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Just sharing – The Islamic State

the soufan groupRichard Barret, The Islamic State, The Soufan Group, November 2014.

Click here to read or download.


The self-styled Islamic State is an accident of history, emerging from multiple social, political and economic tensions in the Middle East and beyond. It has challenged the territorial divisions imposed on the region following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by carving out for itself a large area of territory. But ultimately, its impact will flow as much from its challenge to established concepts of government, national sovereignty, and national identity.

The Islamic State is most notable for the violence with which it asserts control, but its ruthless tactics will likely prevent the group from ruling effectively and building broader support beyond the front line fighters who protect its security and the authoritarian killers who patrol its streets.

The Islamic State is a highly visible but clandestine organization. Despite the vast amount of publicity and analysis it has generated since 2011, verifiable facts concerning its leadership and structure remain few and far between. The picture is obscured by the misleading propaganda of the State itself and by the questionable accounts of people who claim to be familiar with it. It is a movement that has accelerated fast along the path from terrorism through insurgency towards proto-statehood, but it is also one that for all its bravado seems fearful that it could just as quickly be forced back underground. As a result, this paper relies on the group’s own publications, the observations of defectors, and analysis by others who take an interest in its progress, despite the paucity of information. Nonetheless, The Soufan Group believes that enough is available to draw a useful picture of the evolution of the State, its structure and its operations, even though it may lack clarity and detail.

The paper refers throughout to the organization as The Islamic State, being the name it uses to describe itself. The only alternative would be to call it by its Arabic acronym, commonly transliterated as Da’ish or Daesh (al Dawla al Islamiya fi al Iraq wa al Sham). Clearly, the use of its full name does not imply any endorsement or recognition of its self-description.


About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at


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