Friday, March 06, 2015

Articles giving insight into ISIL

Iraq & Syria with ISIL controlled area grey (courtesy Wikipedia)
An interesting article in Foreign Policy ("You’ve Reversed a Long Way, Baby") laments the terrible reversals on women's rights in the areas controlled by ISIL - the so-called "Islamic State". And it points to an even more interesting article in The Atlantic called What ISIS really wants  where the author, Graeme Wood,  has made a real effort to understand and articulate their goals and ideology. He points out that they are remarkably transparent and clear about this, and failure to appreciate where they are coming from leads to serious mishandling of the situation.

First and foremost ISIL is based on a specific and strict reading of Islam, the Koran and the Hadith. It is a reading that the great majority of Muslims reject, but nevertheless in its own terms it seems pretty coherent. They are making a serious effort to act in the way Mohammed and his followers acted and to live in accordance with his instructions and precepts.  They can point directly to the Koran or the Hadith for approval of every practice that we find barbaric. They may well be misunderstanding and misreading the texts - I am not, of course, an Islamic theologian - but the texts are certainly there.

For them it is essential that there should be a Caliphate, that the Caliph should be a member of the same tribe that Mohammed was, and that he should control territory. They are apparently not interested in attacking countries in the West but in getting the West to attack them because this, they believe, will hasten the End of the World.  As Wood points out:
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
For example the Koran says (5:33)
Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. 
If the Koran is to be followed literally then crucifixion is clearly an option.

They apparently believe that the armies of  "Rome" will be defeated at a great battle at Dabiq which is in Northern Syria by Aleppo. One US author therefore suggests that there should be a set-piece battle there to discredit their ideology.

When ISIL threaten that they will "enslave your women" and "sell your sons in the slave market" they are going along with the Koran which explicitly allows the enslavement of non-Muslim enemies. To be fair the Koran also encourages slaves to be freed but this really only seems to apply to Muslim slaves - conversion to Islam was not enough to free a slave and if you were born a slave you remained one until freed. Mohammed owned slaves and also freed some of them.

Of course the Bible - both OT and NT - presupposes slavery as well: the word translated "servant" is almost always doulos which means slave. The ancient world could not have functioned without it. But we are given the Holy Spirit who "will lead you into all truth" and we can and do argue that the Holy Spirit has led us to understand that slavery is evil and must be abolished. It helps of course that Jesus never owned slaves. But for Muslims the Koran and the actions of Mohammed are held to be perfect: if Mohammed did something it must be right.

We must continue to pray for the people who are so deluded - that they will be led into truth and peace. And of course the great majority of Muslims are not followers of ISIL. But it needs to be understood, confronted, and prayed against.

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