One can’t help but compare today’s New York Times’ dispatch from Raqqa, the “capital” of the new Islamic caliphate, with previous Times reports highlighting the troubles afflicting U.S. efforts in Iraq.
While sturm und drang prevailed in the latter, the leaders of the Caliphate seem to make the figurative trains run on time (something even Mussolini didn’t do).
More pragmatically, ISIS has managed to keep food in markets, and bakeries and gas stations functioning.
“What I see in Raqqa proves that the Islamic State has a clear vision to establish a state in the real meaning of the word,” said a retired teacher in the city of Raqqa. “It is not a joke.”
Many said that they received official receipts stamped with the ISIS logo and that the fees were less than they used to pay in bribes to Mr. Assad’s government.
“I feel like I am dealing with a respected state, not thugs,” said a Raqqa goldsmith in his small shop as a woman shopped for gold pieces with cash sent from abroad by her husband.
In fairness, the story also notes that Muslim Sharia law leaves the hands of thieves disarmed, smokers without a break, drinkers dry and women cloaked.
But there is a darker side to Islamic rule, with public executions and strict social codes that have left many in this once-tolerant community deeply worried about the future.
Of course, mentioning “a darker side” indicates the reader should weigh the relative merits of the coming Muslim dynasty with an open mind. Take the good with the bad.
O, and by the way, all three of Raqqa’s Christian churches have been shuttered, stripped of crosses, black flagged and converted to Islamic suicide bomber recruitment centers.
Nevertheless the story ends on a high note.
After ISIS’s advance into Iraq last month, the Jordanian went to Mosul to help organize a hospital there before returning to Raqqa.
“He talked with an eager shine in his eyes, saying that the caliphate of the Islamic State that began in Raqqa would spread over the whole region,” one of his employees said.
There was a time when the Left pooh-poohed theories that jihadis would establish a caliphate from which to launch their conquest of the rest of the earth.
Now, it seems, the caliphate exists, but it’s not as bad as those radical Right-wing scaremongers said.