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Middle East Crisis
A Full Picture of ISIS’ Brutality

A piece in the NYT today about ISIS’ theology of rape traces similar ground to Nina Shea’s piece on the group’s sex slavery in our own pages late last month. But the NYT account only gives a partial picture, for it downplays something that Shea’s piece highlights, namely the vulnerability of “People of the Book”—which includes Christians—to ISIS’ sexuality brutality:

The Islamic State’s sex trade appears to be based solely on enslaving women and girls from the Yazidi minority. As yet, there has been no widespread campaign aimed at enslaving women from other religious minorities, said Samer Muscati, the author of the recent Human Rights Watch report. That assertion was echoed by community leaders, government officials and other human rights workers.

Mr. Barber, of the University of Chicago, said that the focus on Yazidis was likely because they are seen as polytheists, with an oral tradition rather than a written scripture. In the Islamic State’s eyes that puts them on the fringe of despised unbelievers, even more than Christians and Jews, who are considered to have some limited protections under the Quran as “People of the Book.”

But ISIS has issued a fatwa that allows Christians, just as much as Yizidis, to be enslaved, and there are cases on record of Christians falling victim to the practice. Here’s Shea:

The Fatwa Department of the Islamic State made clear that the females of the “People of the Book,” including Christians, can be enslaved for sex as well, though Muslim “apostates” cannot. The number of Christian sex slaves is unknown. Three—Rana, Rita, and Christina—are publicly known. In March, 135 women and children were among those taken captive, from 35 Christian villages along Syria’s Khabour River. Their families, unable to afford the $23 million ransom demand, were told by ISIS, “They belong to us now.” The older women were released; the younger ones may be enslaved, though this has not been confirmed […]

Under rules for “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour [of Judgment],” Dabiq gives a theological justification for selling women as war booty: “The enslaved Yizidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers as the polytheists were sold by the [Prophet’s] companions.” It also cites more recent precedents: namely, the “enslavement of Christian women and children in the Philippines and Nigeria by the Mujahidin there.”

We’re glad to see more attention brought to this issue, but for a full picture of ISIS’ practices, we recommend reading Shea’s whole piece.

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  • Fat_Man

    American feminists think that horny college boys and drunken college girls are the most pressing issue. The inability to address real horrors like this one proves that contemporary feminism is a bad joke.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Feminists long ago (during the reign of King Billy Jeff I) revealed themselves to be the Ladies Auxiliary of the Democratic party, and earlier still as the field mattresses of the Left. None of this is a surprise…

    • FriendlyGoat

      Oddly, though, the horny college boys don’t see the behavior of ISIL men as the most pressing issue either. I wonder why not.
      Horrors are horrors. One would think the college fraternities of America would be laser-focused on demanding whatever we can do for Yazidi and Christian women in Syria, Iraq, the Philippines and Nigeria.

  • MarkE

    I read Shea’s article about a week ago. In the article she expressed surprise that the issue had not aroused more concern generally. I think I know why. The practices of ISIS are so despicable that I had an overwhelming sense of revulsion. Further more the fact that a reading of standard Islamic texts had given rise to the same practices in Africa and the Philippines made me wonder about the Islamic religion and whether it could be held responsible for these despicable atrocities.
    Intellectually this sets up a certain dissonance and one doesn’t want to think about it anymore. But so far I can’t forget her article.

    • azt24

      ISIS is doing nothing that the Prophet Mohammed & his companions didn’t do, as they point out all the time. The left half of the US political spectrum is completely unwilling to face facts on this issue, and would prefer to make knee-jerk condemnations of “Islamophobia” when anybody tries to call attention to reality.

      • FriendlyGoat

        I am solidly on the left side of American politics and I have been railing for years that Islam is a complete falsehood which should be actively opposed wherever it exists as a philosophy. Because it is false. Because it is not liberal. Because Mohammad is not the prophet of anything. Please don’t generalize about everyone on the left. Some of us know there is no such thing as the goofy word “Islamophobia” which seeks to excuse bad theology and its totally tragic world view.

    • Gene

      Your comment about dissonance and not wanting to think about it anymore explains, I’m afraid, much more of the situation than we would like to believe. “Heads in the sand” has been elevated from a cliche to a policy imperative.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Can we expand that there might be some differences between 1) “heads in the sand” denial, 2) “who cares anyway?”, and 3) we are realizing that only Islam may be able to fix Islam—-that infidel military intervention does not address the root problem of people continuing to believe total-crap theological source material when they shouldn’t?

        If someone—-a LOT of people—–from Islam cannot either make a case TO ALL MUSLIMS that ISIL is perverting a better Islam—–OR——throw whatever necessary of Mohammad’s sayings out the window and justify why they did, then the world has a permanent problem.

        • Gene

          Talk all you want about the attitudes of Muslims; this situation is allowed to continue because those who want to begin to solve today’s barbarity lack raw power, and those who have raw power — the U.S., NATO, Israel, even Russia — won’t use it for a variety of reasons. If those with power to obliterate ISIS won’t use it, the victims of ISIS are screwed and will end up dead or living lives of tremendous suffering. You and I can argue in a North American comments section till kingdom come. For all our good intentions we are as worthless as tits on a bull to the soon-to-be dead if we’re advocating for anything but some overwhelming organized violence. There are things that can be done to help those people, and yes I know those things are expensive as shit and dangerous yada yada yada. I can only hope for the sake of our souls that at least the choice of inaction we’re endorsing leaves holes in our hearts.

          • FriendlyGoat

            We wanted to believe that if we cleaned Saddam out of Iraq that the people there would enact secular democracy and put Islam and radical Islam in a back seat. We wanted to believe the same would be true if anyone overthrew Assad in Syria.

            Of course we all are repulsed by ISIL and we want to help by militarily defeating it. We know now that not everything we imagine for that region is possible or actually works. Not everyone in the region WANTS America messing with a declared Caliphate. Islam needs to step up, define itself to exclude the excesses of ISIL and defeat its own nuts. That’s the lesson of what’s going on.

      • Episteme

        Cognitive dissonance is a real part of it. In the contemporary world, we’re all bombarded with information – horrible information – that by it’s nature demands empathy in our brains, more so than ever before, yet there are limits to what can be done by nation-states and even more so what any individual can do. Especially in a time where metaphysics is less focused on than empiricism, medievalist brutalist – not to mention reading serious sentences such as “A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month.” – can only trigger the part of our brains rigged for satire against our wills (our modern propensity for Satire is really a reaction of overload and dissonance as much as anything). I imagine that when you see outrage beyond scale over, for example, a single conflicted police shooting while, for example ISIS does all this, it’s about how we-as-a-culture are trying to come to terms with instant-access to Horror so often and humans reacting in traditional ways to this new nontraditional Simulacrum (as Baudrillard effectively described the beginnings of it in the 1980s, but couldn’t even begin to imagine how the Internet and Social Media would transform how we would access Information and information would access Us). It’s like General Patton at Buchenwald’s liberation, entering the camp after all the terrors of war but vomiting at the sight of those horrors – none of us are Patton, we haven’t been through the fires of the Western Front, and yet we’re having the equivalent of the death camps sent to us via the media. That hopefully (even though none of us have Patton’s authority) give us the chance to help save lives, but first we’re left reeling and vomiting – especially when we’re exposed to that in the dissonance of our daily lives and not in the bombed-out remains of war…

  • Fat_Man
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