Tag Archives: Boko Haram

The Current Status of the Islamic State’s “Caliphate”

Map: Situation as of June 29th, 2016. The grey area represents the territories effectively under the control of the Islamic State (source).

A July 12th report in the Washington Post by Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet has caused a stir recently for suggesting that the Islamic State’s “caliphate” is on the ropes. Titled “Inside ISIS: Quietly Preparing for the Loss of the ‘Caliphate,” the story has received a lot of attention on cable news and has been widely (and in some cases, enthusiastically) shared online. Indeed, I have been asked to comment on the topic in an interview for a local television station on Saturday morning, but I assume the topics considered during the interview will now, unfortunately, expand to include discussion of the terrorist attack killing 84 people in Nice (and wounding over 200) that took place on July 14th. Yet here I want to focus on the claims of the Washington Post article and think through the issue a bit.  Continue reading

Will the Real Extremists Stand Up Please?

Recently an article in the U.K. Independent came out with the headline “Al-Qaeda video shows public execution of woman accused of adultery – and has disgusted even Isis supporters.”

Previously, it was widely reported that one of the reasons ISIS developed independently from Al-Qaeda was that even Al-Qaeda saw their methods as too extreme– causing division.

Now ISIS is taking shots at Al Qaeda suggesting their methods are too extreme (in this case over something that is relatively minor compared to what ISIS has done).

Add to this the recent condemnation of the Pakistan version of the Taliban’s killing of 130 plus school children as too extreme by the Afghan version of the Taliban and it begins to get a bit ridiculous. Who knows what they all think of their fellow jihadists Boko Haram in Nigeria. They probably nit-pick about their mass killings and public executions as well.

Will the real extremists stand up please?

The fact is that they are all extreme, ruthless, and brutal in their methods of course, but perhaps this is a way to try to win points with potential jihadists looking to join an organization that provides the right fit for their extremism since they now have so many choices? With over 18,000 foreign fighters from all over the world drawn to ISIS’s wars in Iraq and Syria and who knows how many foreign recruits drawn to various Ai-Qaeda or Taliban manifestations around the Middle East and Africa, not to mention the apparent appeal of Boko Haram in Nigeria, recruiting must be very competitive in the jihadist world at the moment. This would all be great material for a Monty Python style sketch if the reality was not so serious.

Medieval Warfare, The First Crusade, and Rape: Lessons for the Present?

Above Image: Francis Rita Ryan’s translation of Fulcher (Fulk) of Chartres A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem- 1095-1127 (University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1969).


On January 3, 2015, I had the chance to present a paper for the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City. I am presenting the basic text of my talk below. Anyone familiar with the dynamics of presenting papers at academic conferences will realize this is a very condensed overview of my broader consideration of the topic.

My paper was titled “Rape and the First Crusade.” It considers the oddity of the First Crusade as it related to the issue. While the wartime rape of captured women (and sometimes men) was common by all medieval armies, Christian or Islamic, the participants of the First Crusade generally seem to have avoided the practice. Indeed, the sources, whether friendly or hostile to the crusaders, seem to agree on the issue. This presentation pulls together some disconnected themes already considered by other historians into a broader and more comprehensive narrative to argue that the theoretical framework of the First Crusade contributed to a new mentality among warriors by which they sought to avoid sexual immorality, including rape, if they were to be successful on the battlefield.

This seems worthwhile to post here because the wartime rape of captive women continues to be a major problem today. One need only consider events in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, or more recent events with Boko Haram in Nigeria or ISIS in Iraq over the past few months. See my recent blog post on the issue here. What is most interesting about the First Crusade (as it relates to this topic) is that this potentially represents a case in which a theological framework for warfare seems to have, at the least, diminished instances of rape by otherwise violent warriors who had become accustomed to such practices prior to the First Crusade. If medieval Christian clerics could find a way to curtail, if not eliminate, such a brutal practice by Christian warriors in their day, then perhaps there is some small kernel of value in studying this for dealing with similar problems in the present.

yaz Boko

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