CNN (Feb 17) published a story, “Religion’s Week from Hell”, about the spate of atrocities, more or less religiously motivated, that took place in the previous week:
“Across several continents, including North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, scores of religious believers suffered and died in brutal attacks over the past seven days. Christians, Muslims and Jews alike all fell prey to assaults.”
One of these stood out because there seemed to be an atheist at the bottom of it: three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, shot dead by Craig Stephens Hicks. He frightened a lot of his neighbors even before this attack, and it is not entirely clear just what his motives were. The recent killings of Jews, other Muslims, and Christians were all carried out by Muslims – some affiliated with Al Qaeda and others with ISIL. At what point will large numbers of people decide, like Hicks, to take revenge on Muslims for these repeated attacks from groups like ISIL? It is indeed something to worry about.
There are about 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet. Almost all are law – abiding, peaceful people. It is they, and not their violent would-be leaders of whatever stripe, who define their beliefs, read their holy books and literature, and follow more or less faithfully the advice and counsel of their spiritual leaders. But any group of people, particularly those motivated by ideology, could become aroused to action. This is the fearful result of provocations repeated too often.
ISIL claim to be the correct interpreters of Islam. According to an article by Graeme Wood in the March Atlantic, these people believe they have established a caliphate – a territorial state in the ancient Islamic tradition, obeying strictly the injunctions in the Koran as to treatment of enemies, apostates, and the like. In effect they are ultra-fundamentalists intent on imposing a rule of law established for Muslims over 1000 years ago. The prescriptions of this law are bloody minded in the extreme. Wood concludes in his article that the west has no choice but to confront this regime, but should not fulfill Koranic prophecy by sending in occidental forces on the ground. Many of the victims of these groups have been Muslims. Condemning Islam would only make it more difficult to suppress these extremist groups, and it would be unjust as well. Most Muslims are not deserving of that.