AL Qaeda and ISIS Manuals
1.How does each document reflect the world view of the organization’s founders? What specific concepts let you know that you are reading an Al Qaeda vs. an ISIS document?
These two documents (The Al Qaeda Manual and The Management of Savagery) sever as a blueprint that guides the operation of AL Qaeda and ISIS.
Al Qaeda present itself as a moderate jihadist organization as reflected in the document. Al Qaeda operations exist in disguise and they do not like to show any physical presence. They undertook moderate and traditional recruitment policies. Also, being moderate in their approach, they could only target major enemy positions like the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the World Trade Center, Pentagon etc. and could do no harm to innocent civilians like journalist or aid workers, except those that were victims to these atrocities. Its main aims were to remove corrupt Muslim rulers and their regimes and to restore committed religious rulers throughout the region. They aimed at targeting non-Muslims particularly the US for interfering in the affairs of middle east. Similarly, they condemned the adoption or association of western ways of life. As their long-term plans, they envisage the need for a “caliphate” where Muslims could freely practice their faith without western interference. There main reference was citation from Islamic quotation from the Quran and scholastic views. The manual gave a blueprint on waging war and being a militant group, Al Qaeda has included such lessons in their jihadist operations. It provides regular training as instructed by the manual for its membership and terrorist groups in different areas of their operations. The group was embarrassed by most of the jihadist group and they felt the need to associate with their name. These widespread association gave them a transnational outlook and they significant figure in jihadist movement.
ISIL as it first came to be known came to the lamplight in the Iraq insurgency in 2003. It pledges it loyalty to Al Qaeda who were by then the lead terrorist group in the region. However, after the 9/11 bombing when the US captured, killed, and confiscated the assets of Al Qaeda, the organization shrunk in size and operations and this led to the rise of what later became known as ISIS. In fulfilling its manual, they became a militant jihadist organization with strict Sunni Islamic doctrines. Since their campaign stretches from Iraq to Syria, the organization saw the need to pronounce itself as an Islamic caliphate as prescribed by it manual. In this regard, its self-claimed territory became known as an “Islamic state”. Its members required all Muslims to show loyalty to its leader and its state. As a way of gaining worldwide recognition, and in fulfilling its manual prescription, the organization embark of violence activities. These terror acts included terrorist attacks like the “Paris attack”, public executions such as the beheading of journalist and aid workers, the brutal persecution of other faiths and the crucifixion of its member, torture and mutilations etc. ISIS believes that by doing these, the organization will inflict fear in the minds of their enemies. These acts of violence were condemned by Al Qaeda, moderate Muslims, countries and international organization. They enjoy committing human rights violations and war crimes. Being a militant terrorist group, they built a strong network among other terrorist groups. They undertook regular training for its members and new recruits. They effectively made used of the media as indicated in their manual. They used the media to reach out to their sympathizers, to recruits new members, to train and instruct persons on how to carry out act of violence, to show horrific videos of their brutal acts so as to physiologically terrorized their opponents etc. They found means of funding their campaign by way of extortion, selling stolen artifacts, kidnapping, ransoms, taxes, looting, financial support from foreigners sympathetic to their cause etc. The ability to fund their operations made them to be recorded as the richest group of the time.
I wish to conclude by stressing that the concept of these two international terrorist groups varied in their approach, strategy and tactics. In view of these, Al Qaeda concept appears to be moderate, as compared to ISIS which is more radical.
2. Is there specific language or concepts incorporated that are associated with this specific group?
In the case of the “Al Qaeda manual”, it was writing in Arabic and translated in English. It English version is clear and easy to understand. It has languages that incited a jihad and it provide Quranic quotations to justify its actions. It give out anti-west ideology. It present political, historical, religious and economic reasons for such war. However, it presented a moderate approach in its activities.
This was not the case of ISIS manual. “The Management of Savagery” was also writing in Arabic and translated in to English. It is very lengthy and full of rhetoric’s which makes it very difficult to comprehend. The languages used in the ISIS manual, are very strong and it continuously called for a jihad and the establishment of a “caliphate”. It established the operation of such a “caliphate”. The language is very inflammatory and emphasized hate and Islamic fanatism. It made references to Islamic scholars and the Quran to justify it claims. This strong language, widen the already existing gap between Islam and other faiths. Its interpretation is extreme. The language further emphasized Islamization of the entire middle east and radicalization of their operations.
3. What specific goals are articulated that you can tie back to a specific group?
Al Qaeda ultimate aim was to get ride of all corrupt Muslim rulers and “apostate” regimes in the Arab world and see that these countries a ruled by “holy” rulers. The believe that countries such as the US which is responsible for the backwardness of the Arab world should be targeted. That is why their operations targeted major US strongholds like the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, World Trade Center, Pentagon etc. For them they want an Arab world free from interference by non-Muslims. In achieving these, Al Qaeda, saw the need to establish a military terrorist organization. The intention is to use this organization to send out their message through violence means. Similarly, they stressed the need for a “caliphate” but it was not their immediate goals.
ISIS also believe in fighting against corrupt Muslim rulers and opposed to western interference. They have strong dogmatic religious view against the west. However, their main aim was to establish a “caliphate” in the Middle east, introduce sharia law and Islamized the state. They believe that with the existence of such a state, Muslims from all over the world will converge there to practice their faiths without outside interference. To achieve this, they saw the need for a militant jihadist organization which will carry out its agenda. They held that the presence of the west is a threat to their campaign and because of that they emphasized the need for radical and violence approach against the west. Their activities are extreme against their fellow Muslims who do not practice their prescribed faith and non-Muslims. The called for the radicalization of their operation through the social media to gain more members and sympathizers into their fold. This was effective because many players like “lone wolves” and “leaderless groups” became active after those calls.
4. Can you see how the terrorist group arrived at the decision to carry out specific events based on these documents?
Al Qaeda primary target is the United States. It accused the US for being responsible for the middle east problems. Their manual used religious ideology as a justification for act of terrorism. They believe that jihad is an act of God and of their prophet Mohamed. They said that does who will die for “just cause” will go to heaven and those that will committee violence will be doing it for God. The necessary qualification and character of its members with special emphasis on the recruitment of same religious members, who are matured, highly intelligent, secretive etc. has also contributed in the effectiveness of their campaigns. When we take a retrospective view of the 9/11 bombing and how the then terrorist planned that operation, one could safely conclude that such tactic and strategy was derived from their manual. One thing that came out to play in that operation was its classification until it was accomplished. They claimed that such act was justifiable in accordance with their religion.
Similarly, ISIS emphasized for a radicalized religious campaign with a membership from the same religion. It justifies its acts of terror with the work of Muslim scholars and citations from the Quran. The encourage their members and Muslims to answer to the call for a “jihad” as prescribed by God and prophet Mohamed. They told their membership that to commit act of violence for the sake of Islam is justified by the Quran and if you died in “the cause” you will go to heaven. It also highlighted criteria as requirement for recruitments into their organization which sever as an instrument to their goals. In this regard, when ISIS introduce campaigns such as public execution like the beheadings of the two-western journalist, it was viewed by them as “getting ride of infidels” from their lands. This according to their religious beliefs is justifiable.
5. Name at least three pieces of common ground that these documents share.
Both Al Qaeda and ISIS are upholding a strong Muslim religious belief. They have very strong ideological foundation from the “holy” Quran. They believe that God is the champion of their cause and that prophet Mohamed is a witness. The believe that “war” should be on non-Muslims and Muslims who are not properly practicing the faith. They encourage their members to inflict violence and if possible, die for “the cause” of God. In the fulfilment of these, they declared a jihad (Holy War) on all who could not practice “the true faith”. Similarly, they stressed the need to overthrow all corrupt Muslim leaders and purify the land with leaders that are “God Fearing”
Similarly, the two organization gave a set of directions as to the qualifications and characters of persons that are to be recruited into their membership. They emphasized the need to have a member of the same religion who are to be secretive, matured, intelligent etc. According to them their organizations were to succeed and effective in its operations, there is the need to safeguard this process.
Lastly, is the establishment of a military structured jihadist organization that will carry out its agenda. The agreed that violence in the form of terror should be the means of establishing their goals. The both declared that violence or death should be inflicted on all non-Muslims who are intruding in their affairs, corrupt Muslim rulers, Muslims that are not properly practicing the faith etc.
6. Show at least three ways in which these two documents depart from one another.
“The ISIS manual” called for radicalization of violence as a means to be recognized. They argued that violence will be an effective instrument to impose fear in the minds of opponents. That is way it encourages it members to show no mercy and to take pleasure in perpetuating it. Some of its violence activities are publicly shown on videos. “Al Qaeda Manual” called for moderate approach to avoid losing support. That was the more reason why it disassociated itself from ISIS over its brutal infliction of violence on Muslims as well as non-Muslims. AL Qaeda controls and regulates it attacks to major targets but ISIS are on a frolic and sporadic.
“Al Qaeda manual” maintained a traditional pattern of recruitment which often follow a conservative and underground approach. They also consider age and maturity in their recruitment policies. However, ISIS are more open in their recruitment policy. The encourage and target youths to join their organization. They effectively made use of the social media in their bid to recruit. This approach drew many youths including foreign youths into their membership.
“ISIS manual” stressed for an urgent need of a caliphate but Al Qaeda considered it as a long-term plan. According to ISIS, such a caliphate should be established in the middle east. ISIS support the establishment of a conventional army and an administration to run this “caliphate”. Al Qaeda maintained a moderate view about it.
I wish to conclude by saying these are two jihadist organizations which have posed serious terror on the west. They have introduced operations and strategies that have proved effective for their campaigns, leaving the west in a search for solutions. We should never relent and we should step up in our resilience. It is a fight that can easily be won if we all see it as a common and urgent problem.