It's been quite a tumultuous Ramadan if you're a Muslim in the West. We've had to confront this evil nemISIS over and over. I myself have felt my gorge rising even during the fast: "Again?" You couldn't reverse engineer a more hateful group, or one that knows exactly where to strike our sensitivities. Striking Madinah, the City of the Prophet, and Islam's second holiest site, exemplifies this.
Facebook seems to be under fire for turning your newsfeed into an echo chamber, serving up only what it thinks you're interested in and thereby enhancing confirmation bias.
So I spent time reviewing a few recent issues of Dabiq, ISIS's propaganda zine. And their governance manual, as well as an online recruitment manual. I wanted to try to understand whether they were "Islamic" and what this death cult shared with me, if anything. How could they kill so wantonly?
I think about all the support I'm blessed to receive - colleagues and friends who know not all Muslims are like this - and still find myself wondering, if the roles were reversed, would I be so understanding?
Every time they strike, I see the same arguments unfold: we have an (understandable but knee-jerk) reaction of disgust and contradistinction, and we tweet #notinmyname from the virtual rooftops of the world. We're hit back with #ThisIsTrueIslam and are denounced as watered-down Muslims. In the middle are observations that both sides can find what they need in the Qur'an, and that willful blindness to the "Islam" of ISIS is ultimately a copout.
Every time. The same arguments. The only thing different this Ramadan is that the arguments didn't have time to unfold before the next macabre attack.
We're all getting played - Muslims and non-Muslims alike. These strong reactions are EXACTLY what ISIS wants. The nastier the better: conveniently call all normal Muslims "apostates" or "disbelievers" and there is a lot of low-hanging fruit that can't get out of the way of a sword. Reduce the world into black and white, so it will fit into 140 characters.
Because they hog media attention, ISIS gets the power and influence it craves. They're not the most dangerous or violent group in the world - that dubious distinction goes to Central American gangs like MS-13 and Mara 18.
We're connected to our brothers and sisters overseas. But in our zeal to distance ourselves from ISIS, and following through with the scripted dialogue that becomes more and more permanent every time they strike, let's not indirectly empower them.
They are dangerous and have to be dealt with, for sure. But the strong reactions of disgust - I can't help but feel this feeds into their power.
When I read Dabiq, I almost laughed at the childish black-and-white worldview. You can tell, when read in connection with their recruitment manual, who it's meant for, and how to get young minds there. They'll get all the impressionable ones, but they'll net a few smart folks who fall for it, too. I spent some time a few months ago comparing their governance documents with Mein Kampf - and the similarities are chilling. Look, folks. They're counting on you not understanding them, dismissing them, fearing what you'll find in their propaganda.
Don't give them that power over you. Some might say we should call for a jihad against ISIS. (Jihad meaning a righteous struggle, not some extremist war) I agree inasmuch as ISIS deserves to be fought against - but I don't want it to turn into a soundbite like "war on terror." Ideologies have to be starved, asphyxiated, pushed to the fringe. ISIS draws breath through its recruitment system, right? Who's choking it?
So let's remove the taboo, the fear that having a link to Dabiq in your search history will get you indicted. Don't be afraid of them. Learn who they are. And then make sure you are wherever they seek new recruits.
This isn't CVE. This is grassroots activism. It's not just Muslims that can do it. They're online. We can fight them from our computers.