Free Press Journal

The ISIS Caliphate: From Syria to the Doorsteps of India by Stanly Johny- Review


The name of the book is a bold step in itself by the author. In India where majority of media person are in denial about the presence of ISIS, here is a book by a journalist which accepts it. The author Stanly Johny is International Affairs Editor with a leading English newspaper and has a PhD in West Asian Studies from JNU.

The book is a product of hardcore research. It is based on both, first hand and secondary research. It explores the origin of modern-day terrorism from the time of birth of Islam. It covers the formation of different Islamic terror organisations, their formation, ideology, differences and infighting and how each one of them was and is backed by some or the other European/American nation. It covers the formation and fight for Caliphate, issues of Arab unity, Jordan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and their role in Islamic terrorism. It describes in details about Wahabism, and Salafi movements along with the fight among Shia and Sunni, but ignores other sects of Islam. Author has also looked at the leadership and ideologues of these terror organisations and the method employed by them to spread their organisations and difference among them. All of it put together Stanly is successful in giving a bigger picture of the Islamic terror without losing focus on ISIS. The book gives a good understanding of ISIS.

The book raised some fundamental question, like rise of Islamic terror in West Asia is attributed to intervention by Western nations, in India it is attributed to prosecution by the majority, but why does it grow in Bangladesh, which has neither faced external intervention nor prosecution by majority. But interestingly, the book forgets to answer this question.

The other mistake the book makes when it says ‘ISIS failed to make any inroad in Jammu and Kashmir’. A book being published in 2018 cannot be ignorant of the fact that ISIS flags are hoisted regularly in Jammu and Kashmir from last few years and in 2018 police and army both have not only confirmed but have encountered terrorists belonging to ISIS.

The author has done first-hand research in Kerala by meeting families of youths who have joined ISIS. It is an eye opener that how social media can be used to mobilise highly educated youth from affluent families to join ISIS. Apart from a dedicated chapter on ISIS connection with India, there is a 13-page annexure which has the literature used by ISIS to woo Indian youths.

The book points to the fact that ISIS is not only insurgency or terror organisation, but also proto-state, and this status helps it get recruit from all over the world. The book talks about presence of ISIS in almost all states of India, but sadly, the author doesn’t cover them in his field studies. A first hand research might have led to some unexplored findings.

The book has a useful glossary and 53 pages of endnotes. The book falls in the trap of balancing the book by sighting gau rakshaks as one of the reason of Muslims joining ISIS and other terror organisations.

The book fails to capture the role of various political parties in India actively supporting the terror organisations, especially in Kerala. Role of money coming in from Gulf, an association of Islamic terror organisation in India with Naxals and Pakistan has been completely left untouched. The support of Indian media and intellectual class to the terrorism in India is well known, but has not been mentioned at all in the book. The chapter on ISIS, India connection is the biggest one, but another chapter covering above-mentioned aspects would have made the book more valuable.

The strength of the book is its ability to call a spade a spade. It lists clearly that according to ISIS, non-Muslims in India need to be killed, doesn’t matter if they pay jijiya or not. Stanly describes in details the modus operandi of ISIS to recruit youth as a terrorist and its expansion from Iraq and Syria to all over the world.

Today, Islamic terror organisations especially ISIS with its global presence is not easy to cover in a book, but Stanly has managed to do the same. In India there are not many works available on terror in Kerala and to that extent this book is a welcome step.