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The Good Caliph of the Islamic State

The Good Caliph of the Islamic State features thirty-three-year-old Syrian, ISIS commander Abu Said who was interviewed in November 2015 in southern Turkey by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla.It was produced and edited by Zack Baddorf and our ICSVE team. This counter narrative highlights the greed of ISIS leaders.

In The Good Caliph of the Islamic State Abu Said talks about how Omar, a Caliph during the early years of Islam, voluntarily went hungry during a famine, telling his stomach to go ahead and growl—he would not eat well until all his people were well fed as well.  Abu Said contrasts this story to how ISIS commanders took over all the resources, including food, while those living under their rule went hungry.

Abu Said warns that there is nothing positive in ISIS, that they hijacked or eliminated the revolutions of other Muslims, bringing no benefit to them. He states that ISIS starved its own people and conduct themselves nothing like the original Companions of the Prophet, giving a bad name to Islam.

Discussion Questions:

What do you feel watching this video?

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

What do you think of the story of the Caliph, Omar?

Does ISIS follow the example of the Companions of the Prophet?

Do you believe anything good can come from ISIS, or groups like them?

Timed transcript of The Good Caliph of the Islamic State video:

0:03     When Master Omar (may Allah be pleased with him) was a Caliph, there was a year of hardship.

0:11     Master Omar used to eat bread and oil—bread and oil!

0:15     ABU SAID

Former ISIS Commander

His stomach used to growl and make noises.

0:19     So, he speaks to his stomach,

0:20     ‘Growl or no growl, you’re still not getting any food until all Muslims are fed.’

0:24     ‘Every last Muslim.’

0:29     [ISIS] try to tell people they are big shots—the long-awaited “Islamic State”.

0:36     They are the ones who are going to raise the flag of Islam.

0:41     If you go and see them, how they eat al-kabsa[big traditional rice dish feasts],

0:46     and crispy fried chicken and drink Pepsi,

0:53     you’ll see how fat they are with their big bellies.

0:55     Then, see how people are starving. You will know [ISIS] is not in the right.

1:05     So compare them to Master Omar.  They eat these huge feasts of mansaf—

1:12     enough for seven people.

1:16     [ISIS]—compare yourselves to Muhammed’s early followers and you’re nothing like them.

1:21     Not at all like them.

1:24     How is this logical? How is it logical that [ISIS] can do things like that?

1:33     If you want to evaluate the value of ISIS to Muslims, nothing good comes from ISIS.

1:43     ISIS deformed Islam and made people afraid of Islam.

1:52     I’m Muslim and proud of Islam. I’m proud of my Prophet.

1:59     [Now] when people hear ‘Muslim,’ they hear ‘ISIS.’

2:06     They aren’t going to imagine ISIS is separate from Islam.

2:11     They will think Muslims are all the same—all ISIS.

2:15     There is no positive side of ISIS.

2:19     No benefit to Muslims came from ISIS. Quite the opposite.

2:22     ISIS went to countries that were in the midst of revolutions against dictators

2:26     and hijacked those revolutions or eliminated them.

2:30     In general, there is nothing positive to ISIS.

2:36     The Truth Behind the Islamic State

2:39     Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

2:45     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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