“What is Islamic State” (RELS 348)

“…The rate of religious change is greatest when a movement is young, and in times of social change or crisis” (Hammer and Rothstein, 1)

Dominating the international news for over the past year have been countless terrorist attacks around the world by the terrorist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). There have been many horrendous acts committed by this terrorist organization, such as murders, abductions and violent racism. The bbc article, “What Is Islamic State,” provides its audience with a useful synopsis to better understand the terrorist threat that faces the international world.

The bbc article explains that the ultimate goal for this terrorist organization is to “create a broader Islamic caliphate,” led by both a political and religious leader. In order to achieve this, ISIS has been overtaking areas in the Middle East and West Africa. Through this, we can see religious imperialism occurring in many smaller states in the Middle East and West Africa. As discussed in lecture, imperialism is the process of conquest by an imperial power. In this case, ISIS is a political and religious power invading smaller surrounding territory. “Eight million people are believed to be living under partial or full IS control, where the group implements a strict interpretation of Sharia, forcing women to wear veils, non-Muslims to pay special tax or convert, and imposing punishments that include floggings and executions” (bbc).

Western reporting on Eastern cultures, such as the Middle East and East Asian countries, often depicts an Orientalist approach. Orientalism, as defined by Robert Irwin, “…refers to the study of any and all Asian languages and cultures” (5).

Furthermore, as discussed in lecture, it is the depiction of these cultures that is made by any form of Western media, politics or academics. As a very controversial, yet influential theorist, I believe it is important that the interpretations of the late Edward Said are examined in relation to the Western reporting on ISIS and the Islamic State. Although I may not support all of his teachings, I do believe that it is important to understand them, especially when dealing with the terrorist actions of the Islamic State. As a world conflict rising from the East, Said held the perspective that the West depicts the Middle Eastern cultures through a lens which distorts reality (Exiles: Edward Said). Said believed that Orientalism was an organized science created through imperial conquest, which creates a false reality through the use of abstract categories. However, it must be clarified that Said acknowledged terrorism; he just believed that there are many unexamined contributing factors that are missed through Orientalism (Exiles: Edward Said). As the horrendous terrorist acts of ISIS are felt internationally, the thought of our media sending ‘distorted’ messages is very alarming. It is crucial that all individuals have the opportunity to understand various perspectives, especially when it comes to the media that feeds our knowledge of these situations.

For further information regarding the goals of ISIS – Follow this link


#CML #uwrels #uwreligions

Works Cited

Edward Said: Reflections on Exiles

Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein, eds., Cambridge Companion to New Religious Movements

Robert Irwin, The Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies



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