by Claire McKenna

What is ISIS?

ISIS is an extremist Islamic-faith based group that has created its own state by taking advantage the weak government of the Iraqi county and the Syrian civil war. It was formed by former members of Al Qaeda in Iraq, military soldiers who previously fought against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and other extremists. ISIS splintered from the terrorist group Al Qaeda due to a power struggle. One of the primary differences from Al Qaeda is that ISIS does not see any problem killing people that belong to the Islamic faith. ISIS expands the state by strategically attacking places where the government is not stable.


What do they want to accomplish?

The mission of ISIS is to establish a caliphate, a country ruled by the religious doctrine of Islam. The goal of the ISIS caliphate is to continue to expand their beliefs beyond their borders. Another significant goal of theirs is to extend their beliefs so all people living under their rule practice their strict interpretation of Islam.


Who would want to join?

People join ISIS for many reasons. In many countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan there are schools called madrasas that have been teaching the Koran, and in many of these schools they are teaching extreme interpretations of Islam. This creates the lure to groups like ISIS. Poverty and lack of opportunities also attract young people who think that joining ISIS will give their lives meaning and power. Some Muslims, particularly those born in Western Europe, join ISIS because they do not feel citizenship in the countries in which they were born. Some foreigners join ISIS because they are attracted to a life of adventure or importance.


How do they get people to join?

ISIS leaders find people willing to join through interactions at mosques run by extremists, and by using social media and other types of communication. They use recruiters to convey their message to interested young men and women. One of their most impactful forms of communication are the videos posted on YouTube. These videos are public, so they can be viewed by the general population. This allows people to start getting interested in ISIS anonymously or supporting their organization. Through interactions over time, many of these people become radicalized and adopt the extremist views.


What happened in Paris?

On Friday the thirteenth of November terror struck in Paris, France. Bombings and shootings occurred in over five places in the city and hundreds were left injured and dead. ISIS claimed full responsibility for all of these actions that left over 100 people dead. The Paris attack drew a lot of attention because it is a well-known western European city similar to those in the United States.



ISIS represents a belief system that is not tolerant of religions and ways of life that are different than their strict interpretation of Islam. As more people join ISIS and the number of extremists grow around the world, including in the United States, there is the potential of more terrorist events. As Americans, we need to continue to support the voices and views of different people of all religions and create more communication with the vast majority of Muslims who are peaceful. We need to defend the American belief in freedom of religion, but we need to be more aware that there are some bad people using religion to support criminal actions.