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Following Shariah in the Islamic State

Following Shariah in the Islamic State features thirty-three-year-old Abu Said, a defected Syrian, ISIS commander interviewed in November 2015 in southern Turkey by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla. This counter narrative video clip is produced by Zack Baddorf and the ICSVE team and underlines the hypocrisy inside ISIS and the brutal practices affecting the civilian population living under ISIS.

Abu Said opens this video explaining the forgiving nature of Allah and referring to Allah as the “veiler of sins.” He points out that the Quran calls for four witnesses to convict a person for an act of adultery—a near impossibility. Yet, he states that ISIS frequently carried out stonings of local Syrian women for adultery.  At the same time, ISIS’s own cadres were not punished for sexual misconduct. Their misbehaviors were simply covered up.

Abu Said states, “I’m Muslim and proud of Islam. I’m proud of my Prophet. Yet, he bemoans the fact that ISIS has created a bad image of Islam. He states that when people now think of Islam they conjure up visions of ISIS beheadings and other horrific theatrics.“When people hear ‘Muslim’ they hear ‘ISIS.’ They will think Muslims are all the same—all ISIS,” he explains.

Abu Said also refers to ISIS’s penchant for filming all of their gruesome acts, recalling a time during a beheading when a victim was asked, “If you’re alive, nod your head and we’ll take you to the hospital.” Abu Said continues, “When he nodded his head, they finished him off. They are that cruel.”

Abu Said tells about the executions that took place in Naim Circle in Raqqa, Syria recalling how a woman miscarried her baby after viewing a severed head hung up in a cage.  Abu Said states that children living under ISIS were so inured to the violence that they would take the severed heads and play with them, even pouring soft drinks into their mouths to watch it pour out of the severed necks.

“Nothing good comes from ISIS,” Abu Said warns.

Discussion Questions:

What do you feel watching this video?

Do you believe Abu Said is who he says he is and telling the truth about his experiences inside ISIS?

What do you think of Abu Said’s statements about the local women being punished by stoning for adultery while the ISIS cadres got away with sexual misconduct?

Do you think ISIS has given a bad name to Islam?

Do you think good Muslims should protect pregnant women and children from horrific sites?

Do you believe any good can come from ISIS or groups like ISIS?

Timed transcript of Following Shariah in the Islamic Statevideo:

Following Shariah in the Islamic State

0:03     When Allah decided the punishment for adultery, he said there should be four witnesses.

0:11     You might ask, ‘Why did Allah require four witnesses?’

0:14     Because, it’s almost impossible for four people to witness an act of adultery.

0:20     ABU SAID

Former ISIS Commander

That is because Allah is the veiler of sins.

It’s almost impossible for four people at the same time to witness a woman committing adultery.

0:27     [Yet,] we [ISIS] had hundreds of stonings [of adulterers]. They were countless.

0:34     So, all these women were caught in the act of adultery?

0:37     I don’t know what to tell you. That’s a question I ask [ISIS].

0:43     By the way, these rules are only for the local civilians.

0:48     There was an incident in Tell Abyad.

0:52     The emir of the traffic police was found in a room with a woman. He was caught in the act.

0:58     They did nothing to him.

0:59     They said they locked him up, but later we found out that he was just transferred to Raqqa.

1:03     So why would you punish the local civilians but not your [ISIS] members?

1:08     Subhan’Allah[Glory to Allah], [ISIS] deformed the face of Islam.

1:13     If you’re say you’re a Muslim, people think of ISIS and beheadings!

1:19     They’ve seen [ISIS’s] Hollywood-style videos.

1:22     Every day they behead five or six people.

1:26     They even started stylizing them—to the point that one day, they were beheading someone

1:31     and halfway through they said,

1:33     ‘If you’re alive, nod your head and we’ll take you to the hospital.’

1:35     When he nodded his head, they finished him off.

1:37     They are that cruel.

1:41     Naaim Circle is a famous circle in Raqqa next to a famous ice cream shop.

1:49     One time, a man and his wife were walking at the circle.

1:56     The wife was seven or eight months pregnant.

2:03     They were walking and his wife saw a cage with a head inside.

2:09     She was so scared that she fainted. They took her to the hospital.

2:15     She lost the baby from the fear.

2:19     It was a hideous sight.

2:22     One time, they brought soldiers from the Syrian regime.

2:30     They beheaded them and hung their heads at the circle at Tell Abyad.

2:35     They left their [headless] bodies hanging for two or three days.

2:38     The children grabbed the heads and placed them around the circle.

2:52     They played with the heads and pretended to feed them ice-cream

2:57     or pour Pepsi in their mouths and watch it run out [from their severed necks]. 3:00        After three days, ISIS came to remove the bodies that had started decomposing.

3:06     But they couldn’t find the heads. The kids stole one of the heads.

3:12     They found it thrown far away because the kids took it to play with it.

3:19     If you want to evaluate the value of ISIS to Muslims, nothing good comes from ISIS.

3:31     ISIS deformed Islam and frightened people of Islam.

3:42     I’m Muslim and proud of Islam. I’m proud of my Prophet.

3:48     When people hear ‘Muslim’ they hear ‘ISIS.’

3:55     They will think Muslims are all the same—all ISIS.

4:02     The Truth Behind the Islamic State

4:05     Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

4:10     See more at

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=81) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism experts and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: and on the ICSVE website  Follow @AnneSpeckhard

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