In recent months the United States has been increasing its efforts to fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in both Iraq and Greater Syria. An article was recently published discussing a speech given at the UN during which President Obama gave a new approach on the fight against extremists using religion to promote and justify violence. Rather than focusing on fighting terrorism with military efforts, although this is still a large part of the strategy, the idea of using peaceful religion to counter extremists was presented as the best option to win the fight against ISIS.
It is very interesting that Obama chose to focus his speech on encouraging peaceful religion to fight this war as the United States is seen as a military powerhouse. Rather than simply fighting violence with violence, which often tends to fuel the terrorists propaganda, Obama is encouraging the teaching of peaceful Islam. This message was especially directed towards young Muslims. There have been frequent news stories of young people, including Canadians, leaving their homes to fight with ISIS because they have come to believe that their teachings of Islam are correct. By directing his message towards the next generation of Muslims it appears as though President Obama is trying to discourage this trend from continuing as well as preventing the recruitment of future terrorists due to propaganda. It is very interesting that ISIS has had the ability to reach and convert members from first world nations when these individuals have access to education and information that would contradict these skewed teachings of religion. I believe this only further demonstrates the need to build up and support the peaceful Islamic community so that young Muslims have somewhere to turn for accurate information about their religion as well as support.
Earlier this month American General Martin Dempsey stated, “ ISIL will ultimately be defeated when their cloak of religious legitimacy is stripped away and the populations on which they have imposed themselves on reject them”. One of the quickest ways to achieve this will be to promote a peaceful version of Islam and encourage its followers through education and entrepreneurship. By openly encouraging this peaceful version I believe it will eventually shatter the propaganda used by extremists and destroy the platform on which they build up their cause. The author of the article noted that many times in American history extremists used and twisted specific sections of religion and similar tactics have been effective in fighting against them. Feminists and Civil rights pastors all used similar approach’s to fight against their oppressors who tried to use religion against them. It appears as though Muslims around the world are beginning to take action into their own hands as well. Many have begun to denounce the group and distance themselves from ISIS’ extreme beliefs.
Although the war against terrorism began before Obama came into office it appears as though he is pushing even more than President Bush ever did to incorporate the idea of prioritizing alternative religious ideologies. I believe this new strategy will have a more lasting impact as they are choosing to deal with the problem at its source, the distortion or religious teachings, rather than simply trying to manage its consequences.
Course Identified: #349