The contradiction between the secular and fundamentalist roots of ISIS is more apparent than real

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Hassan Hassan and Michael Weiss — a Chatham House review: Despite its declaration of a new ‘caliphate’ based on jihadist principles, much of the senior leadership Islamic State is actually made up of Saddam-era Baath Party members.

A study of the origins and make-up of Islamic State characterizes the jihadist group as a ‘spectral hold-over’ of the old regime.

‘Most of its top decision-makers served either in Saddam Hussein’s military or security services. In a sense, ‘secular’ Baathism has returned to Iraq under the guise of Islamic fundamentalism.’

The authors, Syrian researcher Hassan Hassan, who hails from the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border, and the American journalist Michael Weiss, write that this contradiction between secular and fundamentalist is more apparent than real.

Despite the secular origins of the Baath party, Saddam Hussein used it to preserve the dominance of Iraq’s Sunni Muslims – only 20 per cent of the population – and repress the majority Shia. In the declining years of his rule Saddam Hussein adopted an overtly religious path, in the hope of co-opting the Sunni Muslim leadership. In fact, Saddam lost control of his so-called Islamic Faith Campaign and many Baath Party members fell under the spell of the imams. [Continue reading…]

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