The horror and debauchery that is ISIS, has been dominating world attention. Recently however, the debate received some enlightenment courtesy of Graeme Wood and the article he wrote for The Atlantic; “What ISIS Really Wants.” (Read it here.) If you have not read it, you need to. Graeme Wood delves into the religious impetus that drives a steady stream of recruits to join ISIS. Recruits who are ready to sacrifice and die as martyrs. He explains the Muslim prophetic interpretations that gives credence to their butchery and relates a perverted but historical justification for the barbarism.
As juxtaposition, the day after I read “What ISIS Really Wants,” I caught the video of Marie Harf, US State Department Spokesman, on MSNBC. Her contribution is that we can’t win the fight against ISIS by killing them. In the medium and long run, we will need to find them jobs. We will need to help improve tgheir governance, help them build economies so they can have job opportunities.
Her statement was met with extreme ridicule and incredulity. In response, she basically stated that her comments were too “nuanced” to be understood. In other words, we are too dumb to understand what she was saying.
Really?, I think we understand the nuance. You are trying to use this tragedy to push a political agenda. Well, we get it. It’s just that what you said has nothing to do with the reality of the problem. This is not a matter of wealth, poverty, privilege, age, or boredom. It is not a problem of opportunity. It is an issue of religion. The problem is that you, and by association the Obama administration, do not understand the nuances of religious piety and therefore, you can’t understand ISIS.
It comes down to this. There are two options in this world. One of the varied purposes of this life is to see which option we will choose. We can choose “good” or we can choose “evil.” The more we choose one or the other, the more influence it will have upon us. ISIS has chosen evil to the point that evil now holds power over them. They have become disciples of evil.
As argument, let me state that you can usually discern good or evil by its effect upon “choice.” “Good” favors choice and thus supports the purpose of this life, “evil” would remove it. A few easy examples: Tolerance = good; Bigotry = evil. Freedom of speech = good; Political censorship = evil. Saving a life = good; Murder removes choice = evil. Some choices become a little more difficult. ISIS however is very clear; since it is in the business of systematically, even methodically, removing choice; it is very evil.
Let me state right now you can find good and evil people in all religions. As recently pointed out by President Obama, even Christianity, which is founded on two commandments; love God and love your neighbor, has been falsely claimed by those doing evil. As in other groups, some Muslims have chosen “good,” others “evil.” Islam however, seems well suited to those that want to choose the evil and feel good about it. Islam gives them jihad. Islam provides a religious justification to commit evil acts while claiming piety. Islam does not remove choice, it is not necessarily evil, but it provides a rationalization that makes choosing evil easier.
Evil is not constrained by poverty or wealth. It knows no borders. social status, opportunity, race, ethnicity, money, gender or religious affiliation. A claim to modern relativism and even atheism are meaningless. It still comes down to choice. ISIS chose evil. ISIS is religious. In religious terms, ISIS claims to do God’s work but follows Satan. Until you believe that, you can’t understand ISIS. Simply put, ISIS is Satan’s slave.
Accordingly, any medium or long range plan that does not recognize the evil nature of ISIS is folly. To relegate such blatant evil to poverty or a lack of opportunity is simply absurd. It tries to solve the problem without being willing to understand it. Rather than finding opportunity to peddle a political agenda and ignore the accumulated evil that is the real problem, we need to find a viable way to protect and, where possible, restore choice that has been forcibly stolen by an evil ISIS. Graeme Wood wallowed in the nuance of Islam and the evil twist afforded it by ISIS. In finding a solution, perhaps we should start by evaluating his suggestions.
Samuel Waen Jensen