Salazar, “Words Are Weapons”

7750a0573a62c46fce179f78d9b48006A bishop once explained to me the rhetorical appeal of Islam to the Christians of late antiquity this way. “Think of the Nicene Creed,” he said. “It goes on for paragraphs and is so complex that it takes years of study really to understand it. What does it say to the average person?” Whereas the Islamic profession of faith, the Shahada, is powerfully concise — only a sentence long. “Think how appealing that must have been to Byzantine Christians tired of theological dispute.” A forthcoming book from University of Cape Town scholar Phillipe-Joseph Salazar, Words are Weapons: Inside ISIS’s Rhetoric of Terror (Yale) addresses the power of words, including the Shahada, in the appeal of the Islamic State today. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

 The first book to offer a rigorous, sophisticated analysis of ISIS’s rhetoric and why it is so persuasive

ISIS wages war not only on the battlefield but also online and in the media. Through a close examination of the words and images ISIS uses, with particular attention to the “digital caliphate” on the web, Philippe-Joseph Salazar theorizes an aesthetic of ISIS and its self-presentation. As a philosopher and historian of ideas, well versed in both the Western and the Islamic traditions, Salazar posits an interpretation of Islam that places speech—the profession of faith—at the center of devotion and argues that evocation of the simple yet profound utterance of faith is what gives power to the rhetoric that ISIS and others employ. At the same time, Salazar contends that Western discourse has undergone a “rhetorical disarmament.” To win the fight against ISIS and Islamic extremism, Western democracies, their media, politicians, and counterterrorism agencies must consider radically changing their approach to Islamic extremism.

Manne, “The Rise of the Islamic State”

9781633883710From Prometheus, here is a new study of ISIS’s motivating ideology by Australian scholar Robert Manne (La Trobe University): The Mind of the Islamic State: ISIS and the Ideology of the Caliphate. Manne, a political scientist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, traces the roots of ISIS to earlier Islamic groups like al-Qaeda. Here’s the description from the Penguin Random House, the distributor:

In the ongoing conflict with ISIS, military observers and regional experts have noted that it is just as important to understand its motivating ideology as to win battles on the ground. This book traces the evolution of this ideology from its origins in the prison writings of the revolutionary jihadist Sayyid Qutb, through the thinking of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who planned the 9/11 terrorist attack, to today’s incendiary screeds that motivate terrorism via the Internet.

Chief among these recent texts are two documents that provide the foundation for ISIS terrorism. One is called The Management of Savagery, essentially a handbook for creating mayhem through acts of violence. The other is the online magazine of horror called Dabiq, which combines theological justifications with ultraviolent means, apocalyptic dreams, and genocidal ambitions. Professor Manne provides close, original, and lucid readings of these important documents. He introduces readers to a strange, cruel, but internally coherent and consistent political ideology, which has now entered the minds of very large numbers of radicalized Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, and the West.

However disturbing and unsettling, this book is essential reading for anyone concerned about terrorist violence.

 

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Around the Web

Some important law-and-religion stories from around the web:

Around the Web

Some important law-and-religion stories from around the web:

 

Mekhennet, “I Was Told to Come Alone”

Souad Mekhennet is a German journalist of Turkish-Moroccan descent. She has covered the Islamic State and other jihadi groups extensively for papers like The New York Times and the Washington Post. This month, Henry Holt releases her memoir of some of her experiences tracking down and interviewing extremists, I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad. Here’s the publisher’s description:

9781627798976“I was told to come alone. I was not to carry any identification, and would have to leave my cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at my hotel. . . .”

For her whole life, Souad Mekhennet, a reporter for The Washington Post who was born and educated in Germany, has had to balance the two sides of her upbringing – Muslim and Western. She has also sought to provide a mediating voice between these cultures, which too often misunderstand each other.

In this compelling and evocative memoir, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighborhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized and the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence. In her travels across the Middle East and North Africa, she documents her chilling run-ins with various intelligence services and shows why the Arab Spring never lived up to its promise. She then returns to Europe, first in London, where she uncovers the identity of the notorious ISIS executioner “Jihadi John,” and then in France, Belgium, and her native Germany, where terror has come to the heart of Western civilization.

Mekhennet’s background has given her unique access to some of the world’s most wanted men, who generally refuse to speak to Western journalists. She is not afraid to face personal danger to reach out to individuals in the inner circles of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and their affiliates; when she is told to come alone to an interview, she never knows what awaits at her destination.

Souad Mekhennet is an ideal guide to introduce us to the human beings behind the ominous headlines, as she shares her transformative journey with us. Hers is a story you will not soon forget.

Around the Web

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Conference: “U.S.-Egyptian Relations in the Age of ISIS”

On Monday, April 3, the Hudson Institute will host a conference entitled “U.S.-Egyptian Relations in the Age of ISIS.” Among the speakers will be Nina Shea (Center for Religious Freedom), Alberto Fernandez (Middle East Media Research Institute), and Samuel Tadros (Center for Religious Freedom). The conference will take place at the Institute’s Stern Policy Center in Washington, D.C. from 11:45 AM to 1:00 PM. The Institute’s description of the event follows; more information can be found here.

HudsonEgyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s visit to Washington in early April presents an opportunity to renew the American-Egyptian alliance. Over the past three and half years, a wide gulf in policy approaches has led to disagreements on a range of issues, from democracy and human rights, to Islamist extremism and the Libyan Civil War. Will the diplomatic visit mark a new chapter in U.S.-Egyptian relations?

President Sisi’s visit comes at a critical moment for his country. In the Sinai, the Islamic State’s local affiliate is inflicting daily casualties on security forces. Its genocidal campaign against Egyptian Copts has led to a mass flight of Copts from north Sinai. This followed the bombing of the St. Mark Cathedral compound in Cairo that left 29 people dead.

As the new Trump administration refines its strategy towards the Arabic world’s most populous country, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom will host a discussion on the security, political, and religious freedom challenges facing Egypt. On April 3, Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, Vice President of the Middle East Media Research Institute, will join Hudson Senior Fellows Nina Shea and Samuel Tadros to assess the situation in Egypt and discuss effective U.S. policy options toward the country.

Napoleoni, “ISIS: The Terror Nation”

Next month, Penguin Random House will release ISIS: The Terror Nation by Loretta Napoleoni (The Guardian). The publisher’s description follows:

Silinsky, “Jihad and the West”

New from Indiana University Press, Jihad and the West: Black Flag over Babylon, by Mark Silinsky (US Department of Defense). The publisher’s description follows:

9780253027016_medU.S. Department of Defense analyst Mark Silinsky reveals the origins of the Islamic State’s sinister obsession with the Western world. Once considered a minor irritant in the international system, the Caliphate is now a dynamic and significant actor on the world’s stage, boasting more than 30,000 foreign fighters from 86 countries. Recruits consist not only of Middle-Eastern-born citizens, but also a staggering number of “Blue-Eyed Jihadists,” Westerners who leave their country to join the radical sect. Silinsky provides a detailed and chilling explanation of the appeal of the Islamic State and how those abroad become radicalized, while also analyzing the historical origins, inner workings, and horrific toll of the Caliphate. By documenting the true stories of men, women, and children whose lives have been destroyed by the radical group, Jihad and the West presents the human face of the thousands who have been kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered by the Islamic State, including Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped, given to the Caliphate’s leader as a sex slave, and ultimately killed.

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