Following the declaration of the Islamic State’s (henceforth, IS) caliphate in June 2014, critics have attributed their behaviour to a combination of barbarism, and their self-appointed role as the saviours of Islam. The fixation on their archaic nature has produced numerous accounts that document the group’s ‘evil’ nature through their ignorance of what are, and are not, permissible forms of conduct and target in warfare, explained by a seemingly false reading of Islam. There are multiple flaws with such narratives, per the author’s argument. Denying the Islamic character of the group engages in a sort of ‘liberal takfīr’, to quote McCarthy, dictating who is, and is not, considered Muslim. Secondly, these accounts impose a particular view of legitimate and illegitimate violence, and apply it to all cases, and all people. Subsequently, because IS do not subscribe to the laws of warfare conceptualized in Western countries, their actions are subsequently beyond logical explanation and justification. This ignores the modus operandi of violent terrorist groups which, put simply, is to target non-combatants for political gain.
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Emma Clark is a recent MSc graduate from the University of Glasgow, specialising in the study of the (theorised) ethical and moral aspects of terrorism, and additionally focusing on de-radicalisation programmes and counter-terrorism methods. Her most recent dissertation project included a Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA) of al-Qaeda’s propaganda sources pertaining to the use of human weapon attacks in Western countries. Her past work has demonstrated a clear affinity with Islamic theology, focusing on exegetical genealogies of kufr, kafir and tākfir for projects analysing the narratives perpetuated by the Islamic State (IS) to justify killing Muslims; put differently, analysing how Islamic theology, and how it is interpreted, feeds into various extremist narratives that are subsequently disseminated, and are different according to, the location in which these extremists operate.