ISIS ‘war spoils’ reveal religious rulings justifying brutality

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Islamic State documents seized by U.S. forces reveal religious rulings justifying slavery, rape and pillage of antiquities. Yazidi refugee women protest their treatment. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Islamic State documents seized by U.S. forces reveal religious rulings justifying slavery, rape and pillage of antiquities. Yazidi refugee women protest their treatment. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Umit Bektas

WASHINGTON, Dec 28 (Reuters) – Islamic State has set up departments to handle “war spoils,” including slaves, and the exploitation of natural resources such as oil, creating the trappings of government that enable it to manage large swaths of Syria and Iraq and other areas.

The hierarchical bureaucracy, including petty rivalries between officials, and legal codes in the form of religious fatwas are detailed in a cache of documents seized by U.S. Special Operations Forces in a May raid in Syria that killed top IS financial official Abu Sayyaf. Reuters has reviewed some of the documents.

U.S. officials say the documents have helped deepen their understanding of a militant group whose skill in controlling the territory it has seized has surprised many. They provide insight into how a once small insurgent group has developed a complex bureaucracy to manage revenue streams – from pillaged oil to stolen antiquities – and oversee subjugated populations.

“This really kind of brings it out. The level of bureaucratization, organization, the diwans, the committees,” Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the anti-IS coalition, told Reuters.

For example, one diwan, roughly equivalent to a government ministry, handles natural resources, including the exploitation of antiquities from ancient empires. Another processes “war spoils,” including slaves.


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“Islamic State is invested in the statehood and Caliphate image more so than any other jihadist enterprise. So a formal organization, besides being practical when you control so much contiguous territory and major cities, also reinforces the statehood image,” said Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum think tank and an expert on IS’s structure.

The documents also show how “meticulous and data-oriented” IS is in managing the oil and gas sector, although it is not a sophisticated operation, said Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s top official for energy affairs.

U.S. officials said the documents have helped the anti-IS coalition to pinpoint vulnerabilities. The United States and its allies have been using air strikes to degrade the group’s oil infrastructure and target key officials.

The documents show the Islamic State is not immune to the rivalries and personality clashes that typify bureaucracies everywhere. A Nov. 21, 2014 letter from the Diwan of Natural Resources emphasizes that Abu Sayyaf is in charge of handling antiquities.

“The reason being is that he is very knowledgeable in this field and that Abu Jihad al-Tunisi is a simpleton who can’t manage the division,” it says.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the documents it obtained, which represent a fraction of the material seized in the Syria raid. U.S. forces captured a huge amount of data in the form of computer hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and papers.

Many of the seized documents are fatwas, or religious rulings, covering issues from rape of female prisoners and the treatment of slaves with minor children to when it is permissible for a son to steal from his father to fund travel to fight jihad, or holy war.


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Reuters reported last week on a previously undisclosed ruling by the Islamic State’s Research and Fatwa Committee that sanctions the harvesting of human organs. The fatwa raises concerns that the violent extremist group may be trafficking in body parts.

A booklet entitled “From Creator’s Rulings on Capturing Prisoners and Enslavement,” lays out rules on enslaving women seized from vanquished “infidels.” The October 2014 document, reviewed by Reuters, attempts to ground the rules in Islamic law.

Citing sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, the booklet calls for both kindness and cruelty to captives by Islamic State fighters. Enslaved women should not be separated from their children, it says, but elsewhere the rules allow Islamic State fighters to have sex with female slaves.

Middle East Forum’s Tamimi said the fatwas are intended to bolster Islamic State’s claim that it is a legitimate state.

The rules not only apply to captured territory in Iraq and Syria but also its self-declared provinces in Africa, the Sinai and South Asia. They cover even mundane issues.

In the documents, there is a ruling on proper procedure for filling out the personal details of prospective fighters: name, gender, and communications method – telephone, telegram, Skype or the mobile messaging service WhatsApp.

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  • Tom Metzger

    The Abrahamic religions Spahn most of the terror and torture in the world

  • “..the seized documents are fatwas..religious rulings..covering rape..slavery..”

    So familiar:

    “Burn your daughter alive” – Yahweh (Lev. 21:9)
    “Any who curse parents must be killed.” (Lev. 20:9)
    “kill homosexuals” – (Lev. 20:13)
    “Kill those with a different religion.” (Deut. 17:2–7)
    “Anyone who dreams anything against God must be killed.” (Deut. 13:5)
    “He who has no penis shall be damned” (Deut. 23:1)
    “Hate them” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)
    “Save the virgins for rape” (Num 31:18)
    “Kill without mercy” (Jer 15:1-7)
    “enslave he who surrenders” (Deut. 20:10)
    “whip slaves severely” – JESUS (Luke 12:47-48)
    “Make slaves of those around you” (Lev 25:44-46)
    “I shall NEVER forgive you” – JESUS (Matt. 25:46)
    “Kill your loved ones for me” – God” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)
    “Women, be raped to save your husbands” (Judges 19:25-28)
    “Kill your son for me” – GOD (Gen. 22:2)

  • Jack

    Tom, please explain how the original “Abrahamic religion” — ie Judaism – has spawned “most of the terror and torture in the world.”

    I’m waiting.

  • Jack

    Max, if the Jewish Bible is so filled with wickedness and evil, why do “even” the most committed Orthodox Jews who are immersed in it compare favorably to almost every other group in history in terms of low level of violence and bloodshed?

    Hmmmm?

  • Jack,

    “If the Jewish Bible is filled with wickedness and evil…why do the most committed Jews compare favorably to almost every other group in history in terms of violence and bloodshed…” – JACK

    You are wrong to keep turning this into an ethnic discussion. Ethnicity has nothing to do with this conversation.
    But it would be nice if you could make up your mind.

    Jack said: September 7, 2015 at 11:19 am
    “Funny, isn’t it, how Jews support massive racial and ethnic integration in every predominately white country on Earth, yet are busy creating a massively segregated, apartheid state for themselves.”

    hmmmmm?

  • Larry

    When Christians and Muslims want to talk tough, they invoke the Old Testament and all the stories of God sanctioned genocide, support for slavery and treating women like livestock. They take all the nasty bits of the Torah and use it to justify acting badly.

  • Larry

    Because the Jews distance themselves from the people depicted in those Bible sections. Their response typically is “We are not those people anymore, we can’t be, nor want to be them”. Jewish interpretations of the Bible are heavily influenced by the Diaspora. Religious precepts becoming more or less a “guide to maintaining identity in a hostile world”

  • Exactly, Larry.

    My problem is not with the religious people who don’t follow their Holy Books. It is with the people who do.

    “Slay them” – Jesus/Allah/Mohammed/Yahweh

    The world won’t be perfect when people abandon religion. But it will be an improvement.

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  • Jonathan Dick

    @Athiest Max

    Your “quotes” from the Bible are not “quotes” at all but biased and COMPLETELY inaccurate generalizations taken completely out of context… for example:

    “Kill your son for me” – GOD (Gen. 22:2)
    This is about Abraham who did NOT kill his son because God told him not to.

    “Women, be raped to save your husbands” (Judges 19:25-28)
    This is a great example of stories of BAD examples… this is not held up as doctrine or dogma but as an example of wickedness on ALL fronts

    “Kill your loved ones for me” – God” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)
    This is a story about a man and his daughter who consecrated her LIFE life to God out of gratitude… not about a man who killed his daughter

    If you truly want the world to improve and become more perfect then let’s stop the DIVISIVE attacks… and focus on UNITING together to fix the salient issues… hunger, poverty, oppression, violence, etc. It is not “Religion” or “Godless Capitalism” that is the cause… it is…

  • Larry

    Remind me to bring up such points the next time people use Bible quotes to justify behaving badly to others. They are far more rife and pernicious than Max’s quotes. Max at least doesn’t advocate dictatorship, discrimination or the persecution of others who do not share his views. The same can’t be said of proof texting religious believers.

    Religion is divisive by nature. You can’t hold a belief that all those who do not follow your ideas are doomed to eternal punishment without inviting division. You can’t make claims of your faith being the sole true religion without inviting division.

    People unite, act as a diverse community, and extol the liberties of all, IN SPITE of religion, not because of it. The secular, religion-neutral, society, of the US is the main cause for the lack of sectarian conflict seen everywhere else in the world.

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  • @Jonathan Dick,

    “those are inaccurate generalizations…..stop the divisive attacks..”

    It is my duty as an ex-Christian to point out “context” does not fix the dangerous injunctions in those salient excerpts.

    Notice how VERBATIM TRANSLATIONS are just as harsh:

    “Hate your mother and father or you are not worthy of me” – JESUS (Luke 14:26)
    “I came to make man’s enemies the members of his own home!” – JESUS (Matthew 10:36)
    “Believe in me or be condemned to eternal fire!” [as in, ‘I shall never forgive you.’] – JESUS (Mark 16:16)
    “Believe in me or die.” – JESUS (John 14:15)
    “He who is not with me is against me…” – JESUS (Matthew 12:30)

    We do not decrease divisiveness by defending this nonsense.

  • “Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” – YAHWEH (Gen 22:2)

    How sick and depraved is it to defend this obscenity as you are doing?

    If anyone told me to “sacrifice my son for him” I would sacrifice him first! How dare anyone be so vulgar as to insist we consider the context of this pornographic horror!

    “KILL YOUR SON FOR ME” is my ACCURATE paraphrase!

    And RNS has a decorum (superior to the Bible’s) which will not allow me to insert the stream of scorn this divisive and disgusting god deserves.

    “I will bring evil upon you…I will take your wives..and will give them to your neighbor. HE SHALL RAPE YOUR WIVES in daylight.
    I will force this destruction…” – Yahweh (2 Samuel 12:11-14)

    Shameful nonsense.

  • Jack

    Nice try, Max, but that sounds nothing like me. I’m hardly the only person with that name.

    You cited date & time but no article. Why is that, Max? Did you make up the quote?

    For as you know, my views are diametrically opposite. I despise white supremacy beliefs. And these same people have a history of planning acts of terrorism & support overthrowing the government.

    And I wholeheartedly support the right of Israel not only to exist as a specifically Jewish state but to defend itself against its foes.

    Note how the first comment on this board is from “Tom Metzger.” Do a wiki search — he’s a white supremacist.

    Interesting coincidence, Max. Is this the real Tom Metzger who has somehow found this obscure site, or are you up to your old tricks again?

    Finally, Max, you again dodged the question: If, as you and Metzger say, the Jewish Bible is so bloodthirsty, why do the Jewish people abhor violence as much as anybody on earth?

  • Jack

    Nice try, Max, but that sounds nothing like me. I’m hardly the only person with that name.

    You cited date & time but no article. Why is that, Max? Did you make up the quote?

    For as you know, my views are diametrically opposite. I despise white supremacy beliefs. And these same people have a history of planning acts of terrorism & support overthrowing the government.

    And I wholeheartedly support the right of Israel not only to exist as a specifically Jewish state but to defend itself against its foes.

    Note how the first comment on this board is from “Tom Metzger.” Do a wiki search — he’s a white supremacist.

    Interesting coincidence, Max. Is this the real Tom Metzger who has somehow found this obscure site, or are you up to your old tricks again?

    Finally, Max, you again dodged the question: If, as you and Metzger say, the Jewish Bible is so bloodthirsty, why do the Jewish people abhor violence as much as anybody on earth?

  • Jack

    Right, Max. You’re not an anti-Semite. Sure. Now you’re mocking the “Akeda,” which is read during the High Holidays in synagogues throughout the world, including Reform as well as Orthodox and Conservative.

    As any knowledgeable Jewish person will tell you, one of the lessons of the Akeda is that God opposes and despises human sacrifice. The Akeda teaches that God never had any intention of having Abraham sacrifice Isaac. That’s why God stopped him as he was about to do so.

    When it comes to the Jewish people, religion and nationality cannot be placed in two neat, simple, mutually exclusive piles. Even the most non-religious Jew has been influenced through family life by customs and ways of thinking that are inescapably biblical in origin.

    This is why a very large percentage even of atheists who are Jewish will regularly attend Passover seders, which you have mocked in past posts.

  • Jack

    What’s shameful, Max, is your anti-Semitism. In a most vile and despicable way, you’ve trashed a foundational story of Judaism — the Akeda — a story that’s read by Jews around the world during the most holy time of their year. And along the way, you have lied about the Akeda’s message — that grabbing another human being and sacrificing him is abhorrent to the God of Israel and hence forbidden. Alone among the world’s people, the Jews taught that such sacrifice was an abomination.

    For teaching that message from generation to generation, you have called Jews “sick and depraved [to] defend this obscenity.”

    Really, Max? It is “sick and depraved” for the Jewish people to teach the Akeda’s message that the God of Israel deplores the very thing you say He condones?

    If you are such a clueless ignoramus about any and all things Jewish, maybe you should lay off saying a word about the Jewish Bible.

  • @Jack,

    You summed up the Summer Netanyahu incident with your bigoted comment:

    Jack said: September 7, 2015 at 11:19 am
    “Funny, isn’t it, how Jews support massive racial and ethnic integration in every predominately white country on Earth, yet are busy creating a massively segregated, apartheid state for themselves.”
    – JACK

    I have other examples of your bigotries.
    I saved them because you have wrongfully accused me of this awful practice and you exhaust patience.

    You cannot win your arguments so you invent ad hominem attacks. I have lots of examples of your doing that also.

    http://religionnews.com/2015/09/06/israel-too-small-to-accept-syrian-refugees-says-netanyahu/

  • @Jack,

    “Really, Max? It is “sick and depraved” for the Jewish people to…..?”

    You are the one who is sticking “the Jewish People” with crimes they are not collectively guilty of. STOP IT!

  • Larry

    “The Akeda teaches that God never had any intention of having Abraham sacrifice Isaac. That’s why God stopped him as he was about to do so.”

    Which differs markedly from the typical Christian take on the story. Christianity (and I would bet Islam as well) look at it and take the moral of it as admiration that Abraham was willing to go to such lengths in his devotion to God. Max’s take on the story is not particularly unusual. Very much in tune with how an ex-Christian would see it.

    Judaism looks at the request with horror and relief at its revocation. The moral of the story being that God is different from the gods of Mesopotamia that Abraham grew up with, who demanded child sacrifice as a matter of course.

    The difference in interpretation between Judaism and the religions that spawned from it is rather severe in many places. Its why when Christians go blubbering about things “not being Biblical” they are really just showing their own sectarian biases on the subject.

  • Jack

    Max, you admitted you were taught anti-Semitism in your allegedly Catholic days spanning decades.

    Whether Catholic or atheist, you’ve managed to maintain your medieval anti-Semitism quite well.

    No, Max doesn’t hate Jews. He “only” hates their religion, and the thing they’re most famous for — writing the Bible and bringing its elevated ethics to the world. He considers their ancestors lower than pond scum, but no, Max doesn’t hate Jews.

    No, Max doesn’t hate Israel. He just hates the God of Israel, whom he calls grotesque and despicable.

    No, Max doesn’t disrespect Jews. He just hates the source of both their religion and peoplehood and implies that anyone who follows any of it is at best a fool and at worst a moral bankrupt.

    So if Jews follow Max’s rules and are obedient little atheists, they’re fine. But if they show the slightest sign of any cultural or religious Jewishness, out comes the murderous hate and bigotry.

  • Jack

    No, Larry, as another poster pointed out, Max flatly lied about the Akeda. He implied that God wanted the sacrifice of Isaac when in fact God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac. Yes, of course, God was testing the obedience of Abraham, but equally key is the fact that at the very end, God halted the sacrifice of Isaac.

    Both Judaism and Christianity note both aspects of the story. Judaism rightly stressed the latter, because in the ancient world, especially among Israel’s immediate neighbors, the sacrificing of children to the gods was rampant.

  • Jack

    Max, you know as well as I do that I posted no such thing. It is contrary to everything I am and believe.

    Max, you’re the bigot and the anti-Semite with your insane ravings that go far beyond mere critiques of the Bible. I know people who are atheist and critique the Bible and I enjoy debates with them. But unlike you, they’re not foaming-at-the-mouth haters.

    Put simply, Max, your bigotry extends far beyond your atheism. It is evidently ingrained in your personality. Your atheism has little or nothing to do with it.

    And if you can’t see it, you’re blinder than blind.

  • Jack

    Wrong as usual, Max. I despise and reject the notion that the Jewish people are guilty of any crimes whatsoever. The notion of collective guilt for anything is primitive and abhorrent. And as for individual responsibility, if you’re referring to the death of Jesus, I place the blame at the feet of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. And the only Jews who went along with that were a tiny number of pro-Roman collaborators whom most Jews rightly saw as traitors to their people by virtue of their collaborations.

    As usual, Max, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • Jack

    Well, Max, at least I’ve shamed you into posting the source so I’d have an opportunity to read it.

    Again, as you well know, that wasn’t me, because it contradicts everything I believe. And as you know, a number of people on this web site, yourself included, have been caught red-handed either making up new names for themselves or stealing other people’s names and posting as them.

    That’s what people do when they can’t intellectually defend their positions on issues. Whoever gives them the most grief often gets their name stolen.

    But you knew that already.

  • Jack,

    “Again, as you well know, that wasn’t me”

    What is your problem? I caught you red handed
    spewing bigotry several times. It is just sad.
    Yet you have never found me doing any such thing.

    You are projecting your own bigotry (which you clearly have) against Jews onto everyone who disagrees with you. Christian texts command bigotry and you have followed it perfectly.

    You lose every argument so you resort to charges of bigotry and other ad hominems. Look in the mirror.

  • LARRY

    Jack, no he didn’t. It is the usual response people give Max when he gives his quotes. As if context ever mattered to people proof-texting the Bible when trying to justify bad behavior.

    He gave the typical Christian take on the story. Being an ex-Christian, that would be natural. Emphasizing the willingness to sacrifice in God’s name. It is different from the Jewish take on the same story.

    Its telling that Christians typically use the term “Old Testament” to denote scripture which is generally inhumane (and arbitrarily harsh). Yet Jews look to the same books as a justification for charity and social justice. Go figure.

  • Jack,

    “…He just hates the source…”

    Read some books.
    Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus bear NO RESPONSIBILITY for the enslaving, bigoted hogwash they inherited from their parent’s insufferable holy texts!

    ALL BELIEVERS ARE VICTIMS.
    Denied their rights by people who refuse them permission to excuse themselves from their parent’s fears and superstitions. People like yourself who insist someone raised in religion must be forbidden to leave that filthy cage.

    Every child is born Atheist and with equal rights.
    But people like you – in your bigotry – lump them into groups before they can think for themselves and you make decisions about them based on their last names!

    Jack said: September 7, 2015 at 11:19 am
    “Funny, isn’t it, how Jews…for themselves.” – JACK

    Shameful. You would never find me uttering any such thing!
    Don’t stir this pot with me again.

  • Jack

    Max, we both know what I believe & what you believe. We both know who’s lying on questions of fact, but isn’t it interesting how you feel compelled to lie to advance your beliefs.

    Let me ask you something, Max:

    If you are so secure in your convictions, why lie?

    I and others have caught you in numerous lies when we confront the myriads of inaccuracies, half-truths, and outright distortions that fill your spamming posts.

    One could write it off as carelessness, but it’s your response that reveals it to be more than carelessness:

    When confronted with one of your many mistakes, you typically respond with avalanches of further quotations until the storm has passed…..and then you go right ahead and post the same thing you were called on in the first place.

    Max, you’re the one who’s been this web site’s #1 hate monger, and I’ve even caught you posting translations that were popularized by white supremacist hate sites.

    Is this a coincidence?

  • Jack

    Wrong, Larry. Neither Christians nor Jews present the Akeda in a way that leads the reader to believe God wanted Abraham to kill Isaac. Both Christians and Jews are faithful to what the text actually says, albeit in somewhat different ways.

    That’s what makes Max’s post so different. He’s lying about the text. It says exactly the opposite of what he claims it says. It says God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac. That’s how the story ends.

    Max deliberately left out how the story ends, with God preventing the killing.

    Why? Because he wants to present the God of the Jews as a murderer. He says so, right in his posts. He calls the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob nothing less than a bloodthirsty demon.

    And Max knows that as well as anybody.

  • Jack

    Max, why did you dodge Jonathan Dick’s post, which showed numerous inaccuracies and outright lies in just one post of yours, starting with your lying about the Akeda?

    Hmm?

    Who taught you to lie and distort so readily?

    Maybe it’s the same family that that evidently brought you up to hate the Jewish people and trash their customs, traditions, and religion.

  • Jack

    Oh, and we’re supposed to believe that the same Max who posts bigoted translations of pet scriptures lifted from white supremacist hate sites had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the very first post on this thread just happens to be named “Tom Metzger,” a notorious white supremacist?

    Tom Metzger just happened to show up on this site.

    Sure…..

    Max, your game is over.

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