n this authoritative and balanced history of the so-called Islamic State, Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics, shows how Isis’s rise to dominance of the global jihadist movement, eclipsing even al-Qaida, grew out of the broken politics of the Middle East. Its success is due to the instability created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the “raging sectarian fires” in Iraq and Syria, as well as the failure of Arab states to represent the interests of all their citizens: “Isis is a product of an organic crisis in Arab politics”. Isis appeals to disaffected, alienated Sunni Muslim youths, offering them “a utopian worldview and a political project: resurrecting the lost caliphate”. Together with its “genocidal anti-Shia campaign” and its extreme brutality, Isis can claim to be “more ambitious and revolutionary” than any other jihadist group. Based on two decades of field research, this hugely important study is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the powerful political, sectarian and religious forces currently convulsing the Arab Middle East.
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