A new order by the Islamic State in the A-Raqqa province requires all males over the age of 12 in the provincial capital to mark themselves present after afternoon and evening prayers. Otherwise, they face fines and mandatory religious training, the media campaign Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) reported on Monday.
The decision follows waning attendance at mosques by civilians wary of mixing with IS members, says Hamoud al-Musa, one of the founding members of RBSS.
It is not a coincidence that the Islamic State is homing in on the young male demographic, al-Musa says. “This is the group most attracted to and affected by IS ideas,” he tells Alaa Nassar.
Q: Why are IS members taking a census of the city by gathering the names of male residents aged 12 and up?
The names of males are registered by IS security agents and local informants.
As for keeping records of the names of 12 year olds, IS asks for them because this is the demographic most attracted to and affected by their ideas. If IS ever ran short on fighters, they would throw them onto the battlefields.
This decision is the beginning of conscription, and a preemptive step to imposing some sort of tax.
Q: What is the reaction on the ground?
They are defeated. Their concern is to live in peace and avoid conflict with IS, who threaten to force them onto the battlefields or tax them if they do not follow their orders to “wage jihad with your money if you are unable to wage jihad yourself.”
Q: Why do you think IS issued this order at this particular time?
People have been avoiding prayer in the mosques lately so as to avoid mixing with IS members, and possibly being forced to attend their lectures and speeches after the prayers. There, they proclaim takfir [excommunicating Muslims], discuss IS thought and calling on them to join.
Q: What happens if you have to go to the religious classes and don’t?
Every 15 days the Hisbah [IS religious police] give their records to their sharia judge, and those with nine absences must attend a sharia course or pay a fine ranging between SP1,000-SP10,000 [approx. $5.30–$53]. The choice of punishment depends on the personal opinion of the judge.
Q: Talk more about the religious indoctrination.
They are religious lessons, and [IS members] take advantage of certain times after the lessons to discuss jihad and fighting. Nobody can prevent them from speaking.
They say what they want, and discussion is forbidden, as though their words are divinely inspired.
Q: Are those who undergo IS sharia courses later thrown into the fighting ranks?
Yes, and most of them are children who are enticed by money and weapons.
People cannot prevent their children from joining IS for fear of being excommunicated.