Sunday, 22 November 2015

Wake of ISIS Terror: Mourning, Lament, Discernment

By Jim Wallis                       Sojourners                   19 November 2015

If we count up the number of people killed or wounded in the ISIS Paris slaughter last weekend, and add all their families and friends, the level of human mourning is staggering. Then include the many other victims murdered in Beirut just days before, or the legions of those raped and killed in Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Turkey — who never receive the same attention as Western victims — and we see human devastation that is utterly evil.

From a religious perspective, the hardest thing about confronting evil is the painful human tendency to only see it in others, in our enemies, and not see any on our side because of the blurred vision caused by the planks in our own eyes, to paraphrase the gospels. In discussing ISIS, we should clearly use the language of sin, the enormous sin of the ideological hate of ISIS finding its victims all over the world. 

But theologically, sin begets sin. So we cannot simply name sins of ISIS ad nauseum without also lamenting the sins of the West that they use as inexcusable justifications for horrific violence. Overcoming the growing terrorism we face requires addressing the grievances rather than repeating our missteps and mistakes.

To satisfy our thirsty oil economy, the West has literally created false nations and consistently supported brutal oligarchs and allowed them to crush their democratic critics – which gave rise to fundamentalist extremism. The U.S. overturned a democratically elected government in Iran and installed the brutal dictatorship of the Shah, which gave rise the Islamic regime that we now so hate. (See how many of your friends and neighbors even know the name Mohammad Mosaddegh, the Iranian president we overthrew because of oil.)The hypocrisy is endless: News of ISIS beheadings saturates the Western media, yet we ignore Saudi beheadings on the same day; we look the other way when funders from our oil allies in the Gulf states actually finance the terror we condemn; we, a nation of immigrants, allow fear to dominate our response to the refugee crisis. These are sins too. And sin begets sin.

How do you “destroy” or “eliminate” something like ISIS, words we now hear every day from our politicians? How do we keep our country safe? Can we do it by more massive American invasions of Middle Eastern countries? Can we really “fight to win and then leave,” as Jeb Bush and others are now calling for?

As David Cortright
has said, “Military strikes from the West are exactly what the militants want, providing fodder for recruitment and justifying what is otherwise unjustifiable. Will we fall into that trap again?” Military victories have come quickly, but they don’t eliminate a growing ideology. Our invasions have actually exacerbated the instability and sectarian conflict that helped lead to ISIS as they gain more recruits for terror locally and now internationally. Temporary military victories in Iraq and Syria will not destroy or eliminate the continuing terrorism in the Middle East or in the West.

 Protecting millions of vulnerable and displaced people must be our urgent concern. Destroying the growing social media success of ISIS should also be a top priority, as should eliminating the resources and funding for terror, even if that leads us to our oil allies and banks. The best way to defeat bad religion is with good religion, and the better way to defeat religious fundamentalism is from within rather than trying to smash it from without. 

We must form a clear, direct, and unified global coalition – with the authorization of the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the Arab League, and the international financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF — to unify a strategy of comprehensive economic sanctions and isolation against ISIS. We should also include sanctions against any nations or funders that support ISIS, which would signal how serious we really are. 

A French journalist who was a hostage of ISIS for 10 months and got to know them well
says this:

"My guess is that right now the chant among them will be ‘We are winning.’ They will be heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia; they will be drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media. Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence. The pictures from Germany of people welcoming migrants will have been particularly troubling to them. Cohesion, tolerance–it is not what they want to see…. there is much we can achieve in the aftermath of this atrocity, and the key is strong hearts and resilience, for that is what they fear. I know them: bombing they expect. What they fear is unity.” 


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