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ISIS is not gone

The terrorist attack in Moscow shows the group is still a threat—even to the U.S. homeland

Crocus City Hall after a terrorist attack on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, on March 23 Associated Press/Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko

ISIS is not gone
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Terrorism under the banner of Islam hit the heart of Russia severely this past weekend, and ISIS declared responsibility.

According to various media outlets, several gunmen stormed a concert location in Krasnogorsk, west of central Moscow, and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing at least 139 and wounding many more.

In an Arabic statement translated by The Guardian, an ISIS branch declared responsibility and stated: “Islamic State fighters attacked a large gathering of Christians in the city of Krasnogorsk on the outskirts of the Russian capital, Moscow, killing and wounding hundreds and causing great destruction to the place before they withdrew to their bases safely.”

Why does the statement identify the attacked people as “Christians” while it was an open concert for anyone?

Because ISIS operates within the political Islam worldview that views no separation between religion and state. In this paradigm, all Russians are “Christians” and religious infidels.

Within 24 hours, Russia successfully detained 11 suspects. However, this is still an ongoing investigation. While this new wave of Islamist terrorism is heartbreaking to many, as of now, we can identify two big revelations and one major warning.

The first revelation is that ISIS is not yet dead—not even close. The ideology is flourishing and the fighters are well and functioning. While, in broad terms, ISIS is crippled militarily, especially after its defeat in Iraq and Syria, it still has various branches worldwide, and the one in Khorasan—which operates in Pakistan and Afghanistan—claimed this crime. For the terrorists, the rationale goes, Russia should be attacked due to its involvement in wars in Muslim lands.

The second revelation is that terrorizing people is a core value of ISIS’s Islamic views.

This is important and many in the West insist on denying this fact, most likely to distance Islam from terrorism. When terrorism is accomplished under Islam’s banner, numerous voices immediately call for combating Islamophobia, instead of identifying the clear problem with Islam and its stated commands. No matter how many Muslim terrorists declare that they are operating in fulfillment of Islamic teaching, fanciful Westerners insist that Islam has nothing to do with these massacres.

But they are wrong.

Ideologically, terrorizing non-Muslim enemies is a crucial element of Islam’s worldview, established by the Quran and supported by Muhammad’s precedent.

Islam’s most sacred book establishes an ideology of terrorizing non-Muslims, essentially making people targets based on their religious beliefs.

In the Quran, Allah speaks to Muslims, “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” Here, Allah terrorizes the hearts of the unbelievers, allowing the Muslims to behead and torture them. In another verse, the Quran precisely speaks of Christians and Jews, labeling them the People of the Book, and how Allah himself brought them down “and cast terror into their hearts,” by allowing Muslims to slay some and take others captive.

Thus, Islam’s most sacred book establishes an ideology of terrorizing non-Muslims, essentially making people targets based on their religious beliefs. This becomes a theological mandate to terrorists who seek to fulfill Allah’s commands.

But, it gets worse! Muhammad’s example gives an even stronger incentive for those who desire to imitate him by using terror against non-Muslims. He reportedly declared, “I have been helped by terror.” He told his followers that “Allah made me victorious,” by “frightening my enemies.”

Can anything be clearer than this?

While many Westerners—Muslim and non-Muslim alike—may insist that Islam is a religion of peace and has nothing to do with terrorists using it, the preceding statements come from the most trusted Muslim sources and present a clear and explicit ideology: Terrorizing the enemy is a way for Islam to gain victory.

What many don’t recognize and fail to admit is that Muslim terrorists don’t view themselves as such, but as committed believers and imitators of Muhammad’s model.

Finally, as we follow the devastating developments in Russia, we have a big warning to those of us in the United States.

With the clear vulnerability at our southern border, what occurred in Russia can be accomplished relatively easily in the United States.

Many Americans are rightly concerned with possible terrorist attacks, as millions of illegal immigrants flood our country from all over the world under President Biden’s watch. This concern was voiced by Elon Musk who recently wrote, “This administration is both importing voters and creating a national security threat from unvetted illegal immigrants. It is highly probable that the groundwork is being laid for something far worse than 9/11. Just a matter of time.” Musk’s concern isn’t fanciful, as the U.S. Border Patrol recently apprehended “a man at the Texas border who said he was a member of a foreign terrorist organization and had come to the United States in order to build a bomb.”

We should all pray for the affected and afflicted in Russia, but we should also hope that our government pays attention and heeds the warning signs coming our way. We cannot afford a similar attack right here in America.

A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.

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