Isis: The Origins of Violence (2017) Movie Script

High above the war zone,
the all-seeing eye of the West
searches out the enemy.
But what do we really know about the
The terrorists claim they are
fighting for Islam.
The vast majority of Muslims, and
Western leaders too...
...insist that they have nothing to
do with Islam.
But who is right?
There is only one way to discover
the origins
of the extreme violence of Isis.
By taking a journey into the past.
My name is Tom Holland.
In 2012 I made a film about the
origins of Islam.
But a lot has happened since then.
It's as if something buried deep in
the past has caught up with us.
Things have been done in the
name of Islam
that I would never have
imagined happening.
I promised myself I'd never go back
there again.
But here I am, going back.
This is our khilafah in all
its glory.
We are men honoured with Islam who
climbed its peaks to perform jihad,
answering the call to unite under
one flag.
This is the source of our glory, our
obedience to our Lord.
So bring it on, all of you.
Your numbers only increase us
in faith
and we're counting your banners,
which our prophets said would reach
80 in number.
And then the flames of war
will find you
and burn you on the hills of death.
Bring it on.
So, we've grown very accustomed to
the ultra-violence of Islamic State
and that's the thing that really
captures the headlines,
it captures our imagination.
So it develops this strategy of
extreme and brutal ultra-violence
in order to try and intimidate its
opponents into saying, well,
we may not get to you today or
tomorrow but if we do,
we'll be so barbaric and
sadistic and horrific
that we just want you to understand
the costs of participation
against us.
It's not just here but right
up here.
We're going to continually raise the
cost of participation.
Isis, even here it fills you with a
kind of horror.
They use this principle
called muathala.
What happens is they don't just burn
him alive in the cage
but at the end of the cage,
a truck comes
and drops rubble on top of the cage
and that rubble and rock
is from a site that they said
he'd bombed.
These atrocities are like
video games.
They've got a kind of script.
Scripts have to start somewhere and
lead somewhere.
My own feeling is that this is
a problem,
and a crisis that will be
around, probably,
for the rest of our lifetime.
We've come to Paris because Isis
come to Paris.
Because Isis have a thing about
They've attacked concert halls and
football stadiums.
They killed the cartoonists of
Charlie Hebdo.
They shot dead a policeman here on
the Champs-Elysees.
But what's all this got to do
with Islam?
In fact, what's it got to do
with Paris?
Isis call Paris the capital of
prostitution and vice.
They call France the home
of the Crusades.
It just seems crazy... .
..all those killings.
It's like fiction.
Something out of The Da Vinci Code.
With every new atrocity they're
sending out a message.
But what is the message? And who's
it being sent to?
You can't help thinking that somehow
the answers are here in Paris.
The streets of Paris have always
been witness to violent crimes.
Up here, for instance, there was a
particularly brutal killing.
A man was seized, a knife was put to
his throat,
and his neck was severed off.
And you could almost say that Paris
begins with this beheading.
But that was long ago in the third
century when Saint Denis,
the first Bishop of Paris, lost his
head here, in Montmartre.
But in those days it was the victims
who were the martyrs.
Today it's the killers who
go to Paradise.
And people who live here
are nervous.
The Bastille.
I got a message to meet someone
A refugee just escaped from Isis.
He doesn't want us to reveal
his name.
Sometimes I don't want to remember
these things,
but I think I have to tell it.
When I went there I saw a
crossed man.
On the cross? Yeah.
And what had he done?
Do you know?
They said he is a spy. Right.
Was he alive or dead?
Was he dead or alive? Dead. The
dogs were eating his flesh.
Yeah, it was horrible.
Do you feel safe now you are
in France?
You know, here we are being filmed
but you have your back to
the camera,
you don't want to be seen on camera.
Why is that? They will kill my
family because of this.
Will it be dangerous for me?
To the... You mean... You mean... To
the brothers of the Islamic state?
Yeah, it could be dangerous.
He tells me that even though he
escaped from Isis in Iraq
he still doesn't feel safe in Paris,
and after what happened round the
corner from the Bastille,
maybe he's right.
Daniel Psenny's flat overlooked the
street behind the Bataclan.
He filmed the Isis attack from
his balcony...
...and he still hasn't recovered from
being shot in the arm.
Qu'est-ce qui se passe?
Qu'est-ce qui se passe?
90 people were killed at
the Bataclan.
Another 40 were shot in cafes
and bars across Paris.
These were not simple murders.
These were murders in the service
of an idea.
The victims were merely the means of
conveying the message.
Young people dead, all the killers
dead, all killed in the name of God.
Everything in the name of God.
But to do something like this,
you've got to have a very good idea
of what God wants.
The truth is we all know that people
have killed in the name of God.
Christians no less than Muslims.
But Isis are raising a lot of ghosts
from the past.
We've just gone through Vienna.
Muslim armies came this far twice.
We've passed a town where they
massacred everyone.
And the further east across Europe
you go,
the more people remember
things like this.
It's nightmarish...
and it's supposed to be.
Isis have a user's manual.
It's called
The Management Of Savagery.
"We need to massacre others,"
it says.
"Hostages must be eliminated in a
terrifying manner."
The circumstances we are now in
resemble those faced by the
first Muslims.
a city that has always been in the
crosshairs of the titanic rivalry
between Christendom and Islam.
But it is also a city that shaped
the very beginnings of Islam.
In the early 8th century it was a
Christian capital, Constantinople.
And an Arab war fleet was laying
siege to its walls.
Constantinople, the capital of the
Christian Roman Empire,
the greatest city in the world,
the great object of Muslim desire.
The Arabs believed that they had
been promised the world by God,
so they wanted to reach out
and take it,
probably more than anywhere else in
the world.
And they did that twice, and twice
they failed to do it.
They were so tantalisingly close,
but they couldn't quite get
hold of it.
And so, in the face of that failure,
they went back to first principles.
They asked themselves, "What should
we be doing here?"
And they decided that what God
wanted was struggle.
So this is where the notion of jihad
really begins,
before the walls of Constantinople.
In the Koran, jihad meant the effort
required to be a good Muslim.
But defeat here gave it a much
sharper meaning.
Sacred violence.
Stories began to be told of
that he believed those who died
fighting for Islam
would receive the
greatest rewards in heaven.
The sword scrapes away sin.
As a result, those who died here
were cast as martyrs.
In here we've got the tomb of...
...supposedly, an Arab soldier
in the first Arab campaign
that was sent
against Constantinople.
And he is supposed to have died
here, so he ranks as a martyr.
He died for his faith.
And the... ...sight of his...
...tomb was discovered, supposedly,
after the Muslims had conquered
Constantinople in 1453.
So many centuries afterwards.
And... might think...
...this was quite a convenient, not
to say improbable, discovery.
Nevertheless, this tomb in here
commemorates one of Islam's
earliest jihadis.
With the Ottoman conquest of
the city became the capital
of a great Islamic civilisation.
Its sultans ruled as caliphs,
successors of Muhammad himself,
and claimed the allegiance of
Muslims across the world.
But then, a century ago, came the
The Royal Navy in the Bosphorus
marked the end of the
First World War.
Allied troops occupied Istanbul.
A new Turkish strongman arrived,
a moderniser with little time for
In 1924 his assault on Islamic
tradition reached a seismic climax.
This is the Dolmabahce Palace. It
was built in the mid-19th century.
Now, the reason that it is a museum
these days is because the dynasty
for which it was built, the Ottoman
caliphs, no longer exists.
And the reason for that is that
on 3rd March, 1924,
the caliphate itself was abolished.
So, a line of caliphs that stretched
all the way back
to the lifetime of
those who'd known Muhammad himself
was terminated.
And that evening,
the prefect of police came to the
palace and told the Caliph,
Abdulmejid II, that
it was all over,
that he had to leave,
and that he had to pack his bags and
go that very night.
The last caliph left Istanbul at
5.30 in the morning.
His journey into exile took him
across the Galata Bridge.
He headed north through the aqueduct
of Valens...
...along the ancient walls
and out through the Edirne Gate...
...where, almost 500 years before,
the sultan who had conquered
first entered the city.
The Caliph and his family were
dumped here...
...a provincial railway station,
30 miles outside Istanbul,
by authorities who wanted as few
people as possible to know
what was happening.
He waited at the station house for
13 hours.
The train, when it arrived, was the
Orient Express...
...ironically enough, then, as now,
one of the most flamboyant symbols
of Western wealth and reach.
An extra carriage had been added for
his luggage and his wives.
He left with a Swiss visa
and 2,000 British pounds.
He never came back.
In the West, no-one remembers this
But Osama bin Laden did.
When he destroyed
the World Trade Center
it was the end of the caliphate
that was uppermost in his mind.
"Our nation," he declared,
"has been tasting this humiliation
and contempt"
"for more than 80 years."
The caliphate is the kind of ideal
that never completely disappears.
For years it was locked-up in
history's left luggage.
But then, someone picked up the key.
In 2014, Isis declared a new
Their leader, al-Baghdadi, became
the new caliph.
This is the Monastery of Mar Mattai,
St Matthew.
Founded in the fourth century, it's
the oldest monastery in Iraq.
Once there were thousands of monks
Now, only a handful.
And when I came here a few months
it was not hard to find the reason
If you'd looked out here 1,200 years
you would have been looking at the
beating heart of Christendom.
Because at a time when the
Christians of Europe were
embattled and impoverished,
the Christians of the lands
out there were enjoying
a golden age.
Those days have long gone.
Um, in this huge monastery,
there are now only two monks.
And if those two monks ventured down
there beyond that ridge,
you see there are two black patches
over there,
like kind of patches of mould.
Those are villages, and if the monks
went into those villages,
they would be killed on the spot.
Just beyond the horizon lies the
city of Mosul where,
for the first time in 1,500 years,
Mass is no longer heard.
And the reason for that is that over
...those lands that were once the
Christian heartlands
are now the Islamic State.
Out there are the shock troops of
The holy place.
I should also show you the secret
altar in the monastery.
Maybe if you want, you can see it
I would like that. Yes.
Thank you.
Father Yusuf is one of the very few
monks left in this monastery.
For 1,400 years, Christians here
have been preparing for the worst.
But there's no way to prepare
against Isis.
And we have another, more secretly
from here.
Oh, yes! Yes, this one.
You can see, it's so small,
it does not take more than four
The priest and the monks here,
they used to use this altar when
they were attacked.
It's isolated.
And so they can... No
one can hear them.
And no one will know that they are
It must make you feel s...
...very close to the founder of the
Yes. To be here, and facing what you
face. Yes.
Mar Mattai has a long history, but
has it got a future?
I don't see any future for the
Christians here.
So, why are you here?
It's my duty, firstly.
My faith.
What I'm learned from my religion,
from the word of the Bible,
Jesus Christ, that's made me
not frightened
from any things.
Because they can do nothing more
than to kill me.
1,400 years ago,
monks like Father Yusuf provided Muhammad
himself with a model of holiness.
Islam, though, would give
monasticism a novel spin.
"Our monasticism", the prophet is
reported as saying,
"is jihad in the cause of God.
"Our monasticism is the crying of
"Allahu Akbar" on hilltops."
This is Sinjar, 80 miles west of the
Isis came here in August 2014.
By the time they left five months
later, 5,000 men had been massacred.
Women and children carried off.
Spongepants Bob.
It's the quality of a nightmare.
You're walking through an absolutely
shattered city, and you see...
...a cartoon character.
And then on the other side, you've got
what looks like a kind of Roman city.
Except that this destruction was
made, it wasn't made by legions,
it was made by suicide bombers.
When they came into Sinjar, they
...heads everywhere on spikes,
hanging in public places,
like the cruellest of Mesopotamian
And like a Roman legion,
they took away the women and the
girls into slavery.
So, what I think is...
...they are...
They're like ghosts, risen up from
the past of vanished empires.
And they're kind of like ghouls
picking their way over this rubble.
Oh, and I'm going to be sick.
What I'm thinking is, uh, that...
...when you go to a Roman city and
you go up a street... Pompeii or something,
you can be reasonably sure that
you're not going to get blown up.
But this looks like it hasn't been
And there's been a lot of fighting
And part of me is wondering what
might go off at any minute.
And it strikes me that, um...
...that's kind of true to history,
because there are things in the past
that are like unexploded bombs,
that just lie in wait in the rubble.
And then... ...something
happens to trigger them.
And... There are clearly
verses in the Quran,
and stories that are told about
Mohammed that are very like, um...
...mines waiting to go off.
Improvised explosive devices and
they can lie there for...
...oh, you know, maybe for centuries.
And then something happens
to trigger them, and you get this.
It's scary.
Really scary.
I've got to sit down.
The question is, if these
were unexploded bombs,
then what were they doing here, and
what triggered them to go off?
So it is possible for Muslims in
Islamic State
to genuinely feel that God wants
them to commit the violence
that they are committing?
Yes. The members of Islamic State
who conduct these acts
regard themselves as doing
God's work,
they regard themselves
as being just,
that they are implementing the
laws of God.
And they would say, you know,
it's not for us to decide,
it's not for us to bring our own
inclinations or whims
to this matter.
What about the things for which it's
particularly notorious, say,
the beheadings, the crucifixions?
Beheadings, crucifixions, these are
all things that are discussed
within the context of the
Islamic punishment system.
So again, Islamic State would say
that they are implementing these
punishments, as they have understood
them from the texts.
Do you think that they genuinely
think they will defeat the West,
that Islam will conquer the world?
They absolutely believe Islam will
conquer the world.
And how ancient do you think that
assumption is?
How far back does this idea that
conquering the world for Islam
is for the good of the world?
I think it has always been present
within a strain of Islamic thought.
Isis fighters in Sinjar.
Most Muslims regard them
with horror.
But are they really a dark and
ancient strain of Islamic thought?
"The law of Jihad is coming,"
they sing.
Follow their trail, and we can see
what their version of Jihad meant
for the people of Sinjar.
This is a Shia mosque.
Isis are Sunni, they despise
the Shia.
According to Isis,
if you're Muslim and you don't
believe what Isis believes,
then you're not really
Muslim at all.
You're an apostate.
And based on what Mohammed said, the
penalty for apostasy is death.
But Isis treat different religions
in different ways.
Christians and Jews, so-called
people of the book,
are offered a way out.
You pay a tax, the jizya, the Koran
says, then they'll be tolerated,
albeit as second-class citizens.
Muslim rulers enforced the jizya,
for over a thousand years.
It was only finally abolished in the
19th century.
But now, obedient to the letter
of the Koran,
Isis have brought it back.
But it's outside in the streets that
you can most clearly see
how the Koran's attitude to other
religions has left its mark on Isis.
Every house has been painted with
a sign.
This house is Sunni.
This one, Shia.
And this one, Yazidi.
Sinjar had a large population of
Yazidis, a religious minority who,
unlike the Christians, are not a
people of the book.
And it is what happened to the
Yazidis that revealed
the very cruellest face of Isis.
This is where the old women from the
village of Kocho met their fate.
Old women don't sell in the
slave markets.
And so 78 of them were brought
here and killed.
Muhammad said "avoid injustice".
The vast majority of Muslims would
never hesitate to condemn this
as a monstrous crime.
So how could Isis possibly believe
that this was justified?
When Isis explain their actions,
they appeal to one thing.
Not conscience, not human rights.
They appeal to the law of God.
But Islamic law fills whole books,
and there are many interpretations.
So how do Isis interpret it?
Jordan was the birthplace of
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
the Jihadi credited with
founding Isis.
His interpretation of Islamic law
was so bloody
that even Al-Qaeda disowned him.
Abu Sayyaf was also a Jihadi,
and with al-Zarqawi in jail.
Freed under an amnesty,
he is now the leader of Jordan
Salafists, hardliners who take
their interpretation from the
example of the earliest Muslims.
How central is Sharia to Islam?
In the West, um, our laws are human.
We do not derive our laws
from a God.
Does that make them inferior?
So what is it in Sharia that
suggests to Isis
that the Yazidis deserve death?
What is it about the Yazidis
that has always made them such
objects of hatred?
Under the Ottomans, there
was a fatwa,
giving Muslim rulers a complete
right to kill their men
and capture their children and
Lalish, the holiest Yazidi shrine,
is full of clues.
This is a place of traditions, older
by far than Islam.
The lighting of fires derives from
the Zoroastrians of ancient Persia.
Like the Jews, the Yazidis have
their stories of Noah.
This room is holy to a saint,
whose name echoes that of the sun
in Babylon.
Threads of different cults
and religions
have been woven seamlessly
together here.
This, for instance, is where Yazidi
say Adam was created.
Adam, who is a Muslim prophet.
To Muslims, it can hardly help but
seem simultaneously pagan
and blasphemous.
Step-by-step, the case against the
Yazidis mounts up.
But it's in here that we get clues
to what, for most Muslims,
is the ultimate blasphemy.
These different-coloured cloths
symbolise the seven angels
that the Yazidis believe are the
greatest servants of God.
And if there's a kind of
peacock shimmer to them,
then perhaps that's not entirely
a coincidence.
Because the greatest of the Angels,
Yazidis believe,
is the Peacock Angel, Melek Taus,
who, right at the beginning of time,
ascended from the heavens and came
here to Lalish,
and shed the radiance of
his feathers
over the colourless void of things.
But for Yazidis, there's a problem.
Stories they tell of Melek Taus echo
stories that Muslims tell
of the devil.
And so that is why there has always
been this calumny
against the Yazidis that they are
devil worshipers,
that in honouring Melek Taus,
the Peacock Angel,
they are, in fact, Satanists.
When Isis justified their slaughter
of Yazidi men
and their enslavement of
Yazidi women,
they did so by quoting a verse from
the Koran.
"And when the sacred months
have passed,"
"then kill the Mushrikun where
you find them,"
"and capture them and besiege them,"
"and sit in wait for them in every
place of ambush."
The Mushrikun were the
pagans of Mecca
who supposedly worshiped
idols of stone.
The Yazidis are classed as the
pagans of Lalish.
Muhammad himself, when he captured
Mecca, destroyed its idols,
much as Muslim conquerors over the
have sought to smash this stone,
that's been repaired many times.
The thing about Isis is, it's not
just that they think
they're justified in doing what they
do to the Yazidis,
it's much more terrifying than that.
They believe that they are following
the example of the man who,
for Muslims, is the ultimate
model to follow.
The Prophet Muhammad himself.
And it's that conviction that has
led them to commit genocide.
The Koran says that the people of
the book,
by which it specifies Jews
and Christians,
should be allowed to pay the jizya.
So why is it that Yazidis
weren't allowed to pay it?
Were the Islamic State wrong to
slaughter Yazidi men
and enslave Yazidi women?
But if someone isn't a Muslim, not a
person of the book,
one of the Mushrikun, and the Koran
says they should be killed,
then why isn't it right
to kill them?
Abu Sayyaf is quoting the Koran.
The tragedy is that even today,
some Muslims use these words to
justify the killing of the Yazidis.
Muslims have had their dreams of
But so, too, has the West.
Western soldiers crossed this
A Western general came here,
dreaming of a new Koran.
"40 centuries," he told his army,
"look down upon you".
In 1798, Napoleon's victory in the
Battle of the Pyramids
won him Egypt.
A decisive moment.
For the first time, a Muslim country
had succumbed to a
new and restless civilisation...
...the modern West.
When Napoleon came to Egypt,
he saw himself as someone who was
bringing light
into the darkness of the East.
Napoleon was a man of the
and he despised Islam pretty much as
he despised Christianity,
as a kind of backward form of
He was completely open about what
he was doing.
He said, obviously not to the
"You've got to lull this fanaticism
into a false sense of security,"
"so that we can destroy it."
What this building brilliantly
demonstrates is that
when Napoleon came to
Egypt, he didn't just bring
soldiers with him.
He also brought books, he brought
scholars of every kind.
He brought printing presses and he
material for chemistry labs.
And he even brought a balloon.
And what this building,
Institut d'Egypte,
it's a kind of barrack room for the
Napoleon planted barracks for his
soldiers over there,
but here he planted an outpost of
the Enlightenment.
And this... was for the
good of the Egyptians.
And this is the result,
the Description de I'Egypte.
At 37 volumes, it was enormous,
A 200-year-old precursor of
But the Institut's original version
no longer exists.
It was destroyed by fire during the
Arab Spring in 2011.
This book shop, founded
60 years ago,
is now run by a former tenor of the
local opera,
Hassan Kenny.
I am very honoured to meet you.
I'm very honoured to meet you.
Because there's not many traces of
Napoleon in Cairo.
But you seem to have most of them.
Not many places, only one place.
This is it.
He did come with a lot of
scientists, a lot of naturalists,
a lot of historians.
Because he was, he knew that Egypt
had a cultural treasure.
This is from the second edition.
This is from the 1835 edition.
So this is the Description.
So this is from the...
This is Napoleon.
And the Devon. Look.
So it is.
Yes. So it is.
Your friend, Napoleon.
Looking magnificently imperious.
'You turn the pages, and you can
almost feel Napoleon's
'all-conquering eye.'
So this sort of shows the way
in which
the people who are compiling this,
the people, the scientists
and the scholars who have come
with Napoleon,
are interested in every aspect.
Yes, everything.
'This was not merely scholarship,
'this was an act of annexation.'
God, amazing.
In an age before photography,
this is as close to looking at a
photograph as you'd get, and...
No, they, they didn't miss anything.
This is the harem.
Public dancers?
When the French come here,
they're not just interested in the
they're not just interested in the
they're not just interested in the
mechanics. No.
They're interested in the
Egyptians themselves,
and what they look like. He said
copy everything you see.
I mean, these aren't individual
these are portraits of types of
Mr Napoleon wants to take everything
he has seen,
and his people have seen, to Europe.
'What's on show here in Mr Hassan's
book shop is knowledge,
'but also a display of power.'
The Western eye was restless,
There was no aspect of life it did
not devour and challenge,
and that included Islam itself.
Europeans were fixated by the idea
of the Orient
as something timeless and
They hadn't come to Egypt simply to
colonise Muslim lands,
they wanted to colonise Muslim
minds as well.
The West, like Islam, had universal
Under its domineering and seductive
the Muslim world begin to change.
It was under Western pressure that
slavery was abolished.
So, too, the jizya.
Napoleon's scholars, sitting on
the Sphinx,
were sizing up the ancient
civilisation of the Orient
for a future fashioned by the West.
Napoleon still casts a long shadow.
Dead and buried he may be,
but his ghost still haunts the
Muslim world.
'In the wake of his death,
'Napoleon became the absolute model
of a great man.'
'And when Western historians wrote
the Life of Muhammad...
'the shadow of Napoleon tended
always to be there
'in the background.'
'But in the 19th into the 20th
'a period dominated by the West,
'the Western understanding of
Muhammad came to influence Muslims.'
'And so, you get something really
'Because gradually, over the course
of time,
'Muhammad came to be that little bit
more Napoleonic.'
Before Napoleon, um...
...the Muslim view of Muhammad was a
kind of mystical, cosmic one.
He was the beloved of God.
But in the two centuries since
he's become a much more recognisably
Western figure,
a law-giver, a state-builder.
And the process by which Muhammad
continues to be shaped by
Western values
is evident, for instance,
in the growing Muslim embarrassment
about the story
that's told about his favourite
wife, Aisha,
who, according to tradition,
Muhammad married her when she was
six or seven,
consummated the relationship when
she was nine.
And up until about 30 or 40
years ago,
no one had any problem with that.
But as anxieties in the West about
child abuse have grown,
so there's been a gathering movement
in the Islamic world to
alter the terms of the history to
say that Aisha was older.
And so, you...
the implication of that is
astonishing, that actually...
...the West is influencing Muhammad
And if the West can influence how
Muslims see Muhammad, then
the West can influence almost
And there are Muslims who are fine
with that.
But there are plenty of Muslims
who are not fine with that.
And one of them, seen here
under escort,
was an Egyptian, Sayyid Qutb.
He was charged with an
assassination attempt
on Egypt's President Nasser.
But Qutb had a message for Muslims
"Before the coming of Muhammad",
he said,
"Arabs had lived in a condition of
"Those were days of superstition,"
"when Pharaoh had ruled, not
the prophet."
"And laws were made by man,"
"not by God."
"Now," said Qutb, "there is a new
condition of ignorance.
"The pervasive influence of the West
has corrupted Islam..."
"..and threatens to destroy God's
final revelation to mankind."
Qutb was executed in 1966.
But his message still inspires
jihadists around the world.
"We must return to the pure
source," Qutb said,
"from which the first Muslims
derived their guidance,"
"the source that is free from any
mixing or pollution."
The 18th of November, 2015.
In Saint-Denis, police have hunted
down the terrorist
who masterminded the
Bataclan attacks.
In so many ways, what happened here
seems almost archetypally,
nightmarishly contemporary.
What gives what happened here its
particular quality of nightmare,
what makes it really unsettling is
the location.
Because if you keep on down this
past where the, um, where the
terrorists were shot to death,
and you turn around the corner,
what you see is one of the
foundational sites,
not just of French history,
but of Western history as a whole.
It's the great origin point of
of the Gothic,
and of the whole culture of
Mediaeval Europe.
It's the great cathedral of
'It feels quite dislocating
'coming here from the site where one
of the masterminds
'of the Bataclan killings was
'because these two people as well
were the victims of terrorists.'
'This is Louis XVI of France, and
this is his queen, Marie Antoinette,
'both of whom were guillotined in
the French Revolution.
'And their bodies originally were
dumped in a common grave,
'and their remains were then brought
here and reburied.'
'And, of course, in the
French Revolution,
'as in an Isis terror video...
...'beheading became a spectacle.'
'And it was a spectacle that was
designed to educate morally,
'to display what happened to
'and to affirm the values of the
people who were doing it.'
So these are lists of the kings of
France, in fact,
going all the way back to before
France even existed.
And a large number of them were
buried here,
and they were dug up in 1793
by the revolutionaries.
Their bodies were thrown into pits,
and lime was poured onto those pits
to dissolve
everything that remained of them.
And the aim of that was to create a
kind of year-zero,
it was to wipe the slate clean.
There was a kind of Christian idea
about this,
because they said that this was
the day of judgment on kings.
So there was an idea that the
apocalypse was being realised,
that the new Jerusalem was being
And that there was no place in this
new Jerusalem for the old order,
for the old royal order, and so it
just literally had to be erased.
There is this strain of
yearning for an apocalypse
that runs through Islam, as well as
through Christianity.
And so, I mean,
it seems odd to say that there could
be any kinship
between people in the
French Revolution and Isis.
But there is a thing, I think,
a sense in which both of them were
inspired by this idea of apocalypse,
by an idea... that a day
of judgment will come
when the righteous will be
and the unrighteous will be
it sets up a kind of
unsettling train of thoughts,
because what it brings home is the
way in which values that I hold,
values that most people in the
West hold,
the very idea of human rights,
were born amid bloodshed.
And thinking that in the light of
Isis, you know,
having seen what I've seen in
you think, well, maybe
there are parallels there.
Because Isis, too,
claim that their acts of terror are
in a noble cause, that
by washing their victims in blood,
they are fertilising the ground for
the establishment
of a caliphate that will bring
order and happiness to the whole
of humanity.
And that basically is how...
the executioners of Louis XVI and
Marie Antoinette,
and many others in the
French Revolution,
justified what they were doing.
'What, then, do we know of our
'whose apocalyptic yearnings are so
like our own?
'That they dream, like us, of seeing
their values
'triumph across the world,
'and they fear that they are
'Democracy, the tolerance of other
'universal human rights.
'That millions of Muslims believe
in these,
'is precisely what makes Isis dread
that Islam is being corrupted.
'Makes them determined to scour
it clean.
'And this, in turn, is what makes us
determined to fight them.'
Paris, 2005.
Riots in the banlieue, the suburbs.
For France, a state of emergency.
If Isis had their way, this is the
shape of things to come.
France is home to the largest Muslim
population in Europe,
and the banlieue is where the
majority of them live.
It's here,
and in similar neighbourhoods all
over Europe and America,
that Isis feel they have discovered
the Achilles heel of the West.
Isis refer to the vast number of
Muslims living in the West
as the "grey zone."
Despite their setbacks on the
radicalising this grey zone remains
the core of Isis' strategy.
Their acts of terror are designed to
to force Muslims in the West to
choose between their religion
and their country.
Between Sharia and democracy.
Between God's law and man's law.
Continents do not separate us
any more.
We live side-by-side.
Isis are fighting a battle for the
future of Islam.
What happens will determine the
future of us all.