Think ISIS Isn’t Muslim? It Doesn’t Matter What You Think

April 10, 2016  
Categories: Musings

A lot of smug talking heads repeating this line across the media. “ISIS isn’t really Muslim” (Or IS, ISIL, or Daesh, or whichever moniker is your preference). In today’s op-ed, Hernandez tells you why it doesn’t matter. Read Up.

After every attack by Islamic terrorists, we hear what’s become a rote response: “But those aren’t real Muslims. Islam teaches peace. No real Muslim would murder civilians.” This optimistic-but-empty platitude is repeated by everyone from horrified peaceful Muslims to naïve college students to jihad apologists deliberately lying about the attackers’ intentions. It’s so common and so wrong it may as well be titled the “No True Muslim” Fallacy.

After the Benghazi attack and “Innocence of Muslims” video that didn’t spark it, Dr. Zahid Bukhari, President of the Islamic Circle of North America, wrote, “No practicing Muslim would advocate violence in any form in response to cartoons or films, no matter how offensive.” After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Piers Morgan wanted Muslims “To denounce [the attackers] as non-Muslims, to urge REAL Muslims – the vast majority who loathe these extremists as much as we do – to rise up against them, alienate and marginalize them, root them out of their society.” informs us, “if any Muslim kills an innocent person, that Muslim has committed a grave sin, and the action cannot be claimed to have been committed ‘in the name of Islam.’

So apparently thousands of people who mistakenly think they’re Muslim have been shooting, beheading, burning, or blowing their enemies up lately. These non-Muslims-who-think-they’re-Muslims have killed over 50,000 people, mostly “real” Muslims, in the last two years. Somehow these people, most of whom were raised Muslim from birth, have misunderstood Islam so badly that they’re doing exactly the opposite of what Islam says.

See this terrorist? His name is Moner Mohammad Abusalha. Dr. Bukhara, Piers Morgan, and others might think he’s not really Muslim, but in fact, he is. Or at least, he was. He blew himself up in a suicide attack on a restaurant in Syria.

(AP Photo/Manara al-Bayda)

(AP Photo/Manara al-Bayda)

He was Muslim because he believed in a certain type of Islam that’s existed for hundreds of years, and has been studied and validated by many religious scholars. Not every Muslim agrees with this version of Islam, but this guy did, and millions of other Muslims do.

You know how I know this guy was Muslim? He told us.

He didn’t care if you don’t think he was a “real” Muslim. He didn’t need your permission to call himself Muslim. He was positive he was Muslim, and he thought others Muslims who don’t massacre their enemies aren’t real Muslims. He was supported by millions of other Muslims who either directly armed, trained, fed and housed him, or gave tacit support to his actions. Whether or not you gave him the “real Muslim” stamp of approval made no difference to him. It probably never crossed his mind.


By the way, Abusalha grew up in a gated community in Florida, graduated from high school and spent some time in college. All suicide bombers are poor and uneducated? Yeah, not so much.

In the end, denying his or any other terrorist’s religious faith is meaningless. Because our opinion about their faith means nothing, either literally or philosophically.

We need to realize something: we don’t get to decide what makes a “real” Muslim. Nobody needs our approval to label himself any religion he wants. Two western Christians (or atheists, or agnostics like me, or Muslims, or whatever) can argue for years about what makes a true Muslim. Who cares what they think? Do Christians need approval from Afghan Muslims before calling themselves true Christians? Do Baptists need approval from Catholics?

The definition of true Islam has been debated at least since the Sunni/Shia split in the 7th century. Sunnis and Shia have been killing each other for apostasy for 1400 years, and some Sunni extremists refer to Shia as “rafidha (‘rejecters of the faith’) and majus (Zoroastrian or crypto-Persian)”. Other strains of Islam, like the Sufis, have risen and sometimes been brutally oppressed by more powerful Muslim sects. The “what is true Islam” debate has been violently raging among Muslims for over a thousand years; why does anyone, especially non-Muslims in the west with no real understanding of Islam, think they can smugly decide what a real Muslim is?

If I’m curious about an avowed jihadist’s religious affiliation, I might do something totally crazy: I’d ask him. Because, you know, he and his buddies are screaming to the world what their religious beliefs are.

I know, I know. Someone’s about to say it. Some people have probably been screaming it since the first paragraph. So go ahead and let it out.


Now that you’ve shocked us with that newsflash, guess what? We already know that. Of course, all Muslims aren’t terrorists. If I believed all Muslims were terrorists I wouldn’t have lived, worked and socialized with them in Kosovo, served in combat beside them in Afghanistan, invited them into my home, or taken one to a range to improve his pistol skills. Most Muslims are nothing like ISIS, and would rather kill an ISIS fighter than join him. You literally have to be stupid to believe that every last Muslim is a terrorist, or condones terrorism.

But you have to be even stupider than that to think none of them are, or that it’s just a tiny handful. The suicide bomber threat isn’t over because the suicide bomber I mentioned earlier was the only one ever. ISIS isn’t a small organization, and it’s funded by many Muslims all over the world.

Even our government tacitly admits jihadists are Muslims. Our President might be loathed to use the term “Islamic terrorism” (his people apparently even censored French President Francois Hollande’s use of the term at a White House meeting), and politicians like Cory Booker might outright refuse to even say the words.

But if our elected representatives truly didn’t believe jihadists were Muslims, they wouldn’t have terrorists like Osama bin Laden buried according to Islamic law. The military wouldn’t have temporarily banned female guards at Guantanamo from offending a war crime suspect’s Islamic beliefs by touching him while moving him from the prison to legal appointments. And if the rest of the Muslim world didn’t believe those terrorists were real Muslims, Muslim scholars wouldn’t have complained that bin Laden’s burial at sea violated sharia law and warned that Muslims would attack Americans in retaliation. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wouldn’t have complained of guards at Guantanamo Bay force-feeding prisoners on hunger strikes during Ramadan. If nobody believed bin Laden or terrorists at Gitmo were real Muslims, why would our government, Muslim scholars and CAIR be so worried about offending their Islamic sensibilities?

Everyone knows not all Muslims are jihadists, but everyone with an understanding of reality knows jihadists are actually Muslims. So please, stop claiming you know what all real Muslims think. Nobody cares. At least, the Muslims who believe Islam commands them to slaughter people don’t. If you’re positive you know what “real” Islam is, find your nearest ISIS fighter and argue with him about it. Because wasting time trying to convince me that “real Muslims would never be terrorists” doesn’t stop your so-called fake Muslims from murdering people.

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Chris Hernandez

Chris Hernandez

About the Author

Chris Hernandez may just be the crustiest member of the eeeee-LITE writin' team here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a veteran police officer of two decades who spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of White Flags & Dropped Rifles - the Real Truth About Working With the French Army and The Military Within the Military as well as the modern military fiction novels Line in the Valley, Proof of Our Resolve and Safe From the War. When he isn't groaning about a change in the weather and snacking on Osteo Bi-Flex he writes on his own blog. You can find his author page here on Tactical 16.


  1. Tony

    Not all Muslims are Jihadists, but all Jihadists are Muslims. So if there is even a .0001% chance that we will let a Jihadist into our society, then let’s not do that. It’s so easy!

    You fail to take the article to what many people think should be the next step. Not you, I understand, but many. You are quick criticize the those you feel are deluding themselves, but you don’t address the large percentage of Americans who want to wage a war on Muslims.

  2. 2hotel9

    I don’t care what their motivation is. And yes, I have studied the Qur’an and history and muslims all do want the same thing, islamic supremacy. From its founding the followers of islam have proven they will use rape, theft, torture and murder to advance their “religion”. And again, yes, I have had “moderate” muslims admit the goal is islamic supremacy over ALL humans. “moderates” want to use political means, employing al-Taqiyya to deceive infidels to this end. In the final measure they will quite willingly resort to armed force and genocide to attain their final goal.

    For all the world to see, I attest, I will not submit. I will not submit. I will not submit.

  3. Wilson

    Good article. OP as usual.


    Right on Mr Hernandez!!

    If a guy has a gun or a bomb, and is attempting to us those weapons against me it doesn’t matter what I think about his motivations. If he’s shouting “Allahu Akhbar” when he pulls the trigger or presses the button then I think his motivations are pretty clear.

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