I am sitting at the edge of my seat pondering on how to begin this conversation without coming off as a “war-hawk” or your typical pseudo-Berkeley “humanist.” I am trying to reconcile the ugliness that is war–and the great mistake a hands off approach can be in dealing with the dangerously notorious Islamic State (IS thereinafter).
It is safe to say that the IS enjoys media attention, and like what the Mexican narcos know very well, the bloodier and more graphic, the better. Now.. I personally cannot watch execution videos. But judging the tidbits and ridiculously choreographed videos you better believe that these aren’t your average light-armed militias. First of all, they have a religious warlord as their leader, major red flags by all accounts. This week they burned 45 people to death in Iraq. They have decapitated captured foreigners from all over the world and put it on camera. Just the past week they released an eerie video of them walking down a beach in northern Libya where they slit the throats of 20+ Egyptian coptic Christians. They have conquered many regions in Syria, Iraq and by recent accounts, Libya. Apparently they are so sophisticated that they have the capability of flying their own fighter jets. They are also known for being very aggressive and ruthless-capable of swiftly taking over cities and religious. Their recruitment strategy is for the lack of a better word, engenius, you can watch any of their videos and be surprised with the quality of the recording, the structure, and propagandic message. They are meticulous in what they publish and it serves the purpose. Many radical Islamists all over the world join their ranks.
It is wrong to place all this mess on the Religion of Islam itself. It is intellectually dishonest to single out one of the world’s major religions by the actions of a significant few. It is also insulting to muslims world world wide that it is internationally recognized as as the “Islamic State”. The ancient traditions and customs practiced by muslims worldwide is rich in history and culture. My sister actually converted to Islam and is enjoying life to the fullest. I have studied and learned from Islamic history and theology as an undergrad for pleasure. One thing is clear: IS claims to be the pure fundamental version of Islamic teachings. Just like pro-lifers and right-wing Christians that claim to have it all figured out too. If you want to read about muslim on muslim murder, read about the antagonism between Sunnis and Shia muslims is the region.
If money is the root of all evil, then religion is the root of all wars. I was going through major wars recently and tried to make the connections. You will find them. President Obama recently came under fire when comparing the old-Christian crusaders to today’s Islamic State. As a historian, I think it was totally appropriate to make this comparison. Reading the texts and sources of the multiple Crusades, there are very famous accounts of Christians taking regions and slaughtering anyone that would not denounce their faith. Today’s events are in many ways a perpetuation of practices carried out by religious extremists in different time eras. Just a general rule of thumb: A lot of bad deeds are done in the name of a monotheistic (single). God, in the past and today.
I was prompted to write this short piece because of the attention this issue has been getting the past half-year or so. This week I got my copy of The Atlantic and not surprisingly their cover story is on the IS. Countries are starting to rally together hoping to collaborate and strategically respond to IS ground forces. The US is not the world police. But I do wholeheartedly believe that we are the world’s coach, at least a military one. Troops should not meddle in the mess that the Middle East is in right now. But I am hopeful that this can open opportunities for countries and parties to come together under the banner a single cause: to defeat the pesky little IS. It is already forming unlikely alliances. Who knows? This may open up an honest dialogue about radicalism and extremism inherent in many regions of the middle east. In this conversation the governments plagues by radical Islam should set clear guidelines and be held accountable to do all in their power to ensure that future generations have opportunities to peacefully live in faith of with their religion.