by Rick Love
In part one of this series I mentioned six historical reasons for the rise of ISIS. In part two I outlined six reasons for the expansion of ISIS. Today we’ll look at three things you can do about ISIS.
1. Distinguish between ISIS and mainstream Islam
ISIS, the cult of death and darkness, masquerades as the pure manifestation of Islam. But the vast majority of people killed by ISIS are in fact Muslim. And numerous Islamic scholars from around the world have condemned their violence and refuted their twisted interpretation of Islam. More than 120 Islamic scholars wrote an open letter to Baghdadi condemning the theology and practice of ISIS. See also the book Refuting ISIS by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi.
ISIS is the army of terror and error.
ISIS practices the Islam of the Kharijites, an ancient form of Islam that was neither Sunni nor Shia and was known for its extreme violence. They practice takfir, an Arabic term which means they declare all Muslims who disagree with them as unbelievers or apostate. And takfir is strictly forbidden in mainstream Islam.
Why is it important to distinguish between ISIS and mainstream Islam? First, the facts about Islam demand it. The Muslim world is radically diverse, and the vast majority of Muslims in the world are not violent extremists.
Secondly, the Old Testament teaches us that we are “not to bear false witness against our neighbors” (Exodus 20:16). Jesus commanded us “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you – in everything” (Matthew 7:12). So, followers of Jesus need to be accurate in how they speak of others and discerning about what the media says about Muslims.
Thirdly, as we will point out below, mainstream, devout Muslims (and those not so devout!) are crucial to countering violent extremism.
So, for the sake of truth and peace, distinguish between ISIS and mainstream Islam.
2. Support Soft Power
Coalition forces have taken back almost a quarter of the territory once occupied by ISIS. The city of Dabiq (in Syria) was supposed to be the location of the End Time battle between ISIS and the West. But that so-called prophecy didn’t come true. The Syrian opposition has already taken back Dabiq from ISIS. But the battle rages, and there is no end in sight.
So pray for the governments involved in this coalition, that their efforts would lead to the overthrow of ISIS and the establishment of peace (1 Timothy 2:1-3). And realize this …
Military forces can kill extremists, but they can’t kill their ideology. So the hard power of military might must be complemented by the soft power of diplomatic muscle and peacemaking initiatives.
Turning Point: A New Comprehensive Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism makes the following points:
“The field of countering violent extremism emerged from a recognition that military and law enforcement operations are essential to taking terrorists off the battlefield and disrupting plots but are insufficient for extinguishing the underlying ideologies and grievances that motivate scores of recruits to join violent extremist groups” (p. 8, emphasis mine).
“We urgently need a new comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism – one that is resolute, rests in soft and hard power, and galvanizes key allies and partners from government, civil society, and the private sector” (p. IV).
So, for the sake of a comprehensive strategy to counter violent extremism, support soft power.
3. Make friends with Muslims and work for peace
Turning Point also gives positive examples of what followers of Jesus can do – and it sounds a lot like Peace Catalyst International:
… a comprehensive CVE strategy must include programs that enhance understanding of different religions and cultures and defend the human rights and dignity of all persons (p. 31).
… Create safe spaces for communities and youth to interact positively (p. 32).
How does this counter violent extremism?
By showing Muslims that followers of Jesus are peacemakers, not crusaders
By showing Muslims that the West is not crusading against Islam
By showing Muslims that love trumps violence
Friendships and peacemaking initiatives shrink the recruiting pipeline of ISIS by countering their false narrative. These loving initiatives undermine the ideology of ISIS.
My friend Imam Magid likes to say, “Muslims want to be seen as prospects, not suspects.” In other words, the vast majority of Muslims are prospects for partnering against extremism, not suspects that need to be profiled or put on watchlists.
Douglas Johnston, who is known as the Father of Faith-Based Diplomacy, says, “American Muslims constitute one of our more formidable assets in the global war against militant Islam. Not only have they been instrumental in uncovering a significant number of al-Qaeda plots against the United States, but they also enjoy extensive influence with Muslim communities overseas.”
So, make friends with a Muslim. It’s the strategic thing to do. More importantly, it’s the loving thing to do.