Understanding the Nuances of ISIS

I’ve been trying really hard, sitting in this 31 degrees celsius heat to type out 6 reflective blogposts for my internship class but to no avail. This next portion of the blogpost might be disturbing, so fair warning, pls don’t continue if you don’t wish to have your mood ruined…

I have been distracted all day since last night, when I read/ watched this link one of my friends posted.


It’s a write-up about mothers dealing with the death/ imminent threat of death of their children who were self-radicalized and joined in the fight of ISIS. This was a very emotional and heart-wrenching piece. From the information the author collected, there was a common thread amongst the converts: lack of paternal presence, a mental disability of some kind, and a sense of belonging found with islamic believers. This is of course not to disregard the other kinds of converts – intellectuals with strong religious beliefs, well-off individuals who wanted a higher purpose in life etc. What is so difficult for these mothers is the suddenness of it all. 1. The lack of recognition of their children’s process of self-radicalization often leads to “what ifs” – regret for not catching on the symptoms earlier, guilt for not doing more. 2. The deceived trip to Syria and Iraq. 3. And then the dreaded wait and confirmation of their children’s death.

It never gets easier. The pain of loss keeps haunting them, the blame game and rejection imposed by the unsympathetic community, and then just the very simple task of finding the strength to survive another day.

For Boudreau, she finds some solace in raising awareness on self-radicalization in media in an effort to prevent/ reduce ISIS recruitment and aiding other mothers cope in similar situations. This activism, however, comes at a huge expense. Financial unsustainability is one, but the more detrimental consequence is losing the other important ties. “In a sense, she has chosen her dead son over her family.” – Her family, if it wasn’t falling apart before, is certainly making its way there now, as the neglect of her husband and her son (who is still struggling to come to terms with his brother’s death), and the lack of support from them will soon catch up. As outsiders, we might think it’s not worth it, but her work is important…ironically, her sacrifice, like that of Damien’s, will serve some sort of warped purpose to enlighten and impact so many more who find themselves in this situation.

As the ignorant hermit crab that I sometimes am, I only understood the general concept of ISIS, but had no idea what they stood for, or why they ignited so much criticisms and the real extent of the atrocity of their crimes of war. So I moved on to read a few articles on ISIS, including this one:


I didn’t have the time to cross-reference too much, and there is still a huge veil of mystery surrounding ISIS, so don’t take my word for all of it as information is still constantly updating as more is discovered. It makes sense that ISIS stems from al-Qaeda, but split because of differing ideology of the extent of islamic practices and power struggles. This organized religion is almost like a cult, but operates on a much more sophisticated level, as its spread of propaganda in recruitment is based off historical practices, Quran and the attraction to join in the fight is understandable. (I try not to use the word propaganda lightly, but with its purpose to manipulate and attract fighters, it seems perfectly fitted in this case)

According to Haykel, there is no such thing as ‘Islam’ or the mantra that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’. The islamic texts shared by all Sunni Muslims are to be interpreted differently.

This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.” “[The Islamic State has] just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

I can see how there might be some legitimacy, or so it claims, that we cannot just cherry-pick parts of the religion that we like, but with all the historical violence and the “progress” we’ve made – or so I thought, do the following practices remind you of anything?

  • Conquering territory and killing off the Yazidis and minorities to create a “pure religion” (Nazi era, anyone?) (acts include beheading “pagan” worshipers of “devil”, cutting off limbs of strayers, throwing “gays” from high buildings, stoning women on the claim of adultery (and not men) to set examples against violators)
  • Enslaving women and children, gang rape, with the act of trading these slaves (12 years of slave, anyone?)

Should we condone these acts on the basis of religion? What about accepting diversity and respecting others’ religion or the lack-there of? I don’t like to throw the term “human rights” around but the victims of ISIS have no protection, no rights over their basic living and they are marginalized because they don’t share the same beliefs or simply because they are in ISIS-captured territory? The refugee problem continues to grow and bureaucracy hinders a consolidated and fast-moving plan to absolve this war.

History has a way of repeating itself, and yet we continue to make the same mistakes. It would be ignorant to dispel the appeal of ISIS, or believe that most Muslims are susceptible to jihadism (the opposite is true). I will end off this post with a video on Escaping ISIS. I have no words to describe how outraged I am, how disgusted and sick to the stomach I still am, how much admiration I have for all the secret operators who helped save the innocent Yazidi girls, most of all, how much hope I have upon seeing the courage put forth by the girls who continue living with the atrocities they’ve experienced.

It might seem like a far-fetched dream at this time, but I hope this war ends soon.



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