The rhetoric about what we are to do with Terrorism has been heightened to an almost hysterical level. Talk about escalating bombing and keeping all Muslims out of the country show a drastic misreading of the present state of the question and by doing so is pointing in the wrong direction when considering solutions.
What Isis is doing is posting a theological question to Islam itself about the nature and extent of the Koranic revelations. By taking a fundamentalist and selective reading of the Koran, the leaders of Isis are taking a theological path that needs to be investigated by Koranic scholars and, if needed, be refuted by them as not in keeping with the precepts of Islamic thought.
This, of course, assumes that there are Islamic scholars that have a certain weight in the Muslim
community who can publicly and authoritatively comment on what Isis is saying about the will of Allah. The need for public, and strong condemnation of the actions of Isis by universally accepted authorities in the Muslim faith is a necessary step in the mobilization of Islamic forces against Isis in a theological and if necessary military jihad against it. It is the Muslim faith that is being co-opted and blasphemed. The absence of such authoritative condemnation from within the Islamic community and its political follow-up is the largest obstacle to peace in the future. Bombing makes Isis stronger. Stopping the flow of refugees makes Isis stronger. Intemperate political rhetoric here in America makes Isis stronger. They need to be shamed as blasphemers against their own faith and Muslim armies, if necessary, must deal with this Muslim heresy. What the West can do is put the question forcefully to the Islamic community: Are you ready to correct this distortion of your faith?
The West must supply the correcting forces of Muslim Orthodoxy with the material power that is required to defeat this heresy in their midst. It is to our advantage to do so since we are not immune to the actions of this heresy as it extends its blasphemy to our shores. We do have the right to defend ourselves but not at the cost of losing our morally authentic Muslim allies who are the primary front in the battle with Isis.
The way we do this is to learn to speak in a more nuanced theological language and have the religious voices in our culture, Christian, Judaic, Muslim, etc. condemn the offenses against God that Isis represents. This is the most stinging rhetoric against the enemy since they feel that they are serving Allah’s will in committing these atrocities. We need to open up a Religious and Theological front to destroy Isis from its internal, basic beliefs. These are the wrong beliefs that inspire people to leave home and join this fight. We have to get it through our secular skulls that this is a religious question and the usual categories of political thought are ineffective against it.
This goes against the grain of our public discourse since Religion has been lamentably banished from it. Our politicians and, even worse, our media is completely at sea with regards to their knowledge and comfort in dealing with reality in theological categories. These voices are well trained in political science and journalism to have, at best, an 8th grader’s grasp of religious questions and religious language. Consequently they are ignorant of the ‘intellectual weapons’ that can truly defeat Isis in their religious insurgency.
The other front upon which this war needs to be fought has, in a sense, nothing to do with Islam. As a consequence of the rhetoric of fear and hate engendered by politicians and the like, innocent Muslims are targeted with violence and have to bear the brunt of the West’s inability to think out of the categories of force and intimidation.
What will ultimately defeat Isis on our own shores is for us to rediscover the Christian roots of our culture and to become better Christians. To renew our own faith allegiance so as to make it real in our lives is the commitment to a “God who matters.” That would strike fear into the hearts of those who have given their lives over to the false religion of Isis. Our own secular and atheistic vanguard and our mistaken exaggeration of the separation of church and state have left us spiritually and intellectually impotent against the onslaught of this heightened religious fervor. By reclaiming the foundations of our spiritual heritage, we place our civilization once again on a holistic path of confident dialogue with Islam and provide the basis for inter-religious dialogue that is real and productive. The secular model has brought to the fore the importance of religious freedom that is essential in any working together on the religious front. Men and women need to be free to follow the religion that they are being inspired to follow whether this is in New York or in Riyadh.
This vision of a world of respectful but serious religious involvement is the very opposite of what Isis wants. It is also the antidote to its poison that is infecting us with hatred.