The Syrian Refugees and ISIS; Whom Shall We Fear? Does Paris change how we should respond?29 min read
I’ve heard many reasons and justifications for using the might of the United States military against ISIS. They are a stronger, more lethal jihadist group than any other other we’ve faced. Russia and France are already engaged in this fight, and with the United States, we should be able to crush them once and for all. ISIS hates us; they hate anyone and everyone who does not believe the morbid, horrific, and downright evil things they do. Their hatred seems unrivaled to any other today, and they are undeterred by our suffering. Indeed, they are undeterred by the suffering of their own.
They seem hell-bent on making this war about religion, and yet there are those who want us to recognize a distinction between the radicalized form of Islam that ISIS practices and the form that most other Muslims practice, thereby making this a war against psychopaths likened to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc – a secular war. There are those in the West who seem to disagree as to what kind of war this is and thus how to solve the problem. The media doesn’t help as it inflames and fans the fears that ISIS wants to spread (who in their right mind would aid the enemy in this way?), by themselves becoming emotional about how history is unfolding.
But, does it matter whether or not this is religious war or a secular war? Does framing the argument as one or the other change how respond? Here, I’m going to frame both arguments and test them to see how this effects our response, particularly to the refugees and the possibility that ISIS are cowardly hiding among them. But let’s begin with the premise that I support the role of government to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens, so I do not believe that pacifism by the government is the correct approach, just not the only approach, or even the first approach. Now, the question becomes, what is the best way to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens? Is the best way to do this to isolate ourselves from the world by refusing all refugees, establishing economic sanctions, sending the Syrians back to Syria and using the ‘Shock and Awe” method employed by former President Bush? If this is a religious war, then how should Christians respond? With fear? By taking up arms? Turning away who are also under attack?
Let’s find out.
PART I: Evident Reason
Since 1953, the United States government has played around with the power structure in the Middle East beginning. From the other throw of the Shah in 1953 and establishing a dictator, to funding both sides of the Iran/ Iraq war – including providing weapons of mass destruction to Iraq, to arming and training Al Qaeda to fight the Soviet Union, to arming and funding rebels that later became ISIS, the US government has had a direct role in forming the perceptions that Arabs in the Middle East have about both America and Christianity (as we’ve proudly touted our “Christian Nation” status).
In fact, according to Oxford Journal of American History, the US’s interest in the Middle East goes back to 1930 when it discovered “commercial amounts of oil” there. Our government’s interest in the Middle East has never been about protecting Israel, it’s never been about spreading freedom and democracy. It has been about obtaining cheap oil which is arguably one of the major commodities that fuels the global economy. And our government’s track record has proven to result in progressively worse situations, worse governments, worse tensions between people groups, and worse hatred for America, the “Christian Nation.”
Besides the rhetoric of mainstream television, which serves to fuel the fear (an irrational emotion) of ISIS and the people in the Middle East, there are voices of reason coming forward with various credible authorities to speak on the subject of how to deal with the conflict that has risen as we are closing in on almost a century of US manipulation in the Middle East. Here just a few:
The Social Scientist
Read More http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/15/terrorists-isis
The Former ISIS Hostage
“Everything convinces them that they are on the right path and, specifically, that there is a kind of apocalyptic process under way that will lead to a confrontation between an army of Muslims from all over the world and others, the crusaders, the Romans. They see everything as moving us down that road. Consequently, everything is a blessing from Allah.
With their news and social media interest, they will be noting everything that follows their murderous assault on Paris, and my guess is that right now the chant among them will be “We are winning”. They will be heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia; they will be drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media.”
Read More http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/16/isis-bombs-hostage-syria-islamic-state-paris-attacks
An American Living in Morocco
In the year that I’ve lived here, not a single Moroccan has blamed me for the wrongdoing committed by the US government, let alone the violence that has been carried out in the name of Christianity. When we do discuss US foreign policy, Moroccans are often quick to assure me that they understand that America’s wars are the fault of our government and not the people.
If Moroccan Muslims don’t blame American citizens for actions committed by the government we elected, why is it so hard for us to differentiate the worldwide peaceful Muslim majority from a radical fringe group they have nothing to do with?
One thing is clear: Responding to terrorism with xenophobia and intolerance toward Muslims feeds straight into Daesh narratives about the West.
– See more at: http://www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/an-american-in-morocco-following-the-paris-attacks-23916/#sthash.mI0LOsbe.dpuf
The Muslim Religious Scholars
Awad said its aim is to offer a comprehensive Islamic refutation, “point-by-point,” to the philosophy of the Islamic State and the violence it has perpetrated. The letter’s authors include well-known religious and scholarly figures in the Muslim world, including Sheikh Shawqi Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, and Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem and All Palestine.
A translated 24-point summary of the letter includes the following: “It is forbidden in Islam to torture”; “It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God”; and “It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslims until he (or she) openly declares disbelief.”
This is not the first time Muslim leaders have joined to condemn the Islamic State. The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, for example, last week told the nation’s Muslims that they should speak out against the “terrorist and murderers” who fight for the Islamic State and who have dragged Islam “through the mud.”
Quote via Huffington Post
This Prominant Muslim Sheik
He said it is time worth spending because military action alone — airstrikes and Tomahawk missiles — won’t work. “The problem is that even if you defeat these ideas militarily by killing the people, if you don’t defeat the ideas intellectually, then the ideas will re-emerge.”
That’s what his Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies is trying to do, Vendley and Mandaville said. It hopes to correct concepts of Islam that have been hijacked by extremists.
Read More http://www.npr.org/2014/09/25/351277631/prominent-muslim-sheikh-issues-fatwa-against-isis-violence
The first thing to note is that Islamic scholars are vocally and publicly denouncing ISIS’s interpretation of Islam. Don’t get me wrong, I am not pretending to know anything about the Islamic religion. I have not studied it, and I do still question how they define women’s rights, among other things. But I have studied Christian theology in depth, and I understand the difficulties of interpreting ancient texts and how involved it can become when trying to understand historical and linguistic contexts, and that there is on-going debate between Christian scholars from across the world as to the correct interpretation of Scripture. So there is no reason to believe that Muslim scholars would be making the same claims about the hermeneutics of their own ancient religion, and claiming that a lack of education can lead to false interpretations of Scripture.
The second thing to point out is that both the Muslim scholars and the social scientist point to the fact that the ISIS fighters are not educated in even the basic tenants of Islam, thus easily lending itself to the false interpretation claimed by the learned scholars. Add to that Muslim Sheik Sheik Abdullah bin Bayyah, who’s issued a Fatwa against ISIS. The media describes Fatwas as death sentences, but this website says they’re likened more to a Supreme Court ruling. None the less, the Muslim world is actively working against ISIS even though (it doesn’t appear) that it’s a violent response.
Finally, we see from the social scientist, the former hostage, and the American living in Morocco, that the worst thing we could is to respond in violence which will only serve to further radicalize ill-educated Muslims who seek to be the heroes of the Muslim World. You see, our response in violence is not received in a vacuum and cannot be interpreted by people there as a defensive tactic. They do not see it the way we see it. They see it as an addition to the force, fraud, abuse, and violence of the past, and gives credence to ISIS. Becoming Xenophobic about refugees fleeing the region for their lives simply because they are Muslim, or Arab, or brown-skinned, or young-ish males supports (in their minds) the lies that ISIS and other extremists have been telling them about Americans, the “Christian Nation.” In other words, our violent response serves only to further radicalize and cement in the minds of Arabs that ISIS is right.
By all accounts, the secular response should not be one of violence. Russia and France are responding with violence, but they are being seen as cleaning up the mess that America has made. The ONLY thing that America can do, to begin to heal and change how we are seen in the Middle East, is to be merciful to the refugees. Yes, absolutely, protect ourselves from the inevitable exploitation of refugees by the ISIS cowards that will no doubt hide among them. Yet, here too, there is no reason why we cannot take extra precaution (and why liberals should finally stop talking about gun control; sometimes the best defense, is self-defense).
PART II: CONVICTION OF THE SPIRIT
If this is a Holy War, a religious War, a “my-God-is-better-than-your-God” War, then as Christians we must go to the Bible to answer how we fight this. So what does it say?
We Were Once Enemies of God
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)
“Don’t abuse or take advantage of strangers; you, remember, were once strangers in Egypt. (Ex 22:21)
Love Your Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV)
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36 ESV)
Marks of a True Christian
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 ESV)
“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen 15:1)
Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. (Gen 21:17)
Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” (26:24)
“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? (Gen 50:19)
So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Gen 50:21)
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. (Exodus 14:13)
“Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:20)
Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, (Deut 20:3)
Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut 31:6)
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deut 31:8)
Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” (2 Sam 13:28)
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, (Psalm 91:5)
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Ps 118:6)
“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. (Is 8:2)
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (Is. 35:4)
O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” (Is 40:9)
Fear Not, for I Am with You Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; (Is 41:1)
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is 41:10)
For I, the Lord your God, old your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Is 41:13)
Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. (Is. 41:14)
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Is 43:1)
Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. (Is 43:5)
Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Is 44:8)
fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. (Is 51:7)
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; (Is 54:4)
In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. (Is 54:14)
Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. (Jer 42:11)
“Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. (Dan 10:12)
so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.” (Zech 8:13)
Have No Fear
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:26-33 ESV)
But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” (Mark 5:36)
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)
But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” (Luke 8:50)
“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (John 12:15)
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15)
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, (Rom 13:3)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim 1:7)
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18 ESV)
If this is a religious war, then Christians have nothing to fear. It’s a war already won; one we didn’t have to fight. Does that mean that violence and persecution won’t come? Of course not, but vengeance is not ours to take. In fact, if it’s specifically because we are Christian, (which history suggests that it is not, but for argument’s sake let’s say that it is) then we must face the persecution for the sake of the Gospel. Regardless, however, our response is the same. We are explicitly commanded to love our enemies and to provide refuge to the refugees. Does that put us in a vulnerable position? Yes. Christ was also vulnerable when he committed to die for our sins and we are called to be like Christ, and yet we are commanded not to fear, but to trust God and to leave vengeance to Him. And in the meantime, serve and pray for the very ones who hate us, because Christ served, and prayed for, and even died, for us while we still hated him.
This is what makes Christianity offensive – that we would love our enemies, as Christ has loved us as His enemies. We love because God first loved us. It makes no sense for us to only love ourselves, or those who aren’t our enemies. Christ didn’t love himself, or only those that sort of liked Him. The term “Christian” was once a derogatory term, meaning “little Christs,” yet that is what we are … and we were promised to do greater things that He even did.
John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
What’s sad, is that America’s foreign policy is what is presented to the world as being “Christian” since American Christians insist on the “Christian Nation” moniker – so to the unbelieving world, Christians will interfere, manipulate, and even bomb the crap out of your country if it has something we want. We will lie to get our way, we will control and demonize people who are in the way, and we will outsource torture to other countries in order to not get our hands dirty. And will apparently turn away the poor, marginalized, terrorized masses – yearning to be free – if you remind us at all of the country under our thumb. Not to mention of course, this is all solidified by a nationalist patriotism that all “good” Christians must have for America. Is it really any wonder that we are hated so? They take offense to a false view of Christianity as we are taking offense to a false view of Islam – and all because our government wanted control and monopolize oil!
And for those who believe that President Obama is part of an insidious plan to bring Muslims insurgents by way of the refugee system into America?
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen 50:20)
If there is one thing that American Christians have forgotten, it’s the role of Divine Providence in the schemes of the world. As Christians, we are supposed to trust God above all. At what point will this be so? It’s easy to trust God when we are doing well for ourselves, but it’s when things are going badly and evil swarms around that our faith is tested. Do we trust Him? Is His Word true? How do we pass the test? By giving lip service to the truth, (Oh yeah, sure, I trust God – I just don’t trust Obama/ISIS/etc.) or by living that truth – actually trusting that God thwarts the plans of the enemy by using it for our good?
What I’m suggesting is no doubt counter-intuitive and will be unpopular, but I believe it is none the less true. And while I argue in favor of the legal right of the states to reject Syrian refugees against the will of the President, I do believe it is unwise, and will only serve to deepen this conflict to the point of violent upheaval here in America.
My prayer, however, is that of Is 55:11 – that God’s words to us will not return empty.
So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is 55:11)
And in the words of Martin Luther, who changed the course of history – not just for Christians, but for religious freedom in general:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither [president] nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves–I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.
The Syrian Refugees and ISIS; Whom Shall We Fear?
So whether we’re looking at this conflict as a secular problem, or as a religious problem, the answer is still the same:
WE MUST SAVE THE SYRIAN REFUGEES in order to keep our nation safe and begin to heal our relationships in the Middle East. In fact, I believe that what we see here is consensus both intellectually and spiritually, that the proper response is not violence, but mercy and peace. We cannot control what France or Russia does, but we can choose to break the vicious cycle of our own government, and reach out to help rather than hurt.
We have it in our power to begin the world over again.Thomas Paine