking politicians off their feet, and making them initiate policies against refugees.

Growing Islamophobia Around The Globe

There are a number of anti-Islamic groups that have risen from 34 to 101 in 2016. [6] In a Gallup poll from 2011, 52 percent of Americans believe that Western society doesn’t respect Muslims. [14] This is a significant number, seeing as how at this time, ISIS hadn’t had their resurgence. One in four people believe that Muslims in the U.S., Britain, France, and China are treated unfairly. [14] There have been various other hate crimes in the U.S., such as graffiti on mosques, protests, people burning the Quran, and many others. [28] In Canada on January 29, there was an attack on a mosque in Quebec that left six dead and eight injured. [31] In Israel on June 13, a father killed his daughter after discovering she was dating a Muslim, saying that it disgraced the family. [30] On June 21, there was an acid attack on two cousins in the UK, and was treated as a hate crime, and showed the surge of Islamophobia. [29] In India on July 12, a Muslim family of 10 were assaulted with iron rods on a train, with the attackers saying “Kill them, they are Muslims”. [32] There are incidents happening all over the globe, and these are just to name a few in 2017.

From a demonstration outside a mosque in Phoenix, AZ. Source: https://en.trend.az/world/other/2400543.html

Anti-Islamic Policies & Views in Politics

  • The U.S. government is allowed to profile. They can document high risk minorities who they believe can have “malintent”. The government also encourages law-enforcement and even citizens to report those who they believe may be up to suspicious activity, but could subject Muslims to unjust harassment by authorities. [5]
  • Governors have even tried to stop the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees after the Paris attacks, and the House of Representatives passed a bill to make it harder for these refugees to settle and have to go through more difficult screenings than refugees from low-Muslim population countries. [5]
  • Technology companies are also being subject to the government, and constantly being pressed to reveal any information on any potential “terrorist activity”. Often times they cooperate, but it is thought that it is asking too much for such companies to keep track of all of this activity, especially on larger platforms (i.e., Twitter). This allows for censorship. [5]
  • The federal government set up an initiative known as Countering Extreme Terrorism (CVE). The program encourages people of all occupations to report any individuals who they believe may have radical views. Again, this could allow for unwarranted discrimination, seeing as how it is even being perpetrated by the government. It hasn’t proven to be successful. [5]
  • The U.S. has a watchlist system that has proven to have certain groups, such as Muslims, be subject to being accused as being a terrorist, and not be allowed to fly into the U.S. The watchlist is often ”riddled with errors” that can deter innocent people based off of broad standards, and once on the list, it is hard to get yourself off. [5]
  • In February 2017, Trump attempted to create a travel ban for refugees from “high-risk” countries, those that also happen to have high Muslim populations. [19]
  • In Xinjiang Province in China, they banned burqas, veils and certain beards as a way to combat extremism. [18]
  • In the Netherlands, a parliament member created a political party called the “Freedom Party”, that holds strong anti-Islamic views. [20]
  • In Australia, two parliamentary members called for an immigration ban on countries where violent extremism is rife. [21]
  • In Denmark, a bill was passed in hopes of discouraging immigration to the country. This includes a reduction of government benefits for refugees, people must wait 3 years before they can apply to have their family members join them, and the Danish government can seize any belongings worth over $1,450. And this bill is coming at a time in which immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries are trying to seek refuge. [22]
  • In Israel, the country bans people from numerous countries with high Arab and Muslim populations from becoming citizens. [23]
  • After the 2015 Paris attacks, France and Belgium had temporarily closed their borders. [24]
  • In Poland, the minister of European affairs stated that they would ‘not respect” the decision of the EU to relocate refugees and immigrants to all of the countries in the EU. They stated that they want to “retain full control of their border”. [25]
  • In Hungary, the mayor of a small village declared “a war on Muslim immigration”. [26]


In conclusion, ISIS has more to gain from these policies than to lose. They are a radical group with very clear intentions. They want to create an “Islamic State”, and they know exactly the means to getting there. Banning our allies along with our enemies will fail to yield a good result, and it could cause thousands more of innocent lives to be lost, more than there already have been. There have been numerous other countries, such as Canada and Sweden, that have decided to keep their borders “open” [27], because they realize that a majority of people in these countries don’t have bad intentions. Even a study from Pew Research Center has concluded that views from Muslims on ISIS are overwhelmingly negative, being an average figure of 74%, with only a mere 3% of Muslims viewing them positively. [33]

ISIS wants to get rid of the “gray zone”, which is the area in which Muslims live in peace with other populations. [2][4] They want us to be afraid, and make irrational, selfish decisions because of our fear.

We need to snap out of this anti-Muslim sentiment, as isolating these groups is going to do nothing but help them grow. We need to realize that we and these refugees have a common enemy: ISIS. Although we cannot alter the strategy of ISIS, we can control how we react to it.


Note: Hi, this is Adriana. This is my very first article, and I would LOVE some feedback. This is a quite heavy topic, and is somewhat relevant at the moment. I wrote this in late July, but I still thought it’s a noteworthy article. So what do you guys think? Do you agree with my stance or think that something else may be at hand…? 


Source of the Featured Image: 



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