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Islamic State and the Theater of Jihad

The Al Khansa Brigade is the all-female fighting force of the organization that calls itself the Islamic State (IS).  Al Khansa, we are most unreliably informed, has 60 members, many of whom are British.  Their leader is reputedly a privately educated Scotswoman.  These amazons are, we’re told, particularly cruel, force captive local women to be sex slaves for the male IS fighters, and act as a dreaded police unit for the terrifying jihadists.

Stories like this are written to scare us, even if we can’t be sure any of it is true.  Still, maybe we should be scared of the Islamic State, which in recent months has burst from obscurity to control half of what used to be Iraq and about a third of Syria.  It has declared those jurisdictions defunct and itself an Islamic Caliphate.  At the same time, it has encouraged its even more terrifying look-alike Boko Haram to declare an associated “caliphate” based in Gwosa in northern Nigeria, in the old Islamic sultanate of Sokoto, destroyed by the British in 1903.

From time to time IS makes headline-catching declarations: that all women must report for female genital mutilation; that its ambition is to reconquer Spain; that it has banned the teaching of math and history.  Cameras follow its leaders everywhere.  They record not just the gruesome murder of Western hostages but mass executions of captured Syrian soldiers and...

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