The BBC’s head of religion said last week despite what many international politicians and commentators have said since the Islamic State group rose to power, the terror organization is in fact motivated by Islamic beliefs.
Aaqil Ahmed, the first Muslim to hold the top religion post at the U.K. media organization, made the comments to a group of students at Huddersfield University in England. People need to admit the “uncomfortable” truth that ISIS is made up of Muslims, even if their interpretation of the religion is “wrong,” he said.
“I hear so many people say ISIS has nothing to do with Islam — of course it has. They are not preaching Judaism,” said Ahmed, a professor at the school. “It might be wrong, but what they are saying is an ideology based on some form of Islamic doctrine.”
It’s not a new debate. In the United States, U.S. President Barack Obama, sensitive to the Muslim population in his own country, has repeatedly said the Islamic State group “is not Islamic.” Some have argued ISIS is anti-Islam and defeating the group requires denying it that title.
Naming the terrorist organization, which is fighting a U.S.-led international coalition including local militias in Iraq and Syria, has been a contentious issue since it garnered international attention in June 2014 after declaring itself a worldwide caliphate. The group’s notoriety grew even more in August of that year when it released a gruesome video showing American journalist James Foley being beheaded.
In addition to being called the Islamic State group, it has been called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, a term preferred by the Obama administration), the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Daesh (a disputed acronym of the group’s full Arabic name used by the French government that sounds similar to the Arabic word for “sowers of discord,” which are enemies to the religion).