ISIS disregards anything Muslims deem sacred

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Story highlights

  • Nothing is out of bounds for ISIS, including the holiest of Islam's sites during Islam's holiest days, writes Hassan Hassan
  • For ISIS, allegiance is what determines a person's chance to live, he says

Hassan Hassan is a resident fellow at the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and co-author of 'ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.' Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his.

(CNN)One feature that sets ISIS apart from al Qaeda more than anything else is that they have declared war on fellow Muslims. That is what the group is primarily about, and herein lies the secret to its downfall. Its ideology and appeal can only be discredited by the very people it claims to represent.

    This fact was in plain display during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Last month, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the spokesman of ISIS, called on sympathizers to turn Ramadan into a month of calamity. He specified sympathizers in Europe and the United States.
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    During the first week of Ramadan, Omar Mateen killed 49 club goers in a shooting rampage in Orlando after he pledged allegiance to ISIS. Two days later in Paris, a man stabbed to death a French cop and his partner.

    Special ire for fellow Muslims

    After the acts in France and the U.S., ISIS saved a special ire for fellow Muslims during the holiest days of the holy month. Last Tuesday in Istanbul, three attackers stormed the Ataturk airport and killed 44 civilians after blowing themselves up near travelers. ISIS did not claim responsibility for the assault but American and Turkish authorities said the hallmarks of the operation point to ISIS.
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    Sunday was particularly bloody: more than 200 shoppers, mostly Shia, were killed in Baghdad after a suicide operation that targeted a three-storey shopping mall -- the country's worst single civilian death count in years.
    On the same day, ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of 22 people in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, after gunmen targeted a café frequented by foreigners. Authorities blamed local groups, but ISIS later posted photographs of the men to buttress its claim.
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    On Monday, Saudi Arabia was also targeted in three locations. ISIS has also not claimed responsibility for the attacks, which included a bombing near Islam's second holiest place of worship, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina, near to Prophet Mohammed's burial site.
    Smoke rising above worshipers in the holy mosque during the last days of Ramadan agitated Muslims worldwide.
    In Islamic traditions, Ramadan's first 10 days are of mercy, the second 10 are of forgiveness and the latter 10 are of immunity from hellfire. Shia and Sunni alike were united in calamity and repugnance against a group that claims to be an Islamic State.

    Nothing is out of bounds for ISIS

    ISIS' reluctance to claim responsibility for attacks in Istanbul and Medina presumably because they are predominantly Sunni cities, contrast with its rush to endorse the attacks against foreigners and Shia in Dhaka and Baghdad. But in the region, few doubt the group's responsibility.
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    Nothing is out of bounds for ISIS, including the holiest of Islam's sites during Islam's holiest days, even if there are multiple traditions that explicitly prohibit such acts, such as a saying by Mohammed: "Whoever terrorizes the people of Medina will be cursed by God."
    Aside from blood-soaked Ramadan, ISIS built its narrative around the idea of Sunni victimization. But it has declared those who refuse to pledge allegiance to it as murtadeen -- those who become apostates.
    Its punishment for Sunni apostates is more severe, such as the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot, Moath al-Kasasbeh, in January last year. This is reality felt on a daily basis, when people living under ISIS see severed heads and dead bodies left to rot for days because victims dared to oppose its rule.
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    For the militant group, a Sunni apostate has no right to life or property, and they may be executed regardless of their faith.

    ISIS as an enemy to the West

    It is this reality that should be highlighted in the media. ISIS shows no regard for anything that Muslims deem sacred. It does not matter if a Muslim is a true believer.
    For ISIS, allegiance is what determines a person's chance to live. A Muslim who works for a government that ISIS deems apostate will still be targeted. ISIS seeks to emphasize its unsparing ideology only in as much as it serves its deterrence purposes. Beyond that, it portrays itself as an enemy to the West and its so-called clients in the region and that it represents Muslims and their political aspirations.
    The media helps them by depicting the battle as such, without highlight the harrowing reality of the same people ISIS claims to represent.