They are among tens of thousands of Muslims eager to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State group. An estimated 20,000 have streamed into the territory in Iraq and Syria where the group has proclaimed what it calls a “caliphate” ruled by its often brutal version of Islamic law.
But how rooted in Islam is the ideology embraced by this group that has inspired so many to fight and die?
President Barack Obama has insisted the militants behind a brutal campaign of beheadings, kidnappings and enslavement are “not Islamic” and only use a veneer of Islam for their own ends. Obama’s critics argue the extremists are intrinsically linked to Islam. Others insist their ideology has little connection to religion.
The group itself has assumed the mantle of Islam’s earliest years, purporting to recreate the conquests and rule of the Prophet Muhammad and his successors. But in reality its ideology is a virulent vision all its own, one that its adherents have created by plucking selections from centuries of traditions.
The vast majority of Muslim clerics say the group cherry picks what it wants from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, and from accounts of Muhammad’s actions and sayings, known as the Hadith. It then misinterprets many of these, while ignoring everything in the texts that contradicts those hand-picked selections, these experts say…