Monday, 16 November 2015

Why ISIS fanatics should pause for thought

As far as I am concerned, the biggest failure of the "civilised" world in dealing with the fanatics who support IS and commit atrocities is the one to engage their arguments from a religious perspective. On social media there is all manner of discussion on this issue, much of which makes me hold my head in total despair. There seems to be three strands. The first is the Richard Dawkins viewpoint which is to see the attacks as an indictment on every religion and every follower of every religion. Whilst I understand the Dawkins viewpoint that all religions are merely superstitions and everyone should subscribe to atheism, as this is most unlikely to happen especially in areas of Syria and Iraq in the near future, it is to me simply a debating point largely for middle class Western intellectuals. It offers no solution to the real issue that religion is being used as a justification for acts of evil.

The second strand is that we should pray for the victims and we should pray for peace. For me this is a lovely sentiment. Sadly however people have been praying for peace ever since people first became sentient. Nothing would give me greater happiness than for all of our prayers to be answered. Sadly all these prayers are is an expression of a desire. I wish they would make a practical difference. Whilst some families of victims will take solace in the fact that there is solidarity, that is about the sum total of the good our prayers will do.

The third approach which bizarrely seems to be the most practical yet least used is the one which I believe is the one most likely to actually have a chance of success, assuming success is turning people away from senseless violence. If we accept the fact that the people who perpetrate these terrible acts are religious people and if we accept that they have some sort of grievance with the rest of the world, then we can presumably start to see some sort of way to change their path. There are two possible scenarios. The first is that they are simply evil and don't really have any system of belief, using the religious angle as an excuse to behave in an appalling fashion. The second is that they are actually devout believers and as such they are doing these things out of some sense of belief that they are fullfilling God/Allah's will.

If they are truly simply evil people, with no real beliefs, then it is high time that the governments  exposed this. There are enough of them locked up. This should not be that difficult to demonstrate. As such, I think it is unlikely to be the case. Which presumably means the second scenario is the one we should seek to address. How would we do this? The reason young men kill themselves is because they believe they are doing Gods will. They believe they will get a reward in heaven and their sacrifice is a small price to pay for a much greater reward. To me this is the central premise that underlines the actions of the men who attacked Paris, committed the 7/7 atrocities and the 9/11 attacks as well as a host of other attacks.

Surely the way we stop these attacks is to convince the people who perpetrate the attacks that rather than fulfilling the will of God/Allah, they are actually doing the opposite and by doing so will not enter Paradise, but will end up in Hell in eternal torment? Whether you believe in Heaven/Hell, God/Allah and Satan is irrelevant. The perpetrators do and it is their 100% absolute certainty that means they are prepared to make such a sacrifice as giving up their life.

Given that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and only 0.03% support such actions, clearly there is plenty of evidence in the Koran to use to dissuade them. Presumably they believe God/Allah is the father of all. I do not know of any father who doesn't love the children, even when the children do bad things. As a father, I see it as my role to help and guide my children when they have disagreements. A wise father does not congratulate one son for hurting another son, because that son has gone agaist the fathers will. That causes division and distrust. A wise father would tell a son to seek the fathers counsel and trust the father to deal with the problem. So it would seem to me that the terrorists are in effect saying they know better than "The Father" which makes them blasphemers.

They cannot say they are defending Islam. When you shoot people at  a concert or in a restaurant or at a football match, you are attacking innocent strangers. You have no idea who you are killing or whether they have any guilt at all. It is totally indiscriminate and that is completely banned by the Koran. The purpose of Sharia Law is to ensure that there is a process to follow if there is a dispute or a crime. You don't have to agree with Sharia Law to see that it has a structure. Nowhere in this structure is anything that allows you to mow down and kill a bunch of strangers because it furthers a political ideal (in the case of IS to set up an Islamic caliphate). There are plenty of things in Sharia Law you may disagree with, but that doesn't mean you can't say to the terrorist butchers "You do realise that you've broken your own laws and rules".  However much you disagree with the whole concept of religion, you cannot ignore the fact that unless you address people who conduct such atrocities in the terms they care about, they will not stop.

I've read dozens of articles over the weekend. Many seek to find obscure Koranic passages etc to demonstrate some sort of collective guilt for Islam. This really doesn't help anyone as it simly fuels the hatred of fanatics for "infidels".  The only thing which will stop them is the realisation that their actions are likely to deprive them of the reward in paradise they believe they are due for their actions.

What we really need is for Islamic scholars to directly address the groups who are committed to such atrocities, in terms they understand, confronting directly the concept that indescriminate murder will get you a fastpath ticket to paradise. That is the important message. I believe that any Islamic scholar who understands this and fails to speak up is in some way complicit. I wonder how God/Allah will judge such cowardice. Because what is the point dedicating your life to the study of your faith when you don't share the important lessons it teaches you with people who are misguided and are putting themselves and others at risk?

1 comment:

Jim said...

Haven't commented here for a while. Need to pick up this bit:

"The first is the Richard Dawkins viewpoint which is to see the attacks as an indictment on every religion and every follower of every religion."

Let's look at some things that Dawkins has actually said:

"It's very important that we should not demonize ordinary, law-abiding, very decent Muslims which of course is the vast majority in this country"

Dawkin's claim is that moderate religion acts as a normaliser of behaviour that can tend towards extremism. Whether you believe this or not, it is very far from saying that the acts of extremists are an 'indictment' on every religious person.

Personally, I think religion is one cause amongst many. We shouldn't point the finger solely at religion, but we also shouldn't ignore the influence of (for example) the more violent Hadiths.