Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Turning Back The Clock

In my last post I quoted Winston Churchill's observations on Islam that were written in his book, The River War, about his experiences in the Middle East as a young British soldier.

No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

Today I came across an excellent article by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic on "What ISIS Really Means" that provides additional context and perspective on the issue and which seems to show just how insightful Churchill was one hundred years ago.

When Churchill speaks about a retrograde force he was not kidding. Wood points out that ISIS really does want to turn the clock back some 1,400 years. They truly believe the only pure form of Islam is exactly how it was practiced by the Prophet Muhammed during his life.

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.
The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam.
In addition, although President Obama likes to state that the Islamic State is not Islamic, that is just plain wrong.
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

What is most troubling about ISIS is that its leaders and the fanatical followers who have joined the movement believe that they are playing out carefully crafted parts in a coming Apocalypse that will result in the return of the Mahdi and see Muslims conquering the world before the end of days.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

It is pretty hard to negotiate or reason with a group who believes they are following God's calling, believe it is their responsibility to extend their religion by the sword, kill all unbelievers along the way and are part of God's plan for the end of days to boot.

Read the entire article and you will quickly realize that we are not dealing with the JV team.

Control of territory is an essential precondition for the Islamic State’s authority in the eyes of its supporters. This map, adapted from the work of the Institute for the Study of War, shows the territory under the caliphate’s control as of January 15, along with areas it has attacked. Where it holds power, the state collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications.
Credit:The Atlantic

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