Isis: The Origins Of Violence

Isis: The Origins Of Violence


Tom Holland’s 2012 film for Channel 4, Islam: the Untold Story, provoked a storm of protest from Islamic critics. Here, he cautiously raises his head above the parapet for another look at Islam and its history, this time searching for the roots of Islamic State’s meassage of extreme violence. “Most Muslims regard them with horror,” he notes. “But are they really a dark and ancient strain of Islamic thought?”

In one powerful scene he walks through the silent, shattered streets of Sinjar in Iraq and reflects on the Isis massacres there against Yazidis. It’s a wide-ranging, sometimes rambling story, but as hauntingly perceptive as an Adam Curtis film.


In this authored historical investigation, historian Tom Holland traces the origins of Isis's extreme violence, which it claims is justified by the tenets and scriptures of Islam. Travelling from Paris to Istanbul, and from Sinjar to Cairo, he examines the roots of Isis's interpretation of notions such as jihad and caliphate, and examines the origins of the group's beliefs. Holland also questions whether the group's ideology is in part a reaction to a westernisation of Islam, that ultimately dates back to the time of Napoleon.

Cast & Crew

Director Kevin Sim
Executive Producer Denys Blakeway
Producer Kevin Sim
Producer Alex Niakaris