Must-read think piece: German activist and scribe visits Islamic State, with his eyes open

Journalists have been known to do crazy things, dangerous things and sometimes both at the same time. For example, how is the outside world going to know what makes the Islamic State tick without on site, independently reported information?

Thus, German peace activist and "Why Do You Kill, Zaid?" author Jurgen Todenhofer, headed into the heart of ISIS -- guaranteed that he would not be harmed. His family thought he was crazy. In an online think piece entitled "ISLAMIC STATE -- Seven Impressions Of A Difficult Journey" -- he notes:

The guarantee turned out to be genuine, and the ISIS stuck to their agreement during our visits to Mosul and Raqqa. Though, we were under surveillance by the secret service for most of the time and had to hand over our mobile phones and laptops. Also, all of our pictures and photos were inspected at the end of the journey. ...
On several occasions, ISIS and I ran into heated disagreements about details of the journey. Let me tell you that arguing with heavily armed ISIS fighters isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. I was close to abandoning the journey twice during that time. In view of the acute danger that all of the involved were dealing with daily, they often were short tempered. Yet, overall, I was treated correctly.

As the title states, Todenhofer offers seven observations about what he saw. This is not neutral, "American model of the press" material. However, I thought that journalists and those who care about religion news would want to see this. His observations are powerful and not one we are seeing in standard reporting.

For example, in his first observation he notes:

THE WEST IS DRAMATICALLY UNDERESTIMATING THE THREAT EMANATING FROM ISIS, and ISIS’ fighters are much more intelligent and dangerous than our politicians realize. The Islamic State is drenched in almost infectious enthusiasm and confident of victory -- something I have never before experienced in a war zone. More importantly, the ISIS fighters are convinced that their totalitarian faith and demonstrative brutality will help them move mountains. In Mosul, less than 400 ISIS fighters routed many as 25,000 Iraqi soldiers and militias despite their ultra-modern equipment. Within months, the ISIS has conquered a territory larger than Great Britain and dwarfed Al Qaeda.

I found this section of observation No. 4 especially haunting, for obvious reasons:

ISIS ISN’T JUST AIMING AT CONQUERING THE MIDDLE EAST AND, EVENTUALLY, THE REST OF THE WORLD. RATHER, THEY WANT THE LARGEST “RELIGIOUS CLEANSING” IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. With the exception of the so-called “religions of the book” -- that is, ISIS’ version of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity -- ISIS wants to kill non-believers and apostates and enslave their women and children. This means that all of the Shiites, Yazidis, Hindus, Atheists and Polytheists are supposed to die, and that hundreds of millions of people would be eliminated in the course of this “ethnic cleansing”.
Additionally, all of the moderate Muslims approving of democracy are supposed to be killed, as they – from ISIS’ point of view -- put human laws above God’s laws. Upon successful conquest of the West, this would also apply to democratically-minded Muslims here. A non-believer’s only chance to escape death are voluntary repentance and voluntary conversion to “true Islam” which, allegedly, is represented by ISIS only. He or she must do so before their country is conquered.

Is this Islam? It is a radical fragment of Islam, stresses Todenhofer. This is an issue that Muslims must face.

Here is a key point that will anger many Americans: ISIS can only be stopped by other Sunni Muslims and they must have a rational reason for wanted to do this (meaning they must be allowed back into the power mix in the region). What does that mean for Shiites? For religious minorities? For those who compromised with ISIS?

Read it all.

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