ISIS has some 30,000 fighters from 80 different countries and a few thousand from the West.
I've found myself wondering why on earth people would want to join such a group. I mean, really. Murderous psychopaths who commit barbaric acts against innocent civilians....who would want to join them?
Ayman S. Ibrahim has proposed three possibilities in First Things Blog. First, he says that passages of the Qur'an are interpreted literally to justify the horrific acts of terrorism. Many Muslims are unaware that there are later interpretations that do not take these passages literally. Passages about the Paradise awaiting Muslims are also used.
Second, they use early Muslim history to support their claims. To the Sunnis, the early years of Islam are considered sacred. Muhammad was a hero and a role model and some of his actions are used to justify current acts of murder.
Third, Ibrahim says there is a great appeal to the concept of the caliphate, one unified Muslim community.
OK. So those are the arguments they use, but why do they work? I would think it would take more than some passages of the Qur'an to justify barbarism. Would joining ISIS not require a complete deadening of the conscience?
Jesse Singal at the website Science of Us discusses why people would join ISIS with psychologist John Horgan of University of Massachusetts Lowell who has studied terrorism for over 20 years. Horgan says that there is a strong moral pull. They want to do something meaningful with their lives and many feel "a need to right some perceived wrong." ISIS also presents people with the opportunity to feel powerful.
Could it be that the there are those who are so starved for the notion of a right and a wrong that even the false, distorted, and broken religious tenets upheld by ISIS have a kind of appeal? Has moral relativism left such a hole in the hearts, minds, and souls of people in this century that radical Islamism is preferable, even appealing, in contrast to no sense of morality at all? Perhaps this is the case.
Believers will also find plausible the effect of diabolical influence. We know there is a spiritual battle going on, that we are fighting against principalities and the powers of darkness. Clearly, evil is present in ISIS. One could even say there is a presence of pure evil. And when things just don't add up very well, it is always likely the father of lies is involved in some way.
Unfortunately, we children of God have demonstrated a real susceptibility to lies. There was Eve in the Garden of Eden. She was in close relationship with God. Her life was perfect, was it not? And she had none of the innate brokenness brought about by original sin. Yet she believed the serpent. She knew God intimately and yet fell for the lie that God was hiding something good from her.
We're weak. We fall. It's true for those who decide joining ISIS is somehow a good thing, as well as for those of us who look on in disbelief. Perhaps with similar influences we would be equally deceived. There but for the grace of God......
We must pray against this evil and against all evil. And we must always speak the truth, even when faced with opposition and ridicule. There are those who are hungering for the truth. If they don't hear it, evil can fill the void.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle....