WASHINGTON -- The murderous militant group that calls itself the Islamic State purports to be the ultimate radical Islamist force, out to permanently reshape the world's civilizations. But the actual minutiae of how ISIS arose, and what it devotes itself to on a day-to-day basis, is often less impressive. A case in point: In 2008, back when it was called al Qaeda in Iraq, the group placed a ban on women purchasing cucumbers.
Reuters shared that detail with the world in an August 2008 report on Iraqis turning against al Qaeda in Iraq because of the way it ruled over them.
"They regarded the cucumber as male and tomato as female," Sheikh Hameed al-Hayyes, a Sunni tribal leader, told the news agency. "Women were not allowed to buy cucumbers, only men."
Reuters and other analysts have suggested the cucumber rule was rooted in the extremists' view that the nourishing vegetable is too sexually suggestive for women to safely handle.
This knowledge may not be very helpful for the policymakers currently debating how best to defeat the radical group. And it's not going to save the thousands of women in Iraq and Syria suffering under Islamic State rule, among them hundreds of sex slaves. But in the spirit of the many in the Muslim world who have mocked ISIS's pretensions, perhaps it's good for the rest of us to remember that the force threatening to remake the world in its own violent, repressive image once had reactions to cucumbers on par with those of confused kitty cats.
H/T Charles R. Lister's The Islamic State: A Brief Introduction
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