'ISIS: Ideology, Propaganda and the World Response': A Discussion on Fanaticism

On Thursday, March 26, Professor David DiPasquale led a discussion hosted by the Boston College Eagle Political Society about the dynamics of ISIS, a hot topic in international news. The conversation took place in an over-flowing Fulton 115. DiPasquale admitted he had “never spoken to a group that was standing room only.”

The draw for the event was truly representative of the issue at hand: ISIS. DiPasquale addressed this from the onset mentioning how “attractive” ISIS proves to people. However, before launching into any sort of judgment on ISIS, DiPasquale noted the necessity to break it down, to “understand its goals and mission."

“We have to begin with how ISIS sees itself,” DiPasquale said. ISIS, comprised of Sunni Muslims, is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which DiPasquale explained, “is a religious organization that claims to be a state.” ISIS has a flag, a leader and those are very fundamental signs of the aims to be a state. ISIS believes, as DiPasquale noted, “to be acting on Islamic principles.” ISIS has also “claimed to restore the Islamic caliphate… an entity that lasted from 632 to 1924.”

DiPasquale continued to enumerate the various aspects of ISIS but noted that one of the grandest stances from ISIS is that “ISIS makes claims about what is or isn’t Islamic.” The appropriate term is Takfir and DiPasquale noted that ISIS membership is “happy” to make these claims.

When asked about the propaganda, DiPasquale suspected that the high rate of online, public activity and, more importantly, that people are “taken up by the grand project.” For DiPasquale, ISIS possesses a moral seriousness and political ambition and should thus be treated seriously.

DiPasquale also touched on some of the history of Islam and ISIS. DiPasquale noted that Islam is very diverse, with many factions; ISIS represents merely one sector of current Islam. However DiPasquale also mentioned that not all Muslim groups necessarily approve of ISIS and its activities. ISIS is believed to have been founded around 1999 and was, for a time, considered part of Al Qaeda. However, Al Qaeda, in 2014, cut ties with ISIS over the inability to defend the killing of fellow Muslims.

After DiPasquale finished, a discussion followed concerning the appropriate response. DiPasquale joined in to emphasize the need for “extreme caution in military invasion.” Moreover, DiPasquale believes “it is the responsibility of the global Muslim community to stand up to the very real issue.”

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John Paradiso