Expert on ISIS: 'There is nothing that we could do to remain safe'

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Expert on ISIS: 'There is nothing that we could do to remain safe'
FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. slamic State militants are barricading down for a possible assault on their de facto capital Raqqa, hiding among civilian homes and preventing anyone from fleeing, as international airstrikes intensify on the Syrian city in the wake of the Paris attacks. For many, the threat of missiles and bombs from the enemies of Islamic State is more of an immediate threat than the vicious oppression of the jihadisâ themselves. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)
In this photo released on May 4, 2015, by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, Islamic State militants pass by a convoy in Tel Abyad town, northeast Syria. In contrast to the failures of the Iraqi army, in Syria Kurdish fighters are on the march against the Islamic State group, capturing towns and villages in an oil-rich swath of the country's northeast in recent days, under the cover of U.S.-led airstrikes. (Militant website via AP)
This undated file image posted on a militant website on Jan. 4, 2014, which is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Shakir Waheib, a senior member of the al-Qaida breakaway group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), left, next to a burning police vehicle in Iraq's Anbar Province. For the al-Qaida breakaway group that overran parts of Iraq this week, the border between that country and Syria, where it is also fighting, may as well not even be there. The group, wants to establish a Shariah-ruled mini-state bridging both countries, in effect uniting a Sunni heartland across the center of the Mideast.
This file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, which is consistent with AP reporting, shows a convoy of vehicles and fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters in Iraq's Anbar Province. The Islamic State was originally al-Qaida's branch in Iraq, but it used Syria's civil war to vault into something more powerful. It defied orders from al-Qaida's central command and expanded its operations into Syria, ostensibly to fight to topple Assad. But it has turned mainly to conquering territory for itself, often battling other rebels who stand in the way. (AP Photo/militant website, File)
This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Moderate Syrian rebels are buckling under the onslaught of the radical al-Qaida breakaway group that has swept over large parts of Iraq and Syria. Some rebels are giving up the fight, crippled by lack of weapons and frustrated with the power of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Other, more hard-line Syrian fighters are bending to the winds and joining the radicals. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)
FILE - This image posted on a militant website on Saturday, June 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, appears to show militants from the Islamic State group with truckloads of captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base in Tikrit. Iraq won the battle to retake the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State group, backed by a coalition of the unlikely in Iranian advisers, Shiite militias and U.S.-led airstrikes, but the country now faces what could be its most important battle: Winning the support of the Sunni. (AP Photo via militant website, File)
This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. Once a vibrant, mixed city considered a bastion of support for President Bashar Assad, the eastern city of Raqqa is now a shell of its former life, transformed by al-Qaida militants into the nucleus of the terror group's version of an Islamic caliphate they hope one day to establish in Syria and Iraq. In rare interviews with The Associated Press, residents and activists in Raqqa describe a city where fear prevails, music has been banned, Christians have to pay religious tax in return for protection and face-veiled women and pistol-wielding men in jihadi uniforms patrol the streets. (AP Photo/militant website, File)
In this May 26, 2015 photo, Bilal Abdullah poses for a portrait in the village of Eski Mosul in northern Iraq, nearly a year after Islamic State militants took over the village. In the Islamic State's realm, a document testifying that one has "repented" from a heretical past must be carried at all times and it can mean the difference between life and death. Abdullah learned that not long after the extremists took over his home village. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
In this Wednesday, May 27, 2015 photo, a girl holds a broom in the town of Eski Mosul, Iraq, which had been under the control of the Islamic State group for months. Most residents stayed in the town after it was liberated by Kurdish Peshmerga forces in January 2015. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
In this photo released on March 7, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, a member of the Islamic State group holds the IS flag as he dismantles a cross on the top of a church in Mosul, Iraq. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on Feb. 8, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, a member of Islamic State group's traffic police, right, writes a ticket to a driver, left, in Raqqa, Syria. Taxi drivers or motorists usually play the IS station on their radios - music, which is forbidden, can get the driver 10 lashes. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on May 4, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, people stand at the window of a media distribution point to receive CDs from Islamic State militants, right, in Mosul, Iraq. (Militant website via AP)
In this Sunday, May 17, 2015 photo, Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim poses with his son while holding an Islamic State group-issued death certificate - all that he has left of his wife, Buthaina Ibrahim, an outspoken human rights activist and official, in the village of Eski Mosul, northern Iraq. There is no grave, no idea what was done with her body after the extremists took her from their home one night and killed her in a purge after overrunning the village north of Mosul, Iraq in June 2014. Given her government ties, IS fighters quickly demanded she apply for a repentance card. "She said she'd never stoop so low," her husband said. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
In this photo released on April 30, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, new recruits of the Islamic State train in Mosul, northern Iraq. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on Dec. 24, 2014 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, a member of the Islamic State group writes in Arabic, "we are a people whom God has honored with Islam," on a newly painted wall in Raqqa, Syria. (Militant website via AP)
In this Wednesday, May 27, 2015 photo, a resident sits on a hill overlooking the town of Eski Mosul, Iraq. The hole next to him is a former grave that was opened up by the Islamic State group militants and used as a sniper hideout. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
In this photo released on July 2, 2014 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, Iraqi men gather around Islamic State group officials to sign cards testifying that they have "repented" from their heretical past, in Mosul, northern Iraq. In a series of interviews by Associated Press journalists, former prisoners and residents who lived under IS rule describe how one of the richest, most sophisticated terrorist organizations in the world accumulates money, terrifies residents, indoctrinates children and buys loyalties. (Militant website via AP)
In this Wednesday, May 27, 2015 photo, Salim Ahmed, a former Iraqi Army member, holds the "repentance card" he received from the Islamic State group in June 2014 shortly after the militants took over his home village of Eski Mosul in northern Iraq. The document is part of the apparatus of control the Islamic State group has constructed across its self-declared "caliphate," the territory it conquered in Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
In this photo released on May 14, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, a member of the Islamic State group's vice police known as "Hisba," right, reads a verdict handed down by an Islamic court sentencing many they accused of adultery to lashing, in Raqqa City, Syria. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on Jan. 14, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, Islamic State militants kill a man they accused of being a homosexual by throwing him off a building in Syria's northeastern province of Hassakeh. In a series of interviews by Associated Press journalists, former prisoners and residents who lived under IS rule describe how one of the richest, most sophisticated terrorist organizations in the world accumulates money, terrifies residents, indoctrinates children and buys loyalties. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on March 7, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, a member of the Islamic State group destroys an icon of the Virgin Mary and Jesus on the wall of a church in Mosul, Iraq. In a series of interviews by Associated Press journalists, former prisoners and residents who lived under IS rule describe how one of the richest, most sophisticated terrorist organizations in the world accumulates money, terrifies residents, indoctrinates children and buys loyalties. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on Jan. 31, 2014 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, women in niqabs - enveloping black robes and veils that leaves only the eyes visible - sew niqabs, which are required for women in Islamic State-held territory, in a factory in Mosul, Iraq. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on Feb. 10, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, two Syrian citizens, right, sit in the office of an inheritance judge of Islamic State group, in the town of al-Tabqa in Raqqa City, Syria. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on April 17, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, a member of the Islamic State group's vice police known as "Hisba," patrols a market in Raqqa City, Syria. The Arabic words on the vest read, "The Islamic State - Hisba (vice police)." (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on Feb. 10, 2015 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, two women sit in the office of an Islamic State group judge, center, at an Islamic court in al-Tabqa town in Raqqa City, Syria. (Militant website via AP)
In this photo released on January 31, 2014 by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, members of the Islamic State group, left, distribute niqabs, enveloping black robes and veils that leave only the eyes visible, to Iraqi women in Mosul, northern Iraq. In areas controlled by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, women must not only be covered, but usually are required to wear all black, with flat-soled shoes; for men, Western clothes or hair styles _even hair gel _ can draw suspicion. (Militant website via AP)
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Last week's terror attacks in Paris have raised new understandings about the structure and motivations of the Muslim extremist group ISIS. As more information comes to light about the tactics used for targeting the west, AOL.com spoke exclusively to Shiraz Maher, a Senior Research Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London, who studies Muslim extremist groups. A former Muslim extremist, Maher has used his first hand knowledge about the operations of extremist Muslim organizations to explain the workings and objectives of the Islamic State.

Read more special coverage on the rise of ISIS: The complicated origin of ISIS explained

AOL.com: Why do fundamental views on western culture translate into violent action for ISIS?

Maher: To the Islamic State, the world is completely divided into binary terms between Islam and non-Islam. And there is no shade of gray. There is actually a policy strategy called 'destroying the grey zone.' And destroying the grey zone is precisely that ... this idea that you can be a British Muslim or be a French Muslim or whatever it is that you have multiple identities that you [have] integrated. All that sort of stuff they are completely opposed to. It is absolutism. And, to be honest, that even applies to a lot of Muslims. So, for example, they are very upset with the refugees who are coming over to Europe. They say 'why are you fleeing that way? Westwards when you should be coming eastwards. We are the caliphate, we are the state for you, the home for you' and so on and so on.



AOL.com: After the Paris attacks what is the continued threat to Europe and is there a different threat to the rest of the world, including United States?

Maher: I think the threat to Europe right now is pretty substantiated and is quite acute because this huge crisis in forming right now in Syria and Iraq and is happening right on Europe's door step. It's easy for these individuals to move across. A lot of fighters for Islamic State have European passports, so they're able to move across the continent with a degree of ease, and because mainland Europe is one continuous landmass, there has been a proliferation of firearms, particularly from criminal gangs in Eastern Europe that jihadists have been able to get their hands on. For the United States, of course since it's so far away, it has a better chance. I think the likelihood of [an ISIS attack like Paris] happening in the United States is quite low. What the United States is more likely to experience is a domestic attack, something coming from someone in the country who is a citizen who either became radicalized and sympathizes with IS and has not been able to travel for whatever reason and therefore decides to take activism at home.

AOL.com: What actions by the west fuel greater anger by Muslim extremist groups such as Islamic State?

Maher: So it is a very interesting debate about what activity upsets them. Some people think the fact that we have been bombing the Islamic state has aggravated them, it clearly has, but Islamic State was annoyed and angry with US and regard US as being an enemy when the first thing the west did, was drop aid into the Sinjar mountains [Iraq] where the Yezidi were fleeing. It demonstrates that dropping [aid] is as incendiary and offensive to Islamic State as dropping a bomb. The U.S. was helping people with the worst case of suffering by a group that has institutionalized sexual slavery and actually sought the end of the Yezidi as a race and as a group of people. It is quite a breathtaking situation to see unfurling before your eyes. In that context Islamic State believes that it has revived the state, believes very strongly in that notion that it will hasten the end of time, the end of days. In that context there is nothing that we could do to remain safe because Islamic State strongly believes it must conquer Rome. That's referencing Islam scripture that says the final battle will come between the Muslims and Rome. Rome is of course referring to the superpower of the day - of course now it is the west, it is the United States, France, Britain on and so you know at some point Islamic State believes it has to confront us militarily with terror tactics in order to have this decisive confrontation.




AOL.com: This is pretty dark and seems like there is probably no action except military action that the west can do to contain the problem. Is that correct?

Maher: I think you hit the nail on the head with the word 'containment'. The fact of the matter is the Islamic State is well embedded, it does control huge land masses, it has very dedicated fighters, it has relatively good equipment and so in that context you what we can do is recognize we are not going fix the problem. We are not going to have this resolved by just marching in and fixing it. The real issue for the west right now is one of management, we need to manage the problem, we can manage it down, and we need to contain the risk and threat of international terrorism emanating from a part of the world's population. I don't believe the very limited rather unimpressive bombing campaign that the United States is leading right now is going fix the problem. It's about containing and managing the situation. That is the best we can hope for unfortunately.

AOL.com: This sounds like you are saying the west should find a way to put them in a box and throw away the key.

Maher: Try to keep them in that box and unfortunately every now and then, if I can be frank, a bit of s**t will dribble out from it. There will be some spill over from that box.

AOL.com: What should people who don't know a lot about Middle East and Muslim politics try to understand about the Islamic State today? How should we make sense of the current situation?

Maher: I think people need to understand is that the Islamic State has moved on from just from what we consider to be a terrorist group. It is sort of occupying the space above that in a way, beyond being an insurgence. It is a quasi state. In that sense it has attracted and a mobilized a phenomenal, staggering number of people and we need to understand this is going to be a long-term threat. It is not something we are going to be able to resolved quickly or necessarily neatly. It will persist for quite some time. I always think about it in terms of decades. So people need to understand the threat of terrorism emanated from the region is something that is going to be with us for a very long time and there is no perfect solution. We have to look at it in terms of managing and containing the best we can.

AOL.com: People might read your view and begin to fear every Muslim around them as an extremist, is that an appropriate reaction?

Maher:
The bottom line is the Islamic State is widely reviled by scores and scores, the vast majority of Muslims, and what the Islamic State wants to do through events like Paris, and they it explicitly, I am not just imputing this or speculating, they have said it themselves very clear. What they want to achieve by this is to produce a backlash against Muslims. They want Europe and the West to become more xenophobic, more hostile to outsiders, more skeptical of Islam and Muslims because they want Europe to pull in one direction, which is away from all of those things. The Islamic State then wants Muslims to pull away as well, come back to that strategy of destroying the gray zone.

More special coverage on the rise of ISIS:
ISIS doesn't want to be known by this name anymore
US security response to Paris attacks likely can't stop ISIS
The complicated origin of ISIS explained
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