To a secular westerner, ISIS is a conundrum. Why would fellow westerners leave their comfortable, sheltered life, to meet eventual death in a foreign land? Why would any sane woman ever choose to join a movement known for its brutality toward women, whereas in the western world (comparatively) they are left unmolested?
To those who read this blog, my answer is unsurprising: ideology.
The western world has become drunk with success. It assumes that liberalism is so all powerful that it can peacefully convince anyone of its righteousness. That no matter how old, how ‘backward’ your heritage, or how little ‘education’ you have obtained; you will submit to its divine vision of a secular, utilitarian future.
What ISIS has showed, more so than any other movement, is that Liberalism is not the silver bullet against Islam. That Liberalism cannot convert adherents from any background or culture and despite our own bias and hopes, Liberalism does not speak for itself. Political ideology, like any religious doctrine, requires indoctrination as well as well-crafted persuasion to continually convert new adherents.
Almost all of those reading this blog are Liberals in the true sense of the word. You believe in a separation between church and state, a firm belief in meritocracy and utilitarianism, the rights of the individual under a universal code of law, and a universal equality of human kind. Even those who are anti-Liberal (such as communists, fascists, anarchists, etc.) still agree with a majority of these tenants. But for many immigrants in Europe and the United States, liberalism has failed in its conversion attempts. That’s not to say immigrants don’t believe in equality, but liberal ideology doesn’t fill the large void in their world view.
The indoctrinated western masses are left confounded that the people they let into their utopian societies simply refuse to swallow the liberalism pill. Our children wake up one day at the age of 15 and run to Syria to find a Jihadist husband.
I think the reason people are so upset about this particular case is not because we actually care about 15 year old citizens, but because we are frustrated we could not convince them to integrate; to shed their culture and embrace a new ‘better’ one. If people are willing to just get up and flee our utopia then it challenges everything we once thought was true about the West; it’s superiority in wealth, morality, and personal fulfillment.
What this move does show is that in a world where it is easy to travel from the UK to Syria, it’s more important now than ever for nations to force the liberalism pill down people’s throat. The youth has always rebelled, but to rebel against Islamic parents for a ‘more’ Islamic father figure speaks volumes about how immigrants find their voice in foreign lands. If they cannot do it through the pathways given to them through their society (either because they are not skilled scholastically, physically, or are maimed by a faulty upbringing), they will do it through their actions.
This goes beyond the 15 year old children fleeing their failed western conversion attempt, thousands of adults have left their lives to fight for ISIS. There are some viewpoints on why this is so (others excluded).
- [Western Perspective: Utilitarianism] They want in on the ‘ground floor’ of a new nation, fleeing their old squalor driven lives for a new one with potentially rich rewards.
- [Religious Perspective] They have found a new religion which is more radical and entices them to fight.
- [Ideological Perspective: From Myself] The liberalism pill has failed. Each iteration of child rearing requires society to indoctrinate its offspring. Those who fade away from liberalism due to poverty, lack of employment, discrimination, etc need to find meaning in their lives before death.
I think #2 is stupid. Religions are no more or less radical than they have ever been. Historical religious wars are proof of this. #2 is a symptom of an underlying issue; perpetrated by lazy minds who don’t feel like thinking very hard about WHY people choose to believe in killing others. It is easy to say “x religion is a hateful, slaughter house religion where evil people dwell.” Wake me when these pointless rants are over and call it for what it is; a way of feeling better about yourself.
People become more violent, religions do not. Most westerners who join ISIS choose to ‘believe’ in a more radical version of Islam. They were not indoctrinated from birth.
Religion is not the reason people kill each other. Some times, people just want other people’s stuff. But the most brutal wars come from culture. Culture is the reason people kill others to the point of genocide; religion is a blanket we lay over culture which conforms to our pre-existing notions about how we think the world works. Religion is a tool people use to convince others of an already agreed upon world view (and perhaps expand the edges of it to more radical choices). A 15 year old doesn’t flee the UK for religion, she flees because she’s a moronic teenager who makes irrational choices. The second reason she flees is to find purpose and meaning in her life because society failed in its attempt to get her to submit and go to college.
ISIS will continue to thrive because it proposes a compelling argument, come find purpose in a new pan-national caliphate. Your race does not matter, your history does not matter, only your self-proclamation to be a ‘true’ Muslim matters. Religion is about community and finding purpose in your life; it is not about holy books. All the morality tales and the lip service to holy men is about establishing a culture where certain people feel like they are special and in an ‘in group’. Sure, some of these cultures are more… unequal than others. But you won’t be winning any awards for that observation.
But if there is one thing universally true about societies with farming, there will always be one group which benefits at the expense of the other. And the only thing that will stop ISIS is overwhelming violence, because that’s the only thing that can crush an ideology which has convinced its adherents so fully.