[Editor's note: Scroll down to see full report]
Polemical debates among Islamic State (IS) supporters continue to rage online. The two main parties to the debate are 'dissenters' who believe that IS ranks feature too many extremists on one side, and supporters of official IS media on the other (i.e. the 'mainstream'). The latter accuse the former of being 'suspect' primarily because the 'dissenters' have published material without the authorization from the IS.
There is, however, a third party in the debate consisting of IS supporters who believe that IS has deviated in the opposite direction to what the 'dissenters' consider to be extremist. This third party is critical of IS for (i) retracting the controversial statement issued by the Delegated Committee in spring 2017 CE that affirmed takfir to be an essential foundation of the religion and (ii) issuing the series of official audio lectures to clarify issues of ideology and Islamic knowledge. It will be recalled that the controversial statement issued in spring 2017 CE was sharply criticized by IS scholars like the Bahraini cleric Turki Binali, who is highly revered by the 'dissenters.' Conversely, the third party attacks the likes of Binali and other scholars revered by the 'dissenters' as ignoramuses.
In common with the 'dissenters', the third party has leaked much material without official IS approval, though in this case, the primary agenda is to discredit Binali et al. One of the Telegram channels associated with the third party recently leaked an internal Diwan al-Amn al-Aam (Public Security Department) report from November 2015 CE that discusses the phenomenon of 'extremism' within IS ranks, focusing on the Syrian territories of IS. That channel's agenda in leaking the report partly relates to the mention in the report of a Saudi scholar called Abu Bakr al-Qahtani, another scholar revered by the 'dissenters' and noted in the report for his efforts to combat 'extremism'. I have translated this report in full below.
The report is generally useful for gaining an idea of 'extremism' in IS from a historical perspective. Some of the ideas dismissed as 'extremist' (e.g. no excuse in ignorance and disbelief- 'kufr'- being the principle in people) will be familiar to those who followed the split in IS' West Africa province ('wilaya') as they are espoused by Abu Bakr Shekau, who was removed as governor of the affiliate.
There are other points of interest in the report.
First, it is striking how the phenomenon of 'extremism' is associated with foreigners in IS' ranks, especially non-Arabs such as Azeris.
Second, one should note that it had been suggested in 'Principles in the Administration of the Islamic State' that IS should work to break down distinctions between muhajireen (foreigners) and ansar (locals of Iraq and Syria). The book claimed that after the Caliphate had been formed, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered to establish a camp in the Syria-Iraq border areas for such a purpose. From that camp, the work claimed, joint combat groups of muhajireen and ansar were formed, as well as groups composed of muhajireen from a variety of Western states. Despite such measures and the general disappearance from social media of IS fighting groups based around specific nationalities and ethnicities (e.g. Katibat al-Bittar al-Libi), this Diwan al-Amn al-Aam report notes that there is still the phenomenon of personnel coming together at the battalion level on the basis of nationality.
Third, the report highlights some administrative problems in IS, such as lack of clarity in the relations between the greater Diwan al-Amn al-Aam and the provincial centers of the Diwan, as well as undue interference by personal connections, such as the provincial governor (wali) of Aleppo's prevention of a crackdown on an alleged extremist grouping led by Abu Ayyub al-Tunisi.
Fourth, we gain a general idea of the composition of IS ranks at the time: namely, most of the fighters were newer recruits to the organization, indicating the large surge of local and foreign recruits to IS after the Caliphate was declared at the end of June 2014 CE.
For reference, note the following geographic and administrative references.
- Wilayat al-Jazeera: a province created by IS to span the borders of Iraq and Syria. Tel Afar to the west of Mosul was the most notable city under its control.
- al-Ra'i: small town in north Aleppo countryside near the border with Turkey.
- al-Tabqa: town in al-Raqqa province.
- al-Bab: town in north Aleppo countryside- one of the main IS administrative centers in Aleppo province prior to its capture by Turkish-backed rebels.
- General Supervisory Committee (aka General Governing Committee): predecessor of the Delegated Committee.
The report is translated in two parts: