Money might be the root of all evil, but that’s a risk Islamic State seems willing to take.
In a bid to shed the "tyrannical monetary system that was imposed upon the Muslims" and avoid becoming “easy prey for the Jews and Crusaders," the militant group has decided to create a new currency, according to a statement released Thursday by the Financial Diwan [Office] of the Islamic State.
The plan for the currency, which is to be based on the "inherent value" of gold, silver and copper, came at the behest of Caliph Ibrahim, head of Islamic State and better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, according to the statement, first reported by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online activity by militants.
As its name suggests, Islamic State (also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL) has long sought to create the trappings of a state in the territories it controls across largely Sunni Muslim expanses of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
In its de facto capital of Raqqah in northeastern Syria, the Al Qaeda breakaway group has organized civil services, ministries and even a Saudi-style morality police to ensure that citizens abide by its draconian interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law. Punishments include amputations, beheadings and crucifixions.
Since its blitz expansion into Iraq in June, Islamic State has ramped up its state-building activities. Activists have reported that the group intends to issue passports for its “citizens.”
The dinars, dirhams, and fils making up the new currency's "categories" will come in denominations of 1, 5, and 10, according to the group’s statement.
The militants also detailed designs for each coin, with images including wheat stalks, crescents, a shield and sword denoting jihad, a map of the world (reflecting the group’s aspirations for global dominance) and even renderings of a pair of Islamic landmarks, the Umayyad mosque in Damascus and Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The group provided explanations of each design and its grounding in Islamic religious texts.
For instance, the wheat stalks are an apparent reference to a Koranic verse stating, "Those who spend their money in the name of Allah are like a seed that has yielded seven wheat stalks, in each stalk there are a hundred seeds, and Allah multiplies ... for whoever He wishes."
It remains unclear where the minting of the new coins will take place; Islamic State is the target of a U.S.-led aerial bombing campaign. The group’s statement assured peope that "several announcements" will be issued on how to obtain the coins.
If its enemies have their way, however, Islamic State’s proposed monetary instruments, if ever issued, will soon become collectors' items.
Bulos is a special correspondent. Staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.