There was a very enlightening article in The Atlantic yesterday by Graeme Wood that explored deeply into the ISIS movement, delving into what drives them, their recruits, and their momentum. It pointed a big finger at the importance of first recognizing that this is an Islam-driven situation.
When the Right Wing attacked President Obama for not identifying ISIS as reflecting Islam, it seemed at first to just another knee-jerk attack against Obama. But even a broken and racist clock can be right once in a while despite it being for the wrong reason.
After reviewing this article, one may come away with the intended effect of seeing it as critical that ISIS is openly viewed as one version of Islam and in doing so, its motivations, methods and goals become more understandable and easier to fight and defeat.
Does President Obama really believe that, as he has described them, ISIS is “unIslamic”?
It is an assumption to say this but it would not seem far fetched to view what he is doing as a supportive gesture to the majority of Muslims who do not support the ISIS extremists and protect them from bigotry. He also may be reaching out to them by not allowing ISIS to tarnish the perception of their religion as a whole.
Even though it may be well intentioned, this may be a costly mistake. When you repeat an untruth enough, even for a good reason, you may start to believe it.
As the above-mentioned article details, the beheadings, the religious purgings of fellow Muslims, and most importantly, the capturing of land all comes from ISIS’ extremist views of what is written in the Koran. To beat them, the U.S. and the world first have to recognize why they do what they do and then they can target them where they are most vulnerable because of that.
There is no ISIS without a Caliphate and a Caliph. These are Islamic-dictated requirements, there must be land held and a Caliph declared who comes from the right bloodline. Again, all of this comes from The Koran. The logic is inescapable, ISIS is an Islamic group. Their views may not be shared by a majority but they are Islamic. There are different versions of Christianity, some of which represent a small minority of Christians, but all are viewed as Christians.
If we are going to defeat an enemy of a majority of all religions including other Muslims, we first have to accept the concept that extremists in a religion still are motivated by and devout followers of their version of that religion.
This is also where the U.S. and President Obama run into an obstacle.
There is a pattern already established in America. Extremist Christians who are a very vocal and very energized voting block in America are also distanced from being representative of Christianity. They exhibit a penchant for racism, chauvinism, war mongering and supporting, threatening and/or committing violence against those they view as enemies to their religious beliefs (for example, see some of the Dominionist articles at PlanetPOV including: Dominionists – The Mighty Oak Is Not Always a Good Thing, God, Guns, Greed – Face of Dominionism and Coalition Of Church And State: Destroyed From Within.)
Even though most Christians oppose the terrible things Dominionists represent, as ISIS is to Islam, Dominionists are Christians and a part of Christianity. Unfortunately, since religion is such a minefield for politicians, Americans have become accustomed to disassociating religious extremists from their religion so as not to offend mainstream religious voters. The problem here is the same with ISIS, since they are viewed not as members of a version of their actual religion but as crazy extremists unrelated to their religion, they can’t be confronted effectively on the ground they are operating on.
What else do Christian Fundamentalists like Dominionists and ISIS have in common? Both groups see democracies and governments as being against God, both groups want absolutist theocracies ruling their country and the world that enforce only the laws written in their holy book. Both groups want society to go back to the way it was hundreds if not thousands of years ago and both desperately hunger for an Apocolypse that will destroy the human race and the world.
The concept that by supporting and causing the horrible murders of billions of people, they would get a pat on the back from a grateful Jesus/Mohammed and a 1st Class ticket to heaven, is incomprehensible to any enlightened religious people
But some Christians and Muslims fiercely believe in that. Though they may be shoulder to shoulder on it at this point, where it kind of falls apart is that each group believes that only they will be taken up while the others won’t be (for Dominionists, all but them will go to Hell, for ISIS, only they will be accepted into Heaven).
If such an end game can be recognized, the paths that such religious extremists take towards bringing about this horrible delusion can be anticipated and undermined.
Though religion is the primary GPS for Dominionists and ISIS, it may not be such a coincidence that those who are willing to give everything, even their lives in service to bringing along this imagined Apocalypse and Second Coming are principally those living desperate lives. To someone helplessly living in Iraq who has had family members murdered by Saddam, an opposing Islamic sect or the U.S., who lives in great poverty and with no hope, the destruction of human existence doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to happen…especially if the sooner it comes, the sooner one will live forever in Heaven. This is a religious belief though so while desperation may be part of the mix, a version of Islam is as well.
Those who are disaffected around the world who have been joining ISIS are more typically those who feel alienated and hopeless in their lives. To become apart of something powerful, something that can give them an instant and driving purpose in life that contributes to something as huge as building a new nation and bringing about The Rapture…can be irresistible to such people.
So ISIS has at its core, its version of Islam that drives it as an organization to see it as a justified mission to murder and dismember innocent people, take over land and terrorize those who don’t follow their beliefs into converting or standing by while they press on.
Recognizing that they are Islamic is the first step to understanding how to beat them. Political correctness and political pandering to religious voters have become initial enemies for the U.S. to defeat. Once the realities of ISIS’ Islamic-based motivations are fully recognized, the U.S. and the rest of the world can build a truly effective strategy to defeat ISIS by attacking the engine that drives them.
It seems to me that America is hated for the most part in the Middle East. Therefore America cannot be the fighters against ISIS. ( almost wrote Issa )
What is needed is for the Middle Eastern countries to take the fight to ISIS!
This is the problem that I have constantly, in trying to warn people about Dominionists. Many scoff at the idea , so the fact that the President scoffs at the idea of ISIS as Islam is no big surprise. The kicker is that Dominionists in Congress or society recognize it, whether subconsciously or consciously because they are being taught the same methods. I always try to differentiate between Dominionists and Maniline Christianity but the problem is without research it is hard for someone who has not studied them to understand. Almost every single time I have to go in to the long explanation and people still refuse to believe. The people who vehemently disagree are most likely recognizing their own religious experience. There are certain code words etc that identify these people and after Steeplejacking it is necessary to even look in detail at some mainline churches because they are a “division” in some form of Domionist teachings. After all, what better way to spread your message and get rid of open and affirming denominations than to take over their churches?
One thing that I think has to be understood is that the people who go for this are usually the marginalized or disenfranchised people in society or the people looking for an authoritarian way of life. In that respect, we really do have to look at the Bush administration for helping to bring this group about when they invaded a sovereign country to steal their oil and to satisfy some sick idea of a Hatfield and McCoy relationship between Saddam and the Bushes. There were definitely other reasons, testing a two front war, distracting from the real culprits of 9/11, Babylon as the cradle of civilization etc. That last one would be a screwed up machination of George Bush’s religious beliefs that he is really not even intellectual enough to understand except for his own sick translation. He is like the new convert that likes the “idea” of the group’s ideas but screws it all up in his head because he latches on to save himself from something else and is not really sincere in his beliefs. After all, you don’t see him engaged in any religious activities in his retirement. He used them, they used him which is another sick joke played on the American people because it really opened the door for these people in government.
Good article. The only thing we really can do is try to educate people but quite frankly, I think, like global warming, we may be too far gone with these people holding office and laymen and women refusing to believe what is going on around them.
Edited: I might mention that ISIS is the extreme of Islam and a perverted version of Islam as well.
Sue, I really had never thought about the infamous Dubya “conversion experience” before in the way you described it. He “latched onto it to save himself from something else” (namely, his own alcoholism). And you’re right — in retirement, he’s no Jimmy Carter, that’s for sure.
But during his eight years he definitely made himself a very useful tool for Dominionists, without a doubt.
I’ve read hints of a new volunteer “Christian Militia” forming in the ME to battle ISIS. Maybe Dubya and Cheney would like to jet in with their threadbare “Mission Accomplished” banner and lead the troops.
It would be the first time for either of them.
It would be a first for either of them, Kes. War mongers send other people’s families to fight their battles.
Sue…Thank you for this. I truly believe that Dominionism is to be feared. That its concepts are being actively pursued by many in the churches, and that they are in Congress…particularly in the House where about 50 of them are controlling Boehner. Their language is clear. They were sent to Washington to cause chaos and to not just “limit government” but to destroy it as we know it.
Since learning about them through your excellent,informative research, I have been trying to make others aware when posting online. But, it seems I am very alone when trying to expose these fundamentalists and their diabolical plan. No one else seems to speak of them except here at the planet. How can we counter this if no one will speak of it?
They know how to play the game. They claim to be helping the poor throughout the world, all the while indoctrinating them towards their own end.
This election season seems to be using the same strategy…claiming concern for the middle/working class and reducing poverty through what we used to “call “the Protestant work ethic.” A return to the Dickensian world of work or die.
Both Houses in Congress are Republican…or as I like to call them, New Republicans. They are very good at lying, innuendo, and deception.
The Dems only have Hillary Clinton as their great hope; Just one focus for the New Republicans to work their black magic. That, I feel is not a good thing. It is clear, that even now, all attacks are on Hillary and the President. More Dems need to be in the mix, if only to show the depth of the Party, with many who are capable of running for President.
The fate of America, if a New Republican takes the presidency, will be in the hands of those whose ideology is authoritarian and theological. I would presume as well, that more states will turn red, and the democratic process will be destroyed for generations to come.
Sorry for the rant, but I really appreciate your expertise and hard work in this very important area, Sue. Keep up the great work. I know I will continue to try and inform where ever I can, even though I am a Canadian.
This is a global crisis and these folk need to be exposed.
Thank you for your encouraging words. I will continue as log as I have breath in me, to fight this scourge. Christians have done a lousy job of explaining their beliefs and the Dominionists have had since the early 70’s to perfect theirs. And they have become master manipulators as well. They are told to lie about their religious background in order to gain office and quite frankly, people just do not research the candidates they vote for in an election.
I appreciate that you are also spreading the word but I would also caution you about Stephen Harper. He is mixed up with a group here called Council for National policy. I did a piece here on them and will find it for you. With the veto of the pipeline, he and the Kochs may show their true colors to even Canadians. Harper had such hubris that he thought Canada could claim eminent domain on United States land. Unlucky for him the people who were going to lose their land stood up and said, no. This is just my own thoughts but I believe if a Republican were to be back in the WH, Harper would exercise that eminent domain to help them along and it would have been too late for Americans.
I don’t know if it will ever truly happen but I have to say the mentality of people here makes it ripe for some kind of “coup”. People are just too distracted with money and materialistic stuff to really pay attention anymore and quite frankly we are raising a huge amount of ignorant citizens.
Sue, Thank you for your reply and the link. Yes, Many Canadians see Harper as a danger to our country. We have a Federal election this October 19th and hopefully his party will be gone. Currently his overall approval rating is between 34% and 37%. There is stronger support in the Prairie provinces and in particular, Alberta, his home province.
We Canadians are also bad at showing up at the polls. Harper was able to form a majority government in 2011 because of voter apathy. Conservatives received 39.4% of valid votes cast. But only 61.1% voted therefore the cons received only 24.1% approval. We have to do better in this next election if we are to rid ourselves of the Conservative government.
I found your link fascinating, and terrible. So, that would be fascinatingly terrible! The breadth and depth of this organization is frightening. No wonder the President concerns himself with leaks. No wonder he cannot work with the New Republican Party who completely rejects him…no fault can be laid at his feet, though.
I did not see Stephen Harper’s name in the article. If you have any further information about his involvement with this group, I would love to know of it. I will do some research on my own to see if I can find more info.
Thanks again, Sue. Your are a great American!
Here is his 1997 speech to the CNP I think it will put chills down your spine.
If you want any more info, please let me know. You can find me on FB too under the name Susan Dorado
Sue, very sorry about the delay in responding but you’ve done a wonderful job in framing the problems all of this brings up.
When it comes to condemning the extremists of a religion, I do think people fairly have reservations about the connection because all religions have extremists and there’s a concern of using a broad brush on all those of a religion because of the extremists.
I think many people do see their own religion as a very different animal than how it’s portrayed by extremists but it is a fact that all of them are using their view of their religious dogma as defining their beliefs.
So while 99% of Muslims are peaceful and care about their fellow human beings, that 1% is still following their view of Islam, as corrupt as the 99% may claim it to be.
The semantics matter, when we try to attack a group by dissing them and announcing that they aren’t driven by the religious beliefs that drive them, we harm ourselves and our ability to confront them fully.
If we say that ISIS isn’t driven by their view of Islam, then how can we trap them in their hypocrisy and sabotage their campaign? And look what was a real game changer, because they burned a man alive, and action that goes against the Koran, they HAVE been undercut by fellow Muslims.
Jordan is bombing them, Egypt is attacking them, Iraq is about to attack them, more Muslims have turned against them BECAUSE ISIS is religiously driven and has been violating their religion.
This is the most powerful tool we have against ISIS, if they can rightly be portrayed as Muslim Extremists who are violating and dishonoring the Koran and the millions of Muslims surrounding them finally see them for who they really are, they can be defeated very quickly and without the US sending invading troops back in.
The connection between ISIS and Islam has been their strength in recruiting but it can also lead to their swift downfall as long as it’s not propagandized away by the U.S. in an effort to be politically correct.
I dunno, but it seems to me that if the critics want to say ISIS is driven by Islam, then they must accept that the Klan was driven by Christianity.
Somehow, I do not think they will take that leap…
No they will not take that leap and nor should they. The KKK was still lynching black people in the 40’s and murdering in other ways since then. Yet there are some white folks who want to get the vapors about bringing up the Klan because that was in the “past” – not as distant as they would pretend to believe.
I have a relative who lives in TN, and she told me recently that there is a very active branch of the KKK only about 20 miles from her. They are far from being in the distant past.
Sabreen60, my friend, Klan-like groups were responsible for the deaths of Alan Berg (late 1980s) and James Byrd (early 2000s) and the recent killing in Mississippi. David Duke still influences politicians.
I say it again, if ISIL is Islam, then the Klan is Christian. Both groups lean heavily on their religion and faith to guide their actions.
That leap should be taken, or those critics should back off on the ISIL = Islam talk.
Said with respect.
I am not disagreeing with you. In fact, I agree with you 100%.
If you don’t have a copy of the Qu’ran and you really want to know what it says, get one and read it. The problem with the article you linked to is the author did what uninformed people usually do – take verses out of context. In each Qu’ran there are footnotes at the bottom of the page that explains what is going on at that particular time. Christians, Jews and “pagans” were warring with each other. Muslims were being killed as were the others. Therefore, there are passages in the Qu’ran that say in essence to defend yourselves – kill the infidels. BTW, infidels were considered to be anybody – any religion – who attempted to kill or stop the practice of Islam. However, there was certainly no love lost between the Muslims and Jews. They fought each other to the death. Probably why the Qu’ran singles out Christians to say they are most like Muslims.
So if ISIL is using these passages to justify their actions, they are corrupting them.
Just in case….I am not defending Islam or any religion for that matter. I was a Christian before I was Muslim. I got sick of the hypocrisy by Christians and I got sick of the hypocrisy by Muslims. But just because someone claims to have knowledge doesn’t make it so. I don’t know anything about the author of the article, but he sure doesn’t impress me. He’s parroting “western” talking points. Read for yourself and don’t depend on others to give you knowledge when you can go straight to the source. Sorta like listening to pundits.
Hi AdLib. Excuse my early morning ramblings. Excellent article and observations as usual.
Although it’s easy to believe that the disenfranchised youth with no future joining ISIS believe that they are murdering, stealing, raping and plundering for a greater cause, I find it much harder to believe this about its leaders. Osama bin Laden used religion to draw more fighters when his motives were later clearly shown to be more about revenge for the snub from the Saudis not jumping at his offer to guard Mecca. The leaders of ISIS appear to be fighting more for power than a religious cause after years of Shia rule under Maliki where Sunnis didn’t have much of a voice in governing for the same reason after decades of oppressing the Shias. If this is about religion then it’s about the hate between the two religious groups and the need for the power to rule under their own terms. The fact that Muslims can kill other Muslims in a blink of an eye, makes ISIS less about Islam and much more about the ultimate revenge they are seeking. After all, ISIS is what was left of Al Qaeda in Iraq and a few of Hussein’s loyal puppets who managed to escape from the U.S. invasion probably with money from the U.S. that was stolen in raids before they went into hiding.
Your observation about the similarities between ISIS and extreme “Christians”, is spot on, and even with the Dominionists the emphasis is more on raking in money and wielding power than actually working for their twisted image of what God wants them to do, if in fact God has anything to do with it.
This will not be solved through diplomatic channels, there is no reasoning with people who behead, bury and burn people alive to use as propaganda in video clips. The only way to defeat them is for more countries in the ME to step up to the plate like Jordan and Egypt just did and show them that enough is enough by fighting back.
Nigeria did just that with their plague of Boko Haram attacks.
Air strike ‘kills dozens’ in Niger
Thirty-seven people have died in an air strike in southern Niger during military operations that killed 300 Boko Haram militants, local officials say.
The escalation of madness and pure evil.
“Islamic State militants ‘burn to death 45 in Iraq'”
Then there is the very real threat to Europe from militants in Libya.
“Italy seeks swift action on Libya”
Italy urges swift action at the UN to tackle the Libyan conflict, highlighting the risk that warring militias may side with Islamic State militants.
I just found this interesting article about the article in The Atlantic that you linked to.
“What The Atlantic Gets Dangerously Wrong About ISIS”
I agree with President Obama. As a former Muslim (I would now be called an unbeliever)ISIL is NOT Islam. The Qu’ran says to be as kind and soft to your Muslim brothers and sisters as milk. These thugs are killing more Muslims than anyone else. The Qu’ran also says that CHRISTIANS are most like Muslims because of their belief in God.
Whatever ISIL is practicing in ain’t Islam nor any part of Islam. Was the KKK practicing Christianity when they lynched black people across this country? Was there some part of Christianity that told them to kill black people?
People have used religion to kill people. Maybe there is something in the Bible or the Qu’ran they can use to justify their actions but that doesn’t make it based in truth.
Sabreen, they have perverted a decent religion. You are correct. They are not Muslim. When you compare them to the KKK, that is a very good way to look at it. Any religion can be perverted. They do what the GOP does. That is they pick a part of their good book and abandon all the rest of it.
Religion doesn’t corrupt men, men corrupt religion.
Sabreen, it’s very much the case that ISIS isn’t practicing a form or Islam that most Muslims recognize. It’s foreign to most but unfortunately, the horrible things they’re doing do come from following certain sections of The Koran (check out the article I linked to above).
What they’ve seized on are the parts of The Koran that make up a roadmap to the Apocalypse and The Rapture which is their ultimate goal to help bring about. It all begins with establishing a new Caliphate and eventually having an ultimate battle with “Romans” which will trigger The Rapture.
The Christian Fundies are on the same page of the Bible but are using different tactics. Because of the roadmap that Revelations provides in the Bible, they are strongly in support of Israel and conflicts in the Middle East because in order for The Apocolypse and The Rapture to happen, Jews need to be in power in Israel and war needs to be raging.
Many mainstream Christians believe in The Rapture but are upset at those Fundies Christian politicians who try to foment more war and killing in the ME and justify the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.
I hope none of this comes off as my painting all of Islam (or Christianity) with a broad brush dipped in the obscenity of ISIS.
Until I read that article, I didn’t know the full details on how ISIS is maniacally chasing a prophecy from The Koran . Knowing that can help our approach to undermining them.
AdLib – Kalima and Sabreen are correct that ISIL (or whatever their self-professed name is today) is as much like Islam as (with apologies to Thurber) the MGM lion resembles Calvin Coolidge.
They wrap themselves in the mantle, but they create new and utterly non-Islamic “dicta” that they just made up. The same is true with Dominionists who purport to be Christian. Extremists don’t actually act on the precepts of their name tag religion – they create an entirely NEW set of ideas that become dogma justifying their actions.
Since I don’t know a lot about the Qur’an, I will leave that denunciation to Imams. But Dominionists create utterly new ideas and justifications for their criminal and vile acts every time one murders or discriminates or in some other way violates the precepts of their supposed faith.
At best they wallow in wrong interpretations of the Old Testament, a book written during the age of tribalism. But they get that wrong, cheerfully and gleefully, when they point to Sodom and Gomorrah as a story of God’s wrath for homosexuality – it is not, and every contemporary Christian scholar will tell you that. It’s a story about inhumanity towards strangers that calls down the wrath – but Dominionists have made up a false story that is nowhere in the Old Testament.
When you have Dominionists asserting – and you’ve heard it all- that Jesus was white, that Jesus spoke English, and the like, it has exactly and precisely NO bearing on Christian belief.
When Dominionists pretend there are passages in the Bible justifying the murder of abortion providers, anyone remotely familiar with the passages they deliberately misinterpret can assure you that this is not Christian. It is cobbled together as something new and horrid.
If we’re going to let them wrap themselves in the mantle and then say it’s problematic, we give them power. They need to be called out for their lies and distortions, not included within the bounds of the faith. That’s what many of us never use the term “Christian extremists” but Dominionists. They are NOT Christian at all. I remain quite convinced from imams who are denouncing ISIS that the same is true for these Middle Eastern extremists. So ISIS they are. Muslims they are not.
If WE don’t point out their singularity, we aid the extremists everywhere who pretend to some kind of legitimacy. We need to be willing to make that judgment. It is essential to our understanding of domestic and foreign policy everywhere.
AdLib, excellent article!
It has been noted that many who turn to ISIL do so because of poverty or lack of educational opportunity. But, it struck me, when the media was covering the Hebdo murders, that mention was made of how Muslims do not assimilate into British and French society. They keep within themselves, just as some migrants like the Italians, Irish and Jews formed their own little enclaves when they came to America; they kept to themselves because of resentment and anger from Americans who saw them as a threat to jobs,wages etc.
I would think this is an area that Muslims and non-Muslims need to work on together if we are to ever eliminate culture wars, religious jihad that our young are being drawn to.
I will start by saying that many, many Muslims the world over have said that the barbarism committed by ISIS and related groups is indeed unIslamic. ( I’m not sure that’s actually a valid word)
Muslims in America, at least the majority of them do not approve of what these terrorist groups are doing, in the name of Allah or the Islamic faith in general.
I think it is wise for the president to state that we are not at war with Islam. These are criminal groups, international criminal enterprises no matter what they claim their motivations are, and they should be treated as such.
ISIS is very good at recruiting, especially on social media, people who feel disenfranchised, angry at world governments, poor, frustrated and anti-social types. Many of these recruits aren’t even Muslims. They are just very angry people who want to take their anger out on someone.
I realize that these recruits are a small percentage of these terrorist groups, and the majority are living out some twisted version of Islam. The president is trying to avoid any appearance of this struggle being a religious war, and I agree wholeheartedly. That is the last thing we want.
How much more do we need to know about the motivations behind ISIS and related groups, to be effective in fighting them? I have no doubt that the president, the Joint Chiefs and our immense intelligence community know a lot more than the average American knows.
Far too many people in America consider us to be a Christian nation, and I’m sure that many Muslim extremists are aware of this and probably want that to be true. I think the last thing we should be doing is saying this struggle is against any religious faction, even though that is most likely the case in large part.
I think the president is being about as diplomatic about this highly complicated and emotionally dangerous situation as he can be. ISIS would love to have everyone in the world believe this is a religious war. Bad idea for peace loving people everywhere, no matter what faith they may adhere to, or no faith at all.
KT, I fully agree that it should be clear that we and the rest of the world are not at war with Islam as a whole, it is important for leaders to stress that the huge majority of Muslims are loving, caring thoughtful people like everyone else.
We can say though that this ISIS cult of Islamist extremists/fundamentalists are our enemy.
I do recommend that you check out the article linked to in my post, it does lay out how the actions of ISIS do conform to a strict reading of The Koran.
The majority of Muslims are not responsible for ISIS nor should Islam be re-defined in the minds of people by ISIS. But just as we can look at Dominionists as hateful, militaristic Christians, we can honestly tag ISIS as hateful, militaristic Muslims.
Group blame is prejudice, it would be outrageous to blame all of Islam for what ISIS is doing. But they are following a fundamentalist belief of Islam so they are Islamic in their beliefs.
Oh, no question about it. They do have a small percentage of non-Muslim recruits though. As I mentioned before, they have a pretty effective recruitment campaign going on social media. They seem to be willing to use anybody with enough angst, Muslim or not. I’m sure they are converting these poor, confused recruits.
I just question the belief that we could gain any real advantage by claiming that if we knew more about their version of Islam, we could combat them more effectively.
After all, religious belief or no, they are are in reality, international, criminal thugs. I am pretty confident that our security and intelligence apparatus know what they need to know about them.
The president is showing real diplomatic wisdom in his statements. He has to walk a fine line concerning his statements about religion.
This is a tough one, AdLib. I think part of the difficulty lies in who is doing the “deciding” as far as whether or not a person or a group is “Islamic.” (Or “Christian,” or “American,” or “German”)
There’s no doubt that ISIS claims to be Islamic — and probably deeply believes that it is. But mainstream Muslim leaders insist otherwise. In effect saying: “Don’t claim us, because we certainly don’t claim you.”
The same goes with groups like Westboro Baptist. I don’t know of any mainstream Protestant denomination that would say “they’re one of us.” Even though the Westboro people proudly lay claim to the title “Christian.”
So I guess the first question — when any group claims to be “faith-based” — is: “Sez who?” Does identification as a member of any given group go to anyone who merely claims it? Or do the leadership and other members of that group also get a say?
What does turn people into beheaders and monsters who burn victims alive in cages? Or — for that matter — people who lynch others, burn crosses on lawns, or publicly “thank God for dead soldiers”?
What turns people into sadists?
As you’ve said, feeling helpless, hopeless, dispossessed, and scorned surely plays a major role. It’s hard to believe that the misinterpretation of some lines of scripture could truly send people into this moral death-spiral.
Many people — understandably to some extent — blame religion itself for the violent chaos that reigns in the ME and elsewhere. But I think the real roots go in another direction. Misinterpreted religion is just the way monsters cloak their sadism in what they think is an “acceptable” — even righteous — external ‘garment.’ When you torture for your “God,” you’re one of his mighty warriors (they tell themselves). You’re not just a deranged, furious loser.
More and more, I’m beginning to suspect that the unprecedented level of global income inequality is the prime mover behind much of this. People all over the world can feel themselves getting closer and closer to the cliff’s edge. And they’re not wrong. Estimates are that if the current level of growing inequality continues, by 2050 the richest 1% will own most of the world’s wealth.
When people face this terrifying reality as well as extremely rapid social change, they do strange things. When some crazy, ranting leader figure promises them that he’s going to bring them to the restoration of their former glory, they buy it.
Whether it’s some TeaParty 2d Amendment loon urging them to “take back their country.” Or some guy in Germany in 1932, with a funny-looking mustache saying that the humiliation of a WWI defeat was going to be erased. Or some would-be Caliph promising that the Caliphate would be restored and doctrinal purity would reign throughout the world. It all just sounds so simple and powerful.
All you need are your guns, guns, guns.
“And this will surely be the war to end all wars. Just believe that one more time. Honest.”
Very well put, Homie. I could not agree more. Indicating that this is some sort of Holy War is the last thing we should be doing. How much more do we need to know about ISIS and related groups than we already know? We know what their motivations are, and a big one is their attempts to call their actions religious and thus, a Holy War.
The president is once more, showing his wisdom and is again, far ahead of the pack.
Kes, I really recommend that you read the article I linked to in the first paragraph of my post. ISIS is following the Koran as fundamentalists. The beheading they do comes from the Koran. The seizing of land, the forcible conversions, the purges, it’s all coming directly from the Koran.
Of course most Muslims oppose such an adherence to the most violent portions of The Koran so they oppose what ISIS is doing and how they represent Islam. But they are following the literal pages of The Koran and trying to bring about the End of Days just as many fundamentalists Christians would like to. As opposed to taking a small bizarre group like Westboro Baptist, consider the Dominionists, RW Baptists and other fundamentalist Christians. Are all of them not Christian because they follow a more hateful interpretation of the Bible?
Consider the Bible’s support for slavery, mysoginiy, killing those of other beliefs and even the Ten Commandments that include coveting something of a neighbor’s, making graven images, taking God’s name in vain and not making Sunday holy are all sins against God (and in the Biblical story, those who violated these commandments we’re killed by God).
If a Christian fundamentalist group dedicates themselves to faithfully enforcing such things, are they not Christians following their holy book?
The point I’m hoping to make is that I see it as less a case of Christian and Not Christian or Muslim and Not Muslim than Enlightened/Modern Christians and Muslims and Unenlightened/Throwback Christians and Muslims.
Enlightened people out their holy books in perspective of the times they were written in and don’t take every word in them literally. Those that do are also religious but literalists who can’t reason their way out of such beliefs.
Such types should be outcast but the article’s point is to say that if we just do what feels good and brand them as being motivated by something foreign that isn’t religion, we blind ourselves to what is truly motivating them and make it less likely to undercut what we won’t acknowledge.
Thanks much for the clarification, AdLib. I think I see what you’re saying now. Which is — if I can try to paraphrase — that it’s important for religious leaders to make it clear that there are parts of their scriptural bases that are ambiguous (at best) and/or misguided and/or not to be taken literally. Which would be a huge admission — as you say — for fundies of every variety.
As you note — there are huge sections of the Old Testament that clearly accept (and occasionally encourage) slavery, violence, misogyny, the notion of a violent and vengeful God, etc. When I was being taught Catholic theology (back in the good old liberal, post-Vatican II days), the word was that these earlier OT books were a sort of inevitable way station on the evolutionary path to a more mature, enlightened and loving relationship with a more benign God. We were always taught that most of the Bible was not to be taken literally — but as a chronicle of a sort of groping toward spiritual enlightenment through poetry, allegory and (at times) plain and simple human trial and error. Evolution was — during my time in college — always a given. I never heard its validity questioned once.
Now, naturally, this is regarded as rank heresy by people like the conservative Southern Baptists and the Pentecostals. Hence, they’re able to produce stuff like the awful statements of late that “it was too bad about those Coptic Christians having been beheaded, but they were never real Christians to start with.”
So yes, I can see that what you’re saying about this being a struggle between religious extremists/throwbacks and enlightened religious believers makes total sense. What we need to hear more of would be religious leaders who say: “You can quote chapter and verse of the Qur’an or the Old Testament to justify what you’re doing, but you’re wrong. Not every word of that document is meant to be taken literally. You need to pay attention to the parts of our scripture and faith tradition that emphasize peace and tolerance and let go of the rest. Until you can do that, you’re not recognized as a Muslim [Christian, Jew.]”
Those are words that are going to be difficult, if not impossible, for a lot of these mullahs or fundie preachers to get out of their mouths. But it would sure be a large step in the right direction.
(Btw, I do think it’s totally fair to say that Westboro Baptists, violent Dominionists, KKK “Christians” and their ilk are not Christians, no matter what they call themselves. I think JC himself, if he were to re-appear might say the same thing.)
And in the meantime, let’s fix that income inequality thing!
Back once more, AdLib, after having read the Atlantic article — which is really a very impressive piece of journalism, in that Wood was able to interview — at length — some major players in this situation. To our Planeteers: it’s a lengthy article but well worth the read.
The one quotation that Wood presented (from Orwell) really summed up his main point:
I worry, though, that Wood’s article (which is more nuanced than anything FOX “News” or Franklin Graham has ever presented) will nevertheless still be used by them and the rest of the right to vilify Islam as a whole and/or to justify putting more US combat troops on the ground in the ME. Although that is really not what Wood is saying here.
It seems to me that ISIS is definitely something to be taken seriously, but not necessarily cause for panic either. For all their boasting about plans for a vast Caliphate, there’s little reckoning of the difficulty of maintaining an empire that covers a great deal of territory with supply lines stretched beyond all practicality. And the unlikelihood that there are enough homicidal sociopaths in all of Islam to fill the ranks of the necessary occupying troops.
The history of jihadists in the ME seems to be rife with endless splitting into faction after faction — endless power struggles between purist leaders battling to claim the ultimate moral high ground. I don’t want to make light of the situation, but there seems to be an almost limitless potential for a totally self-destructive implosion.
And, as Wood implied, there doesn’t seem to be the danger to the American home front that there was from Al Qaeda and bin Laden (who were more focused on the “far enemy”).
As much as John McCain and company would love to get us pulled back into this situation, it seems that the people who have the most vested interest in putting the brakes on these guys are their immediate neighbors in the ME. And then Europe. I really hope they’ll see it that way, and not simply assume that we’ll do the heavy lifting here.
Wood is pretty critical of President Obama and his staff for not seeing the situation clearly enough and soon enough. But — and I could be wrong — I don’t recall any other voices in 2011 sounding the alarm about ISIS either. Maybe the President’s handling of the situation in the ME has been less than flawless, but overall I think it’s been pretty steady, well-informed and sensible.
What strikes me (and I suspect most of us) is how much Dubya, Cheney, Rice et al have had to do with creating this horrific mess. So many of these jihadis were radicalized by Bush’s wretchedly misguided war. He opened Pandora’s box and then just walked blithely away from the whole scene.
Given the assumption that Wood makes about ISIS representing less danger to the US mainland than Al Qaeda did, I guess the next question is: Is there a danger to us here that is festering just as silently and secretly as ISIS did in the ME? Something we might wish we’d paid more attention to when we look at it in hindsight 50 years from now? Given the similarity in the way rigid and scripturally literal fundamentalists think, maybe we should be having a good long look at the Oathkeepers movement, the Dominionists, militant Christians in the military, and extreme Christian Zionists.
We might be growing our own ISIS here, right under our noses.
Hey Homie, I think the president’s biggest mistake, and I cannot really blame him too much for it, was following the timetable for the complete withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraq. A timetable by the way, that was set up by Bush and Al Maliki.
The Iraqi government wanted us out, the American people wanted us out. Both the shiite faction (Maliki and his minions) and the American people wanted the US military out of Iraq. I think that following this prearranged timetable was a mistake. Then again, isn’t 20/20 hindsight a great thing.
We did have to leave eventually. No rational American was in favor of an endless occupation. I do think, looking back and now at the present situation, that our withdrawal was premature. As far as Obama’s detractors, they seem to have forgotten who got us into this mess in the first place.
The biggest mistake of all was invading Iraq and destabilizing the entire region. That is not on Obama’s shoulders.
As far as those that opted for the struggle and the danger in fascist regimes? Look where it got them. Near total devastation and millions of deaths.
I also blame the Maliki government almost as much as I blame the Bush administration. Almost, being the key word. After all, it was Bush and his minions that put Maliki in power. They knew almost nothing about his character. Then again, when have RWers ever been a good judge of character?
Right you are, Homie. Any party that has a tent big enough to include Dubya and Sarah Palin clearly has problems with judging character!
Honestly, I doubt that there ever was a “right” time for American troops to leave the ME. (I remember talking about getting us out of there back in about 2004, and a friend of mine said: “No! The place will go up in flames the minute we leave!” And I replied: “The place is going to go up in flames whenever we leave — even if it’s ten years from now — so let’s get out now.”)
As you said — the mistake was in ever having gone in there in the first place. Dubya sowed the wind and now everyone is reaping the whirlwind.
If there were only a way to turn the clock back…
We truly live in a 21st Century world of supervillains, with no superheroes to save us from them.
Adlib, since the early days following the aftermath of 9/11, I’ve been saying that the Christian Fundamentalist right wing and the Islamic extremists are two sides of the exact same coin. Looks like I was right. And perhaps that’s where the solution lies: fight Islamic fire with Christian fire.
Since the fundamentalist RWNJ’s are so hot to turn this into a Holy War, I say we let them. Recruit the entire Christian right wing to build God’s own army of Christian soldiers, and send them all over to Iraq. Sell it as making the world safe for Christian America. Since they distrust our government so much, let the GOP do all the strategy and planning. Encourage GOP politicians to visit the war zone as much as possible, which should be easy since they don’t really do anything anyway. Recruit Fox News to cover the battle on site. Pat Robertson could be the Chaplain. Let it be the Holy War to end all Holy Wars.
What’s the worst that could happen?
jj, the thing about the Fundies though is that while they would support an ISIS-like crusade here in America to make the U.S. a theocracy, they aren’t interested in fighting ISIS.
So I don’t think we’ll see those two groups fighting each other but as ISIS fights a war against fellow Muslims, Dominionists here are fighting their war against Christians and their fellow Americans.
A nuclear explosion in the middle east? Seriously, I agree with your “let the extremists fight each other” but our extremists are far too comfortable in their progression here in the states to take on ISIS and quite frankly I think they relish, in secret, what they are doing.