Paris Terror attack: We are at war. But not against Islam

Paris Terror attack: We are at war. But not against Islam November 14, 2015

paris-550 We wake up this morning to news of great tragedy in Paris. Before we went to bed, we knew there had been attacks. Today we learn that over 120 are dead. More than 200 have been wounded, at least 80 of them seriously. There were eight attackers. Bullets were sprayed. We are told at least seven attackers blew themselves up with suicide vests.

This, not on the streets of a Middle East hotspot of terror, but of a capital city of a major Western power.

When I woke there had been no official confirmation of the identity of the assailants that I could see. And yet we all with sinking hearts know that it can only be radical Islamist terrorists. Only such groups are organized enough and evil enough to plan an assault on this scale.

Later this morning, France’s President Hollande said he believed that the attacks were an act of war by ISIS against his country. And ISIL issued a statement claiming they had orchestrated the attack, and that it was the first of a storm.

In the context of what we are assuming was a bomb attack on a plane last week, this suggests a renewed risk to all of us.

They really do want to kill us all. And I do mean all. Do not think that you are safe because you do not live in Paris.

The terrorists know for sure that this morning, many of us can think of nothing else except what this would be like on the streets of London, or of Washington, or whatever the city we live in.

There is no mercy in the hearts of militant radical Islamist terrorists. I do not believe for a moment that Paris was targeted for any specific reason other than that the terrorists found themselves in a position to act.

The hate that is in their hearts is not just directed against non Muslims. I am sure that we will find peace-loving Muslim Parisians were among the dead.

The critical thing we need to understand this morning is that we should not be surprised that an event like this has happened, only relieved that it has not happened more often. How many plots have been stopped that we will never know about? And yet we foolishly complain that our spies want to listen in to communications that can be used to plan such co-ordinated atrocities.

We are so fortunate that we are protected by security forces, but it seems today that current measures are not sufficient. 1,500 French soldiers are being deployed on the streets.  Will we see similar deployments elsewhere?

Mainland Europe’s Schengen agreement lies in tatters as the French have re-imposed border controls and the Belgians will not let anyone leave France without being throughly checked.  Can anyone imagine that not becoming the new normal?

For sure as a Brit today, I am glad that we at least have some defense from people who want to cross our borders to harm us, and one hopes that it would be hard to bring weapons such as were used in this attack into our country.  But, everyone who has walked unchecked through customs knows that faced with an enemy of such unprecedented evil, our current security measures are not enough.

Fear can lead to irrational acts. We must beware of imagining that all Muslims are our enemies, of seeing Islam itself as the threat. It is all too easy to see evidence of calls for violence in the Quran. And even here on Patheos, an atheist has outlined the arguments that Islam itself is a violent faith.  But this path is one fraught with danger. We must recognize that the vast majority of Muslims reject this terrorist ideology. Attacking their faith itself is not the answer. In fact it risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we proclaim that Islam is inherently violent, and that all Muslims are potential terrorists, we risk radicalizing many more angry young Muslims who could yet be saved from the manipulative terrorist recruiters.

There are those who would wish to turn this into a war against Islam. We must not allow that, any more than we should give any credence to those who blame every religion. Secular atheists would like nothing better than to use events like this as an excuse to clamp down on every faith, and claim that religion has no place in a modern world. We must demonstrate that people of faith are in general part of the solution not part of the problem.

osama-304048_640At the same time we must recognize that at the moment it is almost uniquely in the seedbeds of Islam that terrorism is arising.  We do not read often of Christian terrorists.  We must remember this is a war of ideas, not just of guns and bombs.

Moderate Islamic voices must be welcomed, and given voice. The propaganda of groups like ISIS should be taken down from the Internet and eradicated, not played on national TV.  Those Imans who openly promote terrorism must be silenced. Surely freedom of speech does not include freedom to inspire murder.

We must also show that we are friends with any Muslim or  Muslim group that disavows terrorism. Muslims today across the West today wake up fearing hate crimes, fear rejection, fear being watched suspiciously as they go about their daily business.

Those of us who are not Muslims must reach out to them in love, and think the best of them. Christians are taught to love even our enemies.  Most Muslims in the West are not our enemies, how much more should we love them.

But we must go even further. There is a group of more extreme Muslims, but who have not yet gone past the point of no return to becoming the inhuman savages we see in ISIS. Ironically, there is a suggestion that even Al Quaida think ISIS have gone too far.  We must try and connect with such people.

But there are some who think there is no point talking peace with certain types of Muslims. The truth is that even among those Muslims who do hold extreme views, there are those we can reach out to.  This war we fight is going on in the heart of every angry, bitter Muslim who is somewhere on the dangerous path towards being radicalized.  We risk playing into the hands of our enemy if we do not reach out with love to such people. I was very struck to read recently of the Vicar of Bagdad, Andrew White.  As the Independent explained:

For the last two decades, he has worked as a mediator in some of the deadliest disputes on Earth, in Israel and Palestine, Iraq and Nigeria. He has sat down to eat with terrorists, extremists, warlords and the sons of Saddam Hussein, with presidents and prime ministers.

White argues that we have to try to make connections even with people we feel are horrible. He has had a reputation for doing just that.  Enemies really can be turned into friends. It is encouraging to hear in that context that the Iranian president, who some argued should not be negotiated with, has himself joined with many Muslim leaders around the world in condemning the attacks:

In the name of the Iranian people, who have themselves been victims of terrorism, I strongly condemn these crimes against humanity and offer my condolences to the grieving French people and government.

 However, when it comes to ISIS, even the vicar of Bagdhad now feels that diplomacy has run out:

24-canon-andrew-white-justinsutcliffeIndependent: What happened when the Vicar of Bagdhad invited ISIS for dinner“I invited the leaders of Isis [Islamic State] for dinner. I am a great believer in that. I have asked some of the worst people ever to eat with me.” “Isis said, ‘You can invite us to dinner, but we’ll chop your head off.’ So I didn’t invite them again!”  “Can I be honest? You are absolutely right. You can’t negotiate with them. I have never said that about another group of people. These are really so different, so extreme, so radical, so evil.” 

“You are asking me how we can deal radically with Isis. The only answer is to radically destroy them. I don’t think we can do it by dropping bombs. We have got to bring about real change. It is a terrible thing to say as a priest.

“You’re probably thinking, ‘So you’re telling me there should be war?’ Yes!”   READ THE REST

The truth is that Islamic terrorists only understand one language: the language of force.  The World has not been as active as we could be in response to atrocities committed by ISIS in Syria and Iraq against the Christian population among others. I suspect that these recent attacks will lead to a renewed determination to defeat these forces of evil.

I found this morning, that I was reminded of the words of President Bush after 911 in his War on Terror speech. It seemed eerily relevant to today.  At the time some felt at these words to be an over-reaction.  But I will close this article with an extract of them, and suspect many may find them thought provoking:

Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done . . .

America will never forget the sounds of our national anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, on the streets of Paris and at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate . . .

On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning.

Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians.

 All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack . . .

The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics; a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.

The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans and make no distinctions among military and civilians, including women and children . . .

There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries . . .

I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.

The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.

The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.

Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there.

It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

Americans are asking “Why do they hate us?”

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.

These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us because we stand in their way.

 We’re not deceived by their pretenses to piety.

We have seen their kind before. They’re the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies . . .

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success.

We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest.

And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists . . .

The only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it and destroy it where it grows . . .

This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.

 We ask every nation to join us. We will ask and we will need the help of police forces, intelligence service and banking systems around the world. The United States is grateful that many nations and many international organizations have already responded with sympathy and with support–nations from Latin America to Asia to Africa to Europe to the Islamic world.

Perhaps the NATO charter reflects best the attitude of the world: An attack on one is an attack on all. The civilized world is rallying to America’s side.

They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror unanswered can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments.

And you know what? We’re not going to allow it.

Americans are asking, “What is expected of us?”

I ask you to live your lives and hug your children.

 I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.


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  • Rob

    There is a book called the Koran that is fundamentally about taking over the world by whatever means necessary – violence, lying, raping, pillaging, etc. These abominations are at the HEART of this book and its founder lived by these atrocities. Stand up for what’s right rather than pandering to wickedness. There is no theology in the Bible for this religion.

    I can’t believe anyone would have even written such a long piece on peace toward those who would really not mind if their bottom line agenda of world domination is furthered by fundamental Islamic followers who would as soon as cut off your head. Maybe you’re afraid. I would certainly consider that a possibility and, if you believe in God, ask him to show you if you are and, if so, stand with courage.

    • emerson

      Agree. 14 centuries of atrocities and Mr. Warnock thinks there’s a moderate Islam. Historians estimate Islam has slaughtered between 110 to 200 million people over those 14 centuries. Warnock is not a man of reason or a Christian.

      • Tacitus

        Wow. So I guess Spain, France, England, Portugal, and even America’s conquest of most of the rest of the world, in the name of God, doesn’t count? That’s an awful lot of history (much of it extremely bloody) to consign to your memory hole.

        • emerson

          Oh, you’re right.
          Islam is peace.

          • You didn’t acknowledge the extremely valid point just made by Tacitus.

            You need this to be a Christian war against Islam which is the exact mirror image of what motivates ISIS.

            Start by assuming that you don’t actually get what Jesus was telling you, and work from there.

          • emerson

            I have a serious question Professor: Do you believe in God’s unconditional love?

          • David Ryan

            I got to hand one thing to Isis….they have a goal in mind at least. What do we have as a goal really? How do you intend to stop someone who is that committed. Also these so called moderate muslims have you ever bothered to ask them if they think Sharia should be the law of the land in your country? If so do you really think they are your friend at that point?

        • David Ryan

          They didn’t conquer most of the world in the name of God. The conquered in the name of their countries. They were nationalist. They were competing against one another for resources. I think we should also point out a great many of the natives they conquered practiced ritual human sacrifices. Including mass sacrifices. Please don’t fall for the lie that all the natives were just peaceful live and let live kinda folks.

          • Sven2547

            I think we should also point out a great many of the natives they conquered practiced ritual human sacrifices.

            Ah yes, the easiest way to justify genocide: say the victims were evil.

      • Jed

        What historians you talking about “estimate”..either you or them are full of B.S….now if you want factual genocide…look at the number of abortions, the murder of preborn babies…at 2 million a year in the USA, in 30 years equals 60 million, add the rest of the western countries to that, and who is more barbaric????
        How many did the Roman church kill over the centuries, under the guise of “christianity”? Try 100 million or so…so now tell me who is more barbaric?

      • Before judging the religion itself based on how some of its followers behave, we should take a close look at our own history. One of my ancestors was tortured and murdered (broken on the wheel) by fellow Christians because he did not hold the precise same theological beliefs as them. Likely his crime was having a Bible written in French. Christians slaughtered 3-4 million people in France during the Wars of Religion, in the name of Christianity. During the 30 Years War, 8 million people were killed in the Christian (Catholic v. Protestant) rampages and the witch-hunts that followed it. In some parts of Europe the population was reduced by as much as half, as Christian armies indiscriminately slaughtered one another. The point is not to excuse the current atrocities–they are inexcusable. And fortunately we seem to have put that sort of conduct in our past (although not the terribly distant past–20th century Germany having been a thoroughly Christian nation, even when if its rulers were not). But anyone looking at Christianity a few hundred years ago might reasonably conclude that it is an inherently violent brutal faith. It would be difficult to conclude that it had any redeeming qualities. It would be easy to conclude that the world would be better off without it. Etc. Presumably we agree that those judgments, however reasonable they might have seemed at the time, would have been wrong. We look at those centuries of violence and killings in the name of the Lord and say that those people just sadly misinterpreted their faith. The violence we see from radical Islam today (as brutal and horrible as it is) is trivial by comparison to Christianity then. I’ve read the Quran and studied Islam in secular university and Christian seminary. I’ve worked in a Muslim-majority country. I’m familiar with the history of Islam and particularly the rise of modern violent fundamentalism. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I can say with confidence that any claim that Islam is violent and murderous in it’s very nature is wrong–just as it would be wrong to say that about Christianity. These ISIL lunatics are the last gasp of radical fundamentalism in my opinion. I invite people to dig deeper into the history and texts and not rest on simplistic and false prejudices and stereotypes. When we imagine too many enemies we risk losing sight of those who really are. There is too much good work to be done to descend into hateful panic, as we have so often tragically done.

        • Jed

          Great post Bill….also how about in the 20th century, the catholics and protestant war in Ireland..killed thousands all under the guise of christianity….also the Jewish book of Talmud, check it is very violent against Gentiles..which this religious book equates gentiles to being like animals and to be treated as such….

    • Tacitus

      How do you think Christianity spread so successfully around the world in most of the last 2,000 years? Conquest and force of arms. You self-righteousness is only enabled by the passage of time between the today and Age of Empire.

      • Luminous

        Not even close to reality. Forced conversions have been the exception in Christianity, not the rule.

      • David Ryan

        Fairly certain the Church grew faster in times of persecution actually. We know early on it grew rapidly and it was persecuted in the very beginning.

    • Islam is what it means to it’s followers.

      And ….

      Just as the fetid and failed Christianity that you are representing does not
      represent the Truer forms found elsewhere. Neither does the insane
      perversion of ISIS represent Islam.

      If you make it about Christianity vs. Islam you have become exactly what those devils need. They have defined you, so that your crimes will eventually match their own.

  • CruisingTroll

    You are mistaken. Islam IS the threat. It is a totalitarian religious and political ideology.

  • Ross Nixon

    Muslims are not the enemy. Islam is the enemy of every person on earth, including Muslims. Luckily for most of us, most Muslims are not dedicated followers. The west needs to 1. Ban all public islamic practice.. 2. Preach the Gospel.

    • helligusvart

      Have you read the First Amendment?

  • emerson

    You made me waste my time reading this drivel by holding yourself out as a Christian. I have a question: In the parable of the talents, Christ called three of his “servants” and gave them talents. One servant failed to increase his talent and was cast into hell. Was the servant a Christian?

    • David Ryan

      No he wasn’t.

  • pud

    You sir are an idiot. There are as many as 9 million muslims in France 25% of which condone suicide bombing and as many as 27% of the youth having a favorable view of ISIS. Similar polls across Europe reveal much the same. Islam is an ideology which expressly commands the conversion or death of the infidel. Just because there are some a la carte muslims (like many delusional christians) who pick and choose the happy verses and ignore the rest of the divine orders in the “holy” books doesn’t negate the “god” ordained mandates of violence and death. Islam like christianity is a delusional death cult…the mother of all bad ideas.

  • David Ryan

    Oh i see so you only want to know one side of arguments. You don’t actually want take in all the information before making decisions and well offering opinions. You just like to have part of the information. Well you are just a well informed person aren’t you….oh wait… you’re the opposite of that.

  • Greg

    I’m sorry, but the extent and prevalence of violence that follows Islam cannot be denied. To argue that acknowledgement of that reality will only anger those whose belief system perpetrates it, is hardly a rational response. Instead, it is the response of an abused person who argues that to confront the abuser will only increase the abuse. We know where that leads.

  • Jed

    There is also a religious book called the Talmud, which says all gentiles (non Jewish people) are animals and can be treated as such….it goes on and gets a lot worse and is tough reading because of it’s disregard for gentiles, and the blaspheming of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour and His mother Mary….very hate filled book indeed, so the Koran does not hold the exclusive position on hate and violence!

  • chrijeff

    “The truth is that Islamic terrorists only understand one language: the language of force.”

    Absolutely. 100%. Right. You cannot negotiate, or even argue, with a religious fanatic. (Have you ever tried to debate a born-again Christian? I have. Don’t. You’ll waste your breath and get furious.)

    Yet people do not become terrorists if they feel safe, free, and prosperous. This is what GWB hoped to seed in the Middle East by toppling Saddam Hussein. Maybe he went about it the wrong way, but he instinctively understood this truth.

    Fire must be fought with fire; we–and all countries throughout the world, Muslim, Christian, or anything else–must wage all-out, unlimited war against violent extremism, as it wishes to do against us. But conditions need to be changed so that young Muslims don’t feel that only by joining a terrorist group can they improve their lot.

  • John from PV

    Well said, but must push back on one thing…

    You say “Secular atheists would like nothing better than to use events like this as an excuse to clamp down on every faith, and claim that religion has no place in a modern world.”

    Isn’t this the same stigmatizing of a group that you are cautioning against?

    For one, it doesn’t represent my attitudes. Atheists, like all groups, have their radical fringe. Some atheists are better Christians than professed Christians.

    Now excuse me while I don my horns and tail.

  • amatz71
  • bill wald
  • loves period dramas

    It seems to me that many of the leaders of radical Islam are people like Abdelslam – a kid who grew up in largely secular, only nominally religious, homes. They have a very shallow understanding of their own religion. They have converted in most cases only very recently, and became radicalized quickly, because they are largely ignorant of their own religion. It’s secular ignorance of religion that is the real threat, because it creates a population vulnerable to quick conversion and radicalization. A population that has a deeper and more nuanced understanding of its own religion is a more peaceful population. I see people calling for bans on religion because religion causes violence, however it seems pretty clear that religious illiteracy leads to radicalization and violence. Secular child-rearing in secular western countries is often to blame.

  • MX

    All this article suggests is the West needs to be ‘afraid’ of potentially stirring the Islamic world or else the current situation could get worse. Seriously? Find the moderate muslim? Islam itslef is not ‘moderate.” The Ikhwan have clarified this notion of “moderate” Islam that Western apologists have conjured up to give the impression there is such a thing. Are there any muslim groups that call themselves moderate? Has anyone in the muslim world ever disavowed these actions? We should not be living in a situation where we have to find anyone or curb our activities lest we upset someone else. The “I” in ISIS is Islam. The Quran is REPLETE with passages ordering its adherents to “slay and kill” non-believers “wherever ye find them.” You have to go out of your way to say the Quran does not condonce violence against non-muslims. Further, the dogma itself says, “lay in wait for them… make them an ambush.” To look past these FACTS is to simply ignore the threat. And let’s not speak for the “radicals” – lets let them speak for themselves. What does ISIS say is its motivation for its deadly acts? What did Bin Laden say was hist motivation? I could go on and on. What does Ramzi Yousef say? Or his uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? They have showed us over and over what their doctrine is – Islam.

    • Realist1234

      Indeed, however many muslims, at least in the West, have disavowed these acts of violence. But I suspect that is more because they don’t appreciate what their ‘holy’ text actually says rather than understanding it. Given the world-wide numbers involved, I have little doubt that Islam will be a major player in the ‘last days’ which have already begun.

  • Realist1234

    Its the height of irony that it appears those involved in the Paris attacks, who supposedly hold the moral high ground and want to enforce it on everyone else, drank alcohol and took drugs! Not exactly the muslim thing to do.

  • ccgal

    Sam Rosenbalm is correct. And, I also believe that the majority of Muslims in our country are not planning harm against others in the name of Islam. But, it’s true about the distinction of the faiths and here’s someone raised up in the Muslim faith and explains it much better than I can: