Rise of ISIS

Rise of ISIS by Jay Sekulow

ISIS is obviously a new hot topic. That means I want to read about it, but that also means whatever book I can find out there is probably bad. This is the catch with books. You can never really read about a recent topic and expect a great book. Can you imagine how many books have been written about the euro crisis and Greece over the past few years? These books won’t have the whole story and might even get torn apart by what eventually happens. But then I guess they are still good to the extent that they are a snapshot of a publishable opinion at the time.

Finding a book on ISIS was difficult. I first picked up ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss, but I found it to require way too much background knowledge. After reading a chapter, I was utterly confused and decided to stop. Then I tried this one by Jay Sekulow, which ended up on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s debatable whether this book is even about ISIS. A good chunk of it focuses on Hamas – which Sekulow argues is analogous to ISIS. And the rest is borderline a diatribe against leaders and institutions that have not outright supported Israel. I definitely got the sense that the author simply didn’t have enough information about ISIS beyond what we already see on the news. I was quite disappointed.

1) ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) evolved from Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Apparently, AQI was so ruthless that Al-Qaeda at large rejected them.

2) Islam splits the world into house (dar) of Islam and house of war.

The house is Islam is territories where Sharia law rules.

3) Shias believe that the caliph (imam) has to be a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis think that any believer can be the caliph.

There were 3 caliphs before Ali, who the Shias contend is the first legitimate successor of Muhammad. This Shia-Sunni distinction might be the most important “difference between” to know in the world.

4) ISIS has over $2 billion in cash and assets.

I’m surprised this number makes them the richest terrorist organization. This really hinges on the definition of a terrorist organization.

5) In Britain, more Muslim young men volunteer to be part of ISIS than to serve in the British army.

No timeframe, no definition of young. Almost a meaningless statement, but interesting nonetheless.

6) Hamas was formed on the eve of the First Intifada, as an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

7) Hamas fired more than 2900 rockets into Israel during the summer of 2014.

Those rockets, I won’t forget.

8) Boko Haram is a jihadist group in control of large parts of Nigeria. It has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

It’s easy to forget that Africa is very much a part of the terrorism story.

9) Obama’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) limits involvement to 3 years.

Apparently this AUMF has not been voted on yet.

10) ISIS released all Turkish hostages in September 2014.

Turkey is probably in the most interesting position here, both politically and geographically. What will happen to the Kurds?

Knowing the author’s background makes it much easier to understand a book. As I read this book, I increasingly got the sense that it was really more about the author’s opinion than the facts. I don’t dispute the facts in it, but the book is definitely normative rather than positive. The most unsettling parts were the multiple sections on how the UN and the left want the terrorists to succeed. After I finished the book, I looked up Jay Sekulow. “Frequent guest on Christian Broadcasting Network and Fox News”. Everything makes sense now. I have to say, given I’m very much immersed in a liberal, left world, it’s refreshing to hear what the other side has to say.

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