Benjamin Dueholm writes: What accounts for the persistent appeal of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (or ISIS) to recruits from Chicago, Bradford or Melbourne? This year, the question became urgent to commentators and policymakers in Europe and the United States. The group’s battlefield successes, its territorial ambitions and viral spectacles of cruelty were made only more ominous by the small but steady stream of recruits it attracted from wealthy democracies.
Some of the proposed explanations have been familiar: the marginalisation and alienation of Muslim minorities in the West; a religious zeal that transcends the smallness of secular life; even the group’s thrillingly extreme apocalyptic vision. It’s not hard to see ISIS as another gruesome camp-follower to modern democratic capitalism, one in a series of terrorist movements and guerrilla insurgencies that feed upon the discontents of the age and the psychoses of their members.
But the story of the arrival and lingering global charisma of ISIS features something that sets it apart: the idea of the Caliphate. [Continue reading…]