In many ways the world is shrinking – culturally, economically...
I am taking a break from the election this week to think about what is happening in Syria and Iraq and what could be done to stop the barbaric activities of the Islamic State (IS). First we have to understand what drives people to commit the terrible crimes they are committing. IS is not Islamic, it is satanic. Slaughtering children and taking women as sex slaves are not the acts of any genuine God-centred religion. Beheading journalists who have not taken up arms against them is not civilised behaviour. That these acts are intentionally directed towards Christians and anyone of any other religion, including moderate Muslims, is evidence of this.
How can this be stopped? As much as one wants to avoid more killing and use ‘soft power’ that is not possible in relation to IS. They will not negotiate. They are hell bent on world domination, however fanciful that may seem. Their barbaric acts have to be stopped and the leaders brought to justice. Military measures seem the only option at this stage and it is time our government raised the level of British military involvement. That said, it is essential that Islamic nations play an active part in stopping the terrorists both because IS threatens them too and it conveys an unhelpful message if it is only Western forces fighting them.
Those who have gone from the UK were radicalised in part at least because they felt disenfranchised, with no jobs and poverty
IS has made clear its intentions to spread their evil activity to other nations, especially those with a Christian heritage. The risk is that young Muslims in those countries have or will be recruited to undertake terrorist activity. This has to be prevented by education and security measures to detect potential extremists and terrorist plots. Religious education in schools for all pupils, not just examination candidates, needs to be taken much more seriously. It needs to be taught by specialists with understanding of Islam as well as other faiths. Adult education to help parents raise their children so that they do not fall under the influence of extremists is also important. Parents need to be able to recognise if their children are being influenced by such people and know how to prevent this.
Johnnie Moore’s book Defying ISIS makes an important point about prevention. Those who have gone from the UK were radicalised in part at least because they felt disenfranchised, with no jobs and poverty. They became attracted to the ideological influence of extremist preachers and online campaigns. IS uses social media to reach and organise potential activists. They communicate a hatred for the West which these disenfranchised people come to share. Countering this requires our government to do all they can to remove the sense of loneliness and despair that the disenfranchised feel. This involves education, family life, jobs and apprenticeships for those people, giving them hope. Prevention also involves effective security services and policing to monitor the many websites, Twitter and other social media to identify potential plots and those spreading hate.
We can pray for the victims of IS, for parents and teachers, for the government making decisions about our security and for those on the front line. We can also give generously to support those rendered homeless and destitute by IS.