German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer just came back from Mossul after spending 7 months embedded with the IS. Far from being captured, he actually managed to negociate a place among their ranks as a journalist. What he has to say is, unsurprisingly, similar but different from what is being told to us through indirect sources. He managed to get into contact with the IS using the internet and social media, presenting himself as a reasonably objective and informed journalist.
One detail, often forgotten in many Western write-ups, is that many IS fighters trying to establish an “Islamic Caliphate” are not actually from Syria or Iraq. Jürge Todenhöfer recounts that he even met Germans fighting among the IS ranks in Iraq. The type of radical beliefs that we associated with the IS are, unfortunately, just as shocking and extreme as has been recounted. Jürgen describes their political goals as being the “largest religious cleansing planned,” which intends to kill hundreds of millions of people who do not belong to one of the three Abrahamic religions.
They apparently plan, according to interviews carried out by Jürgen, to kill hundreds of millions of people based simply on the fact that they are not in the “right” religion(s). This includes planning to kill all Hindus, all Yazidis, all Buddists, all atheists. Comparing his experience to being embedded within Assad’s Syria, Jürgen Todenhöfer explains that the views and motivations of the IS are more shocking and grotesque than any other political beliefs he has heard in his experience as a journalist.
Ironically, we appear to be facing a kind of “boy who cried wolf” scenario, where the media and governments have so oft overblown the danger or radical nature of groups based primarily on propaganda, only to later recount that parts of the claims were completely made up (as was seen with Iraq and Libya). The IS appears, from all accounts (including our own reporter writing from Syria), very similar to the 1930s Nazi movement even without any type of exageration.
Jürgen explains that we are actually underestimating the danger posed by the IS, primarily due to their fanatical beliefs and highly aggressive tactics. According to Jürgen, under 500 relatively young IS fighters managed to overtake control of Mossul from 25,000 soldiers by outmanuevering and psychologically intimidating them. The efforts of the IS to radicalize and instrumentalize misled or confused youth accross the world, leading to their ranks swelling with thousands of foreign fighters, should not be underestimated. Radical fascistic beliefs appear to be on the rise again globally, and we can only hope that efforts to improve intercultural understanding and communication can help hold back the tide.