Islamic State

Aberration, or accelerant of system-wide changes to come?

Authored by: Michael S. Smith

Routledge Handbook of International Relations in the Middle East

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415317283
eBook ISBN: 9781315229591
Adobe ISBN:


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Is the Islamic State an aberration, or is the terrorist group’s grand campaign to restore a caliphal model of governance simply the latest manifestation of Salafis’ centuries-old efforts to achieve actualization of the “pure” faith? This chapter explores the conceptual underpinnings of the Islamic State, as well as the challenges that the group’s global initiative to build support for the ideology that informs its agenda may pose to the Westphalian system. It examines how the group has pursued various objectives in manners that could further enable the Islamic State, along with competing Salafi-Jihadist elements to induce wider support for their mutual goal of restoring a caliphate. Thereby, enhancing the durability of the wider ideological movement the Islamic State has sought to dominate since 2014. The author also considers such topics as how the Islamic State's terrorism campaigns waged both within the Middle East and beyond may have prompted responses from various governments that could serve to fuel the phenomenon of terrorism writ large in the Middle East, and the question of whether Salafi-Jihadists' efforts to challenge perceptions of certain influential Salafist movements as being credible stewards of the “pure” faith could stimulate efforts to restore a caliphate among Sunni Muslims who are not widely branded as terrorists.

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