The Islamic State: Cultural Dissociation

For my review, I viewed Vice News’ documentary, “The Islamic State”. The documentary itself takes an inside look at the intricacies of the Islamic State, such as its day to day operations, enforcement of law implemented, as well as the lives of the people and their commitment to a caliphate.

The documentary follows an unnamed news anchor as he travels with the press officer of the Islamic State. The documentary, however, most likely only shows things that the Islamic State wants to be seen by the west, such as citizens proclaiming their loyalty to the caliphate, the corpses of those killed in action by the Islamic State, and interviews with Islamic State fighters.

The most fascinating part of this documentary is the indoctrination of the people from the civil level all the way to the military level. In a civil perspective, the citizens of the Islamic State must maintain strict adherence to the Quran and its rules and intricacies. In the city of Raqqa, where the majority of the documentary was filmed, the culture itself completely shifted. Before the invasion and successful take-over of Raqqa in 2014 by the Islamic State, the citizens of Raqqa were very westernized. In the aftermath of the takeover, the city was changed overnight into a strict Muslim society. To enforce the new policies, a security team called ‘Hizbah’ is responsible for patrolling the streets, correcting civilian infractions, and going door to door to shops and determining if what they’re selling is fair. Civilians who have infractions are taken to the heart of the city where their punishment awaits. Islamic State officials encouraged these people to speak to the camera crews, indicating further that the Islamic State had given them a form of script to recite for the camera crews.

This documentary provides two windows into Arab culture: the first being that of Arab culture before the Islamic State takeover. The city of Raqqa in Syria was very westernized prior to the Islamic State invasion. This gives us an indication as to how far out into the world western influence spreads. Secondly, the documentary shows how the culture shifted overnight by the Islamic State invasion of Raqqa. From the documentary, it is clear that civilians are coerced into telling camera crews specific things such as their loyalty to the state and the caliphate, and even children are involved in this indoctrination process. The culture has shifted from a very western one into a traditional Arabian culture based solely around Islam.