Islamic State Says Muslims Should Not Take Sides in the Russia-Ukraine War
The Islamic State’s (IS) 328th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, was published on 3 March. IS has made no mention of the killing of its “caliph”, Amir Muhammad al-Mawla (Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi), on 3 February, despite releasing an edition of Al-Naba later that day and four more since then. The main editorial in Al-Naba 328 focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began in the early hours of 24 February.
Al-Naba 328 contains a significant item about IS’s operations in Nigeria. Africa has been a major focus of IS’s for a long time and that continues here, with other, smaller items on the Congo and Somalia. Afghanistan and the war Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP) is waging against the Taliban is given space. And there are the usual items of vehicle sabotage in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and guerrilla activities at the centre in Iraq and Syria.
The main editorial on page three begins by saying that after the First and Second World Wars, when the states of Europe had “become heaps of rubble and corpses”, with “death and destruction … the common denominator between them”, they moved to fighting “proxy wars” and “cold wars” against one another in Muslim lands. This put them in a state of permanent enmity with God, and “what is happening today in the direct, bloody war between the Orthodox Crusaders—Russia and Ukraine—is but an example of the punishment imposed on them” for this affront to the Almighty.
Adopting the somewhat Russia-friendly narrative of this conflict—akin to the claim that Russia is “responding to years of deliberate humiliation, taunting, and provocation”—Al-Naba says “the Russian move to attack on Ukraine is not surprising”, but is rather the natural outcome of “escalating competition between America and Russia over control of the ‘Eastern European’ countries, especially after the America recently increased its policy of ‘support and containment’ … Russia considered [this policy] a ‘great threat’, which is aimed in the end at ‘overthrowing the regime in Moscow and replacing it with a regime friendly to America’.”
Whether this war is “long or short, [it] is only the beginning”, says Al-Naba, a “prelude to the further ‘Crusader-Crusader wars’.” This is part of the “punishment imposed on [the Christian world] for their disbelief in God Almighty”, Al-Naba goes on, condemning those who side with “Crusader Ukraine” because they oppose “the Russian occupation” and condemning those who side with “Crusader Russia as an ally of [Iran’s] ‘Resistance Axis’.”
IS has specific condemnation of the “Chechen apostate militias” belonging to the warlord-president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who are part of the Russian Army: these are traitors to the faith no better than former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, by IS’s reckoning.
Al-Naba professes itself alarmed that the coverage in Muslim countries that has downplayed the infidelity of all the combatants, and some have even called for Muslims to get involved on one side or the other. Al-Naba says that “no matter how complex the scene is”, the (IS version of the) true faith of Islam stands, with inter alia its duties to monotheism and al-wala wal-bara (association with Muslims, dissociation from unbelievers).
The “horrors of wars, no matter how great”, says Al-Naba, “are not comparable to the horrors of the Day of Resurrection”, and Muslims who lose themselves in earthly sentimentality by taking sides when a war rages between infidels will be made to feel this in the next world. Rather, says Al-Naba, Muslims should hasten to repent so they can attain salvation.
The editorial of Al-Naba 328 concludes by praying that the “Crusader-Crusader wars”, though still in their “infancy”, can be “perpetuate[d]” and the “discord between their hearts” exacerbated, so that God’s punishment can be heaped on “the infidels who were given the Book” and corrupted the faith, creating a situation where IS can defeat them all.
As ever, IS is staking out the “purest” position available; it has done this previously when Israel and HAMAS have fought, for example. Within the jihadist world, as is mentioned in the Al-Naba editorial, the clerical regime in Iran, which has been closely aligned with Russia since its inception and most obviously in Syria in recent years, has overtly taken Russia’s side. Al-Qaeda has refrained from an official statement so far, but groups and figures within its orbit have tended to favour Ukraine, hoping for revenge to be inflicted on the Russians for the razing of Chechnya and Syria.