Women can’t leave home without a male guardian, accused thieves have their hands amputated, women are stoned to death for adultery, shops close five times a day for prayer. In short, the Islamic State looks just like Sharia Arabia, another Sharia state, and just like Iran, yet another Sharia state. How can this be? After all, the renowned scholar of Sharia Reza Aslan has said: “There’s really no such thing as just Sharia, it’s not one monolithic Continuum – Sharia is understood in thousands of different ways over the 1,500 years in which multiple and competing schools of law have tried to construct some kind of civic penal and family law code that would abide by Islamic values and principles, it’s understood in many different ways…”
Where are the different ways? Where are the other kinds of Sharia? Everywhere we see it implemented around the world today, it is the same — and the same as it has been everywhere for 1,400 years.
“Islamic State Entrenched in Syrian City as Obama Weighs Steps,” by Donna Abu-Nasr, Bloomberg, August 28, 2014:
In the Syrian city of Raqqah on the banks of the Euphrates River, Islamic State militants are busy building a capital fit for their followers.
Human rights observers say they have stoned women to death for adultery, while residents report that religious textbooks have been imported for schools and the market flooded with black cloaks for girls as young as 6 years old. Even as it wages war on multiple fronts, the group has had time to focus on the details, recruit thousands into its forces and celebrate victories by parading the heads of its enemies.
It’s a reflection of how entrenched the group has become in Syria and how difficult it will be to uproot it from the country where it was able to assemble and train enough forces to push into Iraq in June. U.S. airstrikes alone won’t do it and the international community doesn’t have any other options to fall back on, Kamran Bokhari, vice-president for the Middle East at Texas-based consulting firm Stratfor, said from Toronto.
Video: Does Islamic State Have Grip on Middle East?
“Who’s the other force that’s going to fight the Islamic State on the ground?” said Bokhari. “Its presence in Iraq is based on its strategic depth in Syria and to truly eliminate the threat from Iraq you have to weaken it in Syria.”
U.S. President Barack Obama ordered airstrikes this month against the Islamist militants in Iraq, though he hasn’t approved action against the group inside Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which has said that its three-year civil war has been against foreign-backed terrorists rather than freedom-seeking protesters, offered to cooperate in the fight against the extremists.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said on Aug. 25 any counter-terrorism effort must be done in coordination with the Syrian government, a demand that White House press secretary Josh Earnest has dismissed.
French President Francois Hollande said Assad can’t be an ally in the battle against terror. Assad is an “objective ally” of the Islamic State, Hollande told French ambassadors in Paris.
The U.S. is aiming to tackle the Islamic State without helping the Assad regime, though that may prove difficult, according to Michael Desch, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame.
“This is a circle that can’t be squared,” Desch said by e-mail. “In both Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and now Assad’s Syria we tried to overthrow brutal dictators only to find that their replacements were even worse.” Islamic State “is far more of a threat than Assad and if attacking the former bolsters the latter, so be it,” he said.
The Islamic State, which evolved from the al-Qaeda in Iraq, appeared in Syria two years after the anti-Assad uprising began, emerging in April 2013 following its break from the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
Initially called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and known as ISIL or ISIS, it made its first statement from Raqqah in May 2013 with the public execution of three civilians wrongly accused of being army officers. They were Alawites, the branch of Shiite Islam that Assad belongs to.
Mohammad, a Raqqah resident who declined to give his full name because of fear of reprisals, said people are unhappy with the strict social codes imposed by the Islamic State.
Women cannot leave home without a male guardian, shops have to close five times for prayer and people accused of theft have their hands cut off in public, he said. “People yearn for the pre-war days,” he said after arriving in Beirut. “But they’re too intimidated to speak out.”
The Islamic State yesterday killed dozens of Syrian soldiers it captured after seizing the Tabaqa military airport in Raqqah province this weekend, Rami Abdurrahman, head of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said by phone. The observatory put the number of executions at more than 120.
A video posted online by the Unified Media Center of Raqqah showed more than 100 men in the custody of Islamic State militants forced to march in their underwear at gunpoint.
The Sunni group fought other rebels, wresting control of large areas that stretch from northern Syria to the border with Iraq in the east and killing about 2,700 fighters from other anti-Assad groups, according to the observatory.