It is clear that American foreign policy and Western colonialism more generally have played a huge role in fanning the flames of “Islamic” terrorism. I’m heartened by the many peaceful Muslims who are speaking up to say that terrorists are most definitely NOT Muslims, including this brave fellow:
Be that as it may, these suicide bombers committing acts of “altruistic evil” certainly believe they are Muslims. Their twisted view of the faith is being fed to them largely by what Kamel Daoud calls the “religious-industrial complex” of the Saudi Arabian state. Peaceful Muslims saying Daesh is not Muslim is not enough, in my opinion. Obviously, we more or less secular Americans have a lot of work to do on ourselves and our society, and a lot to apologize for. But at this point, there is no turning back. We’ve created a monster that isn’t going to lay its weapons down just because we say sorry. The Western world needs to do everything it can to support and amplify the message of peaceful Muslims speaking out against terrorism.
Bombs may weaken Daesh, but they are not going to defeat them, not in the long term. Taking political power out of the hands of clerics in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern states and putting it in the hands of Muslim women (for example) is going to defeat Daesh. A theology of peace is going to defeat Daesh, a theology whose power comes from the persuasiveness of its vision, rather than from the fear of violence should its authority be challenged. Any religion based on externally imposed laws enforced by violence is shallow in comparison to a religion whose authority is based in unconditional love (agape) arising spontaneously from the hearts of its believers. I’d go even further and say religions based on repressive external laws represent the worst kind of idolatry. The power of God is the power of love. It works through quiet persuasion, not coercion or fear. Contrary to the fundamentalism of Wahhabism, pretending we are embodying the desire of the divine by creating long lists of rules that only serve to reenforce existing political structures is the very definition of idol worship.
While we in America need to get over our fear of others, reign in our imperialism, and immediately drop our support for dictatorships like that in Saudi Arabia, I think the key to defeating terrorism definitively is for the majority of Muslims to speak loudly and clearly to Daesh that they are evil and a disgrace to the faith they claim to uphold. And of course we non-Muslims need to support them, wherever they may be. It is obviously far more dangerous for those Muslims living in the Middle East to speak out against such extremism. We depend on their bravery and courage, as they depend on our ability to overcome our imperialistic habits and our implicit or explicit white Christian supremacy.
[Update on 12/1/2015: Given the recent shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood location, I’m reminded that we in America also have a Christian terrorism problem. Peaceful and loving Christians need to stand up and condemn those who would pretend to do “God’s work” by murdering people. Disagreeing about the morality of abortion is one thing, but let us not forget what Jesus teaches regarding judgment of the alleged sins of others: “Let he among you who is free of sin be the first to cast a stone” (John 8:7).]