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What Is (Who Are) the Islamic State? (9 of ?)

November 30, 2015

After the Graeme Wood article was published, Nick Robins-Early interviewed Dr. Hussein Ibish, for The Huffington Post, about IS ideology. In “Have We Got ISIS All Wrong?” Dr. Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, suggests that we look at where IS converges with, and where it diverges from, similar groups.

It converges in its Wahhabist literalism and harshness, and asserts that Muslims must organize to fight back against Christians, Jews, and atheists. Muslims can violently create a radical change in the regional and global order, to their benefit.

It diverges re.

(1) its puritanical millennialism (“they really believe, or at least they argue, that they are God’s chosen instrument for cleansing history and bringing about the end times, which they feel is rapidly approaching”). (Here’s a related article.) They are passionate in this view, which is reinforced by their successes, and then makes a highly effective tool for propaganda, motivation, and recruiting (along with sex and such).

(2) its strategy of focusing first on near enemies, and later the far enemies such as the U. S.

(3) its declaration that IS is a caliphate, right now, with a caliph.

Ibish then responds to the question of the purpose and effectiveness of ISIS “snuff videos”.

To the question of “what sort of lens should we be viewing [ISIS] through,” Ibish suggests that while “the entire framework of ISIS’s ideology and rhetoric and language and worldview is based in a certain interpretation of Islam,” that interpretation is historically bizarre. He suggests that we view them as extremists from a millenarian tradition which they use to justify their crimes and political ambitions.

They must be countered by figuring out how to make Sunnis in Syria and Iraq believe that ISIS is not their best bet for protecting themselves from the Shias of Syria and Iraq.

Ultimately, though, I think you need a different political reality for the region. As long as the politics of the region are as dysfunctional and bleak as they are now, it’s going to be hard to look forward to a day without ISIS or ISIS-like groups. Much better functioning polities and governments in the region is something that is going to take decades, but it’s necessary.

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