Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many Americans have imagined that global terrorism is a single-headed monster -- the head once being Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaida.
The reality is, as this interesting Atlantic piece makes clear, Islamist terrorists come in many varieties and often disagree with one another. (Sounds like your faith community, doesn't it?)
A key conclusion in the piece:
What’s sometimes referred to as the global jihadist “movement” is actually extremely fractured. It’s united by a general set of shared ideological beliefs, but divided organizationally and sometimes doctrinally.
This, of course, is both good and bad news. It means we are not fighting a huge, centrally organized enemy with the ability and resources to strike anywhere it wants to. On the other hand, it means we're engaged in something more like guerrilla warfare. And we certainly know from our history in Vietnam and elsewhere that we've never been too good at that.
It helps to remember that just as such fringe players as al-Qaida, Boko Haram, ISIS, the Ku Klux Klan and others are themselves divided and varied, so are the major religions out of which these radicals emerged. We speak, for instance, of "Christianity," as though such a single thing exists. We should, rather, speak of Christianities, of Islams, of Judaisms, of Buddhisms and so forth to account for the many varieties in each faith tradition.
So it shouldn't be surprising to find violent extremists equally carved up.
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THE DENIGRATION OF ISLAM
Now ISIS terrorists have shot to death nine men for "betraying the religion of Allah," as an ISIS man puts it. Further proof of two things -- 1. ISIS believes it is a faith-based organization and 2. ISIS is the one that is betraying the religion of Allah, Islam. Betraying, besmirching and begriming. Disgracing, dishonoring and disrespecting.
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P.S.: Have you signed up yet to join Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn and me for a discussion of Holocaust lessons for today based on our book, They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust? If you're in the KC area you can be with us in person. If not, the discussions will be available live online. The sessions start in April. For details, click here. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to participate in person.