I’ve been reading as deeply as I can on the origins and characteristics of ISIS, trying to come to grips with its emergence and how it might be eradicated. But the truth is that each time we have tried a largely military approach to an Islamic extremist group, we’ve succeeded in mestastizing the cancer and ensuring its re-emergence in an even more virulent form. A military component will be essential, but it will not be sufficient.
At the very least, the existence of ISIS reminds us again that true evil does exist in the world. The ideology of the group is at least as demented and cruel as that of National Socialism under Adolph Hitler, and if given the backing of a powerful state military would be as equally dangerous. Of course, the paradox is that if it relied upon the backing of a powerful state military, it would also be a lot easier to defeat. Instead it lives as almost a virus in the info-sphere, capable of quickly evolving into new forms to match whatever new conditions it encounters.
If you haven’t read this story in today’s New York Times about the systemic use of rape as a recruiting tool and even religious rite by ISIS, I urge you to do so, with the caveat that it is deeply unsettling:
“The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets.
The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.
A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.
A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.”
That kind of evil, appealing to the worst in human nature, cannot and will not triumph. But while it persists it exacts a horrifying toll on those who fall its victim.