Jakarta, San Bernadino, Paris, Boston, Mumbai, Baghdad, Baghdad, Baghdad….this is just the beginning of a list that will go on and on into the future as it becomes clearer and clearer where the world is going. A combination of easy access to guns and bomb-making instructions, worldwide media attention, and young men overloaded with a desire to fight have made all of us targets in what will perhaps be known as World War III. Unlike the other two world wars, this won’t be fought just with standing armies, navies, and airforces. It will be fought by individuals and small groups anywhere in the world who get excited by angry leaders anywhere in the world, leaders who grab their attention and make blowing yourself up with as many bystanders as possible sound like a good thing to do. Young males programmed by natural selection to fight find themselves living in what a Belgian official on the BBC today called “a mental ghetto” where they constantly hear the need to kill the infidel, kill the apostate, kill the oppressors, the bullies, the Other. In these ghettos there is a very little debate or serious reflection or reason–it’s all about a Cause, Glory, and Death.
We have to face the facts. There is no way to stop this unless we were to un-create the internet where any hothead in a distant country can spew hate and teach someone to build a bomb. It’s not going to stop until we shut down the social media sites where young people are seduced into joining the Holy War, or until we stop arms trafficking, or censor the media so the attacks do not get so much play and convince others that similar massacres are excellent ways to further their Cause. None of that is going to happen anytime soon.
The other facts to face were made clear in a Zogby survey that showed that, yes, a vast majority of Muslims in every country found extremist movements like IS and Al Qaeda were a “total perversion of Islam,” but unfortunately in every country there is a group who thinks the methods of IS are in accord with the teachings of Islam. That number is 15% in the Palestinian sectors, 13% in Jordan, and 10% in Saudi Arabia. What that means is that in Saudi Arabia alone there are 2.8 million people who would seem to support the wars, massacres, torture, executions, kidnappings, and rapes that we’ve seen of late.
There has been no end to the young men and sometimes women streaming to Syria to join the fight, shoulder-to-shoulder with IS. So where will it all end? Prepare we are in for another Hundred Years War, a war of attrition where dozens of innocents are killed every so often, more and more bombs are dropped in Syria and Iraq, and more and more draconian laws are put in place at home to try to stem the tide of attacks.
The only hope of changing any of this in the long run is to do what the Charter for Compassion is doing, and what the idea of Universal Sacraments is all about: find some common ground that everyone of every faith or no faith can agree is part of what it means to be human. Teach young people that death is a sacred part of life, and that killing someone is not an avenue to God, but a plunge into the Dark Side. To counteract the power of a holy book is a tough job, but it’s being done—remember the vast majority of Muslims do NOT find IS’s methods acceptable. They have rejected the jihadists’ death-worship.
Every country should enact laws, if they have not already done so, that to teach the slaughter of innocents, to persuade someone to become a suicide bomber is the foulest crime against humanity. Freedom of Speech should not extend into that dark realm. Rallying around the sanctity of human life is just a starting point to arrive at other universals that can bring us all together in a world that is coming apart at the seams.