After first dismissing ISIS as al-Qaida’s “JV” team, President Obama has now described the group that beheads Christians and burns them alive as a “non-Islamic” group whose recruitment of radicals is fueled by poverty and hopelessness.

“We’re not at war against Islam,” he said during this week’s White House summit on “countering violent extremism,” adding, “We are at war with those who pervert Islam.”

Radicalized Muslims are the product of ingrained poverty, Obama said, echoing the statement from his State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, who said earlier in the week that the barbarism displayed by ISIS could be cured with a jobs program.

Watch clip of Obama alleging war on Islam is ‘an ugly lie’

Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the summit, compared the troubling rise in Islamic terror attacks to right-wing extremists and militias who commit violence “in the name of the Bible.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Council tweeted following Biden’s speech: “We wanted them (WH) to include other type of violent extremists. Now they have, let’s keep asking and push.”

This jibes with the well-worn Muslim strategy of equating Muslim jihads with the Christian Crusades, even though there were only eight crusades in history and there hasn’t been one for nearly a thousand years while jihads number in the hundreds and continue to this day.

Watch video of Professor Bill Warner, PhD, presenting a “dynamic battle map” that compares the crusades to the jihads throughout history:

While the administration’s latest statements on Islam may play well with American Muslim leaders, they are beginning to attract some critical review. A small but growing chorus of historians and Islam experts are coming to a different conclusion about what motivates ISIS.

Some are taking a more serious look at the terrorist organization’s theology, and their findings are starting to leak into the establishment media. Both the Atlantic and CNN ran major articles this week exploring the question of what drives ISIS.

“Why does ISIS keep making enemies?” CNN asked.

What ISIS Really Wants,” screamed the Atlantic headline in its March issue.

Both articles suggest that to ignore the religious, even “apocalyptic,” goals of ISIS would be a tragic mistake for U.S. policy makers.

“Graeme Wood’s article (in the Atlantic) is quite good,” said Timothy Furnish, author of “Holiest Wars” and a historian specializing in Islamic history who advises the U.S. military. “As I read it, I was like, it’s nice that you guys have finally joined the party.”

Glossy magazine tells all

For the past eight months Furnish has been studying ISIS’s slick new magazine, Dabiq, the first issue of which rolled off the presses in in July 2014, named after a famous end-times battle prophesied to occur at a city in northwest Syria. ISIS believes this battle will usher in the appearance of the Islamic Mahdi and the Muslim Jesus, called Isa, who will lead them to conquer the Holy Land with Jerusalem as the final prize.

Furnish has been warning in his blog, mahdiwatch.org, that ISIS is not merely a criminal gang toying with Quranic verse. They are led by well-educated men who have a keenly thought-out view of how the world will wind down based on close study of the Islamic scriptures, the hadiths and the scholarly works of Islamic thinkers throughout history.

Everything brutal move by ISIS fighters is calculated to replicate what the prophet Muhammad did when he conquered large swaths of territory in the seventh century. Unlike al-Qaida, ISIS has declared a caliphate and are out to control as much land as possible. They look to Muhammad for cues on how to accomplish that task: He beheaded infidels, burned them alive, took slaves, and cut off the limbs of non-Muslims.

Rather than viewing ISIS as an irrational group of lunatics seeking international media attention, Wood opens his Atlantic piece with this chilling statement:

“We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

“…In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.”

Wood’s said the ISIS leaders he spent time with were charming, intellectually engaging and rational in the sense that they have a defined goal and a plan on how to achieve it.

To understand ISIS, one must start with the “caliphate” declared last year by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a learned man who holds an advanced degree in Islamic studies from a respected Iraqi university. This is a word – caliphate – that most progressives are either not familiar with or have dismissed as a fanciful invention of the right wing.

Furnish said Baghdadi’s views would be widely approved within the Salafi movement, a fundamentalist sect within the dominant Sunni branch of Islam.

His apocalyptic views are highly developed and ingrained in mainstream Islamic teaching.

“He’s even better schooled in Islam than Osama bin Laden was,” Furnish said. “Bin Laden had a degree in architecture. This guy’s degree is in Islamic studies.

“So the Western media is just now discovering this.”

But the U.S. government is still behind the curve, treating ISIS like a second-rate terrorist group, not in any way true to Islam. As Obama said, they are simply “looking for legitimacy.”

On Dec. 28, 2014, the New York Times interviewed Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, who admitted, “We do not even understand the idea” behind ISIS.

“I’m like, come on general, they tell you every day with every statement, every video, every beheading, what they are trying to do. If you don’t understand them you don’t want to understand them,” Furnish said. “Instead, they roll out the tired old meme that jobs are the problem. Study after study has shown poverty does not cause terrorism. There’s no correlation. The liberals are wedded to this belief that poverty causes crime, so they just take that and apply it to the international arena and it ends up as foreign policy.”

They forget that more than a dozen of the Sept. 11 hijackers were college educated, Furnish said.

Goading the U.S. into ground war?

Joel Richardson, author of “The Islamic Antichrist” and director of the documentary film, “End Times Eye Witness,” evaluates Islamic doctrine from an evangelical Christian perspective, comparing its end-times apocalyptic vision with the last-days scenario laid out in the Bible.

Like Furnish, he was glad to see the Atlantic magazine and CNN articles focused on the Islamic State’s apocalyptic dreams of goading the U.S. into an epic final battle between Islam and the “Romans.” Of course the Romans, in the view of ISIS, are the Americans, whom they see as representative of the world’s largest Christian nation.

“It’s very positive that the Atlantic and CNN – traditionally very liberal media outlets – are addressing this now, because anyone who touched this stuff before was dismissed as a right-wing nut,” Richardson said.

Prior to 2008 when any Republican, such as Michele Bachmann or Dick Chaney, talked about the goal of creating a “caliphate” nearly every article that referenced the comment was “outright mocking them as right-wing fear-mongering,” Richardson said. “Back then everyone was saying ‘what’s a caliphate?’ And mocking them as being fear mongers.”

Richardson believes that Bible-believing Christians should be aware of what the Quran says about the end times. “It verifies what the Bible teaches only is a reverse copy,” he said.

His books teach that a new caliphate, the resurrection of the old Ottoman Empire, will arise in the area loosely controlled by ISIS today only larger, including much of present-day Turkey. And out of this revived Islamic caliphate will emerge the leader the Bible describes as the Antichrist. This is all laid out in his two books, “Islamic Antichrist” and “Mideast Beast” and explored further in his documentary film, “End Times Eyewitness.”

“Even if people reject my thesis, understanding Islamic eschatology has been a crucial element to understanding our enemy,” Richardson said. “If you want to understand all these groups – what are they being guided by and what is their end game? – then you have to understand Islamic eschatology.

“Now here we are, in the east you have Iran, driven by eschatology far more than Hal Lindsey or Joel Richardson, who believes we are at the cusp of the Islamic end-times apocalypse and on the other side you have ISIS, and interestingly they each cast each other as the one that has to be dealt with before they can go on to defeat the West.”

It’s not the economy stupid

Furnish believes the political left in the West is still trapped in its outdated paradigm based on Marxist economics – class warfare and rampant secularism.

By focusing undue attention on poverty and socio-economics, they miss the more important religious aspect of ISIS.

When describing ISIS’s end-times eschatology, Furnish says: “I believe it’s goofy, but it doesn’t matter what I believe. I’m a Christian.”

Throughout 1,400 years of Islamic history, Furnish said there have been scores of jihads, all based on the teachings of Muhammad.

“It is the most legitimate way of rebelling against a ruler, particularly a Muslim ruler you don’t like,” he said. “Look at the 1979 movement in Saudi Arabia.”

In that case, a group of insurgents threatened to dethrone the Saudi royal family by declaring the Mahdi had arrived in the form of one of their leaders.

In the 12th century, a Muslim Berber scholar and spiritual leader named Ibn Tomart launched a puritanical form of Islam in Morocco. “He died but his followers took over much of north Africa and Andalusia,” Furnish said.

The truth is there are many sects and sub sects of Islam. One can argue which form is “true Islam” or “perverted” Islam, but they have many adherents who believe strongly in the teachings of their leaders, who quote Quranic scripture and the hadiths to justify their actions.

“ISIS started putting out this monthly magazine last summer, and they’ve clearly discussed all of this, the beheadings and the burning of people, and I fully expect them to start cutting off hands and feet, according to Sura 5:33,” Furnish said. “I think they’re doing these horrific things to try to goad us into deploying ground troops.”

Sura 5:33 says: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.”

Quran (8:12) says: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”

Literal interpretation of Quran is the norm

Furnish said 85 percent of Muslims are Sunni, and within this dominant branch of Islam is the Salafi sect. But all major schools of Sunni jurisprudence teach a literal interpretation of the Quran.

“It is not acceptable to read the Quran any other way but literal,” he said. “You are not allowed to say in Sunni mainstream Islam that the beheadings only applied in the prophet’s time. To say these verses don’t mean literally chopping off someone’s head, you can’t say those things, because the only way you’re supposed to interpret it is literally.”

“In some of the Shia sects you are able to interpret the Quran in non-literal ways but not the Sunnis.”

One of the ISIS magazine articles articulated that, according to Islamic tradition as communicated in the hadiths, a town in northwestern Syria, Dabiq, will be the site of the definitive end-times battle between the Muslims and the Romans.

“The Romans they are referring to are the Byzantines, who were Christians,” Furnish said. “So it basically means Christians. They’ve assigned us that role even if we don’t see ourselves that way in America.”

Jabat al-Nusra, another Sunni terror group fighting Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, holds similar apocalyptic views.

“They said last year ‘we are raising this banner and will keep this raised until the Mahdi returns.’ So you have two major groups there talking about apocalyptic battles,” Furnish said. “I think that’s why they’re doing this horrific stuff, to goad us into a fight and they believe they will win that battle based on their reading of the hadiths.”

Watch clip of Obama saying “Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.”

Rather than judging ISIS on purely political and secular terms, the U.S. government should be studying the Quran and comparing it with every move and word coming from the terrorist army that has taken over large portions of Iraq and Syria and is now threatens Libya and Yemen, Furnish said.

“Marie Harf did say one thing that is true: ‘We can’t kill all of them,'” Furnish said. “Unless we nuked the region, which is silly because then you’d kill everyone, including many Christians. So, you can’t kill a billion Muslims. But I do think we have to refute them ideologically, and in order to do that we can’t refute who they are. You can’t say they are un-Islamic. There are hundreds of quotes from the Quran in these five or six magazines they’ve put out. These guys are clearly Islamic. Are they literalists? Are they brutal? Yes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not Islamic.”

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