A Documentary has aired on Channel 4 called “#Isis: The Origins of Violence” by Tom Holland, is it any good?


Firstly you can watch the show here.


However, you needn’t bother. Its a long, boring journey of confusion and ignorance, with little respect paid to the proposed claims of investigating ISIS and its origins.

Tom Holland drifts through history in Turkey, France, Egypt and Iraq attempting to link events to ISIS. Most of which are simply not relevant, French revolution and ISIS? There’s no link there. Napoleon and ISIS? Nope, no link there either. Lets try the old Ottoman caliphate, nope, another confused link.

Tom appears to think that ISIS is some kind of political movement that is a response to a powerful west. He interchanges Islam and ISIS frequently, thinking that ISIS understanding of Islam is accurate and there law is the same as Islamic Law.

Tom does get some things right, he correctly identified ISIS as being salafi. He interviews a Salafi preacher from Jordan who basically says everything ISIS are doing is inline with Salafi thought, but they “rushed it”, so hes doesn’t support them. This is probably just a way for him to avoid being put back in prison. What he didn’t manage to do is understand that the Salafi ideology is not Islam, any more than the KKK represent Christianity. 

What would have been more interesting, is if Tom realised that ISIS produce propaganda that explains everything they do, in English the Dabiq magazine. In that you can see and understanding how they justify what they do. Its not as he loosely put it in Singar where he blames the Quran for the violence of ISIS. ISIS rely on a particular understanding of the Quran, and refer to particular scholars in history. Tom Holland kept missing this fact, thinking that ISIS are simply “very Muslim” and puritans and “extreme”. The reality is they are simply following a deviant ideology that is nothing to do with Islam or its principles. 

The great shame is that he did not manage to cover why ISIS has grown so fast, why it has attracted so many recruits. He didn’t even touch on the fact that the same ideology ISIS are living by, is being taught in Salafi mosques in the UK and in Europe. Millions of decent, innocent Muslims will attend mosques trying to better themselves, but will end up being indoctrinated in the Salafi ideology. Its no surprise that so many have Salafis from the West have joined ISIS.

Tom would have done the topic more justice if he was aware of the previous incarnations of ISIS. The Wahabi hordes from Saudi Arabia which massacred thousands in Iraq, who had the same ideology, message, and actions as ISIS. Or Ibn Taymiyahs fatwas which ISIS quote in every magazine of theirs, who is the theological God-Father of ISIS.

In conclusion the programme itself was light on detail and didn’t really shed any light on ISIS or its origins or why it behaves in the way it does. It did show some nice locations and cover some interesting topics which relate to history in general, but it didn’t successfully link these to the main purpose of the show. Tom Holland’s previous documentary on Islam drew about 1200 complaints, Im expecting a similar amount here.

Any comments? What did you think?