Political de-radicalization: why it is no longer possible in the wilāyāt system of the Islamic State

Sara Brzuszkiewicz

Abstract


The emergence of the Islamic State as a regional and ideological player deeply affected the mechanisms of radicalization witnessed worldwide. The article will compare a former instance of jihadism, the Egyptian al-Gamā’a al-Islāmiya (Islamic Group, IG), with the phenomenon of the Islamic State and its wilāyāt system. The Islamic Group, which has been active during the last three decades of the Twentieth century, constitutes an ideal case study because it performed a process of political de-radicalization and disengagement that led its members to abandon violence. The hypothesis underlying the paper is that a similar process could no longer take place in the case of the Islamic State. Indeed, the transnational project of the Caliphate is likely to exclude every chance of undertaking a de-radicalization and/or disengagement process in which a group effectively negotiates with a nation-state, and this difference is likely to represent one of the major counter-terrorism challenges arising from the Syrian-Iraqi scenario.  In order to complete its de-radicalization process, the IG issued four books of murāğa’āt, “recantations”, in January 2002, under the general title of The Correcting Conceptions Series. The major one was titled The Initiative for Ceasing Violence: a Realistic View and a Legitimate Perspective. It was authored by two Shura Council members and it generally addressed the practical and the ideological reasons behind the initiative. Unquestionably, this gradual process has been possible not only thanks to the new attitudes towards violence endorsed by al-Gamā’a al-Islāmiya, but also to the perceptive reaction of the State. By contrast, the a-national nature of the Islamic State obstructs this process. Indeed, after the local-oriented attitude of the first gam’iyāt and the emergence of al-Qa’ida as the premium brand of global terror, aims, push factors and geographical horizons of jihadism deeply changed. It is therefore not a question whether jihad is a binding religious prescription: it unquestionably is. The fundamental issue is whether and how one is to conduct it by lawful and prudent means and it is precisely this question that profoundly and irremediably divides the national jihadi movements from the Islamic State. As an internal Islamist critique - one that relies on a common Salafi substratum - the gam’iyāt refutation of global jihad may shed a light over the role of Da’ish in the contemporary jihadi panorama. 


Keywords


Egyptian Islamic Group, al-Gamā’a al-Islāmiya, Islamic State, wilāyāt, de-radicalization, disengagement.

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