Islamic State's savage jihadist is a frontman for more complex forces

The brutal jihadist is simply a frontman for many strands of disaffected Iraqi opinion

The World Today
3 minute READ

Nadim Shehadi

Former Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme

In early 18th-century Aleppo there was a schism in the Greek Orthodox Church, and a new sect emerged called the Melkite Church, in communion with Rome. The Melkites, also called Greek Catholics, needed their own church, but it was illegal to build a new church in the lands of the Ottoman Empire; however, if a Christian church already existed, it was protected and it was forbidden to tear it down.

To build their church, the Melkites resorted to a trick that is practised to this day and that may help explain the complex phenomenon that we call Islamic State. The illegal new church was built in hiding, inside a hangar or a large barn, away from the eyes of the law and of rival sects. After a while the Melkites were betrayed and the barn had to be torn down, revealing a fully built church. Once it was out in the open, the church acquired legitimacy and permanency.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.