The Islamic State as an ordinary insurgency

By Reyko Huang, Texas A&M University

This essay was prepared for the “Islam and International Order” workshop, April 29-30, 2015. 

The attention heaped on the Islamic State in Western media and public debate has centered primarily on two issues: its religion and its violence. On both fronts, the group has left observers aghast with its extremism. Those analysts focusing on the religion try to make sense of the group’s distinctive brand of Islamic ideology as well as the “psychopaths” who choose to become its followers. Those fixated on the group’s violence posit that its seemingly unlimited capacity to brutalize and terrorize has few parallels among violent organizations, so much so that “even al-Qaeda,” as is repeatedly pointed out, has disavowed the group.

Nevertheless, as Marc Lynch recently argued in the Monkey Cage, putting the Islamic State in a broader comparative perspective shows that the group is hardly unique among armed non-state organizations. This in turn points to ways scholars and observers might most productively study and write about the group. Continue reading on the Monkey Cage. 

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