Regular readers know I’ve said this often and since at least 2008: the inability of the West to acknowledge Islamic extremism with a fluent language of faith — their apparent feeling that modern secularist enlightenment can handle events invoking and inviting supernatural forces — means they lack the means to fully address an evil that will be dissuaded by neither bombs nor sanctions.
Today, in a follow-up to his earlier piece, “What ISIS really wants”, Graeme Wood presents some reader responses, and they’re fascinating and informative. The last response he shares, however, from an ISIS supporter, more or less confirms my point, here [Note, the writer, in referring to “Muslims” specifically means “Supporters of ISIS”; “Islam” specifically means “ISIS”]:
What stands out to me that others don’t seem to discuss much, is how the Islamic State, Osama [bin Laden] and others are operating as if they are reading from a script that was written 1,400 years ago. They not only follow these prophecies, but plan ahead based upon them. One would therefore assume that the enemies of Islam would note this and prepare adequately, but [it’s] almost as if they feel that playing along would mean that they believe in the prophecies too, and so they ignore them and go about things their own way. … [The] enemies of the Muslims may be aware of what the Muslims are planning, but it won’t benefit them at all as they prefer to either keep their heads in the sand, or to fight their imaginary war based upon rational freedom-loving democrats vs. irrational evil terrorist madmen. With this in mind, maybe you can understand to some degree one of the reasons why many Muslims will share your piece. It’s not because we don’t understand what it is saying in terms of how to defeat the Muslims, rather it’s because we know that those in charge will ignore it and screw things up anyway.
The writer is making it clear: The West must develop its strategies with a countering theology. Be dismissive about it, and be devastated.
We know that young people are heading to Syria to join ISIS. Some of them are simply idiots, but many of them are educated, and most of them may very well be seeking an antidote to an emptiness they cannot even name. Disenchanted with an indulgent and sentimentalist West, whose entire meaning seems bound up in wound-licking and feelings-management, many young people want their lives to stand for something more than oppressive student debt and a life of consumer captivity.
We who are no longer young must not forget that youth thirsts for romance, and there is none to be found in a society that aggressively advocates self-censorship and promises endless days of cynical campaigns to win their money and their support, whether those come from Madison Avenue or Washington.
Everyone wants to possess the thoughts, and the resources, of the young but no one is wooing their souls. Increasingly, the West “does not do God”, does not approve of soul-chasing; it routinely discourages or politicizes soul-talk.
But our souls encompass our hearts and minds. Our souls are where we explore and come to know our inmost beings, and yes, there is romance there, and adventure, and even revolution — not the sloganeering of social campaigns and passing trends, but authentic interior revolution that feeds the external and literally changes the world.
To young people seeking what they have been taught not to learn, secularist indoctrination offers a series of short soundbites, while a theological embrace presents a massive sky-full of thunder. It offers books of fast-burning matches, while religion offers books of sustained lightening.
If ISIS is the only supernatural game in town — the only one they’re hearing anything about and the only one that seems both dynamic and undying — it will attract many into making a grave mistake with their lives.
So, young people who are either unschooled or (poorly schooled) in Christianity or Judaism are beginning to move toward ISIS. There is no reason not to believe that this deathband has cells of supporters in every area of the globe, ready to be activated in due course. Some may well have naval and air experience, too. Consider that ISIS is making headway in Libya; if it gains control of a navy, it could very quickly show up at the shores of Italy, Greece, Spain and France.
Ah, well, France does have an aircraft carrier, so there is that.
But re-read what the ISIS-supporter wrote to Graeme Wood. A religious true-believe basing a war on theology and eschatology is not going to be dissuaded by diplomacy, won’t be moved by missiles.
Pay attention, West, it’s why your “middle-East peace process” never advances. You keep talking time and acreage, and things visible, with people motivated by the invisible.
Maybe it’s time for Western leadership to consider that it cannot squeeze every issue through a sieve of smug secularism, and then filter it through a theory of enlightened agnosticism. Perhaps it should consider that everything that has come before its modern self, still has meaning and relevance to the whole.
[it’s] almost as if they feel that playing along would mean that they believe in the prophecies too, and so they ignore them and go about things their own way.
In our ironic age, wouldn’t it be the ultimate irony if the so-enlightened West — harbinger of all that is sophisticated, savvy and cool — is brought to its knees simply because its leadership cannot bear to acknowledge that a death-loving religious element is moving inexorably toward them, and will need to be countered with one that loves life and finds it sacred?
They’d rather die than be thought that uncool.
ISIS is certainly doomed, but the West may be, too.
ISIS plans video release. Of course it does.