Militants from the Islamic State (IS) recently besieged a village in northern Iraq for several days, then gave the residents a deadline to convert to Islam. When they refused, more than 80 men were killed and the women and children of the village were captured. This after widespread reports across several weeks that the jihadists are crucifying Christians, beheading their children and burying others alive.
It’s time the West acknowledges this movement for the global threat that it is. IS now occupies an area larger than Great Britain. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claims to be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and has proclaimed himself the Islamic “Caliph.” “Caliph” means “successor” and is a title used by Sunni Muslims for those who led Islam from the death of Muhammad to the 20th century. When Turkey was made a secular state after World War I, the “caliphate” was abolished.
Now al-Baghdadi claims to have reconstituted it in himself. He is calling on the Muslim world to move to IS and to support his movement. Militants are carrying the IS flag in Indonesia and across North Africa. Jihadist groups around the world are deciding whether to switch their allegiance from al-Qaeda to him. In the minds of many observers, IS is the most significant threat we’ve seen since 9/11.
Over the weekend, one lawmaker called the Islamic State “a gathering storm” and warned that “it’s not going away.” Another called it a “cancer that’s consuming all over the place.” They’re right. Al-Baghdadi has announced his group’s intentions to march on Rome and Spain, seeking to establish his caliphate across Europe. When he was transferred from American to Iraqi custody in 2009 (from which he was later released), he told his American captors, “I’ll see you in New York.”
IS is following the strategy set out by Sayyid Qutb, known as the “intellectual godfather” of radical Islam. His book, Milestones, is the primer that helped lead Osama bin Laden into terrorism and influenced al-Baghdadi as well. I read it when writing my book, Radical Islam: What you need to know, and was struck by its simple but frightening logic.
Qutb argued that every person on earth deserves a chance to become a Muslim. However, he believed that this opportunity exists only if the person lives in a nation that is truly Islamic, one governed solely by Sharia (Muslim holy law). Thus Muslims must topple every government and impose strict Sharia on every civilization. Only then can people see true Islam and have an opportunity to choose it. IS intends to fulfill this vision, in Iraq and the U.S. and the entire world.
Now is the time for the world to stop IS before it expands its base and begins staging attacks on Israel and the West. And now is the time for Christians to pray more fervently than ever for spiritual awakening to continue and escalate in the Islamic world. Muslims everywhere are meeting Jesus in visions or dreams—pray daily for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the other leaders of IS to meet him as well. Pray for God to protect those who will otherwise become victims of IS. And pray for our leaders to have godly wisdom and courage as they rise to this global challenge.
May God use the Islamic State to stir his people into unified and urgent intercession. A. J. Gordon: “You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” Have you prayed?