Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Islamic State claims North African outpost


You certainly will not hear stories such as this being discussed today at President Obama's summit on "violent extremism."

From Reuters:
The images match the worst of Islamic State's atrocities: black-clad fighters and an English-speaking jihadist taunt the West before slaughtering their victims in orange jumpsuits on a Libyan beach.

Their masked leader turns to the Mediterranean and points a bloodied knife towards Europe, declaring, "We will conquer Rome, God willing."

The execution of 21 Egyptian Christians by militants in Libya proclaiming allegiance to Islamic State was an announcement that the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has spread from Syria and Iraq to Libya. Militants have profited from chaos to claim a North African outpost a boat ride away from Italy's coast.

International reaction came swiftly. Egyptian jets pounded suspected militant sites in Libya, and Paris joined Cairo in calling for U.N. action to halt the militants' spread.

Libya appears to be Islamic State's most successful move yet beyond its Middle East heartland, likely attracting more recruits and increasing Western fears of a new North African base for jihadist fighters.

Read more....

I think our problem dealing with Islam is that we look at it just as a religion. At one level it is that, but Islam is also a political movement. I think the real problems arise when Muslims and we mix the two. Let’s start with the fact that the prophet Muhammad was also a warrior and conqueror. Already in his lifetime he led a conflict with Mecca that culminated in its conquest and later that of the whole of Arabia.

This was a man who most definitely mixed religion with the politics of conquest, or if you prefer, forceful proselytizing, including that he might have created and used religion in order to control better those that he led. If you read history you know that his followers set out to methodically conquer the lands around them; then parts of Europe, notably Al-Andalus consisting of most of Spain and Portugal; and later, with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Byzantine or Roman Empire of the East, which became the Ottoman empire that at one point reached from Algiers and Budapest in the West and North, to Baghdad and major parts of Arabia including Mecca and Medina, but excluding most Bedouin tribes that were arguably ungovernable.

This mixing of the politics of conquest with religion as the instrument to hold the conquered lands together, is in very sharp contrast with the Christian attitude, that started with Jesus himself, of “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

To treat the two religions as if they were comparable, other than technically as sets of rules to govern human behavior, is an act of absolute ignorance. One is a religion of peace and salvation, the other of subjugation.

In the West the secular and religious started going their own separate ways with the 11th century Gregorian Reform (Harold J. Berman, “Law and Revolution,” Harvard,1983, starting at page 85) a separation that reached its pinnacle with the American and French revolutions.

Arguably this also happened in Islam, but less decidedly. In Saudi Arabia for well over 200 years there has been a governing partnership between the very religious House of Wahhab that still controls education and the thought police, and the more secular House of Saud that controls the administrative apparatus. And then of course there is the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when the religious leaders took over overall control of the country and its government.

So while in the West there has been a decided separation between the secular and religious worlds for governing purposes, this has not happened in Islam and there remain some very major exceptions.

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