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ISIS' stated objective is to establish a caliphate with Iraq and Syria, but what exactly is a caliphate? According to Muslim tradition, a caliphate in an Islamic state led by one single leader, called a caliph. While the term is rooted in Islamic history, there is vast disagreement when it comes to how the caliph is appointed. Sunni Muslims believe that the single leader to lead all Muslims of the world should be democratically elected. That said, once the caliph is chosen, the title tends to be passed down along hereditary lines. ISIS, which is a Sunni group, has appointed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph. Shia Muslims, on the other hand, believe caliphs should only be direct descendants of the prophet Muhammad.
Throughout history in the Middle East and North Africa, there have been movements like ISIS that have pushed for an international Islamic state. They all share the same code of laws, collectively called Shariah law, as outlined in the Quran. ISIS has made their strict interpretation of these laws very clear through brutal and public displays. Anyone caught stealing can be punished by amputation. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, graves and shrines are all explicitly prohibited. The rights of women are severely limited. Women cannot leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.
ISIS declared the establishment of the caliphate in June 2014. Since then, the group has gained territory in the region. A coalition of forces from around the world has banded together to fight the group, but, thus far, it's been more challenging than any had predicted.
Isis 'crucifies children for not fasting during Ramadan' in Syria (independent.co.uk)
"Two children have reportedly been "crucified" by Isis for not fasting during the holy month of Ramadan."
When It Comes to Beheadings, ISIS Has Nothing Over Saudi Arabia (newsweek.com)
"The escalation of the war against the Islamic State was triggered by widespread revulsion at the gruesome beheading of two American journalists, relayed on YouTube."
The rules in ISIS' new state: Amputations for stealing and women to stay indoors. (washingtonpost.com)
"The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is now effectively governing a large chunk of Iraqi territory."
'More Extreme Than Al Qaeda'? How ISIS Compares to Other Terror Groups (nbcnews.com)
"The leader of the Islamist fighters sweeping across northern Iraq has been called the heir apparent to Osama bin Laden."