Leeds students gather to discuss the ideology of ISIS

The talk happened at the same time as parliament’s debate on bombing Syria

daesh debate isil isis islam leeds politics syria terrorism uni

Last night, parliament made the pivotal decision to bomb Syria in an attempt to undermine ISIS.

While the debate was being carried out in the Commons, here in Leeds students welcomed a topical talk about the history of Islam and the foundations of the ideology behind ISIS.

The talk was delivered by Hizer Ali Mir, who as an undergraduate studied Arabic and International Relations at Leeds, and subsequently went on to complete a Masters at Oxford University.

Hizer has now returned to Leeds to do a PhD on Islam, Secularism and the Public Sphere.

As the talk began, Hizer stressed the importance of distinguishing between the terms “Islamic” and “Islamicate”, the latter being a term used to show something which is inspired by Islam but is not divine in origin. In other words, the ideology driving ISIS is merely an interpretation of Islam which Hizer described as “misguided.”

The talk continued by tracing the emergence of Isis and how it has changed over time, in name and nature. It was originally a small part of the Sunni resistance to America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, at which point it was named AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq).

Since then it has evolved to become ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant) as it established itself in eastern Syria after Syria had descended into civil war in 2011. Notably, Western governments have begun to refer to ISIS as “Daesh” in order prevent the organisation being associated with Islam.

Following on, Hizer discussed the strategic aims of ISIS and how it is being funded.

As the talk drew to a close, Hizer opened up the floor to questions from the audience.

One student proposed the question about what military response would be appropriate to deal with ISIS and whether or not he agreed with the bombings which have now been authorised by parliament.

Hizer said he would only agree with the bombings if there were no civilian deaths, however admitted this was unrealistic and “utopian”. He explained that “more thinking is needed” and that we should not commit to immediate military response.

He argued that bombing Syria is fitting with ISIS’ strategic aims as it could lead the accumulation of hatred towards the West – and thereby create a larger pool for ISIS to recruit from.

For anyone who was unable to get tickets, the talk is available on lecture capture.