Let’s not fool ourselves. Islamic State is not Islamic. They have broken every tenet of the Q’ran, not least when they fiendishly burned a man alive, an act specifically forbidden by the Prophet himself in the book. They are just another bunch of power-hungry thugs, like so many before them and no doubt not the last, but that is all they are. And they are very dangerous.
A war is coming. It has already begun. But it is not a struggle between Islam and Christianity, though that may seem to be the current battlefield. It is a struggle between Religion and Secularism and it is happening all over the world. For now, IS is lined up for the fight and hogging the headlines, with an assortment of Jihadists and opportunistic terror-lovers at their backs, but even Buddhists in South East Asia have taken up arms, and India is rife with religious prejudice, not to mention the now, hopefully, resolved Troubles in Northern Ireland.
It wouldn’t surprise me if sometime soon we see armed Christianity in the field against Islamic State, apart from any formal government military action, some bunch of Christian fundamentalists with guns (now, where might we find those?). We here in Ireland have already witnessed a Christian struggle, between sects in the North, though that is also and more importantly, an economic and class struggle. Of course, all of these internecine wars and civil unrest come down to that, economics and class, Marx did warn us this would be the case, but I think the struggle between fanaticism and laid back don’t-care-much secularism is the one we must resolve, especially since the fanatics are so much more prepared and willing. Maybe not a war, but a resolution of sorts, though, frankly, getting that without defeating Islamic State and its supporters in battle seems unlikely.
We in Europe and America, like many countries of the world, are democrats, and one defining quality of democracy is that it cannot be religious, it must be secular. Democratic Government is essentially about economic and social organisation, and while it may tend to uphold a moral code very much based in its society’s religious history, a democratic government should not enforce any purely moral laws. In a secular society, it’s none of their business. Any religious society, with a government that invokes religion to define and back its policies, is autocratic. It cannot help but be, because if you break the Law, you are not only a villain, but a sinner before God, and God, as we surely know, and certainly in the minds of his fanatical followers, is the Autocrat par excellence.
I live in Ireland, a country somewhat torn just lately, between being a religious society and a secular one. It is, frankly, something of a shambles. We get the bells of the Angelus at noon and 6.00 pm on our principal broadcasting station (radio and TV), and we get very complex and heated public debates on such things as the right to get an abortion and who runs the schools. The hard and seemingly immoral, or at the very least, amoral secular world is where we should be going. In that world everyone is free to harbour their own set of beliefs and theories, and to obey their own moral code so long as it does not harm others.
This of course is the fundamental flaw in the terrorist moral code. It has to be said, there is plenty of evidence in the so-called holy books, that God, under many different interpretations, is happy to line up behind a favoured person or society, but of course, we only have the report of said person or society that this is so. Put another way, someone usually won and they said it was God what done it.
It is difficult to understand how anyone could imagine a Creator or Overseer who likes to see us murder each other. I won’t go into eating habits, I hope St. Paul is right and the animal kingdom is there to help us survive and enjoy life. Or Richard Dawkins is right and it’s the bad luck of animals that we know how to kill and eat them without them killing and eating us, no blame. Killing and eating mammals, birds and fish are not sins, they are not illegal, they are the free choice of free citizens. Lucky us! There are countries where you can be arrested for eating forbidden food.
Will there be a war? I have seen some pretty striking images recently of extremely hostile young men using what I have always taken to be a blessing as if it is a curse, shouting “Allahu Akbar” at their perceived enemies in the streets of London. Unfortunately, being all secular and democratic and that, I am no more happy with discussing these things in terms of the communities involved than anyone. But communities are involved and we have to ask ourselves how we will deal with it. Otherwise, one possible form of the war to come is civil war. When do we realise that? When do we stand up to it? When do we admit it isn’t all going to work out nice and diplomatically? When does the anger and frustration and self-pity of those furious young men turn into explicit violence?
I’m just asking questions. I don’t have answers.