Sean Oliver-Dee is a friend of mine who is well placed to help us understand that while a ‘grace and truth’ response to ordinary Muslims goes on, Islam, as an political ideology, also needs to be engaged by Christians, at the political level.
ISIS aims to create a new Islamic territory (a Caliphate) in Iraq and Syria. This should not surprise us. In 2013 Youtube showed footage of young Muslim vigilantes in East London telling revellers, drunks and gay men to go away because ‘this is a Muslim area’. This is an example of the same Islamist ideology that is trying to operate in the UK.
The problem has been alluded to recently, due to numbers of westerners who go to fight with the jihadis. Then there has been the, so called, ‘Trojan Horse’ incidents in schools in Birmingham and elsewhere in the UK where the aim is the same.
The reach of Islamic radicalisation was indicated on 1 April 2014 by the Prime Minister’s authorising an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in the UK. While this investigation is welcome, it is too little too late in terms of the impact that territorial ideologies have already had in the UK and elsewhere in the West.
Too much is at stake in the survival of the state … to allow it to fall victim to our enlightenment scruples about not mixing religion and politics. - Lamin Sanneh
Which brings me to the other point: In a world hooked on instant results, the ISIS discussion about Caliphate, demonstrates that they are devoted to the long-term goal of establishing a global religio-political state that has sharia law as its constitutional basis. This is what they believe Muhammad originally inaugurated in the seventh century.
Long-term strategic thinking is a particular strength of radical Islam; forget ISIS for a moment as they have been playing a relatively short-game compared to the Muslim Brotherhood, who developed their plan to take over the West, in 1981 – outlined by Patrick Poole ‘The Project for Frontpage Magazine in 2006.
Another example of long-term thinking is Hizb ut Tahrir, founded back in 1953 by Taqiuddin an-Nabhani. Their express purpose is to create a global Islamic Caliphate. The only thing that has kept them from being proscribed as a terrorist organisation is their commitment to non-violent methods.
ISIS is another incarnation of a radical Islamic perspective that is also present in different parts of the world, including the UK
They are energetic, patient and above all, grounded on an apparently unimpeachable interpretation of Islam, which positions itself as the ‘purest’ out-working of Islam.
This is what makes ISIS, and other such groups, so dangerous. They are able to quote extensively from the Qur’an, which lends authority to their views. Their Muslim opponents undermine them by appealing to philosophical argument. This may sound attractive to western ears, but it fails to resonate with the very people who need to engage with it.
The problem is westerners ‘don’t do God’ and the government stays away from faith issues and hopes that faith issues will keep well away from them.
This is not good enough in a society where the siren voices of radicals are luring people into their ideology
We need to encourage the Muslims – who are forming robust (i.e. theologically grounded) counter-arguments to the radicals – to speak out in the marketplace of Muslim ideas, rather than allowing the radicals to own it.
Until we do, there will be a continual supply of people willing to fight for ISIS and similar groups.
Dr Sean Oliver-Dee is a researcher and writer in the area of public policy-making and religious minorities. This piece is re-edited and used with the author’s permission and kind co-operation of Lapido Media where it first appeared in full.