I found Dr. Boukhras’ lecture to be very enlightening about radical Islamist groups, especially about the circumstances surrounding their rise, particularly that of ISIS. ISIS rose to power through many factors and actors- largely its enemies- making missteps and increasing sectarianism. ISIS started its rise with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and gained traction when troops pulled out after not completely destroying all parts of it. Iran's funding of Shia militias as well as increasing sectarianism as well as Assad's radicalization of the war on terror and Russia's involvement in the Arab World, particularly in Syria, are also factors that have helped ISIS to gain a foothold in the Middle East.
Their claimed constituency is Sunni Muslims, particularly those who live in Shia- controlled Iraq and Syria under very oppressive regimes. Their ideology is to help those oppressed Sunni Muslims. Dr. Boukhras described the Sunnis as “a majority with a minority complex” which I thought was very interesting especially considering that the Sunnis are a majority of Muslims however, especially recently, Shia Muslims are the ones making gains and winning- albeit somewhat controlled- victories while the Sunnis keep failing and being marginalized and killed by Shia. Because the Sunnis cannot find inspiration- even by looking at nations that are ruled by Sunnis- they look elsewhere and found a source of inspiration in ISIS which is experiencing victories. ISIS’s main goal is to improve the lives of Sunni Muslims, even though they have very little to offer politically, have a very archaic view of how society should be run and are only in control of the places they have because there is a power vacuum left there by the Shia government.
Those who join ISIS do not usually do so for theological reasons; they join because they are looking for direction and inspiration, feel wronged by the society they are in, or to be a part of a larger group that they feel are actually accomplishing their goals. The members of the movement are generally young, and the majority of the members are youth who as a whole, reject their parent’s Islam and have a different perspective of how it should be. Dr. Boukhras even pointed out that many of those who are recruited do not know Arabic and because of this, get their information about Islam from books other than the Quran and that many of them were initially not religious and then became religious in a “born again” fashion that quickly changed to radicalism. The theology of ISIS and similar radical groups is very different than mainstream Islam or what the Quran promotes, so these groups tend to scorn and be isolated from mainstream Muslim society.
I enjoyed Dr. Boukhars’ lecture about Islamist radical groups very much. I learned a lot about their motivations as well as the motives of people who join and how these groups have become enmeshed in the politics of the Middle East and how difficult it will be to stop Islamist radical groups.