Inside the textbooks ISIS uses to indoctrinate children

ISIS takes a very disciplined approach to indoctrinating children in its so-called caliphate.

The terrorist group administers schools and has even created its own curriculum and textbooks to educate the next generation of jihadis.

A new report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Jacob Olidort examined ISIS textbooks to show how the militants spread their message to some of the most impressionable and easily malleable people under their control.

Olidort explained that the content in the textbooks break down into two tiers: “The first tier refers to how the group treats traditional subjects of religious study — the Quran, hadith, creed, and law — all defining features of Islamic faith and practice. The second has to do with other subjects — physical preparedness, history, geography, and mathematics — all of which are incidental to Islamic identity but central to training the ‘citizens’ of their state project.”

The textbooks denounce Western democracies and explain the difference between “the people of unbelief,” or non-Muslims, and “hypocrites,” or Muslims who partner with the West or don’t support ISIS. They don’t teach geography as the Western world knows it, but rather as ISIS sees it, with its Islamic “caliphate” stretching across the Middle East.

ISIS has shuttered schools in its territory, leaving children with few other options to get an education. Their textbooks have found their way to the internet over the past year, but Olidort’s report is one of the first comprehensive analyses of what ISIS is teaching kids.

Here’s a look at what ISIS has in its textbooks:

ISIS has military training camps for kids, who are called “cubs of the caliphate,” but its textbooks also cover “physical preparedness”:

The textbooks normalize weapons by scattering illustrations of them throughout:

The books teach kids about how ISIS distinguishes “unbelievers” and the measure that are to be taken against them. They provide justification for violence, and declare killing necessary for religious purposes.

The following is a list of goals included in one lesson plan:

There’s a quiz that teachers can give students after the lesson:

ISIS uses these textbooks to warp children’s worldview entirely. The books emphasise that “the obligation of both imposing religious governance and fighting those Muslims who disobey Islamic law,” and they forbid “any form of governance that is based on human reason and differs from God’s law,” according to the report.

The textbooks provide insight into ISIS’ commitment to its state-building project. Unlike terrorist groups that have come before it, ISIS views the establishment of an Islamic state as a near-term goal, and emphasises governance and bureaucracy to establish its authority over the populations it controls.

One textbook “details the various administrative titles and functions of an Islamic state” and commands obedience to ISIS’ leader, or “caliph,” declaring that “anyone who disobeys the ruler is an unbeliever,” according to the report.

The bottom line

The main takeaway from ISIS’ literature is this, according to Olidort:

“That the group publishes not only short pamphlets but also lengthy editions of medieval commentaries, textbooks for an elementary school curriculum, and works on religious guidance suggests it considers ideas — and the creation of an intellectual heritage — essential to its program of building what it sees as the first true Islamic state since the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Indeed, as IS loses territory and seeks to reassure its followers, it is perhaps the preservation of their intellectual heritage that will be the group’s next frontier.”

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