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.