NZASR Conference 2018, NZASR Conference 2015

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Is ISIS Islamic? Category formation in the academic study of religion
Will Sweetman

Last modified: 2015-10-08


The rise of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/IS has sharpened public discussion on the whether or not the claim of those who commit violence to be acting in the name of Islam should be accepted. Barack Obama has repeatedly stated "ISIL is not 'Islamic.'" The debate extends even to whether using the self-designation of IS as "Islamic State" implicitly accepts the religious legitimation of the violence acts carried out under its authority, with David Cameron stating "I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State because it’s not an Islamic state... What it is, is an appalling, barbarous regime … It’s a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims ... will recoil every time they hear the words Islamic State." This paper will argue that from the standpoint of the academic study of religion, there is no basis for denying the self-designation as Islamic, even to those who use it in relation to acts of violence.