During a recent Friday sermon in one of the biggest mosques in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Imam unequivocally condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremists whose gruesome slaying of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff (and of Syrian journalist Bassam Raies a few weeks earlier) has shocked people of conscience everywhere.
“These people are hijacking our faith,” said the Imam. “We have to stop them. This conversation has to take place among Muslims!”
Muslims are outraged by the nihilistic ideology of the ISIL. This fanatical group will kill anyone crossing its path as it tries to enforce its extremist interpretation of Islam in large swaths of Syria and Iraq. We agree with President Obama’s observation of the ISIL: “They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.”
One of the religious minorities targeted by the ISIL includes the Yazidis, practitioners of perhaps the oldest religion in the world. These peace-loving people, whose ancestry goes back 6,000 years, are now facing literal extermination through the organization’s satanic cruelties.
American-Muslims vehemently oppose the ISIL. They would find their Utopian fantasy and Dystopian dream laughable, were they not so drenched in blood. They reject their distortion of Islam, a poisonous mix of misogyny, mayhem and intolerance.
To defeat these zealots, who are not amenable to reason, will require the organized military forces of nations. We applaud the President in helping to form a 10-nation core coalition of NATO countries (United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Turkey, with Turkey expected to play a critical role) to defeat the ISIL, although differences remain on the details of the execution.
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to devote most of his time and energy in the coming weeks to enlist Arab countries in this effort. We urge the Arab countries to leave politics aside and unite in supporting the NATO-alliance in uprooting the ISIL.
The ISIL will not fold at the first sign of defeat. The group consists of battle-hardened jihadists and media-savvy technologists, with ‘Jihadi Johns’ from Britain, Australia, Germany and America swelling its ranks.
But there is no question that ISIL is doomed. Mainstream Muslims have rejected the group’s extremism and intolerance, just as they rejected those of Al-Qaida in the wake of 9/11.
Islamic history offers an example.
From the 7th through the 9th-centuries, Muslims calling themselves Kharijites (literally, those who seceded) in mostly current-day Iraq rejected moderation and engaged in ‘takfir’: declaring those Muslims ‘kafirs’ (unbelievers) who rejected their inflexible interpretation of the faith and thus became, in their sight, deserving of death.
Initially the Kharijites made headway through their reign of terror but once the moderate Caliphs of the day were able to organize their forces, they were able to crush the fanatics.
Mutations of the Kharijites appear every now and then in Muslim countries, people drunk with certitude who believe that they, and only they, know who is favored by God and who isn’t. Their rigid and exclusive view of faith and life ultimately become the cause of their defeat.
Such will be the fate of the ISIL as well. But it will neither be easy nor quick. It will require cooperation between the NATO coalition and Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as the continued rejection of the extremist group by mainstream Muslims.