The events of the Arab Spring have come to be overshadowed by the civil war in the Arabic-speaking nation of Syria, which has been ruled throughout the 21st century by Bashar al-Assad. Though he had not planned on ruling Syria, several events conspired to make Bashar the successor of his father, Hafez. Though the West frequently looked for signs that Bashar might be a reformer, due in part to his formerly popular Western wife, Assad remained part of a critical alliance with Iran and the sub-state groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
Initially dismissed by US President Barack Obama, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has shocked the world by conquering massive territories in both countries and promising to create a vast new Muslim caliphate that observes the strict dictates of Sharia law. In ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, American journalist Michael Weiss and Syrian analyst Hassan Hassan explain how these violent extremists evolved from a nearly defeated Iraqi insurgent group into a jihadi army of international volunteers who have conquered territory equal to the size of Great Britain.
"Hard to follow"
Even as Muhammad lay dying, the battle over who would take control of the new Islamic nation had begun, sparking a succession crisis marked by power grabs, assassination, political intrigue, and passionate faith. Soon Islam was embroiled in civil war, pitting its founder's controversial wife, Aisha, against his son-in-law, Ali, and shattering Muhammad's ideal of unity.
Different branches of the same religion are the exception more than the rule, and they have had a profound impact upon history. The schism between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches influenced relationships between nations across Europe, and religious intolerance based on different Christian faiths led to persecution and outright violence across the continent for centuries.
"Excellent preface to making sense of intl news."
In just over a hundred years - from the death of Muhammad in 632 to the beginning of the Abbasid Caliphate in 750 - the followers of the Prophet swept across the whole of the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. Their armies threatened states as far flung as the Franks in Western Europe and the Tang Empire in China. The conquered territory was larger than the Roman Empire at its greatest expansion, and it was claimed for the Arabs in roughly half the time.
"Islamic conquest history from the outside"
Recent surveys conducted in Syria reveal that Islamist fighters are surprisingly supportive of democracy. Here's why.
©2015 Foreign Affairs (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
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