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What Is (Who Are) the Islamic State? (11 of ?)

December 1, 2015

Next from the HuffPost list of 10: by Rukmini Callimachi (who wrote the article on ISIS recruitment of a young American woman): “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape” (NYTimes 8/13/15).

The title of the article is, itself, a trigger warning, and the instance that opens the article is very painful, only to be followed by worse.

Those of us who are familiar with the infrastructure of slavery in the anti-bellum South could design the infrastructure and bureaucracy of the IS institution of slavery of women, and we are aware that American enslavement of women included rape, and that Biblical passages were sometimes used to justify enslavement and sexual abuse of godless people from Africa; but I’m not sure that we would be prepared to provide an apparatus of religious, state-institution rape, as part of the societal fabric, based on selected verses from the Bible, taught by clerics as a way of drawing closer to God.

ISIS tells it fighters that rape is an act of worship, a prayer.

I’m describing this rather objectively, as a way of emphasizing by understating, since this is an extraordinary violation of person, and no subjective language on my part would “do justice” to the depravity.

A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.

A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month.

The practice of enslavement of infidels is viewed as an historical, right practice, since it was the practice of the Prophet and his disciples. Not to practice sexual enslavement would be to stray from the practices of the Prophet of the One God.

Mr. Barber, of the University of Chicago, said that the focus on Yazidis was likely because they are seen as polytheists, with an oral tradition rather than a written scripture. In the Islamic State’s eyes that puts them on the fringe of despised unbelievers, even more than Christians and Jews, who are considered to have some limited protections under the Quran as “People of the Book.”

This theological part of ISIS strategic thinking is a part of the image that ISIS communicates to both its enemies and its prospective recruits; but it is also part of the image that it holds of itself, within its fundamentalist, apocalyptic story that it tells itself—the true men of God, devoted, disciplined and disciplining, clear-eyed visionaries of the God’s righteous plan. An article in the ISIS magazine, Dabiq, was titled, “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” the end of days.

Clearly this is an ISIS tactic that is part of the ISIS strategy of terror, “sexual conquest,” and subjugation of peoples. Clearly it is generally, immediately, recognized by the rest of the world as a war crime and a crime against humanity.

But that’s in general. An army of the impotent. Specifically it’s a crime, and a mental-emotional sickness, of individual men—the pitiless and pitiful, repressed and oppressive, severe and severed, blind and colorless as night, lost, wandering, monstrous, and self-damned.

I’m thinking this is an example of what has historically been imaged as God’s hardening of a heart, beyond redemption.  Or perilously close.

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