NZASR Conference 2018, NZASR Conference 2015

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The Islamic credentials of the Islamic State
Christopher van der Krogt

Last modified: 2015-10-28


Declarations by anxious politicians and embarrassed Muslims that the movement calling itself “The Islamic State” (IS) is not genuinely Islamic owe more to normative assumptions about what constitutes Islam than to disinterested empirical observation of Islam as a historical phenomenon. The organization would not exist without the historic religion in which it is firmly rooted, nor can it reasonably be said to have departed from Islam.  Rather, IS is a manifestation of a particular kind of Islam, namely jihadi-salafism.  Assertions that it is merely a cypher for some other kind of movement taking the guise of religion rely on a misunderstanding of religion in general and Islam in particular as somehow incompatible with ordinary human aspirations and motivations.  The very features of IS that most bemuse and horrify observers, such as the declaration of a restored caliphate, war on dissidents and unbelievers, and the sexual enslavement of non-Muslim women, express values and ideals accepted as normative through most of Islamic history.


Islamic State; insider-outsider perspectives; definition of religion