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What Is (Who Are) the Islamic State (4 of ?)

November 30, 2015

The author of this novel is interested in ISIS because it is so violently antithetical to his thoughts about the beautiful, the good, the true. Also because the thoughts and actions of leaders of IS seem to provide an angle of study of the subject (the psychopathology of American democracy) and major characters of this novel. Responses to ISIS by Democratic and Republican politicians are especially telling. So, as narrator, I’m including this episode of many pages of thoughts about ISIS as related to matters such as American values, community, governance, and religious fundamentalism.

For instance, The Huffington Post recently published a list of 10 items that are important sources of information about ISIS. I’ll read those, and mention parts of their content.

As it happens, I’ve already run across one article, “What ISIS Really Wants,” by Graeme Wood, and recommended it on page 1 of this episode. And then on page 3 I added an article, not on the HP list, “What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters,” by Lydia Wilson.

I want to turn next to the experience of an ordinary person, a young American, Christian woman, “Alex,” who was recruited by ISIS. This NY Times article by Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS and the Lonely Young Woman,” including a filmed interview with her, chronicles her conversations with her new-found friend, and recruiter.

Although this potential recruit is only one person, her experience seems to reveal much about ISIS’s online recruitment tactics and their appeal. (Full disclosure: having been a devout Christian, and “recruiter” to Christianity—actually I was proselytizing, when I was young, I find these tactics very familiar; really, after all, they use and speak to what is appealing about a sincere faith community to anyone in need of such a community and family; like I was, the young are often both needy and vulnerable).

I do not want to offer a substitute for an excellent article, but I’ll comment on one communication from her recruiter, when she reported having decided no longer to take communion:

“What you do not know is that i am not inviting you to leave christianity,” Hamad wrote, when she relayed what she had done. “Islam is the correction of christianity.”

I find this interesting in its parallel to 17th century, Puritan Americans, who were also militant reformers of the faith (that’s why they were called “Puritans”—they were intensely interested in purity and purification). They, too, were true believers in the imminent apocalypse and their own salvation among the righteous, the true believers, God’s chosen people. The primary motivation for their every act in life, and criterion for  judging its value, was supposed to be the glorification of God.  They mercilessly persecuted their indigenous neighbors, including the massacre of the Pequod people by setting their village on fire, shooting anyone who tried to escape, and burning everyone else.  True story.

[Update: Young French woman who joined ISIS and then escaped.]

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