The recent rash of ISIS-led attacks, including the San Bernardino shooting and a series of coordinated attacks in Paris on November 13, has shocked the world and sparked international debates on ISIS, religion, and violence. What exactly is ISIS? What is its religious ideology? How did it become so powerful? Can it be stopped? PW has selected five recent and forthcoming titles for readers who want to learn more about ISIS.
The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State by William McCants (St. Martin's, Sept.) offers an introduction to the history, structure, and eschatology of the Islamic State. McCants, a U.S. State Department senior adviser for countering violent extremism from 2009—2011, is currently a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy. He writes, “We’re used to thinking of al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama bin Laden as the baddest of the bad, but the Islamic State is worse.” The author was interviewed by NPR Counterterrorism Correspondent Dina Temple-Raston when The ISIS Apocalypse launched.
Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State (Bloomsbury, February 23, 2016) tells the story of Nicolas Hénin, a journalist in Iraq and Syria for most of his career before he was captured by ISIS on June 22, 2013, written by Hénin himself. The author was held hostage with three other journalists, including the American James Foley, who was beheaded while in captivity. Hénin was released after negotiations between his captors (one of whom was Jihadi John) and the French government and now lives in France, and commented in an op-ed for The Guardian after the Paris attacks, “Most people only know [ISIS] from their propaganda material, but I have seen behind that... They present themselves to the public as superheroes, but away from the camera are a bit pathetic in many ways: street kids drunk on ideology and power. In France we have a saying—stupid and evil. I found them more stupid than evil. That is not to understate the murderous potential of stupidity.” Hénin believes Western societies share responsibility for the creation of these new jihadists; in the final chapters of his book, he offers “possible strategies for repairing what can still be repaired.”
Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence (Schocken, Oct. 13) by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explores the reasons behind religious extremism, calling people of goodwill from all faiths to confront it. Sacks writes, “Until our global institutions take a stand against the teaching and preaching of hate, all their efforts of diplomacy and military intervention will fail. Ultimately the responsibility is ours. Tomorrow’s world is born in what we teach our children today.” Discussing the book with PW, Sacks explained that a solution to religious violence could lay in a new reading of the Book of Genesis.
They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East (Tyndale Momentum, April 19, 2016) by Mindy Belz includes a Christian perspective on ISIS. A former Capitol Hill staffer, Belz is editor of the biweekly Christian news magazine WORLD and has reported from the Middle East for more than a decade. In this book, she tracks the stories of faithful Christians who are resisting ISIS and explores answers to two key questions: Where did the terrorists come from? What can be done to stop them?
Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State (Oneworld Publications, September 2015) by BBC reporter Andrew Hosken also addresses the fate of Christians in the Middle East. In an interview with PW, Hosken said, “I asked myself, why has the Christian population gone down? It’s ISIS. The terrible violence, you wouldn’t believe it—what they did to people’s children, the churches they blew up and the number of people they have killed.” In the book, Hosken points out how ISIS, which is already the richest terrorist group in history, grows in wealth and weapons with every passing day.