ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) took the step of officially declaring themselves an Islamic state on Sunday -- the world's first "official" state created by an Islamic terrorist group. ISIS further declared Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, their leader, to be the region's new Caliph, according to an Associated Press report.
The dream of an Islamic Caliphate to rule the Middle East -- and eventually the world -- is nothing new among radical Muslims. Islamic militants have desired to re-create the Caliphate that ruled much of the Middle East during the Middle Ages for hundreds of years. ISIS -- in Iraq and Syria -- appears to have taken a significant step towards doing so, especially given U.S. President Barack Obama's vow not to put any U.S. military boots on the ground in the region. Currently, U.S. forces in the region are limited to a small contingent of Special Forces and unmanned drones.
The initial goal of ISIS was to create a Caliphate in the Sunni-majority regions of Syria and Iraq. Many believe that is only the organization's first step in promoting its brand of Islam at the expense of Shia Muslims and practitioners of other religions.
According to a CNN report, the ISIS Caliphate controls vast swaths of territory ranging from the Mediterranean Coast of Syria to the region south of Baghdad, Iraq. They currently control Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, and are almost within striking distance of Baghdad itself.
ISIS has already instituted its version of Sharia law in the areas it controls. Women are not allowed in public without a male relative and what ISIS considers appropriate attire -- including a full veil or niqab. Children are separated by gender in school, music is forbidden, and the Ramadan fast is enforced under penalty of law. All aspects of life -- religious and civil -- are subject to ISIS' interpretation of Sharia law.
ISIS spokes-terrorist Abu Mohammed al-Adnani made it clear that the group considers itself a legitimate Caliphate and that they don't really care about the rest of the world's recognition or lack thereof. A CBS News report quotes al-Adnani saying:
"The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas."
It remains to be seen whether the United States and the western world in general continue to sit on the sidelines as the world's first official terrorist state rises to power in the Middle East or will someone take a stand against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.