Partition – Is It Ever A Good Thing?

I live in the United States of America and I am very proud of its melting pot of culture, religion, ethnicity, and political beliefs. In respects to religion, I am a Christian sharing this great land of freedom with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Scientologists – among many others. In general, people get along in America counter to what people see on the news and social media – the fact that it is “news” gives you a marker for context. This cohesion is in large part due to economic, social, and geographical cooperation. The fact that all 50 states have relatively fluid borders – sorry Hawaii – allows people to interact and form connections; connections which provide the zest to America’s delicious stew. Not everyone agrees with me on these points and some desire to split away from the red, white, and blue; nearly every election, there is a call for Texas, Northern California, Southern California, Florida, the south, or the north to form their own country. Today, around the world, there are serious calls for partition. To better understand this history of division, I read about one of the most contentious partitions in history – the separation of Palestine and Isreal – in the book O, Jerusalem! By Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.   

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The partition of Palestine occurred after WWII and was caused by several concurrent events: A British desire to withdraw from the region because of increased retaliation from both Jews and Arabs; reparations for Holocaust victims and Jewish refugees who had no place to go; an increased nationalist movement by Zionists; and the West’s desire to keep communism from gaining a foothold. The United Nations voted to partition the region in 1947 and on May 14th, 1948, the state of Israel became official. Partition began a war that still rages today between Arabs and Jews – the first year of conflict claimed the lives of thousands of men, women, and children. Between 1947 to 1967, the Arabs had the upper hand on the Jews with their control of Jerusalem and major trading settlements. The Jews flipped the table in the War of 1967, and since then they have been slowly suffocating the Palestinians. Today, the state of Israel, with the backing of America, maintains dominance in the region. That dominance results in the persecution of Palestinians and continued hatred between the two groups.

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My question is this – Why was Palestine partitioned in the first place? Why couldn’t the region be one cohesive state with multiple religions like America? Maybe a better question…Why does America support the current state of separation when it goes completely counter to her own beliefs? Another example of the disaster of partition is the formation of Pakistan and India in 1947 which resulted in the death of 600,000 people and today is one of the most dangerous borders in the world. On paper, partition seems like a great idea; divide people based on their differences and then each state will have cohesiveness. The problem is that we don’t live in a bubble and arbitrary borders don’t mean much in real life. When a partition occurs, it is impossible to expel all members of a religion or ethnicity – there will be Jews in Palestine, Arabs in Israel, Hindus in Pakistan, and Muslims in India. The result is an obvious division between states and greater conflict within countries because the “unwanted” groups are seen as “internal outsiders” – separate in identity and a matchbox for intra-neighborhood conflict.

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So is partition ever a good thing? I think not. I think the state can unify people under a common banner of religion, ethnicity, and culture. I am a white-Christian-male, but that doesn’t mean I should have my own country. I am an American and that means that I share a connection with all Americans. The key is a balance between the two extremes; we can respect differences while maintaining a collective identity. So what is the solution to the problems in Palestine and India? To start with, we need to be good role models of statehood – let’s show the world what it looks like to be unique and united at the same time. One of my favorite leaders is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He didn’t push for a separate black nation but pushed for a united America behind a universal belief – the belief that all men are created equal. Is this an easy thing to do? Heck No. Is this something that can work? Heck Yes. Change is slow, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. What’s impossible is unification through division.

 

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It’s Finally Here

I must admit that I titled this post vaguely to get more views. Teddy is not here yet, but Christina is having contractions – as of last Thursday, she was 2 centimeters dilated. Today I am excited to announce the publication of Tackle the Library – Indian Independence. This is my third book in the series and by far the best one yet. The description is below…

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August 15th, 1947 marked the first day of independence for one-fifth of the world’s population. Independence from Britain in India and Pakistan directly impacted the lives of 400 million people – but that freedom morphed into migration, murder, and mayhem. This historic event is presented for the first time from beginning to end. Starting in ancient India and ending in our current times – Indian Independence is given its due breadth and required context that is often missing in previous works. Topics include:

• India before the British
• The British expansion into India
• The 1857 Rebellion
• Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, and Mountbatten
• British Racialism
• The Rise of Hindu Nationalism
• The Cause of the Hindu-Muslim Divide
• The Impact of Partition
• Maps Illustrating the Changing Face of India over Three Centuries

The Tackle the Library series (previous topics include Plato and The French Revolution) takes the top five books on a subject and turns them into a cohesive story that is not only interesting to read but highly informative. These are concise artisanal books served in small batches and written by yours truly – not a third party ghostwriter. No other book explains so much while remaining something you can read in a single weekend. So stop staring at that dusty shelf of textbooks in the library and crack open a book that will feed your curiosity.

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I am offering a free download to all my readers today and tomorrow (you can click on any of the hyperlinks to reach the site). Please check it out and leave a review. I also wanted to thank all my readers for supporting me throughout 2018. Posts will resume on a weekly basis in 2019, and I will be publishing my first ever novel in March – American Chestnut. The fourth installment of Tackle the Library is already underway, and by June you will get to read about Aristotle. Let’s raise a glass to the new year and my future son. Thank you again for reading and joining me on this journey of wisdom.

Malcolm X – Darkness to Light

This week’s blog is a complete 180 compared to last weeks blog on John Quincy Adams. I am still trying to read all the Penguin Classics, and because of that I just finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley. Malcolm X is a mystifying character in history, and I didn’t know anything about him before picking up this classic. This is one reason why I highly recommend making it a goal to read the classics – you will be forced to read books that expand your worldview. We can’t improve discrimination or racism without empathy – one of the best ways to practice empathy is by stepping into the shoes of someone else through biography. 

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Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska – he shortly moved to Lansing, Michigan where he lived until the age of 14. At 14 he moved to Boston to live with family and eventually found himself in Harlem at the age of 21. While in Harlem, Malcolm Little – Little was his original last name – lived a life of crime, drugs, and racketeering. His lifestyle caught up with him, and in 1946 he was arrested for larceny. The prison he was sent to was unique in the sense that it promoted rehabilitation and education. Malcolm began to read and participate in debating events. His family in Michigan had moved to Detroit and while there became involved with a new movement called “The Nation of Islam.” Malcolm’s brother introduced him to the preachings of Elijah Muhammed – a radical black leader who preached a twisted version of Islam. Malcolm converted to Islam in prison, and upon his release in 1952, became a full-time disciple of Elijah Muhammed.

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Elijah Muhammed with his follower Muhammed Ali

Malcolm got rid of his last name and replaced it with an “X” to represent his crossed out African name which could never be discovered. The Nation of Islam was a movement targeted towards frustrated blacks who were sick of discrimination and “white” Christianity. Elijah Muhammed taught his members the following about the white race…

“Though he was a black man, Mr. Yacub, embittered toward Allah now, decided, as revenge, to create upon the earth a devil race – a bleached out, white race of people. From his studies, the big-head scientist knew that black men contained two germs, black and brown. He knew that the brown germ stayed dormant and being the lighter of the two germs, it was the weaker. Mr. Yacub, to upset the law of nature, conceived the idea of employing what we today know as the recessive genes structure, to separate from each other the two germs, black and brown, and then grafting the brown germ to a progressively lighter, weaker stage. The humans resulting, he knew, would be, as they became lighter, and weaker, progressively also more susceptible to wickedness and evil. And in this way finally he would achieve the intended bleached-out white race of devils.”

It gets worse…

“But finally the original black people recognized that their sudden troubles stemmed from this devil white race that Mr. Yacub had made. They rounded them up, put them in chains. With little aprons to cover their nakedness, this devil race was marched off across the Arabian desert to the caves of Europe…When this devil race had spent two thousand years in the caves, Allah raised up Moses to civilize them, and bring them out of the caves. It was written that this devil white race would rule the world for six thousand years.”

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Malcolm X truly believed these falsehoods and regularly recited the message that all white people were the devil. This obviously was not well received by whites, and prominent black leaders like Martin Luther King denounced the separatist hate speech. Malcolm X actually didn’t want desegregation and believed there was no way for the white race and the black race to cohabitate. Eventually, Malcolm X became more prominent then Elijah Muhhamed and was kicked out of the organization. Once he exited the cult-like Nation of Islam, he traveled to Mecca to see for himself what Islam sincerely offered. While in Mecca Malcolm saw people of all races and realized that all his former beliefs were lies. He came back to America a new man…

“In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I never will be guilty of that again – as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks.”

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Unfortunately, the changed Malcolm X did not have enough time to reverse his public image of hate – on February 21, 1965, he was shot 21 times by assassins of the Nation of Islam. I understand the reasons behind Malcolm’s hate speech and I respect his change of views later in life. We all have the capacity to hate – no one race has a monopoly. Malcolm taught me the danger of fundamentalist teaching and the power of real knowledge – we must seek the truth if we desire to rise above the ignorance of the past.

1% Christian History

My old college roommate and I started a tradition last year. Each Christmas, we buy each other a book that we think would be beneficial reading. I didn’t know what to expect from my greasy friend but waited patiently for my gift to arrive. One day, I walked up to my porch and saw a package that looked like a wrapped encyclopedia. I wasn’t too far off; my dirtbag roommate bought me a 1000 page book on the history of Christianity – Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch. This book loomed over me all year and I kept putting off what seemed like a Sisyphean task. By the end, it took me about 50 hours spread over a month.

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Christian history is difficult because it isn’t like normal history – it is a weird dance of facts, figures, and eternity. Having eternity involved complicates everything because you either have to take the Thomas Jefferson route and get rid of all supernatural events or take the Jack Van Impe route and prepare for the apocalypse. These two extremes frame the gamut of Christian beliefs and preface why Christian history is one continuous story of division. From the moment Jesus died on the cross, his disciples went out and preached the Gospel – within a generation, groups were already disagreeing on the intricacies of theology. The Christian church as we know it today is like a box of peanut-brittle that has been shaken by a two-year-old. Originally there was one solid chunk but now there are thousands of variant morsels. This post will only focus on one tiny but very important nugget of Christian history – as the title surmises, this book could fill 99 more blogs.

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The 1% we will cover is one of the most important moments in the Christian church – the Chalcedonian Schism. The Council of Chalcedon met from October 8th to November 9th in the year 451 AD. This Council was called by the Roman Emperor Marcian as an ecumenical meeting for all the important churches at the time – the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Oriental Orthodox. At this point in history, the Christian church needed to clarify theological doctrine and adjust the power roles of western and eastern leaders. The main reason for this meeting was to clarify the true nature of Jesus.

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How could Jesus be both God and man? Before the meeting, there were groups who believed Jesus appeared on earth as a man disguised as God (Docetism) while other groups believed Jesus was, in reality, a normal man chosen by God (Adoptionism). These beliefs led to Nestorianism (which viewed Christ as having some mixture of divine and human elements) and Eutychianism (which viewed Christ’s divinity as completely consuming his humanity like a drop of vinegar in the ocean).

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The Council of Chalcedon sided with a watered down Nestorian view which became known as Dyophysitism – which states that Christ is one person in two natures – “distinctively” man and God in one. This led to the creation of Miaphysitism which held the belief that Christ is one nature and that nature has “inseparable” components of man and God. Confused yet? Again, Dyophysitism believes that Christ is one person with two separate natures while Miaphysitism believes that Christ is one nature which is both divine and human.

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This Dyophysitism decision at the council was agreed upon by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, the Oriental Church broke off from this definition and became known as Non-Chalcedonian. The Oriental Church includes the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. This schism had drastic effects on the eastern church as a whole by shifting power to the west and decreasing overall cooperation. This separation was one variable that allowed the new religion of Islam to take over eastern strongholds of Christianity; the west would not realize their mistakes until the first crusades 600 years later.

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Our current world is shaped by the decisions at this council: The politics of countries, the religious makeup in the Middle East, and the West’s ignorance of the Oriental Church. So what can we learn from the Council of Chalcedon? One huge lesson is that Christianity can come in many different flavors, shapes, and sizes. Christians shouldn’t be divided into little pieces of peanut brittle. Christians should work together under one absolute truth – Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins so we can have eternal life and spread His message of grace; in a world still divided, we need to focus on that point more than ever. Don’t get hung up on the details and throw your hands in the air thinking religion is stupid. If you focus on loving others, you will obtain the other 99%. 

 

How Islam Shaped Shakespeare

Did you know there was a time when Protestant Christians partnered with Muslims to usurp the Catholic Empire? Did you know that Queen Elizabeth sent a carriage to the head of a harem as a political gift? Did you know Shakespeare included many Muslim characters in his most famous plays? If you knew all these things give your brain a break and go watch the remake of Gilmore Girls. For all of us still reading, let’s take a weird journey into 16th century England where the teeth were black from Moroccan sugar and the houses were ordained with Turkish rugs. As a guide to our journey, we will reference my most recent read – The Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam by Jerry Brotton.

Our journey begins in 1558 when Queen Elizabeth took the throne and began ruling a island in a very fractured world. Elizabeth was a protestant while Spain and the Holy Roman Empire were obviously Catholic. The Holy Roman Empire was the beez neez back in those days and made the rules of the land. Well, Pope Pius V and King Phillip II of Spain hated Queen Elizabeth because of her religious views. They colluded against her for decades and finally in 1570 the Pope excommunicated Queen Elizabeth from the church and all of its domains. This put the Queen in a sticky situation – England could no longer trade openly with European countries but needed trade to survive on an island. Added to her woes, Elizabeth was also cut off from the Americas because of Spain and Portugal’s dominance. She had one option that could work but the chances of success were slim. Trade with Muslims in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire.

Englishmen were sent to the Ottoman Empire and Morracan Sultanate in hopes of opening up economic partnerships. What is interesting is the fact that when the Englishman met with the Turkish Sultan, he didn’t know where England was and viewed it as politically insignificant. He was correct in this assessment because England and Europe as a whole during the 16th century were far less powerful than the Ottoman Empire (Constantinople had a population of 500,000 compared to 200,000 in London). The Sultan agreed to the trade because he needed valuable metals to make weapons and in exchange the English would receive all sorts of exotic goodies. Guess where a lot of the metal came from for the production of Turkish weapons? Catholic church bells. Protestant English were using Catholic metal to arm Muslims. The same Muslims that were targeted by the Crusades. By the late 1580’s, thousands of English merchants, sailors, and privateers were moving about the Muslim world exchanging goods, beliefs, and culture.

One unlikely cultural exchange occurred in the world of English theater. The theater, up until that point, had primarily consisted of moralistic plays which followed similar patterns of plot and structure. This all changed with the play Tamburlaine which enlisted Muslim characters with plots that included conflicts of religion, politics, and power. Guess who was inspired by Tamburlaine and came out with his own play 6 months later? William Shakespeare. Shakespeare would go on to include 150 references to Islam in 20 different plays – many of which included main characters who were Muslim.

This weird time in history, thanks to inter-Christian quarrels, led to major cultural changes that we still experience today. Every year thousands of students read about Islam through Shakespeare. Everyday millions of people use words that were introduced to the English language from this period of trade: candy, turquoise, and tulip to name a few. Maybe most of all, the Moroccan sugar that blackened Queen Elizabeth’s teeth, led many to search for new sources in the New World. Unfortunately, Christianity and Islam’s 16th century partnership soon ended after Elizabeth’s death. Fast forward today, what can we learn from these previous partnerships? Would we have Shakespeare? Would a England, who decided not to trade with Muslims, have the resources to settle the New World? Interesting questions that all root to the fact that intermingled cultures are powerfully synergistic.

The Christian Church and Jewish Hatred

Take this short history quiz.

  1. In what year did the first laws pass that required Jews to wear a special form of dress (making them identifiable in public), banned Jews from public office, forbade Jews from going out during Holy Week, and required Jews to pay a “Jew Tax?”

    A. 1933
    B. 1936
    C. 1215
    D. 1709

  2. Who was the first leader that actively forced Jews to live in a walled off “Ghetto?”

    A. Adolf Hitler
    B. Constantine
    C. Pope Paul IV
    D. Mussolini

  3. Who was the famous author of  The Jews and Their Lies

    A. Adolf Hitler
    B. Henry VIII
    C. Heinrich Himmler
    D. Martin Luther

  4. Name the famous person who said this quote: “By defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

    A. Pope John
    B. Martin Luther
    C. Adolf Hitler
    D. Jesus

1. The answer is C. 1215. This was the year Innocent III, the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, convened the Fourth Lateran Council which wrote the aforementioned laws into Constitution 68 of the church.

2. The answer is C. Pope Paul IV. In addition to walling off all the Jews in Rome, only a mile from the Vatican, this Pope forcefully took Jewish babies for baptism, required Jews to kiss the ground where he had just stepped, and required Jewish men to wear yellow conical hats.

3. The answer is D. Martin Luther. The man who started the Protestant Reformation in 1517 wrote this 65,000 word book in 1543. He described the Jews as poisonous worms who should be put into forced labor, expelled for all time, and slain as a despicable group of people.

4. The answer is C. Adolf Hitler. Hitler wrote this in his autobiography Mein Kampf. This quote has roots in the biblical interpretation of Romans 11:25, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in…” Medieval Christians used this verse as rationale to forcefully convert and persecute Jews throughout the 1st/2nd Millennium so that the end of times could begin and the Messiah could come again.

Did this quiz surprise you? I had no idea of the Catholic and Protestant Church’s history of antisemitism until I read Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews by James Carroll. This is a monster book that won the National Book Award and took me three weeks to read. The whole book details the church’s views on antisemitism and how it nurtured the environment which allowed Hitler to slaughter 11 million Jews. This atrocious act was done without any major protest from the vast Christian population in Germany. Essentially, the church turned on the gas and Hitler was the one who lit the match-Christians didn’t directly kill 11 million Jews but they were responsible for the antisemitic environment that inundated the church and shaped many of Hitler’s beliefs. Hitler was a baptized Roman Catholic that was obviously off his rocker and took antisemitic views to a whole new level. But Hitler was not raised in a vacuum. The quiz I listed above highlights only a few incidences of Jewish hatred by the Christian church that occurred before Hitler’s time. During the first crusade, thousands of Jews were killed by righteous Christians on their way to Israel. During the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were tortured and many times killed for not converting to Christianity. During the Black Plague, Jews were blamed for the 25 million deaths because people believed they were poisoning wells. During the 13th/14th centuries in Italy and France there were mass public bonfires of confiscated Talmuds-one of the Jewish holy books.

The extent of the hatred towards Judaism is somewhat staggering and the next question you probably have is why all the hatred in the first place? This requires a extremely long answer that is best understood by reading Constantine’s Sword. To briefly explain it we have to go all the way back to the time of Jesus. Jesus was a Jew but this was soon forgotten by early Christians who saw Jesus as an outsider who was then crucified by the Jews. Concurrently,  Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, framed many Christian’s views of Jews-betrayers, money obsessed, weak, sinister, etc. Added to this negative image was the fact that Jews rejected Christianity’s main belief-Jesus as the Messiah. Hence there was resentment from Christians towards “stubborn” Jews which eventually evolved into conspiracy theories, restrictive laws, and the mentality that Christians should not allow Jews to thrive because of their obstinate beliefs. Multiply all these views by 1900 years and you have Hitler officially being supported by the Catholic Church. In 1933, the Christians of Europe and America knew about Hitler’s antisemitism. Why didn’t they protest? Some did but the majority remained silent. This is because the antisemitism, by that point in time, was an established, almost commonplace belief system. I am not saying that the church supported the killings of 11 million Jews, but they did allow Hitler to continually worsen his antisemitic policies for almost 10 years.

I am a Christian. I know the Church does many amazing things. However, I know the Church is not perfect because it is made by man. I write about these things because we must recognize the sins of the past to prevent similar atrocities in the future. Today we have many Christians who view Muslims negatively. They view Muslims as backward unbelievers who are unloving and misguided-all the while questioning how a “peaceful” religion can motivate its followers to kill. Does any of this sound familiar?

 

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Part 2 of 3

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Zarqawi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

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What an exciting couple of days we have had since the first installment of this series. Donald Trump, on Monday, stated that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. This “strategy” is by no means new in American history: the 19th century saw bans against Chinese, during the Great Depression there were movements to suppress Jewish immigration, and most notably during WWII there was forced encampment of Japanese Americans. The US has had a long history of xenophobia and sadly their are still a large number of people who have these same feelings today. Trump’s statement is wrong on many levels but one of its biggest errors is the fact that ISIS (which profoundly motivated the statement) does not actually practice Islam. Almost all Muslim-theology scholars agree that ISIS’s ideology contradicts Islam in almost every way. To understand this, imagine the KKK (a “protestant” terrorist group) went over to the Middle East and committed acts of violence in the name of Christianity. The leader of the affected country would then condemn all Christians as violent-untrustworthy people and ban them from entrance into the country. This seems downright insane, but how is this scenario different then the one currently being trumpeted by Donald? The intricacies of Islam as a religion will be explored in future posts but for now let’s get back to ISIS.

We left off with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi becoming the second leader of the newly formed Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in 2010. Baghdadi was said to be a quiet boy growing up and was quite scholarly-receiving a doctorate in Islamic culture and law.  This all radically changed when he became a jihadist after the Iraq invasion in 2003. Baghdadi would be shortly captured by Americans and put into a military controlled prison camp. These prisons mixed radical jihadists with minor offenders which created a ideal environment for recruitment. The US inadvertently spread terrorist ideology in these prisons and upon release, jihadists would be further glorified (similar to how gang members receive street cred after serving time). Baghdadi did his fair share of recruiting while imprisoned and when released, he was in prime position to take leadership of ISI in 2010. Shortly thereafter, Baghdadi began to attack military prisons which resulted in the escape of many jihadists who quickly pledged loyalty to ISI. During this same time, Baghdadi defied Al Queda and spread his terrorist group into war-torn Syria; hence the name known around the world was birthed, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

ISIS was technically a branch of al Queda but Baghdadi would soon take on a whole new ideology of radicalization.  Baghdadi began to split from al Queda when he resumed Zarqawi’s mission of targeting Shiite Muslim with gruesome killings. Eventually, ISIS would declare themselves the “true” Islamic State and claim that all nations must bow to them-including al Queda. ISIS is attempting to bring about the end times by fulfilling several prophecies: certain manuscripts predicted that preceding the apocalypse their would be…sectarian war, slavery, a battle in Dabiq (a town that ISIS controls), and the eventual control of Constantinople (to list a few.) This apocalyptic mentality is critical to understand because it shapes ISIS’s gruesome behavior. Apocalyptic groups are not concerned with worldly matters or politics which makes it much easier for them to commit barbaric acts. “ISIS’s stated goal is to purify the world and create a new era, in which a more perfect version of Islam is accepted worldwide.” The interesting thing to know is that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, says very little about the end of times. To summarize, ISIS is extremely violent because they desire to “purify” the world and they want to create sectarian violence among Muslims because war between Sunnis and Shiites is predicted in the end of times. Again, these apocalyptic beliefs are not tenets of Islam but rather created by prior scholars in an attempt to rationalize negative circumstances of their time (many were written whenever a foreign power took control). ISIS wants the United States to fight them and occupy their territory because this is yet another prediction of the end of times. Knowing this, we will continue to part 3 to understand how ISIS is so effective at recruiting and what we need to do to prevent their advancement of terror.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Part 1 of 3

ISIS is front and center in the news and the acronym itself is now synonymous with fear. This terrorist organization is extremely violent, radical, and is responsible for many recent attacks which resulted in a multitude of innocent deaths. Where did ISIS come from? What do they believe? Are they any different then previous terrorist groups? I wanted answers to these questions so I read ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. This book was published prior to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks but it eerily predicted that events like those would occur. Let’s take a journey in time and look back at the birth and development of the worlds most famous terrorist group.

Our journey begins in 2003 when former President George W. Bush commanded the United States military to invade Iraq. Bush said “We’re taking the fight to the terrorists abroad, so we don’t have to face them here at home.” This statement proved to be half true-we brought the fight but instead of decreasing the number of terrorists, the invasion became a lighting rod for jihadists. Before the invasion, Jihadist’s had a difficult time operating in Iraq and were in severe decline after the destruction of al Qaeda’s primary base in Afghanistan. Jihadists used the American presence in Iraq as a recruiting tool and Abu Musab al Suri, the jihad’s most prominent strategist, said that the war in Iraq single-handedly saved the movement. Numbers wise, following the invasion, terrorism within Iraq rose exponentially; “There were 78 terrorist attacks in the first twelve months…in the second twelve months this number nearly quadrupled, to 302 attacks. At the height of the war, in 2007, terrorists claimed 5,425 civilian lives and caused 9,878 injuries.” The US occupation would also rekindle fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims (think different theological beliefs like Protestants and Catholics). This created a civil war and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a little known jihadist who would use this sectarian violence to his advantage. Zarqawi would found Al-Qa‘ida in Iraq (AQI) which was responsible for several attacks on Shiites and Iraqi civilians. Osama bin Laden would chastise Zarqawi for these attacks on fellow Muslims but Zarqawi believed in a very strict interpretation of Takfir. Takfir is the pronouncement of someone as a nonbeliever and gives jihadists the permission to kill subjects as apostate (no longer believers in Muslim). Zarqawi (who hated Shiites) believed that all Muslims which did not support his beliefs were fair game to kill. This radical ideology was beyond al Queda and even bin Laden thought it was crazy.

Zarqawi’s philosophy was influenced by a few key works. The Management of Savagery, which was created by the research and analysis division of al Queda, outlined stages of jihadist struggles: Disruption and Exhaustion (keep the US fighting to destroy its image of invisibility, Management of Savagery (carry out highly visible violence intended to send a message), and Empowerment (establish regions controlled by jihadists to re-create the caliphate). A Call to a Global Islamic Resistance, cited the need for leaderless resistance and effectiveness of lone wolf attacks. Furthermore, it extensively spoke about apocalyptic prophecies (many of which supported Shiite hatred), which needed to be fulfilled.  Zarqawi’s library was seriously twisted but his reign of terror would end in 2006 when the US killed him in a targeted airstrike. The Defense Department would soon post a picture of the Zarqawi’s corpse, which turned him into a martyr, and led the leader of al Queda to post a eulogy in which he encouraged the AQI to establish an Islamic state. Within a few months, a group of AQI insurgents announced the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). The new leader of the ISI was Abu Omar al Baghdadi who was eventually killed in 2010. Enter, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the second leader of ISI and the current leader of ISIS. Stay tuned for more on Baghdadi and the continuation of our fascinating story.