This is where we are but does anyone know what to do about it?

Today’s New York Times tells a story which, when you read between the lines, is not news about what has just happened. It is about what is going to happen. Add it to the story of a few days ago when British security chiefs warned us that their concern is not about whether that country will be subject to another terrorist assault, but when it will happen. The result you get when you tot up this sum is that we are under siege. Alarmism? No. Just alarm.

It is all the more alarming when we seem not to have the slightest notion of how to protect ourselves from an enemy whose ruthlessness, with each new atrocity, exceeds the one which went before. At the moment all we seem to hear from our governments are expressions of horror, condemnation, and outrage in which all the superlatives have been exhausted and sound banal.

Empty platitudes of defiance and promises of ‘no surrender’ are all we get by way of coherent policy – and they’re no policy at all. Where are the leaders who are going to deal with this? Where are the ideas about how to deal with this. If they do not emerge soon we are at the eve of destruction as the Roman world was in the face of the barbarian onslaught of the 5th and 6th centuries. In the world in which we live, given the pace at which things can move now, our destruction will be fast and furious to a degree which will make progress of the fall of the Roman Empire look like a snail’s pace.

The only policy the international community seems to have in place currently is that of defeating ISIS on the ground in the Middle East. How effective those policies are remains to be seen. ISIS now, however, has clearly opened up a second and far more deadly front – a front that is not a front at all but a lethal virus. It is this strategy that has us all at sea and through which so much havoc can be wreaked that it can truly destroy us.

The Times flagged its story this morning in its daily briefing newsletter with this:

Believing he was answering a holy call, Harry Sarfo left his home in the working-class city of Bremen last year and drove for four straight days to reach the territory controlled by the Islamic State in Syria.He barely had time to settle in before members of the Islamic State’s secret service, wearing masks over their faces, came to inform him and his German friend that they no longer wanted Europeans to come to Syria. Where they were really needed was back home, to help carry out the group’s plan of waging terrorism across the globe.

“He was speaking openly about the situation, saying that they have loads of people living in European countries and waiting for commands to attack the European people,” Mr. Sarfo recounted on Monday, in an interview with The New York Times conducted in English inside the maximum-security prison near Bremen. “And that was before the Brussels attacks, before the Paris attacks.”

Read more »

In Britain today we have an example of the futile gestures which passes for policy when it was announced and reported on Channel 4 News that:

Hundreds more armed police, with handguns and semi-automatic weapons, will be put on patrol around London’s major landmarks – as the Met police chief promised to help reassure the public and deter terror attacks.

A call to Ireland to take a stand against genocide


The Irish Government will be called on this evening to formally recognise as genocide the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities at the hands of ISIS. John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) UK, a leading campaigner on behalf of the rights of persecuted Christians, will make the call at a talk he is giving on the topic tonight in Dublin.

He has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Syria, visiting Christians and others in Homs, Damascus and rural districts plagued by violence, persecution and extreme poverty. In his work with ACN, he has visited Iraq as well as other parts of the Middle East, Pakistan, China, Sudan, Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.

“On trips to Syria and Iraq” he said today, “I have seen with my own eyes the churches that have been repeatedly desecrated by Islamic State, I have met the people driven from their homes and I have also spoken to those who have been kidnapped, their lives threatened. The evidence makes plain the intent of the persecutors to flush out individual sections of society; that is why the Irish government should join with others in recognising the actions in question as genocide according to the definition given under the UN Convention on Genocide. Nor is this genocide only against Christians; it recognises Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as victims too.”

The US House of Representatives recently voted by 373 votes to nil to recognise as genocide what is happening to religious minorities at the hands of ISIS. The European Parliament voted in favour of a similar resolution late last year.

The talk in Dublin takes place tonight at 8pm and is entitled ‘Genocide: how Christians are being killed and driven out of the Middle East for their faith’. It is being jointly hosted by Aid to the Church in Need Ireland and The Iona Institute. It is will chaired by historian and political activist, Dr Martin Mansergh. It takes places in the Alexander hotel, Dublin 2. Admission is free.

How do we cope with this hell on earth?


When we read something like John Allen’s grim reminder of what is going on in the Middle East – going on as you read this – we wonder in shame how some of the things which preoccupy us in our media are allowed the time and space given to them. It seems that it is not a matter of not knowing what to do about this and more a matter of just not caring about this appalling human suffering and the barbarity in our midst which is causing it.

What will it take to awaken the consciences of those who exercise power on our behalf to come to the defence of the innocent victims of this atrocity?

Yesterday we saw images of Malala Yousafzai on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, etc, celebrating her stellar British high school grades. There she was, witnessing her Islamic faith wearing her headscarf. How do we balance the sincere commitment of a girl like this to her beliefs with the barbarities committed by her coreligionists in Nigeria, Syria, Yemen and other places on the globe? A barbarism of which she herself was a victim when the Taliban brutally left her within an inch of losing her life. Catholics and Protestants in Ireland were ashamed of the atrocities committed by fellow Catholics and Protestants in the late 20th century in Northern Ireland. But those atrocities were not committed in the name of God, they were ultimately tribal atrocities. ISIS, Boko Haram and the Taliban do what they do very explicitly in the name of Allah, the same God worshiped by Malala.

Charles Moore made an important distinction recently in his Daily Telegraph column.

Islamism, he said, though not the same thing as Islam itself, will have a strong pull on discontented Muslims. It allows grievance to brandish the scimitar of righteousness. It is really a political doctrine about power, but its pseudo-holiness drags in believers. This means that the extremists are, to use another (Tony) Blair phrase, part of “a spectrum not a fringe”.

Moore went on to point out that the distinction between violent and non-violent extremism is merely operational: Islamists feel morally free to achieve their aims peacefully or violently, publicly or secretly, whichever suits. They follow a revolutionary doctrine, so there are no moderates. Islamism is declaredly determined to overthrow our way of life. Recent years prove its determination is matched by actions almost every day, almost everywhere. Like the Bolsheviks between 1905 and 1917, Islamists have moved fast from ranting to ruling, and they preach their creed globally. The phrase “existential threat” fits.

This was the phrase used by David Cameron in his statement of intent with regard to the threat Islamic extremists posed on the Island of Britain. But no man is an island, and no island can consider itself immune from the wider contagion which Islamism now poses for the civilized world.

But John Allen’s implicit appeal is not to our self-interest. It is made on behalf of the suffering victims of Islamism wherever they are to to be found. What callous laziness is afflicting our public representatives and our media organizations from focusing their intelligence and their policy-making apparatus on this problem and finding a solution?

Allen writes:

On the Catholic liturgical calendar, Aug. 6 is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, recalling a Biblical scene when Christ became radiant with glorious light on a mountaintop alongside the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah.

For Iraqi Christians, however, Aug. 6 this year brings to mind anything but radiance or glory.

Instead, Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of one of the greatest calamities to fall upon Christians anywhere on the planet in the early 21st century — an ISIS offensive in the Plains of Nineveh in northern Iraq that broke out on Aug. 6-7, 2014, and left thousands of Christians and Yazidis dead.

It also drove an estimated 120,000 Christians into exile either inside the country, in places such as Kirkuk and Erbil, or outside in refugee camps in nations such as Turkey and Jordan.

Read his full commentary in Crux here.

Getting to grips with ISIS network

It looks like a long battle ahead but this suggests that some progress is being made in the war against the terrorists who call themselves the Islamic State. The New York Times and Foreign Policy report today that American forces have captured a trove of data — 4 to 7 terabytes worth — that intimately details the financial and security operations of the would-be State. Discovered during a May 16 raid that killed one of its leaders in eastern Syria, the information culled from the operation has already been used to target other leaders. But, the magazine says, the real boon is the insight gleaned into the minutiae of the group’s operations. “I’ll just say from that raid we’re learning quite a bit that we did not know before,” said a senior State Department official in a telephone briefing last week, according to the New York Times. “Every single day the picture becomes clearer of what this organization is, how sophisticated it is, how global it is and how networked it is.” The data trove revealed how the Islamic State divides its revenues from oil —half is allocated to its general operation fund, while half is reinvested in production — as well detailed security procedures for meeting with the group’s leader and transmitting sensitive communications. The discovery is being touted by American officials as an important glimpse into an organization shrouded in secrecy. On Tuesday, the BBC published footage taken in the Iraqi city of Mosul, showing snippets of everyday life under Islamic State rule. It showed women being forced to cover themselves, discrimination against minorities, and mosques that Islamic State fighters considered sites of apostasy being blown up.

The price of truth – everything for Kayla Mueller

If only, if only, the kind of heroic honesty shown by the 26-year-old martyr, Kayla Jane Mueller, who lost her life in Syria in recent days, was more commonplace among us, what a better world we would be living in. Indeed, if it were so there might be less need for martyrs like Kayala to sacrifice their innocent lives.

Kayla, imprisoned and blindfolded in an underground cell at the hands of ISIS in Syria, lost her life in an air strike on the ISIS position in which she was being held.

It seems that Kayla might have been freed had she told the militant group she was married to Omar Alkhani. Mueller’s boyfriend was posing as her husband in a detention cell in Syria, The Associated Press reported. Kayla refused to do so because it would have been a lie.

Alkhani reportedly said that ISIS militants told Mueller that her boyfriend would be unharmed if she was honest with them. The 26-year-old reportedly chose to be honest and denied being Alkhani’s wife, instead of saving herself. Alkhani last saw Mueller for few seconds when the guards uncovered her face to show it was her.

Kayla’s parents released a letter she was able to send her family last spring from her captivity by ISIS, after she had been a prisoner for about 9 months. In it she tells her family that she’s safe and well-treated; she doesn’t want them to worry. In it she reveals the depth of her faith and her extraordinary fortitude.

“I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another …

“The gift that is each one of you + the person I could + could not be if you were not a part of my life, my family, my support. I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time …

“None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes.”

“I wrote a song some months ago,” Kayla Mueller told her family, “that says, ‘The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left…’ — The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.”

“All my everything, Kayla”.

Playing with a scorpion: do it properly or don’t do it at all


To grip this nettle danger, wise and experienced heads are telling us, we will have to stop playing “make-believe”.
“If western boots were on the ground,” General David, now Lord Richards tells Mehdi Hasan, “Isil could be defeated “in six months”. The former Chief of the Defence Staff sat down with the Huffington Post (read it here). The PM shares something of the same attitude as his predecessor-but-one, Tony Blair, says Lord Richards. “There are bad things happening in the world and they would like, with others, to do something about it. I think they do enjoy being influential, feeling that together with others they are making a difference. It’s quite a drug. What I have been saying is that if you want to do that, for goodness sake, please do it properly, full-bloodiedly. Don’t play at it.”

The Obama strategy on ISIS

The Daily Signal, the Heritage Council’s bulletin, gives us this take on Obama’s “strategy” for dealing with the Islamic menace incarnated in the so-called Islamic State:

On Wednesday, President Obama addressed the nation concerning an uptick of action against the Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL. It was a short address that also was short on surprises.

Obama began with an apt description of ISIS and the threat it poses. In this phase of his remarks, he got it right. ISIS is a horrendous group of murderers whose savagery knows no bounds. Action must be taken. He also emphasized there is a real threat to the homeland—not an immediate one perhaps but one that requires action.

Obama attempted to paint all the military actions taken so far as having been successful.  In this, he probably overstated at least a bit. Recent operations have helped, but the problem won’t be solved without additional actions.

Read the full analysis here.

“Not in our name” – speak up, we can’t hear you.

The Islamic Cultural Centre Ireland (ICCI) has issued a statement condemning the atrocities of the Islamic State in the Middle East, and in particular the murder of hostage, James Foley. One Dublin newspaper reported that this statement “strongly condemned” the Islamic State for acting contrary to the teachings of Islam.

In the context of what is happening in the Middle East in the name of Islam, and in the context of the disturbing silence of the millions of Muslims who live in the West and enjoy freedom of speech, this is a muted and very inadequate response. Where are the mass demonstrations of Muslims on the streets of Europe’s cities crying out to their co-religionists in Syria and Iraq, “not in my name do you do this”?

Why are we not seeing these demonstrations and hearing these words? Is it because they are afraid to speak out? Or is it that the Muslim populations of the free West are at best ambivalent about what is going on there – and at worst, secretly condoning it. A strong statement from ICCI would have at least invited its people to assemble in a public protest to unambiguously demonstrate their outright condemnation of this aberration of their religion – if they really believe it is such.

The ICCI statement says that “in full conformity with Islamic teachings” it “vehemently abhors and deplores terrorism of all kinds regardless of the perpetrators’ race and faith.” It points out that “murder, the most horrendous act of terrorism, is strictly forbidden in Islam” and that “Allah states that the murder of one person is as evil as killing all people. In the Qur’an it is stated: “whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption (done) in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”

It says that “on this basis, the ICCI unequivocally condemns the atrocities perpetrated in Iraq in the name of Islam” and “stresses that these crimes can by no means be classified as a just struggle. Isis [Islamic State ] is causing damage to the image of Islam and Muslims all over the world. We share the shock and the horror of what was shown on the internet and television.”

It concluded that “as it condemns all types of terrorism; state, individual and extremist groups, the ICCI appeals to the entire world to live in peace, respect human rights and shun violence and create a just society where atrocities like these cannot flourish.”

All this statement really does is beg a bag-full of questions. “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul” is the first problem. Every last jihadist in ISIS considers himself or herself fighting for souls. Otherwise what is all this forced conversion and kidnapping of women and children about? “Corruption”? Their war is a war against corruption, the corruption of the great Satan.

The ICCI statement is double-edged. It concludes that “it condemns all types of terrorism; state, individual and extremist groups” and neatly gets its shorthand condemnation of the Israeli State into the picture.

“Isis [Islamic State ] is causing damage to the image of Islam and Muslims all over the world,” the statement adds. It certainly is and clearly this is of concern to ICCI. Is it their main concern? They should, however, try to do something serious about correcting the image and get their followers to demonstrate en masse to their non-Islamic neighbours that they abhor these atrocities with every fibre of their bodies.

This is what the West needs to see. Statements like this from self-appointed Islamist bodies are as worthless as they are unrepresentative. They convince no one because adherence to Islam has no coherence whatsoever. If it is said of the Bible that even the Devil can quote it to his advantage – and that is true, – this caveat must be doubly underlined for the Qur’an for which there simply is no authoritative interpretation whatsoever. The Christian Church, on the mandate of its Founder, protects its faithful from the Devil’s use of Sacred Scripture by its authoritative interpretation of its words. Islam, sadly, has no such authority and as a result the Islamic State’s reading of the Qur’an carries as much weight as that of the ICCI, its Kensington equivalent or any other of the religion’s institutions across the world. ISIS knows this and to secure its Faithful’s allegiance resorts to the simple and brutal use of terror.

Back to the killing fields again

Sean Thomas (Telegraph blogs) gives us a very sobering perspective on what is happening in the ISIS segment of the chaos in the Middle East. He tells it as it is. Is there anyone out there who can tell us what we can do about it? We are so cowed and neutered by the mismanagement of the unseating of Sadam Hussein that we are now likely to just keep doing too little and keep doing it too late.

Just now all we can say is God help the poor innocents facing this monster on the frontline. Tomorrow we will be crying to God for help ourselves. Thomas writes:

We’ve been here before, of course. No, not just with the Nazis. A better comparison for the evil of Isis is actually the Khmer Rouge: the only regime in my lifetime with an equal and obviously demonic complexion.

In many ways Isis are the Khmer Rouge with prayer mats. Both wear, or wore, black, as if to emphasise their nihilism. Both expanded – even exploded – from stupid wars engendered by the West. Both ruthlessly murdered any rival factions, ensuring that they became the sole standard-bearer for fellow travellers.

The parallels go on. The Khmer Rouge used hallucinatory violence as a technique and leitmotif – ripping foetuses from living women, smashing babies against trees – as do Isis, beheading anyone they fancy and tweeting the result, burying women and kids alive. Just as Isis are fiercely, fundamentally religious – slaughtering the infidels, the heathens, the Christians, the Shia, or even tribes of Sunnis who don’t cut the jihadi mustard, so the Khmer Rouge were fiercely, fundamentally atheist – promising to tear down every temple, and throw every single monk into the sea. Which they did.

The two forces are likewise similar in their aims and accomplishments. The Khmer Rouge managed to kill 2 million Cambodians (a third of the nation’s population), Isis will aim to kill many more than that, and they may well succeed, if they manage to get hold of chemical weapons, dirty bombs, nukes, and/or the lost souls of lonely young men in London, Paris, Moscow, and Detroit. As the KR despised and feared anyone outside their core, Isis believe we – by which I mean everyone on the entire planet who does not submit to their ideals, or convert to their deviant form of Islam – are at once a threat and an abomination, worthy of nothing but death, or grotesque servitude.

Read his full post here.

A Mass of Solidarity with the persecuted Christians and other religious minorities of Iraqwill take place at 5.30pm this coming Monday (August 18) in St Teresa’s on Clarendon Street, Dublin 2.

For those who have been wondering about the Yazidi…

Prospect magazine explains…

Who are the Yazidi?

An ancient religious sect, with less than 1m followers worldwide, largely concentrated in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and parts of Iran. Since Sunday, around 40,000 Yazidi from the north of Iraq have been trapped in the Sinjar Mountains in the northwest of the country, having fled their homes in the nearby town of Sinjar after it was attacked by militants from the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS). A further 200,000 have reportedly fled the area. The Guardian reports that Kurdish troops stationed nearby have been forced to withdraw, and that at least 500 Yazidis, including 40 children, have been killed in the past week. The Yazidi have suffered violence throughout the recent fighting in Iraq; according to al-Jazeera, IS were accused of killing six Yazidi in May, and a group claiming to be part of IS kidnapped 24 Yazidi border guards in June.

What is their religion?

Linked to the ancient faith Zoroastrianism, the Yazidi religion revolves around the worship of seven angels, of whom Malak Ṭāʾūs (“peacock angel”) is the most important. Above all of these is a supreme God, who created the universe, but the Yazidi god no longer has any direct interest in the world. Yazidi deny the existence of evil, rejecting the notion of sin, the devil and hell—this makes them “antidualists.” They believe in a form of reincarnation, whereby the spirit is purified as it migrates through different bodily forms until it achieves divinity. Shaykh ʿAdī, a 12th century mystic and chief Yazidi saint, is believed by followers to have managed this.

Why are they being persecuted?

The Yazidi are reported to believe that they are descended from Adam, rather than Adam and Eve, and are distinct from the rest of mankind. Consequently, they separate themselves out from whatever community they live in. The Yazidi have been persecuted by Sunni militants in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003, and historically have faced persecution from nearby Muslim communities, as Malak Ṭāʾūs is often misidentified as the Judeo-Christian devil. This has led to Yazidi throughout the world being derided as “devil worshippers.”

This is the BBC’s account of the religion and its followers.