Saturday, July 11

Return of the king

"What accounts for the persistent appeal of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (or ISIS) to recruits from Chicago, Bradford or Melbourne? This year, the question became urgent to commentators and policymakers in Europe and the United States. The group’s battlefield successes, its territorial ambitions and viral spectacles of cruelty were made only more ominous by the small but steady stream of recruits it attracted from wealthy democracies. Some of the proposed explanations have been familiar: the marginalisation and alienation of Muslim minorities in the West; a religious zeal that transcends the smallness of secular life; even the group’s thrillingly extreme apocalyptic vision. ... ISIS and its ideology are violent, reactionary, wholly at odds with the ethos of democracy and progress cherished by modern secular societies. But the myth on which its appeal hinges – and the historical dress-up it seems to engage in – is not as foreign as it seems. A lot of people like cosplay. ‘One of the Islamic State’s less bloody videos shows a group of jihadists burning their French, British and Australian passports,’ Graeme Wood reported in his lengthy study of ISIS ideology in The Atlantic this March. ‘This would be an eccentric act for someone intending to return to blow himself up in line at the Louvre.’ Apparently, these people actually want to live under a caliph. ..."