The ISIS Theater of Cruelty

(New York Times) Hussein Ibish - The latest snuff video by the Islamic State shows the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian hostages in Libya. Each new release must trump the last in spectacular sadism. But the primary audience for Islamic State propaganda is not foreign governments. The group is recruiting Sunni tribesmen and foreign fighters faster than coalition airstrikes can deplete its forces. Islamic State rhetoric promises Muslim redemption from a history of humiliation. Its message posits the group as a radical alternative to Western-inflected, modern global culture, as well as to the prevailing regional order in the Middle East. It mines the reservoir of collective Muslim cultural memory when it declares its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the new caliph. Most Muslims are appalled by the Islamic State's savagery and spectacles of glorified sadism. But its conflation of millenarian yearning and contemporary grievance, of a mystical desire to redeem history with more profane appeals such as Yazidi sex slaves or child brides, is proving potent with a disturbingly large constituency of angry, alienated young men. The writer is a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine.

2015-02-20 00:00:00

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