Scholar Ian Almond criticised the media commentators, the lack of balance in reporting, and the "way we are learning to talk about ISIS." While there was talk about 'radical evil' and 'radical Islam', Almond found it striking because "some of the most revered and oft-quoted figures in our Western political tradition have been capable of the most vicious acts of savagery – and yet all we ever hear about is how much the Middle East has to learn from us." Almond goes on to cite how Winston Churchill "wanted to gas women and children", how Ronald Reagan's Central American policies "disembowlled more children than ISIS," how President Barack Obama's "planes and drones have dropped bombs on as many schoolchildren as ISIS," how former secretary of state Madeleine Albright commented on the deaths of Iraqi children killed by sanctions, how Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher "assisted in the torture and disappearance of thousands of Chilean students and labour activitists... For anyone familiar with the history of both U.S. and European torture and murder over the past 150 years, it might not be all that hyperbolic to say that in ISIS, what we see more than anything else is a more expansive, explicit version of our own cruelties. In bombing ISIS and its would-be imperialism, we are really bombing a version of ourselves."
According to The Economist, dissidents in the former ISIL capital of Raqqa report that "all 12 of the judges who now run its court system ... are Saudis". Saudi practices also followed by the group include the establishment of religious police to root out "vice" and enforce attendance at salat prayers, the widespread use of capital punishment, and the destruction or re-purposing of any non-Sunni religious buildings. Bernard Haykel has described ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's creed as "a kind of untamed Wahhabism". Senior Saudi religious leaders have issued statements condemning ISIL and attempting to distance the group from official Saudi religious beliefs.More Info
According to The New York Times, "All of the most influential jihadist theorists are criticising the Islamic State as deviant, calling its self-proclaimed caliphate null and void" and they have denounced it for its beheadings of journalists and aid workers. ISIL is widely denounced by a broad range of Islamic clerics, including Saudi and al-Qaeda-oriented clerics. Muhammad al-Yaqoubi states, "It is enough of a proof of the extreme ideology of ISIS that the top leaders of Salafi-Jihadism have disclaimed it."Other critics of ISIL's brand of Sunni Islam include Salafists who previously publicly supported jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda: for example, the Saudi government official Saleh Al-Fawzan, known for his extremist views, who claims that ISIL is a creation of "Zionists, Crusaders and Safavids", and the Jordanian-Palestinian writer Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the former spiritual mentor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was released from prison in Jordan in June 2014 and accused ISIL of driving a wedge between Muslims.More Info
The Jaysh al-Islam group within the Islamic Front criticised ISIL, saying: "They killed the people of Islam and leave the idol worshippers ... They use the verses talking about the disbelievers and implement it on the Muslims". The main criticism of defectors from ISIL has been that the group is fighting and killing other Sunni Muslims, as opposed to just non-Sunnis being brutalised. In one case, a supposed defector from ISIL executed two activists of a Syrian opposition group in Turkey who had sheltered them.More Info
Estimates of the size of ISIL's military have varied widely, from tens of thousands up to 200,000.In early 2015, journalist Mary Anne Weaver estimated that half of ISIL fighters were foreigners. A UN report estimated a total of 15,000 fighters from over 80 countries were in ISIL's ranks in November 2014. US intelligence estimated an increase to around 20,000 foreign fighters in February 2015, including 3,400 from the Western world. In September 2015, the CIA estimated that 30,000 foreign fighters had joined ISIL.More Info
In September 2015, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, called for consultation (shura) within the "prophetic method" to be used when establishing the caliphate, criticising al-Baghdadi for not following the required steps. Al-Zawahiri has called upon ISIL members to close ranks and join al-Qaeda in fighting against Assad, the Shia, Russia, Europe, and America and to stop the infighting between jihadist groups. He called upon jihadists to establish Islamic entities in Egypt and the Levant, slowly implementing sharia before establishing a caliphate, and has called for violent assaults against America and the West.More Info
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