Inside ISIS: The Making of a Radical
He was a bright young Muslim living an idyllic Scandinavian life. What happened to the mind of Abu Tareq?
I. An Outsider in ISIS
The air was melting; it was a boiling October day in Raqqa, Syria, which the Al Qaeda splinter group ISIS controls, claiming it as the first province of the Islamic State it is currently carving out of Syria and Iraq.
Abu Tareq was standing in the middle of a roundabout encircling the clock tower of Raqqa; his gaze, like hundreds of gazes, turned toward two black-masked ISIS soldiers. One of the soldiers was reading aloud the verdict of the man between the two of them; his offense was drinking alcohol. Under the burning sun, low-rise buildings glimmered white, contrasting the turquoise-blue sky. Abu Tareq’s black T-shirt clung to his body from sweat.
Then fell the lashes — seventy of them, thirty-five by each of the soldiers — crisscrossing the back of the offender with red stripes. Next came the moment which, to Abu Tareq, epitomizes his first months inside ISIS:
“The man who had been whipped kissed his punishers on the cheeks. I could tell h…
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