by Faith McDonnell, Juicy Ecumenism, February 16, 2015
Part 1: Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Iraq Can’t Wait
As we know only too well, the Islamic State (IS) has spread far beyond Iraq, recruiting fighters from Europe and even America. The Islamic State’s goal is a worldwide Caliphate. Sadly, U.S. Administration policy still fails to identify accurately the threat. Instead, this week the White House is hosting a summit on “Countering Violent Extremism.” What is needed for national and global security and for the preservation of religious minorities, like those in Iraq, is to counter jihad.
From the Middle East, Sudan, and throughout Africa, and from North America, England, France, and Denmark to Australia, acts of “violent extremism” — whether by so-called lone wolves or bloodthirsty packs of wolves like Boko Haram; whether by non-state actors, states like Sudan and Iran, or ideological states like the Islamic State — are perpetrated in aid of the end goal of a global caliphate.
But Christians and other minorities in Iraq cannot wait for the United States government to grasp adequately the ideology behind what it terms “violent extremism.” Even as the poison spreads, the Islamic State’s continued persecution and slaughter of Christians and other minority communities in Iraq is unrelenting. These beleaguered communities, and others like them, need help now.
A report by the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a new Christian human rights organization, reveals the findings from a January 21-28, 2015 trip to northern Iraq . Led by 21 Wilberforce’s president, Randel Everett, and former U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf, who is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow with 21 Wilberforce, the trip team investigated the situation of internally displaced Christians and Yezidis, Shabaks, Turkmen, and others.
You can download the trip report, Edge of Extinction: The Eradication of Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Iraq. The report warns, “Immediate action including fresh policy approaches and targeted humanitarian assistance is essential if these minority communities are to be protected within their historic homeland.” After relating in heartbreaking detail the experiences of Christians and other victimized communities, the report offers six recommendations to which the United States government should listen:
- Establishment of a Ninevah Plains Province for Christians, Yezidis, and other besieged minorities.
- Support the newly created Ninevah Protection Unit as a national guard to defend the Ninevah Plains Province.
- Press the Iraqi national government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to guarantee that all properties taken by IS be returned to its rightful owner.
- Strengthen and encourage the efforts of the Kurdistan Regional Government to foster democracy, religious freedom, and strong civil society.
- Provide ongoing and immediate humanitarian aid and assistance.
- Prosecute the Islamic State and its leadership for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and should it be determined, genocide.
Jihad must be countered by aiding immediately its victims, such as Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq. It must also be countered with truth about what it is. In Part 2 of this series, we will look at who is competing most successfully against the Islamic State in the war of ideas. And in Part 3, I will provide action items for THIS WEEK, for you to do your part in pushing for U.S. policy to counter jihad and assist persecuted Christians and other minority groups in Iraq.
Countering Jihad Part 2: Fighting the Islamic State in the War of Ideas
by Faith McDonnell, Juicy Ecumenism, February 17, 2015
In Part 1 (above) of this series on “Countering Jihad,” we talked about the need for immediate action to stop the genocide of Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq. The new Christian human rights group, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative released a report on the situation of these beleaguered groups from its recent trip to Iraq and offers 6 important policy recommendations.
Even as we acknowledge the urgent need to help the victims of the Islamic State in Iraq, we must remember the bigger picture. A global caliphate, a world dominated by Islam, is the goal of IS and other Islamist groups.
In “The Quiet Christian Insurgency,” Council on Global Security president Katie Gorka offers a critical analysis of a particular U.S. policy aimed at countering violent extremism — the information campaign to weaken the ability of the IS and other radical groups to recruit followers. Gorka explains that the both the American military and State Department counter-terrorism messaging fail “to inspire confidence” but she adds that the war of ideas is being fought more successful by another, surprising source.
State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) works to counter the tweets and Facebook posts of jihadists. But the program has little to offer other than the admonition to “Think Again, Turn Away.” Gorka quotes Major General Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, say that “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”
Another component of the U.S. government’s messaging campaign, says Gorka, “is carried out by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí).” Spending millions on dollars, with much of it being lost in fraud and corruption, is the end product of the U.S. government’s idea of how to wage the war of ideas.
Gorka sums it up when she declares, “Unfortunately, the majority of those currently in charge of America’s messaging campaign are post-modern secular bureaucrats. They cannot grasp the profound pull religion can have on men’s hearts.”
Gorka then announces the good news, that the war of ideas is being waged far more successfully and with very little money by Christians. She describes efforts by Middle Eastern Christians whose “goal is to bring the message of Christianity to as many people as possible.” Gorka says that “Christian groups are putting the tools of social media and technology to work for their cause. And unlike the U.S. government’s efforts, their messaging is having a profound resonance in the Middle East and Africa.”
Two examples are provided by Gorka, both of whom are courageous Muslim Background Believers (MBB), who speak with no qualifiers. They don’t refer to God as “Allah” or Jesus as “Issa. And they refute respectfully apologists for Islam.
First, Gorka tells of Isik Abla, a Turkish MBB woman who “broadcasts daily into Muslim-majority countries and has a Facebook page with over 1,654,313 likes. Gorka continues, “Isik’s book, I Dreamed Freedom: An Abused Muslim Girl’s Journey to Find Freedom, describes her dysfunctional family, rife with addiction, abuse and infidelity, and her eventual conversion to Christianity. Today, she shares that story openly with Muslims, and . . . offers messages of empathy, hope, and love.”
Gorka’s second example is “Brother Rachid,” the son of a Moroccan imam, who hosts a daily call-in radio show, “Daring Questions,” in which he challenges Muslims to question the tenets of their faith. His show airs by satellite all over the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, North America, and Australia, says Gorka. “On one website, ‘Daring Questions’ was streamed 10,763,988 times,” she notes, and “his program was downloaded 1,648,217 times.”
“Isik Abla and Brother Rachid are engaging in the war of ideas not only in Muslim countries, but also here at home,” says Gorka. After President Obama’s famous speech in September 2014, in which he said that “ISIL is not Islamic,” Rachid posted a YouTube video in which he respectfully tells Obama that he is incorrect, and that “ISIL speaks for Islam.” Rachid explains that the Islamic State’s leader, Abubakar al Baghdadi, holds a Ph.D. in Islamic studies. “I doubt you know Islam better than he does,” Rachid challenges Obama.
American and other western Christians need to stand with these brave former Muslim Christians who are champion fighters in the war of ideas. Sadly, some western Christians so bend over backwards to be accommodating to and tolerant of Islam that they fail to speak out about the jihad against their fellow Christians, and they fail to speak in solidarity with Christians such as Isik Abla and Brother Rachid. It is time for this misplaced accommodation and well-meaning, but naive, tolerance to end.