As part of the cultural program of the Baghdad Book Fair, the ACRPS held a book review seminar on its recently published The Islamic State Organization: Daesh in coordination with the Iraqi Publishers Association organizing the fair. The seminar outlines the book's two volumes: A General Framework and Practical Contribution to Understanding the Phenomenon by Azmi Bishara; and Formation, Rhetoric and Practice, authored by a number of ACRPS researchers and edited by Bishara.
Haider Saeed, a researcher at the Arab Center and a co-author of the second volume, organized and participated in the seminar. Harith Hassan, a researcher at the Central European University; and Ali Tahir al-Hamoud, a professor of political sociology at the College of Humanities, University of Baghdad, also participated.
Saeed presented a brief summary of the book, explained its benchmarks as well as the Center's efforts to provide an Arabic contribution to understanding the "Daesh" phenomena. Earlier works on this topic, written in other languages, failed to provide a comprehensive and integrated sociological, cultural and political analysis of the phenomenon. Rather these works only focused on how to win the battle against Daesh. In this light, the first volume is a theoretical framework dedicated to defining the methodological problems undermining the research undertaken on the phenomenon that overlooks the fact that ISIL is a complex phenomenon that necessitates a systematic complex methodology to truly comprehend.
The second volume, as explained by Saeed, is a research collection of detailed studies on ISIL; including the circumstances of its emergence and growth, what sets it apart from al-Qaeda, its rhetoric and literature, its position in regards with the regional rivalries, and so forth.
Despite the many difficulties the work on the ground has constantly faced, Saeed indicated that the Center's researchers have, nevertheless, managed to gather testimonies from those who have experienced the Daesh rule, and those who were once involved; including tribal sheikhs, former Daesh commanders, and other non-Daesh fighters.
Similarly, Harith Hassan noted that the book represents a systematic approach that brings together careful documentation and precise analysis. This created a fine balance between the ideology-focused curriculum and the sociology-based one, and between ISIL as a religious phenomenon and a reflection of societal and political transformations -mainly resulting from the state-society conflict, and the fail of the central governments in Iraq, Syria and other countries.
Hassan noted the book's main themes, as it draws a distinction between Jihad and Jihadism, and Daesh as an organization and a phenomenon; it also investigates the link between Daesh and modernity. He then asserted the importance of further developing this research by drawing comparisons to other jihadist groups like those in the Philippines and Nigeria, and stepping up field research in hopes of understanding the sociological dimension of Daesh -and its relation to the societal transformations and power imbalances.
Focusing on one of the book's theses; that is the link between the rise of ISIL and the crisis of the nation-state in the Arab Mashreq, Ali al-Hamoud noted that Daesh never strived for a statehood in the modern sense per se. Instead, the "State" has always reflected the desire to control and dominate the rest of the jihadist organizations.
Additionally, al-Hamoud argued that the concept of establishing a caliphate was not the basis for the rise of ISIL -as seen in the book, nonetheless, it has become a great temptation in the contemporary Islamic thought. This idea has long emerged ever since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, in order to protest the "loss of State" that came after surviving times of colonialism and occupation. This assisted in the restoration of the idea of a "salvation utopia" fulfilled in the establishment of an Islamic caliphate state. Al-Hamoud added that one cannot de-link the concept of caliphate as a long-held dream and an existing intellectual and doctrinal heritage, from the sociopolitical contexts that often lead to the revival of such dream. One cannot also overlook the role of social stigmatization as an incubator for the emerge of Daesh – the very stigmatizations that has mobilized more individuals to join ISIS.