In his recent op-ed in the New York Times, ISIS Heads to Rome, Thomas Friedman writes, “The U.S. keeps repeating the same mistake in the Middle East: overestimating the power of religious ideology and underappreciating the impact of misgovernance.” He goes on to describe ISIS as made up of “three loose factions,” one of them, he tells us, the least worrisome, he reassures us, are made up of “…hardened jihadists, but many are just losers, misfits, adventure seekers and young men who’ve never held power, a job or a girl’s hand and joined ISIS to get all three.” He doubts that “many are serious students of Islam or that offering them a more moderate version would keep them home.”
Friedman’s view is in deep contrast to that of the German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer who, after spending time with ISIS, confirmed that “They were very tough, well informed. Some of them very successful in their own countries.” Phyllis Chesler exposes this knee-jerk compulsion of Western journalists, who seem to think it’s their conscientious duty to apologize for these evil bastards, as though the majority of ISIS members were poor impoverished serfs and not homicidal Muslim ideologues, when she writes, “Blaming Islamist horrors on poverty only obscures the true problem: Jihadists are driven by an ideology — one that yearns to “restore” a mythical caliphate, one governed by the most austere version of Sharia law.”
Exculpating the efficacy of the religion of Islam in its role of precipitating the so-called “moderate Muslim” into a religious fiend who would insouciantly execute Christian children because of the crime (according to ISIS jurisprudence) of being a Christian in a land where Islam is the preponderant religion only exacerbates the problem of Islamic terrorism—to the peril of Christians and Jews everywhere. Todenhöfer again controverts Freidman’s lethargic opinions when he recalls his experiences with ISIS: “I have read the Quran many times in German translation, and I always asked them about the value of mercy in Islam. I didn’t see any mercy in their behaviour. Something that I don’t understand at all is the enthusiasm in their plan of religious cleansing, planning to kill the non-believers…” He then puts into context the universal scope of this religious fervour by pointing out that, “Every day, hundreds of new enthusiastic fighters are arriving. There is an incredible enthusiasm that I have never seen in any other war zones that I have been to.” Sounds to me like the Muslim “volunteers” of ISIS are, in fact, “very serious students of Islam.”
In his article Agonizing over the true Islam, Anthony Furey of the Toronto Sun recently wrote, “The politically correct agonizingly twist themselves into knots trying to downplay or entirely excuse the role religion plays in the allure of the Islamic State. Or al Qaida. Or Boko Haram. Or Hezbollah. Or al Shabaab.” He correctly excoriates Friedman’s criticism of the US government and their habit of “overestimating the power of religious ideology and underappreciating the impact of misgovernance.” First of all, I have read nothing that would indicate to me that the Obama administration has ever been in the habit of “overestimating the power of religious ideology.” On the contrary, I think this present U.S. administration is actually in the habit of empowering Islam’s religious ideology, primarily with their conciliative foreign policy toward Iran and their exceptionally rude treatment of Israel’s P.M. Netanyahu. Talk about misgovernance!
And on the subject of “misgovernance” and the foolish pretense that there exists some sort of human disconnect between the religion of Islam and the long and crimsoned history of devastating political failures in the Middle East, let’s remember that, in the words of Willa Sibert Cather (1876-194), “The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.” Well, being that the subject here is Islam and Friedman’s opinion that it has no connection to bad governance, we can rule out that Muslim women, through no fault of their own, had any part in the unremitting tragedy of the Arab Muslim Middle East. Let’s remember also—and never forget—that the religion of Islam first formed in the womb the cultural beginnings of every Muslim ruler who later shouted from a podium or waved a Kalashnikov in a market square. And keep in mind most of all that Christians and Jews have had no part in inviting “colonial powers” into the Middle East (that’s not to say we haven’t offered to lend our finances, superior technology and management skills) but only those Muslim political entrepreneurs who, instead of thinking of the welfare of their less fortunate compatriots and their families, thought only of their personal financial and political gain. And when they inevitably came to ruin, by way of the imbroglio they created by trying to please their political allies while simultaneously trying to obey their religious inclinations, they blamed the Christian West, or the State of Israel, or both. But they never blamed Islam.