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What is Takfirism and why you should call Daeshis Takfiris

Takfiri elements readying to behead two captives

Takfiri is frequently used in reference to Daesh (also known as ISIL or ISIS) but the term has a hidden universal applicability that surpasses our era, while exposing the dark ideology languishing in the core of the phenomenon.

Since they started calling themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in June 2014, the gun-wielding occupiers of Iraq and Syria have been referred to as Takfiris by many Islamic scholars.

Western media, however, tends to refer to the militants as Jihadists, a term that complicates the matter for true Muslims as they pursue and respect Jihad but not as Daeshis interpret it, which paves the way for the new term to step in and distinguish between the two. Jihad in Arabic means working hard to achieve a goal.

And the word Takfiri does that but not by serving merely as a handy substitution to fill the gap; instead it holds a deep meaning within, which plays a central role in how Daesh and its supporters promote their so-called values across the globe.

The term has been used by Muslim scholars throughout the history but it became more common as it started to appear more on Muslim social media pages after the rise of Daesh and was probably introduced to the Western media by BBC investigative journalist Peter Taylor in his 2005 television series The New Al Qaeda.

Derived from the word kafir, meaning infidel, the Arabic word could refer to any ideology that is based on declaring the dissent apostate, and therefore eligible to be killed by the members of the group. Takfirism is mostly rooted in Wahhabism, the official religion of the absolute autocratic regime of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism, according to Wikipedia, has been accused of being a source of global terrorism, inspiring the ideology of Daesh and for causing disunity in Muslim communities by labeling Muslims who disagreed with the Wahhabi definition of monotheism as apostates (Takfir) and justifying their killing.

In the case of Daesh, for instance, it does not matter if you are a Shia, Sunni, Arab, Kurd, Christian, or Izadi in Iraq or Syria as it does not matter if you are a gay in Orlando, Florida, or just a concertgoer in Paris; as long as you do not believe in the terrorist entity as the only legitimate power to rule the world, you are kafir and should die. It sounds more familiar now, doesn’t it?

With a closer look at what Daesh and its global network of supporters do, the meaning of the word Takfiri is put into perspective, since the idea becomes the underlying theme of all the suicide attacks, beheadings, rapes, and myriads of other kinds of crimes committed against all ethnicities in Iraq and Syria and further east by their likes in Yemen and Afghanistan.

It is through Takfirism that Daesh can make its opponents feel unsafe no matter where they live, i.e. in Europe or Africa, since your age, nationality, ethnicity, and way of thinking are irrelevant to Daesh now; you are no more than a target whose death would supposedly bring prosperity to the terrorists viciously seeking to control the whole Islamic world.

Apart from that, the word sagaciously exposes the mechanism by which the terror network’s leaders recruit members and manage to brainwash them as much as they are ready to lose their lives at the cost of taking some of the so-called kafirs’ lives.

Anyone would attest to the fact that it is not easy to be exposed to all the havoc at a given suicide attack, in which children and women are also victimized or, even more obvious, to raping and pillaging as a militant at a new village that has just fallen to the hands of the group.

This is where the fundamental idea in Takfirism comes handy again. By proposing the simple idea that anyone opposing ISIL is kafir as ISIL is considered as the only true Islamic Caliphate, the recruiters try to justify crimes due to be committed by the operatives.

The group employs cultic tactics to enlist members, many of whom are vulnerable young Muslims frustrated in the Western world.

Let us not forget the fact that the operatives are humans like all of us and it is not easy for any human to commit crimes as heinous as decapitating a Syrian teenager or providing Izadi sex slaves for the militants unless they are suffering from a serious mental problem that has to be clinically treated or why they do it has been properly justified for them.

An Iranian woman looks at cartoons displayed during an exhibition as part of the Daesh International Cartoon and Caricature Contest on May 31, 2015 at the Arasbaran gallery in Tehran. 

And here is the justification that arises from the Daesh leaders’ Takfiri outlook, while how it really works lies right within the term: Face the gruesome atrocities and kill, bring about gruesome videos that are used to lure others into the trap, etc.

Although Daesh recruiters manage to create more focus in the minds of the suicide attackers by providing a black-and-white image of the world, Takfirism simultaneously makes the group member more vulnerable and paves the way for them to be used as easy tools in the hands of opportunist powers like the US and Israel to serve in their favor.

The innocent lives that are being sacrificed are also shown trivial and irrelevant as they are of “the other” and not of “us,” an idea that, once applied systematically, yields a vicious circle embodied in the Daesh Takfiri group.

As Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, put it once, terrorists with groups such as Daesh and the Nusra Front “hide themselves behind the word Salafist to try to escape the title Takfiri and its negative connotation in the Muslims’ minds.”

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