The rapid rise and threat of the jihadist group Islamic State has confounded the secularist West. The idea that their motivations could truly be driven by religious ideology simply fails to register with those who view religion as an individualistic, private affair.
Flip flops – those quick and easy sandals we slip on our feet to run a quick errand, go to the beach or walk the dog around the block. In many countries, flip flops are the most common form of footwear. Can these sandals fight ISIS?
Matthew “Griff” Griffin and Donald Lee both served multiple tours in Afghanistan fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. These are the guys behind Combat Flip Flops. They still see it as their mission to defeat Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and they think they can do so more effectively with jobs than they ever could by dropping bombs.
Graeme Wood’s excellent piece in The Atlantic has justly been making the rounds for the past week or so. It is well worth reading with a number of insights and points that strike at the heart of the contemporary conflict between modernity and religious violence. I commend “What ISIS Really Wants” to your reading. (Rasha al Aqeedi’s “Caliphatalism,” which looks more closely at the situation in Mosul, makes a great companion read.)
Dorothy Sayers, playwright, novelist and Christian scholar, wrote an important work in the 1930s entitled, Are Women Human? In her essay, she presents the biblical case for gender equality in a humorous and insightful way, grounding mutuality in theological anthropology. From the Genesis narratives to the new earth of Revelation, she affirms this thesis:
We are all human beings, made in the image of God with a job to do. And we do our jobs as a man or a woman.
This theological vision — of men and women in mutual love and respect carrying out their vocations for the glory of God and the good of others — undergirds the best of ecclesial, economic, political, and social liberty, and it has implications for the full range of human interactions and relationships. Notice the order of reflection: Creator > human identity > the call to worship/work > gender identity.
Alas, the effacing (not erasing) of the imago dei has led humankind down all manner of oppressive pathways, from dehumanizing and disintegrating practices of pagan and secular ideologies to the degrading subjugation of women, minorities, and many others in the name of “religious tradition.”
For followers of Jesus, a full vision of God’s reign includes living the future now in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the church as the herald and witness of the fullness to come. This includes redeeming the wholeness of being human, integrating all facets of individual and social being, including relational shalom. Women and men who love Jesus are icons of the coming kingdom. Singleness is not incompleteness, but a signpost of a future where all God’s people are married to Christ and sisters and brothers of one another. Marriage is a special illumination of Christ’s delight in his church, not a superior status. (more…)
What just happened in Paris?
Today at 11:30 a.m. local time in Paris (5:30 a.m. ET), two gunmen wearing black hoods and carrying Kalashnikovs killed twelve people, including two police officers, and seriously wounded four others in an apparent terrorist attack on the offices of a French satirical news magazine that had published cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
The gunmen escaped and are currently on the loose and being hunted by French police. (The police say they are looking for three men.)
Why is it assumed to be a terrorist attacks by Muslims?
In an eyewitness video of the attack, the gunmen are heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) while the shootings took place.
According to a video shot from a nearby building and broadcast on French TV, one of the men shouted in French, “Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo.”
The attack is believed to be in response to a recent tweet by the publication of a cartoon of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, with the caption (in French): “Best wishes, by the way.”
France has raised its terror threat level following the shooting.
What is Charlie Hebdo?
On Tuesday, voters in Alabama passed a ballot measure that, among other things, forbids courts, arbitrators, and administrative agencies from applying or “enforcing a foreign law if doing so would violate any state law or a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” Such measures (other states have passed similar laws) are often dubbed “anti-Sharia” measures since preventing the encroachment of Sharia is usually their primary objective.
Sharia is the moral code and religious law of Islam that deals with topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics, and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexual relations, hygiene, diet, and prayer. The two primary sources of Sharia law are the Quran and the example set by the founder of Islam, Muhammad. The introduction of Sharia across the globe is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements.
Opposing Sharia law may appear to be commonsensical measure. But such laws are unnecessary since state law and the Constitution already trump foreign law. They also can’t be written to oppose only Sharia (that would be religious discrimination) so they are written in a broad way that has unintended consequences.
Indeed, there is a compelling reason why Christians should be leery of joining in supporting anti-Sharia legislation: By helping to push the idea that religious beliefs should be kept private, anti-Sharia laws are a threat to all of our religious liberties. As the Catholic legal scholar Robert K. Vischer explained last year in First Things:
The Middle East is enduring yet another wave of terror and political change, spurring countless Western analysts and elites to offer their preferred strategies and solutions, most of which involve military force, foreign aid, or some mixture of the two.
In last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto sets forth a less predictable path, arguing for “an aggressive agenda for economic empowerment,” similar to that which was promoted in Peru during the 1990s.
I know something about this. A generation ago, much of Latin America was in turmoil. By 1990, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization called Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, had seized control of most of my home country, Peru, where I served as the president’s principal adviser. Fashionable opinion held that the people rebelling were the impoverished or underemployed wage slaves of Latin America, that capitalism couldn’t work outside the West and that Latin cultures didn’t really understand market economics.
The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong, however. Reforms in Peru gave indigenous entrepreneurs and farmers control over their assets and a new, more accessible legal framework in which to run businesses, make contracts and borrow—spurring an unprecedented rise in living standards… Over the next two decades, Peru’s gross national product per capita grew twice as fast as the average in the rest of Latin America, with its middle class growing four times faster.
It’s easy to think that ISIS is about religion. They toss around phrases from the Quran, and have announced that their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now “caliph,” or a successor to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. But ISIS is about as much about Islam as Hitler was to Christianity…which is to say, not much.
R.R. Reno reminds us that bloodthirstiness and an insane drive to power are nearly as old as humanity, in a piece entitled “From Cain to ISIS.” Reno spends some time comparing al-Baghdadi to Hitler, who proclaimed much of his platform was based on Christianity – in an ideological and warped way.
Hitler’s rise to power was aided by many factors that also find parallels in today’s Middle East. His extreme nationalism and his anti-Semitism were widely popular in inter-war Germany. Although most respectable middle-class Germans kept their distance, Hitler’s vision inspired a highly committed core of supporters willing to make great sacrifices. Among the elites he was seen as déclassé and too extreme, but was viewed by many with sympathy and even supported. His radicalism was thought good for Germany—a galvanizing force, a useful counter to communism, a commendable expression of strength.
It’s a sad fact that ISIS has become part of our vocabulary, but many of us still don’t know a lot about this terrorist movement. At Aleteia, news editor John Burger spent time with some people knowledgeable abaout this group, and created a top 10 list. Burger spoke to Father Elias D. Mallon, external Affairs Officer of the New York-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, and William Kilpatrick, author of Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for The Soul of The West.
Here is what you need to know:
1. What or who is ISIS? How did it come to be? ISIS consists of Sunni extremists who broke off from Al-Qaeda and are now claiming to be an independent state that includes part of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
2. Why do they exist? Father Mallon gives both ideological and practical reasons for their existence. The ideological is based on what Mallon calls a “romantic” but brutal vision of Islamic history, the practical speaks to the feeling of disenfranchisement with leadership in Baghdad. (more…)
The United States is often perceived as a land of religious freedom and pluralism. Has such a space allowed for the growth of a new generation of young Muslim leaders, activists, and artists? According to a recent article in TIME magazine, the rising prosperity and integration of Muslims in America is allowing for new Muslim leaders to emerge in the American public sphere.
Because the United States is faring far better with Muslim cultural and societal integration than Europe, a new platform is opening up for redefining Islam in the West. While the American Muslim community is also navigating their place in a shifting American demographic and religious landscape, intra-Islamic conversations continue over the identity and practice of American Islam. With the advent and growth of Islamic religious scholarship in the United States, the country is also becoming home to continuing creative conversations about Islamic identity and practice.
There is no doubt that an element of economic freedom has allowed the Muslim community in the United States to expand, flourish, and succeed. The link between religious and economic freedom will be considered more fully at an upcoming Acton conference in Rome, “Faith, State, and the Economy: Perspectives From East and West.”
The conference will take place on April 29 in Rome and is the first in a series called “One and Indivisible? The Relationship between Religious and Economic Freedom.” For more information visit the conference series webpage.
Additionally, please consider registering for Acton University 2014 for lectures on Islam by Mustafa Akyol, a columnist for the Turkish Daily News.