ISIS Is Making Its Own Currency

It’s the latest step in the insurgent group’s attempt to forge a new state

Syrian Kurds flee Kobane as Islamic State forces approach. Bryan Denton/Corbis

Since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) split from al Qaeda earlier this year, its beheadings and bombings have been its most high-profile acts. But behind the scenes ISIS has been doing things very, very differently from most other terrorist groups.

True to its name, ISIS really does seem to be trying build a new state, founded on a “harsh interpretation of sharia law,” says the Guardian. The latest step: the group is forging their own currency, says the Times of Israel:

“On one side, the words “Islamic State” and “a caliphate following the model of the Prophet [Muhammad]” are engraved, as well as the weight and value of the coin.

On the other, various symbols are used.”

Known as the Islamic dinar, the coins are to be made out of copper, silver and gold and are meant to be a way for the people living in ISIS-controlled regions of Syria and Iraq to distance themselves from the U.S. dollar. At Vox, Matt Yglesias explains why a gold-backed currency makes sense for ISIS, but also show its weakness:

In economic terms, the gold standard is a bad idea. If you have a credible state infrastructure, then the logo itself does the work that you need. The American government not only has the ability to collect taxes payable in United States currency, but it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. That makes pieces of paper marked legal tender (and bank accounts denominated in the same) both valuable and useful. ISIS's interest in gold coins is a sign of its weakness — of the fact that as scary as ISIS is, nobody has faith in its long-term durability — and its need to bolster its credibility with precious metals.

This isn't the group's first attempt at forging the basis of state-like operations. ISIS has attacks factories and oil fields in order to capture and control them as assets. The group makes hundreds of thousands of dollars per day selling oil from captured fields and collects a cut from the shops and factories within its conquered domain.

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