One consequence of Islamic State’s barbarity is that we know relatively little about it. This is what makes Graeme Wood’s piece about it in the Atlantic, based on extensive conversations with its theological supporters, so interesting.
The mind-set of Islamic State is well illustrated by this discussion from its official magazine that Wood cites:
‘In October, Dabiq, the magazine of the Islamic State, published “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” an article that took up the question of whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam, and had come under attack from Islamic State forces in northern Iraq) are lapsed Muslims, and therefore marked for death, or merely pagans and therefore fair game for enslavement. A study group of Islamic State scholars had convened, on government orders, to resolve this issue.’
But one consequence of its strict theology is that it is beatable in a way that al Qaeda is not. As Wood writes,
‘Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding.’
Join The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth for an exclusive discussion on whether ‘The era of stable governments is over’ on Monday 23 March at The Rosewood Hotel in Holborn. The panel also includes Matthew Parris, Jeremy Browne, Veron Bognanor and Dr Matthew Goodwin. The event will be chaired by Andrew Neil. In association with Seven Investment Management. For tickets and further information, click here.