It has provoked everyone—and attracted too many unskilled, disaffected Englishmen and their familiesby James Harkin / December 27, 2015 / Leave a comment
The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (IS) emerged from the swamp of the Syrian civil war in spring 2013. The clue was always in the name. Al-Qaeda’s aim had been to build a terror organisation powerful enough to take the battle to its Western enemies. IS saw its mission as more religiously purist and constructive—to improve the piety of Sunni Muslims and build a government around them.
Like any primitive state, it began by taking a monopoly on violence and coercion. For impoverished Sunni Muslims who were sick of the ruthlessness of the Syrian regime and the money-grubbing corruption of the rebels, it wasn’t entirely unpopular. The revenge cult of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, had thrived amid the chaos, but the appearance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham spoke of something new—a pressing demand for the re-establishment of order. To some ordinary Sunni Muslims who simply wanted to live their lives, having the Islamic State lay down the law didn’t seem like a bad bet. “Even if their system is bad,” an opposition activist from Homs called Hamza Sattouf told me, “the fact that they have one is good.”