isis

Radicalization Is Not a ‘Muslim Problem'

Image via evgdemidova/Shutterstock

Extremist groups like ISIS and Al Qaida are trying to radicalize young Muslims through well-produced and elaborate online videos and sweeping Twitter campaigns targeted at disaffected young men and women around the world.

Three London school girls recently ran away to join ISIS in Syria after encountering recruiters on Twitter. A Sunday school teacher in Washington state secretly converted to Islam and planned to leave home to join the only Muslims she knew — Isis recruiters she encountered through social media. In Virginia, a local imam meets with young men and women whose families fear they will answer the call of ISIS sent through their cellphones.

As one member of the local law enforcement told our group of 17 international journalists, “There is a terrorist in your pocket and it is talking to you all the time.”

Time for Us to Do Something 'Fantastic' for Refugees

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Three weeks ago, on Aug. 7, the American public had ample summer entertainment choices for killing time. There was the release of the latest Marvel film, Fantastic Four, which despite its fantastic failure with critics still had a $26.2 million opening. There was also the first GOP presidential primary “debate,” which guest starred The Donald and drew 24 million viewers, making it the highest-rated primary debate in television history.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, radicals weren’t killing time at all, but making further advances. That same day, ISIS attacked Qariyatain, a strategically located town in the Syrian province of Homs. The attack is said to have resulted in at least 230 kidnappings.

August 7 was already a day of infamy in the Christian history of the region. It was already known as “The Day of the Martyrs” within the Assyrian Christian community. On that day in 1933, as many as 3,000 Assyrian Christians were massacred in Simele (northern Iraq). It's also the day ISIS captured Qaraqosh — the “Christian capital” of Iraq — forcing Christians to flee the Nineveh Plain to Kurdistan, eliminating 1,900 years of Christian presence in Nineveh.

Many American Christians say they are hungry for leadership, but what are we actually doing beyond indulging in fictional stories of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and The Thing battling evil, or the barely less fictional “leadership” on display in contemporary politics? 

Critics Outraged by British Theater's Cancellation of Play About Muslim Radicalization

Image via National Youth Theatre/RNS.

Prominent artists and human rights campaigners have criticized the National Youth Theatre in London for canceling a play because its theme is the radicalization of young British Muslims and their attraction to terrorist organizations such as the militant Islamic State group.

There is growing concern the play, Homegrown — by British–born Omar El-Khairy — was shut down before its scheduled opening on Aug. 15 because of pressure from the British police.

report in The Times by Jack Malvern, the paper’s arts correspondent, quoted Nadia Latif, the play’s director, saying the police had asked to see the final script of Homegrown before the play opened at a school in Brixton, a part of South London with a large Muslim community.

Weekly Wrap 8.14.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. This Is What It’s Like Being a Gay Christian Rock Star 
 A year after Christian singer Vicky Beeching announced she is gay, BuzzFeed followed up with the songstress on reactions from the Christian community and her life since. “At times it felt like there wasn’t much respect for me as a person. It was either ‘We’re going to grab her as a mascot’ or ‘We’re going to shoot her as an example of this evil.’ For many conservative Christians, I became a sign that people were slipping down a slippery slope into unimaginable sin. People forget there’s a person hiding under a duvet wondering if they’re going to have a life left.” 

July Was the Cruelest Month

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July is the cruelest month, with apologies to T.S. Eliot. ... 

A movement has arisen in the past year to protest police brutality and the unjust killing of African Americans — an uncomfortable realization that the dream of civil rights has gone unrealized in a still-racist America. It's called Black Lives Matter, but in the summer of 2015, life seems cheap.

Weekly Wrap 7.24.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Pope Francis Is Making Americans Uncomfortable — Why That’s a Good Thing

According to Gallup, Pope Francis’ favorability ratings have dropped from 76 percent in 2014 to 45 percent in 2015. America magazine writer Kerry Weber explains the pontiff’s recent dips in the U.S. polls.

2. Why Kylie Jenner Gets to Be ‘Just a Kid,’ But Amandla Stenberg Does Not

"America loves to defend those it perceives to be the most vulnerable — i.e. young white girls — at the expense of and detriment to young girls of color. … Though some may say this is just a pointless Instagram beef between children, this mentality of putting white womanhood on a pedestal has violent, real-world ramifications."

3. NASA Finds ‘Earth’s Bigger, Older Cousin’

Wait … what, now? According to NASA, its Kepler spacecraft has identified a planet some 1,400 light-years away — the first "nearly Earth-size planet to be found in a habitable zone of a start similar to our own," according to CNN.

The Middle East’s Mental Health Crisis

Brain Illustration

Brain illustration, Maxim Gaigul / Shutterstock.com

National Minority Mental Health Awareness month is upon us in the U.S., and never has the scope and impact of mental health issues threatened to affect the long-term security of our country and world than now.

This year, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 10.8 million people are affected by the conflict in Syria, with 4 million refugees having fled the country. This is the largest refugee population coming out of any one conflict in over a generation. Similarly, in early 2015, UNHCR estimated that the total population of concern, due to the conflict in Iraq, exceeded 3 million people. Millions of people have experienced the unimaginable trauma of political and religious conflict and persecution in the Middle East, especially women, whom the Iraqi Ministry of Health determined were disproportionately affected by mental health illness due to the recent conflict. The scale and depth of the trauma demands a multi-faith, multi-sector, multi-discipline response, before it is too late.

Hate Breeds Hate

Islamaphobia

Yorda / Shutterstock

IT'S BEEN A difficult few months to be a Muslim living in the United States. Amid the continuing violence in the Middle East and the polarized debate over the Iran nuclear negotiations, Islamophobia in the U.S. is just about as bad as it’s ever been.

While this fear, distrust, and even hatred of Islam and/or Muslims takes many forms and gains traction in a number of ways (as Ken Chitwood explains in his article on page 22), it’s important to understand that Islamophobia gains much of its power and attention from a relatively small number of people who have dedicated their lives and careers to perpetuating a distorted, extreme view of what Islam teaches and what most Muslims believe. It is in fact a tragic irony that professional Islamophobes and Islamic extremists such as the so-called “Islamic State” perpetuate and benefit from a very similar and very warped interpretation of Islam. Both seek to convince the world that many Muslims in the U.S. and around the world either share or should share this radical fundamentalist perspective.

Purveyors of strident hate speech against Muslims and those that embrace violent extremism in the name of Islam actually benefit from each other’s existence and actions. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is the group behind the anti-Muslim ads on public transportation in several major cities. This spring, AFDI sponsored a contest in Garland, Texas, where participants were invited to “draw the prophet” Muhammad. The contest was attacked by two radicalized ISIS sympathizers, who were shot dead by police.

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5 Reasons Why Christians Should Stay in the Middle East

REUTERS / Omar Sanadiki / RNS

An Assyrian woman attends a Mass on March 1, 2015, inside Ibrahim al-Khalil church in Jaramana, eastern Damascus, in solidarity with the Assyrians abducted by Islamic State fighters in Syria. Photo via REUTERS / Omar Sanadiki / RNS

It would be nice to consider emigration as a realistic option. But it is not. I would suggest pundits spend that same time and money fighting for a clear and concrete objective, declaring and defending a safe haven on the Nineveh Plain for Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis.

Yes, there are some high-risk situations that demand emigration. But, in general, Western Christians should think hard about how not to be an accomplice to ISIS.

Weekly Wrap 6.12.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Masculinity Gets Modern Makeover in Latest Getty Images Collection
Tired of seeing stock images that reinforce traditional gender roles? Getty Images is (finally) changing that with the help of Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn.org.

2. The Human Right to Have a Home
As Congress plans to slash funding for housing assistance programs, Catholic bishops in the U.S. are protesting, arguing "housing is a human right."

3. WATCH: ‘What Are You?’ — Multiracial in America
Listen to how multiracial Americans react when they're asked "What are you?" (Hint: I's usually not well).

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