Radical Islam’s New Top Target: Rome


“Death to America,” runs the usual refrain of radical Islamists. They consider America to be the “great Satan,” Israel the “little Satan.” Their leaders fantasize about destroying New York and overrunning Jerusalem. But the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (isis) has a different focus for the next big target in global jihad.

When isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared on June 29 that the group had formed a “caliphate,” there were none of these chants. He still hates the Jews, and America got a brief mention, but neither was his biggest long-term target.

“Rush, O Muslims, to your state,” Baghdadi said. “Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians and Iraq is not for the Iraqis. … The land is for the Muslims, all the Muslims. … This is my advice to you. If you hold to it, you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills” (emphasis added).

Soon after, isis debuted its slick, sleek, professional-looking magazine, Dabiq. Once again, its focus was not on taking down America, but demonstrated that isis’s whole philosophy revolves around war with Europe and Rome.

According to the group’s prophetic texts, Dabiq is the location of a pivotal battle in northern Syria between Islam and Europe. The magazine’s first article describes how “the Romans” will land near Dabiq. An army of Muslims from Medina will defeat these Romans, the article says, “Then they will conquer Constantinople” (now Istanbul, the former capital of Turkey). The article says that in the ensuing struggle, Jesus will descend from heaven and lead the Islamic armies to victory. “According to the hadith [tradition], the area [of Dabiq] will play a historical role in the battles leading up to the conquests of Constantinople, then Rome,” the article reads.

The rest of the magazine explains why Muslims must submit unconditionally to Baghdadi and rebel against other authority, and explains the necessity of founding a caliphate. The caliphate, it says, is just one step on the road to this confrontation with the armies of Europe. “May Allah protect this caliphate state and continue guiding it until its legions fight the crusader armies who will gather near Dabiq,” concludes its feature article.

Defeating Syrian President Bashar Assad, conquering Syria and capturing large portions of Iraq are, according to the article, merely the necessary buildup to this clash with Europe.

In both the Dabiq magazine and Baghdadi’s speech, the enemies of isis are most frequently described as “crusaders.” The magazine makes clear that it numbers the American troops in Iraq among the crusader forces; however, this is Europe-focused language—a departure from the less-specific terms like “infidels” or “unbelievers” usually heard in radical Islamic tirades. The Crusaders came from Europe, spurred by the pope in Rome.

Ultimately, isis could be a mere flash in the pan. In Mali, for example, radical Islamists made stunning conquests only to crumble once they gained the world’s attention. But radical Islam will not leave the lands isis has taken, even if the group is defeated. This focus on Europe as an enemy will continue, and in adopting it, isis is probably reflecting the beliefs already prevalent in the area. The language isis is using is not new; other preachers have made similar statements. After all, Rome is the center for Catholicism, Islam’s largest competitor religion. isis is simply one of the first groups to rise to prominence with Europe as its top focus.

The Bible forecasts a final clash between a Vatican-led Europe and radical Islam led by Iran. Now we see a radical Islamic group declaring its will to fight Europe—“the Romans” and “crusaders.” Radical Muslims see this clash as a major part of their version of the end of the world and the triumph of Islam, so they are training fighters to attack these crusading states. Such an attack could revolutionize Europe’s view of Islam and the Middle East, the same way the 9/11 attack transformed America. This could bring the battle radical Islamists hope for.

For more information on the coming clash between radical Islam and a united European superpower, read “The Crusades Are Critical History.”