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ISIS or Islam

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The so-called “Islamic State” may somehow be responsible for the latest attacks in France. But it is grossly misleading, if not outright dishonest, to depict this massacre as the work of some “lone” organization.


It is intellectually dishonest, in other words, to consider ISIS in isolation from the historical, theological, political, and cultural contexts of Islam.

The focus on ISIS implies, and I believe is meant to imply, that if only ISIS didn’t exist, neither would the attacks in France have occurred.

Admittedly, life would be vastly easier if ISIS was sui generis, an anomaly that has about as much to do with Islam as it has to do with Quakerism. The Obamas and Hollandes could continue to talk tough without in the least bit altering their agenda, and Westerners generally could continue to indulge the luxury of thinking that it is an object that can be isolated and targeted, a threat that is infinitely more manageable, and not nearly as ominous, than it really is.

Words are never just words. The labels we choose for things determine how we look at those things. And as the philosopher Michael Oakeshott once wrote, how we look determines what we see.

The so-called “Islamic State” is, of course, a real thing. Yet to frame the current “clash of civilizations,” to borrow Samuel Huntington’s phrase, in terms of a contest between the West and ISIS is to utter nonsense, for ISIS is but the latest manifestation of an impulse for murderous violence that has figured in no small measure in the history of Islam, a history that originates over 1400 years ago with its founder.


Moreover, ISIS is hardly the only agent of Islamic militancy or terror even today. Those suggesting otherwise apparently need to be reminded of al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the Muslim Brotherhood, to name but a few.

But these “extremist” organizations notwithstanding, we can also look to the governments of many contemporary Islamic lands in order to find textbook illustrations of Islamic oppression.

According to Open Doors, a group that exists for the sake of “serving persecuted Christians throughout the world,” of the 50 worst countries for Christian persecution, 80 percent are under Islamic rule.

An international Roman Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, just released its most recent biannual report, “Persecuted and Forgotten?” The report discloses that “Islamist groups” are tirelessly “carrying out religiously motivated ethnic cleansing of Christians, notably in the Middle East and Africa.”

The group fears that, given current patterns, the presence of Christians in these places could be relegated to the ash heap of history within the next decade. To substantiate this concern, the report notes that the number of Christians in Iraq today could be as low as 275,000.

In 2003, there were well over one million Christians living in Iraq.

In Africa, “the rise of militant Islamist groups in Nigeria…Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and other” countries “is destabilizing the Christian presence on the one continent which until now has been the Church’s brightest hope for the future.”


While these organizations that highlight for the rest of us the inconceivably brutal treatment to which Christians are routinely subjected by their Islamic tormentors deserve to be commended, it must be admitted that they too obscure matters by way of such labels as “Islamism,” “radical Islam,” and/or “Islamic extremism.”

Republicans typically blast their Democratic opponents for their unwillingness to say the word “Islam” when characterizing the Islamic terror. Yet these GOP critics should remove the boulder from their own collective eye, for neither do they identify the threat for what it is.

Speak to anyone—Muslim, Jew, Christian, or other—born and bred in the Middle East or Africa. While they will readily acknowledge the existence of different types of Islam, like Sunni and Shiite, they will just as readily deny ever having heard of such things as “Islamism,” “Islamo-fascism,” “Islamo-nazism,” “radical Islam,” or “Islamic extremism.” The reason for this denial is simple enough:

These labels are Western constructs, born in part from an understandable desire to assure peaceful law-abiding Muslims that we mean them no harm. Yet they are as well the function of a Politically Correct sensibility that has overcome the Western consciousness, a hyper-sensitivity to charges of “Islamophobia,” “racism,” and the like.

It is as dishonest to imply that ISIS—a single or lone organization—besieged France this past weekend as it is dishonest to imply that France just came under siege this past weekend. The truth is that France, with its 750 designated “Sensitive Urban Zones”—i.e. “No Go” zones—and numerous riots, has been under siege for a long, long time.


In fact, France has a history of Islamic terrorist attacks on its own soil going back to 1958!

Friday’s killers were not from ISIS, in the sense of being from “over there.” Of the seven, most were from “here,” nationals of France. Some were living in Belgium—another European country with its own share of areas, like Molenbeek, the place in which two of Friday’s killers resided and over which, according to Jan Jambon, Belgium’s home affairs minister, the government has lost “control.”

If only the threat posed to France and the rest of us was something as limited as “the Islamic State.”

But Barack Obama’s protestations to the contrary aside, such is not even close to being the case.

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