“The Legal Foundations of the Islamic State,” By Mara Revkin

The Legal Foundations of the Islamic State
By Mara Revkin – @MaraRevkin
December 17, 2014 for Syria Comment

Notoriously violent groups such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS), and the Taliban are widely assumed to be lawless organizations. Judge Abraham Sofaer, former Legal Adviser to the U.S. State Department, summed up this attitude when he stated in 1989, “Terrorists have no respect for law and no commitment to accept the rules of any legal system.” In this article, I explain why Sofaer’s claim is false. Evidence from recent and current insurgencies in the Middle East indicates that jihadist groups are in fact pre-occupied with the creation of law, justice, and order as a platform for state-building. Observers of Islamist insurgencies in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Mali, have noted that one of the first things that jihadist groups do when they take over new territory is to establish courts and other legal institutions that facilitate governance. In order to understand and effectively confront the dangers posed by violent Islamist groups, it is imperative that policymakers take seriously their internal legal infrastructure and state-building aspirations. Although IS and other insurgent groups are promoting a version of rule of law that is deeply incompatible with liberal democratic principles of justice and equality, studying jihadists’ legal systems is essential to understanding how they use law to create a foundation for political power and legitimacy.

Examples of lawmaking by Islamist insurgent groups are abundant:

  • The Taliban establishes courts and appoints judges in newly conquered territories. It has built a school system to train judges.
  • IS’s  “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appealed to judges and fuqaha’ (experts in Islamic jurisprudence) to join the Islamic state as one of his first acts of statesmanship. This targeted recruitment of legal experts is evidence of the centrality of law in al-Baghdadi’s state-building project.
  • IS deploys legal jurists known as shari’is alongside combatants in Syria to underscore the primacy of law. One of the functions of these embedded jurists is to advise military commanders on the legality of operations according to Islamic law, not unlike the role that American JAG lawyers play in monitoring and advising U.S. military commanders.
  • IS has created accountability mechanisms that enable civilians to seek legal redress for their grievances. For example, in early December, IS issued a document in Aleppo stating that civilians are entitled to legal redress through IS courts for alleged violations of their rights by IS combatants or commanders. In this video, an elderly civilian man describes how he successfully brought charges against an IS emir, who was subsequently convicted in an IS court and sent to prison.
  •  In December, IS distributed an illustrated pamphlet in Mosul clarifying the rules governing the treatment of non-Muslim female slaves. Although the pamphlet describes captured female slaves as “merely property” who can be bought, sold, beaten, and under certain conditions raped, the pamphlet does guarantee some very limited rights for captives. For example, a female slave can buy her freedom, a pregnant slave cannot be sold, and mothers cannot be separated from their children. The fact that IS would seek to impose any codified rules on the treatment of slaves – rather than allow their owners to exercise unlimited discretion – is another example of the many ways in which IS uses law to control populations in the territory it occupies.

The Paradox of Power and Constraint

Insurgent groups such as IS have the ability to wield violence and terror arbitrarily. Yet the examples above indicate that these groups frequently choose to create legal institutions and rules of warfare that restrict when and how they can they can use force against enemies. The fact that so many jihadist groups voluntarily tie their own hands by adopting legally binding rules of engagement suggests that insurgents derive strategic benefits – in terms of local support and legitimacy – when they establish systems of law and order. Legal scholars have long noted a paradoxical relationship between power and constraint, whereby leaders who voluntarily limit their own authority with self-imposed checks tend to enjoy greater popular support and therefore greater power. Insurgent groups that constrain themselves by establishing courts and other disciplinary institutions appear to be benefiting from this paradox.

 An Islamist rebel group in Aleppo called "the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Supporting the Oppressed" reviews applications for aid on Feb. 25. In addition to handing out aid, the Islamist group says it is carrying out civilian administration in parts of Aleppo. Hamid Khatib/Reuters/Landov Attorney Jamil Osman says he joined the court system to try to insert Syria's civil code into these proceedings. "There needs to be the presence of lawyers because, frankly, the Shariah people do not know the procedures of the judiciary," he says. But it's the religious ruling that Syrians want, says Osman. The memories of the corrupt court system of the regime of President Bashar Assad are too fresh. "Most people in Syria prefer to have this system in place because it creates a large amount of trust," Osman says. "People trust the religious scholars."

An Islamist rebel group in Aleppo called “the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Supporting the Oppressed” reviews applications for aid on Feb. 25, 2013. In addition to handing out aid, the Islamist group says it is carrying out civilian administration in parts of Aleppo. Hamid Khatib/Reuters/LandovAttorney Jamil Osman says he joined the court system because “it’s the religious ruling that Syrians want. The memories of the corrupt court system of the regime of President Bashar Assad are too fresh.” IS refused to join the Aleppo Sharia Council, but Shaykh Maqsuwd (الشيخ مقصود), who sits at the left with black headdress and serves as the head of the court, is an al-Nusra Judge. 


In Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria, Islamist insurgencies have established justice systems that are widely perceived by civilians as more neutral, efficient, and committed to rule of law than state courts, which are frequently plagued by corruption, or in cases of extreme conflict such as Syria, have ceased to function at all. For example, in this video, a civilian resident of Idlib describes how the establishment of an IS court in the city has improved security and stability, and notes that residents prefer IS courts over the “corrupt courts” of the Assad regime. In another video, a Syrian civilian claims that IS courts have reduced crime by 90 percent. Although IS and other insurgent courts often inflict severe punishments and even torture, civilians may still view these courts as a fairer and more legitimate alternative to regime courts as long as their rulings – however punitive and harsh they may be – are administered according to consistent and transparent procedures.

There is strong historical support for the claim that law is an effective tool for legitimizing and maintaining political power in modern states, and if we think of insurgencies as “quasi-states,” “proto-states,” or even full-blown states – as IS purports to be – then we should expect to find that law plays as important a role in the formation of insurgent states as it did in the formation of modern bureaucracies.

The role of law in insurgent state-building is poorly understood, and this blog post will suggest some of the ways in which the creation of courts and justice systems may help insurgent groups to build legitimacy and consolidate power. In doing so, I draw on the history of legal institutionalization in modern Europe to argue that insurgent groups are using law to build political institutions in ways that are strikingly similar to processes of state formation that gave rise to Western industrialized bureaucracies.

Entrance to the Aleppo Sharia Commission in Aleppo City, headquartered in what was the Eye Hospital

The Legal Foundations of Insurgent States

Legal institutionalization has long been recognized as a critical phase in the consolidation of modern states, particularly in Europe, where Max Weber traced the origins of industrialized bureaucracies to a process of “legal-rational bureaucratization” in which traditional models of governance based on personal loyalty were gradually replaced by impersonal, “faceless” administrative institutions and objective legal rules. For those familiar with the history of bureaucratization in Europe, it should not be surprising that law is playing a similarly important role in the consolidation and expansion of the Islamic State. I outline below several of the ways in which IS, like any other state, is using law to strengthen its control over people and territory:

Legitimizing Violence

An essential criteria of statehood is the ability to claim a monopoly on legitimate violence that is justified by law. Islamist insurgent groups including IS appear to be more successful in gaining local support when they legitimize their use of violence through the establishment of a legal framework based on clear rules and procedures, as opposed to wielding violence arbitrarily. This claim is consistent with research suggesting that when insurgent groups resort to indiscriminate violence that is not disciplined by rules, civilians turn against them. As Jason Lyall has argued, “Indiscriminate violence can undermine an insurgent organization’s military effectiveness by driving a wedge between locals and insurgents.”

The alienating effects of arbitrary violence by Islamist groups were seen in the cases of Algeria (1990s) and Iraq (post-2001), where indiscriminate targeting of civilians by insurgent groups provoked a violent backlash. Al-Qaeda leaders later pointed to these unsuccessful insurgencies as cautionary lessons about the counterproductive consequences of unrestrained violence. For example, after the killing of former al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, U.S. intelligence recovered a letter in his possession from an Algerian al-Qaeda official who urged him to avoid repeating the mistakes of his country’s Armed Islamic Group: “[In] Algeria between 1994 and 1995 when [the GIA] was … on the verge of taking over the government … they destroyed themselves with their own hands with their lack of reason, delusions, ignoring the people, their alienation of them through oppression, deviance and severity, coupled with a lack of kindness, sympathy and friendliness.” Similarly, a member of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, stated in an interview in 2012 that the group had “learned their lesson from Iraq,” and were focused on a “hearts and minds” campaign.

The cases of Iraq and Algeria suggest that one of the motivations underlying IS’s creation of an elaborate court system is to maintain discipline and cohesion within its own ranks and prevent the type of arbitrary violence that has undermined popular support for other Islamist insurgencies. Insurgencies are more successful when they develop internal regulatory mechanisms to ensure that violence – however extreme and brutal it may be – is only used according to well-defined rules and procedures, and IS is a clear example of this phenomenon. The practice of embedding jurists (shari’is) alongside combatants exemplifies the type of legal disciplinary mechanism that states create to justify and legitimize their monopoly on violence.

Discipline and Socialization

In addition to legitimizing violence, states have historically used law as a tool to discipline and socialize their citizens. Antonio Gramsci identified courts, along with schools, as the two most important instruments of state formation, citing the role of the “school as a positive educational function, and the courts as a repressive and negative educative function.” IS appears to be using judicial and law enforcement institutions in a similar manner to maintain discipline within its own ranks and to socially engineer the society that it aspires to govern. In a clear example of the disciplinary function of jihadist lawmaking, this video shows IS morality police (referred to as al-hisba) confiscating hundreds of containers of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs, and lighting them on fire. IS also uses law as a disciplinary tool to regulate the behavior of its own fighters and leaders. For example, in October, IS executed two of its own fighters after they were tried and convicted on charges of banditry, spying, and embezzlement. In the same month, IS executed two of its own judges – both Kuwaiti nationals – after they were charged with spying. These examples illustrate how IS uses law to maintain internal discipline and obedience.


Another way in which law facilitates state-building is by enabling the enforcement of contracts that are essential to regulating social and economic relations, including not only concrete agreements concerning the exchange of property or money, but also the abstract “social contracts” that provide a basis for reciprocal rights and obligations between rulers and citizens. Anthony Giddens’ account of state formation emphasizes the importance of a “centralized legal order permitting and protecting an expanding range of contractual rights and obligations.” The Islamic State appears to be using written contracts to organize economic and political activities in a similar manner. For example, IS drafts and signs written contracts governing the sale of smuggled oil – a lucrative black market industry that generates millions of dollars a day. The fact that IS goes through the trouble of formalizing oil sales with written contracts suggests that the group is actively trying to legitimize its activities to its followers and to the world.

Legal Pluralism and Fragmentation in Syria

While it is clear that IS and other Islamist insurgent groups in Syria are using law to consolidate political power and legitimacy, it is important to note that different factions are promoting competing and sometimes irreconcilable interpretations of Islamic law. IS’s understanding of shari’a is the most conservative and orthodox – based strictly on the text of the Quran – but some of the more moderate Islamist groups are open to more flexible interpretations of Islamic law. The rivalry and fragmentation between different insurgent justice systems has given rise to a situation that law scholars recognize as “legal pluralism” or the coexistence of multiple systems of order within the same territorial jurisdiction.

The sharpest dispute between IS and other Islamist factions is over the permissibility of codifying (taqnīn) the shari’a in a written code. The Islamic State, like most other Salafi jihadist groups, fundamentally rejects the validity of codified or “man-made” law as an illegitimate violation of the principle of absolute divine sovereignty (tawhīd). According to this view, the shari’a is a complete and comprehensive body of law that can be interpreted and applied by judges; codification would unnecessarily distort its original meaning by introducing fallible human judgment.

Arguing against the strict textualist approach favored by IS, other Islamist factions and even a Salafi group with alleged ties to al-Qaeda are supporting the adoption of the Unified Arab Code (UAC), a codified body of law developed by the Arab League in the 1980s that is based primarily on the shari’a. In August, the Islamic Sham Organization (a revolutionary Islamic scholarly association) published a document recommending the adoption of the UAC. Islamic Sham makes several pragmatic arguments for codification, summarized by Maxwell Martin, including the claim that a written code will make it easier for judges to apply the law and will provide a stable legal order until a unified national judiciary is established. The document points to the drawbacks of allowing a diverse and decentralized assortment of insurgent courts to interpret and apply the law as they see fit – a chaotic scenario that could be remedied by the adoption of a written code to which judges could look for guidance.

The debate over whether to codify the shari’a or instead allow judges to interpret it freely has important implications for legal stability and eventual post-conflict reconstruction in Syria. Interestingly, the arguments for and against codification are reminiscent of debates in European history concerning the design of legal systems under conditions of civil war, where the choice was between common law systems (where judges have broad discretion to shape the law according to independent interpretation) and civil law systems in which judges are constrained by a written code.

Edward Glaeser and Andrei Shleifer have argued that common law systems are easier to implement in peaceful contexts (citing the example of 12th-13th century England), whereas civil law systems are more appropriate for conflict-ridden states in which judges are likely to be subject to “bullying” and coercion (such as France). Under conditions of conflict, civil law systems supposedly insulate judges “from coercion by litigants through either violence or bribes.” This claim is relevant to the Syrian case, where a major obstacle to the establishment of a coherent and unified legal system will be the problem of distrust and infighting among rival factions.

The debate over the codification of Islamic law in Syria provides further evidence for my claim that insurgent groups use law to control people and territory in ways that are surprisingly similar to Western patterns of state formation. If Islamist insurgencies are understood as state-building projects, then it is logical to expect that law should play as important a role in the formation of IS’s caliphate as it did in the creation of Western bureaucracies. It is impossible to understand the rapid rise of the Islamic State without understanding the laws on which it is based.

Mara Revkin is a J.D./Ph.D. student in Political Science at Yale Law School/Yale University. She is on Twitter @MaraRevkin. Email mara.revkin@yale.edu

Comments (23)

Akbar Palace said:

Mara Revkin should also study the German government of the Third Reich.

Once again academia has its head up their anus.

December 17th, 2014, 12:45 pm


Jasmine said:

Mara’s great ideas and the new modus Operandi of ISIS should be introduced to the Saudi legal system without any delay,they could do with some restoration to the right of their women.
This is so funny.

December 17th, 2014, 3:01 pm


Observer said:

Interesting that this blog is utterly silent about the ever shrinking incredibly small regime.

The front in Aleppo is breaking up with all the gains of the regime lost already.

The young on the coast are heading for the mountains to hide from the enforced draft.

The delegations are running around from Tehran to Cairo to Moscow to find a way out.

Now Cuba is out of the axis of rethithanthe and Venezuela is going to fall next to the clutches of the IMF and the World Bank.

Russia on the other hand is buying…… Rubles to shore up the currency spending more from its foreign reserves and capital flight this year is estimated at 125 billion.

On this blog we are discussing the sex of the angels and why not perhaps the Velayet E Fagih should be next.

One more thing: You still do not qualify to buy my property.

Clean money only please.

December 17th, 2014, 7:56 pm


Mick said:

Yes a legal system that condemns non-Sunnis to death is just the same a Western legal system that provides rights of individuals.

Sure wish I had one of them there advanced Ivy league degrees.

December 17th, 2014, 10:24 pm


Matthew Barber said:

Seems that the point is being missed here. Mara’s not sugar-coating IS or painting them in a positive light. Rather, she’s helping explain how they understand what it is they’re trying to do.

This has value in helping de-mystify the IS phenomenon.

Mentioning that IS’ code grants a limited number of pitiful rights to slaves in no way suggests that there is any merit to their project; it merely demonstrates that IS members conceptualize their endeavor to implement authority as part of a legal framework. They are working within the arena of legal ideas, even if the laws they produce are twisted, unjust, and inhumane.

I’m surprised you guys don’t see the value of this.

December 18th, 2014, 5:30 am


Jeff said:

This is really interesting. I hadn’t realized the common law/civil law distinction could be made in an Muslim context… but isn’t the idea of “Islamic civil law” a little paradoxical? I would think that since the Quran is the only permanently valid textual basis, elevating a manmade piece of black-letter law over judges’ discretion would sit oddly.

December 18th, 2014, 6:15 am


Joshua said:

Mara, Great essay. I couldn’t agree more with Matthew Barber. It is important to understand the fundamentalist Islamist groups on their own terms. One must take what they say seriously. To brush them off by using the “terrorist” jargon so frequently employed in the West is harmful.

They are trying to rebuild what they see as a corrupt society and government from the bottom up. ISIS clearly believes that Sharia and a return to a literal model of the forefathers provides a just and virtuous foundation for a new order.

To Western and most Muslim eyes, their interpretation of Islam seems like a complete caricature that gives expression to the worst revenge fantasies man can devise.

The ISIS penal code published this month is a case in point. It includes crucifixion, lashing, and severing of limbs for crimes such as blasphemy, adultery, sodomy, spying, slander, and apostasy. Read it here.

Zahran Alloush, the general commander of rebel forces in the Ghouta, the Eastern suburbs of Damascus and head of the Islamic Front recently explained that Sunni Islam is the only true religion and that all other religions are wrong, or “baatil”. He claimed that he would stomp on democracy. here.

The liberal Syrians, who were so important in organizing the revolt during its first year, have largely been shouldered aside.

Assad’s regime, despite flying the flag of “secularlism,” represents a brutal and tyrannical security state that is as sectarian as the opposition that remains on the battle field.

These two intolerant political models, as “Observer” implies, seem destined for extinction. Unfortunately, they are models that have counterparts throughout the Middle East. Perhaps not as virulent or brutal, but related. They are unlikely to go the way of the Dodo anytime soon. Certainly not before the Arab World decides on better precepts for virtuous government.

December 18th, 2014, 7:13 am


Uzair8 said:


More bad news for the Regime.

Tweet retweeted by Prof Landis:

Asher Berman @Asher_Berman ·Dec 16
Following western sanctions in 2011, Syrian central bank moved money from European banks to Russian Rouble accounts http://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR97_SYRIA_BRIEF_AW.pdf

Steven Metz ‏@steven_metz ·17 hours ago
They should have entrusted it to those guys who keep emailing me from Nigeria instead.

Joshua Landis ‏@joshua_landis ·17 hours ago
Don’t tell me the Nigerians are crooks. I sent them all my money!


December 18th, 2014, 7:39 am


mjabali said:

Syria Comment comes again with a great article. Thanks Professor Josh for this and thank you Matt. Also Thanks to the writer of this article trying to explain how the Baghdadi gang is trying to establish a functioning system.

Only Smart people appreciate good articles. I do not feel sorry for those who insist into seeing the world through their limited scope.

PS: Observaar… speaking of clean money, you can not compare a hard working HONEST immigrant like me who did not had a chance in Syria and came to America to study and work with a thing like you born to a family imported to Syria 150 years ago that participated into looting the country. You were born with privilege from the dirty money your family had from their bloody history. My family has no blood on its hands, not now under Assad and not before.

If your family had came to Syria 150 years ago it is very predictable that you want to sell what you have over their and leave. No attachment. No history. Goodbye

December 18th, 2014, 10:43 am


Jasmine said:

This is getting so absurd,no matter how can any human being who is trying to understand those losers who brought terror ,destruction and death ,he will fail,because their behaviors is beyond any logic or religions,to go further and try to justify and analyse their sick mind is an attempt to legitimize them and this doesn’t go with the basic human right to say the least.
This ISIS is an extreme form of religious hippies using Islam and empowered by the oil money,they filled an intellectual and an ideological vacuum,but they will fade with no time.

December 18th, 2014, 11:04 am


Mara Revkin said:

Matthew, Jeff, Joshua and Mjabali: Thanks for your insightful comments and I will try to respond in turn.

**Matthew is exactly right. It goes without saying that ISIS’s violent and repressive version of “rule of law” is deeply offensive to me and to anyone who cares about rights and freedom. The point is that ISIS is clearly following a legal system of internal rules and procedures (however warped they are), and their ability to represent themselves as “law-abiding” (from the perspective of that internal legal system) is helping them to attract new followers and build political legitimacy.

** I absolutely agree with Joshua’s point: We need to try to understand the internal legal systems of jihadist groups in order to be able to confront them more effectively.

** Jeff, great question: The codification issue is a complicated one, because most of the written rules and “code-like” documents that ISIS has issued so far are just collections of excerpts from the Quran that are copy-pasted word for word. So does it count as “man-made” law if a written document quotes the Quran verbatim, or is it just a man-made guide to the Quran? This is a question I am still working on.

**Mjabali, thanks for appreciating what I was trying to do with this article. Laws are powerful tools that can be used for good or for evil — We need to take seriously ISIS’s legal system because it is a critical part of their state-building strategy.

December 18th, 2014, 11:33 am


Sami said:

You don’t defeat evily by burying your head in the sand. You learn as much about it in order to defeat it.

Those criticizing the post are truly missing this point.

Research like this post are invaluable not because as some ill informed persons stating it legitimizes them but rather because it sheds light to their actions and how themselves legitamize their heinous actions.

Ignorance can never be defeated with ignorance but rather with knowledge.

December 18th, 2014, 11:48 am


Mara Revkin said:

Thanks, Sami, for understanding the point of this post. It’s impossible to defeat organizations like ISIS without understanding how they work.

December 18th, 2014, 12:01 pm


Jasmine said:

I just hope that this post is not going to be followed by a post titled”let’s negotiate with ISIS”and Sami will be the author.

December 18th, 2014, 1:05 pm


AKbar Palace said:

To brush them off by using the “terrorist” jargon so frequently employed in the West is harmful.

Professor Josh,

This is what you used to say, ad infinitum, about President-for-Life Assad.

“Understanding” a brutal, violent, and intolerant band of murderers, to me, isn’t critical. We’re not trying to discover a cure for cancer, in terms of research hours. The ONLY thing that IS useful, IMHO, is defeating them.

Sami said:

You don’t defeat evily by burying your head in the sand. You learn as much about it in order to defeat it.

No one is saying to bury your head in the sand, and I agree, nothing less than defeat is in order. But I don’t think we need Phds to explain who we’re dealings with. I’d prefer they use their skills to translate when these folks are apprehended and questioned.

December 18th, 2014, 1:46 pm


ِِA said:

This is a good piece. However, IS is applying a state model that was elaborated 1400 years ago and was in use for centuries. Certainly they have their own interpretation of some elements of the model, but an Islamic Sate did exist and was as powerful as bringing to an end the Byzantine empire. IS is a terrorist group, but they have an aim of building a state and a (divine) model to follow and a huge legacy of governance practice to embark on. The regulation of the status of minorities or the treatment of slaves was laid out by Islam and followed throughout history by the Islamic State(s). Both regulations were very well-advanced compared to what was in existence at the time. Of course they can not be applied now! IS thinks they can!

December 18th, 2014, 1:52 pm


Sami said:

The thanks should go out to you Mara, I am nothing more than a humble reader and an occasional commentator.


You should perhaps read more, and type less. I said it should be defeated NOT negotiated with, just as the scum Assadism should be defeated and NOT negotiated with. Both are the same kind of evilly just different sides of the same blood soaked coin.

And before you jump to your usual angry response, my form of defeating both scum is by knowledge and not a gun. It might take longer but education and knowledge is a muchore powerful tool that causes so much less bloodshed.

December 18th, 2014, 3:35 pm


Jasmine said:

Just read some wonderful news that ISIS lost a good numbers of its fighters today in Der-elzor,and I am just wondering what is their contingency plan now for a new strategy to build their phantom state if they all are liquidated?
I agree with you,poverty and ignorance breed fanatics and this can be applied on all sects of any religion,be fair and blame Sunnis as well,they caused the sectarian attitude of Shiites in Syria.

December 18th, 2014, 4:44 pm


Mick said:

I stand by my comment that this is idiocy.

First of all, I would not call someone using 7th Century medicine a doctor. Nor will I call someone using the same logic as a 7th Century religious/legal scholar a ‘legal authority.’

We call them quacks in the real world these days.

Just because an organization has so-called ‘legal advisors’ in their midst does not mean we should call them that.

By the initial premise of this article, the mafia could be considered an organization with the legal underpinnings of a growing a state.

They had clear guidelines they lived under. Everyone knew them. They were effectively administered. People outside could have regress, providing you did it right. If not, well you might end up like the tribe members in what ISIS claims in their ‘nation.’

Nov 2nd: Islamic State militants have killed 322 members of an Iraqi tribe in western Anbar province, the government says.

Aug 17th: The “Islamic State (IS)” has massacred according to a report of the SOHR over 700 al-Sha’aitat tribe members in the last two weeks in the eastern part of Deir ez-Zor. The monitoring group said that 100 fighters were among the members of the al-Sha’aitat tribe who were killed in several villages in the mainly IS-controlled eastern province of Deir ez-Zor.

December 18th, 2014, 9:48 pm


Ghufran said:

More than 8,000 readers voted in aksalser poll about UN plan for Aleppo:
أظهرت نتائج استطلاع الرأي الذي أجراه موقع عكس السير حول خطة المبعوث الأممي إلى سوريا، ستيفان دي ميستورا، الرامية إلى ” تجميد القتال ” في حلب، تقارباً نسبياً بين خيارين.
وانقسم قراء الموقع المشاركون بالاستطلاع بين من اعتبر خطة تجميد القتال “فرصة للجيش السوري النظامي لضرب مناطق أخرى”، وبين من اعتبره “خطوة جيدة للحل في سوريا عموماً”.
وحصل الخيار الأول على النسبة الأكبر من المصوتين (8163)، حيث اختاره 4205 شخصاً بنسبة (52%) من الأصوات، فيما حصل الخيار الثاني على 3635 صوتاً بنسبة (45%).
واعتبر واحد بالمئة (117) فقط من المصوتين أن خطة تجميد القتال هي بديل عن المناطق العازلة التي يطالب بها المعارضون، فيما صوت اثنان بالمئة تقريباً (153) لخيار “شيء آخر”، وألغي 53 صوتاً (فارغ) نتيجة أخطاء تقنية.
Readers of aksalser (anti regime site) are split about the plan because there are people on each side who still believe that their side can win, 4 years of blood shed and destruction were not enough for many Syrians who have not yet included the word ” compromise” in their dictionary. What hardliners are betting on is a military victory that will force the other side to give more concessions, but compared to 2012 it seems like rebel supporters are the ones who keep lowering their threshold for a political settlement.
From talking to people who asked for a radical regime change I got the impression that Assad remains the main obsticle to convincing their crowd to accept a deal. Assad supporters are very suspicious of any agreement that give rebels access to army and security command control because they see the uprising as an Islamist insurgency that wants to wipe them out. Another issue is finding another alawite figure that win the approved of the military. Rumors about a change in Russia and Iran’s position on Assad proved to be untrue, these two countries want a price to support Assad’s removal, that price is too high for the West to accept for now. I do not see a real chance for UN plan to see the light without another adjustment related to the presence of UN observers and the extent of rebels control over some parts in Aleppo.
The mistrust is so deep that only an impartial power can move things ahead, that power does not exist today, Assad sees the UN as an extension of NATO and Israel especially after what happened in Qunaitra.

December 18th, 2014, 11:01 pm


Extra said:

Mara & Josh- thanks for this analysis. Establishing a Q’ran-based legal system is fundamental to IS’s claims to be the true bearers of the legacy of the old Caliphates. It also provides some measure of certainty compared to the more arbitrary approach to legal matters practiced by other rebel groups, and thus may reduce resistance to their take-over of areas controlled by other groups.

As a longer-term proposition, I’d question whether it will be so helpful (you may have some views on this). Aspects of it will be so clearly at odds with other legal systems in the region, and modern world expectations. It may be able to work after a fashion within a closed IS state, but IS won’t be able to keep its borders closed forever.

December 19th, 2014, 2:18 am


Hopeful said:

Communism was all about building a just non-corrupt society. Nazism was all about a utopian Germanic nation. Isis, and all other radical Islamist groups before them, are also all about building a pure just utopian nation.

A bunch of terrorist criminals cannot sustain the continuous recruitment of foot soldiers. Declaring ISIS as such is grossly underestimating its potential, and its dangers. The world has done that before, twice, with Nazis and with Communists.

The feelings of injustice and hopelessness are powerful fuel for radical movements. Hundreds of thousands of young Muslims are potential recruits for ISIS. They are not terrorists or criminals, they are hopeless men and women yearning for a pure utopian society where justice and hope prevail.

Their brainwashing did not start with ISIS or with online social networks. It started a long time before, in schools all across the Muslim world, when they were taught the following myths:

1. Once upon a time, over a thousand years ago, there existed a utopian empire where goodness and justice prevailed called “the Islamic empire”. Everyone lived happy and nothing bad happened to anyone other than the “nonbelievers”

2. That society existed because its rulers and people followed the “teachings” of the Quran and the prophet

The Muslim world will continue to produce ISIS-like groups until it starts open and frank debate that fundamentally and deeply challenge these myths. The ideology of “establishing a modern utopian society by following a law based on the Quran and Hadeeth”, will keep on producing political groups who believe that they, and non others, truly understand how to create and implement such law.

December 19th, 2014, 2:18 pm


Delfina Serrano said:

Very interesting analysis offering a fresh perspective on ISIS’ strategies of self legitimation, though I do not consider it appropiate to qualify ISIS’ understanding of what shari`a is and is not on the exclussive grounds of the Quran as “the most conservative and orthodox” interpretation of Islamic law. In fact ignoring Prophetic hadith may be seen as quite unorthodox.

February 25th, 2015, 9:04 am


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