When, on 4 July 2014, the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, preached in the venerable mosque of Mosul the restoration of the caliphate, his homily ushered in far more than a new phase in jihadist warfare against Western values. His oratory launched on the world scene a new culture that instantly began to shape, solidify, and even sublimate the caliphate as the most arresting rhetorical performance of radical and militant Islam.

However, despite this self-proclamation, political commentators failed to accurately size up the emerging culture of the new caliphate, and we find ourselves faced now with an alternative, global culture that draws irresistibly more and more converts and partisans into its orbit. The most perilous form of underestimating adversaries is to reduce their cultural complexity to a few, unreflective clichés, a telling sign of our own cultural illiteracy.

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