IS is a new phenomenon in the face of an on-going conflict in the Middle-East in what I refer to as the Shami theatre. It evolved from a fledgling affiliate of al Qaeda into a powerful and organised “pseudo-state” under the leadership of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi and operates largely in the Shami theatre. The Shami theatre with its core group of actors has been scripted into a region of conflict, through a toxic approach from 1916 till now (2017), a hundred years and counting. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), of the 203097 civilian deaths recorded from March 2011 until November 2016, IS has been responsible for 1.48% (2998) of the deaths. Considering this fact alone, it had to be asked, “Why the obsession with IS”? This project considered the rise and development of IS and its choice of violence in the context in which it exists. Violence and the defining of violence have been contested for centuries, mainly because violence involves and refers to different conditions, actions and processes. The consequences of violence may be immediate, short-term or long-term and may be contextualised within an interpersonal framing or as the result of an inherent social condition. What is peculiar about the way in which violence is defined and which aspects of the definition of violence are included or excluded will determine the human experiences being examined and the conclusions drawn. In this regard the study examined the various templates of violence and interrogated the manifestation of these different forms of violence in the context in which IS functions. The research considered a plurality of reasons and motivations drawn from IS’s magazine Dabiq and other academic and news sources to explain IS’s lure for foreign fighters, its use of violence and the claim about its “clash” with western values. It then considered the difference in terms of theodicy vs. theology, so that the question was no longer “why are Muslims so violent?” but “why has this specific group of persons resorted to violence?” Significantly, consolidation of persons under extreme circumstances does not necessarily imply a ‘unity of ideology.’ From this aspect of the theorisation it became evident that limiting the discussion on IS and its attacks on foreign soil to a monologue about religion or demanding a theological reform of Islam to more ‘liberal traditions,’ or to claim that the genesis of IS is to be found in theology has largely been disingenuous. Widening the lens of analysis is a tool of academic integrity when the research demands it, and is not an attempt at denying religious ideology. There is an element of religious ideology certainly, but it cannot be divorced from its social context. What it does is to animate the role and impact of human action. IS has used the tools of language, religion and sectarianism to justify its violence. IS has destroyed shrines, libraries and schools, exhibited blatant intolerance of difference and independent lifestyles and choices and it has specialised in significant levels of barbarity, the killing of the elite and citizens. In this regard the study interrogated the “clash of civilisations” claim by exploring the possibility of explaining the violence and actions of IS in terms of western epistemological fraud and western methods of violence learned from the violence of colonialism/coloniality. The study linked all of these issues to the continuity of the history of dehumanisation and control of the space, bodies and belief of the Muslim subject. Although IS has attacked westerners, the majority of its victims are Muslims. The rabid sectarianism of Maliki and the unspeakable torment and torture committed by Assad has spurred further extremism which will at some point contribute to the rise of IS 2.0 unless an amicable and just political solution is achieved. All the templates examined ultimately led to the plausible conclusion that the violence of IS is motivated by revenge, the greed for power and control and in many ways manifests as the dark side of modernity. Religion is the currency invoked to draw supporters, sympathy and recognition, and to seek legitimacy. But religion, specifically Islam does not constitute the motivation for the violence. This study concluded that IS and those powers unleashing violence on the largely Sunni Syrian and Iraqi populations have been targeting a very specific enemy, with the aim to completely destroy it – they are attacking Islam and the Islamicate. The narrative, the tactics, the behaviour, the propaganda, the ongoing epistemicide and the pacts between Assad, the changing Iraqi regimes, the US, and IS all point to this. And attacking Islam and the Islamicate includes attacking the inheritors of Islam. This is the consolidation of the theorising.
Mini Dissertation (LLM)--University of Pretoria, 2018.