The newest issue of the Islamic State magazine Dabiq hit digital news stands on Monday, with front of book stories on “Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You” and the “Near-Extinction of the Western Woman.” The feature essay, “Break the Cross,” is a lengthy critique and repudiation of Christian and Jewish theology. “Why do you disbelieve in the signs of Allah?” Dabiq asks. “Be assured, Allah witnesses what you do.” The nonprofit Clarion Project notes that this is the first issue addressed to non-Muslims and potential converts.
The most interesting piece, however, is found towards the end of the magazine: a short essay called “By the Sword,” specifically addressing the intersection of violence and religion. It begins by excerpting passages from the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels that Dabiq interprets as providing theological justification for religious violence.
Exodus is full of examples of God exhorting the Jews to slaughter their enemies and conquer foreign lands. “Cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed,” Jeremiah 48:10 reads. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth,” Jesus tells his followers in the Gospel of Matthew (10:34). “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And yet, Dabiq points out, “many people in Crusader countries express shock and even disgust that Islamic State leadership ‘uses religion to justify violence.’”
It is true that mainstream political discourse in the West does not adequately address or acknowledge the ties between state- and Church-sponsored violence, either throughout history or today. Certainly, young Christians at Sunday School do not grapple with verses from the Gospels in which the Prince of Peace appears to be advocating for militant insurrection. (This is in no small part a consequence of the Catholic Church having aggressively repressed, until very recently, any hermeneutic that might imply a religious justification for political violence on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.)
According to the Islamic State’s apocalyptic understanding of history, this hypocrisy will be the West’s undoing. From Dabiq (emphasis ours):
The clear difference between Muslims and the corrupt and deviant Jews and Christians is that Muslims are not ashamed of abiding by the rules sent down from their Lord regarding war and enforcement of divine law. So if it were the Muslims, instead of the Crusaders, who had fought the Japanese and Vietnamese or invaded the lands of the Native Americans, there would have been no regrets in killing and enslaving those therein. And since those mujahidin would have done so bound by the Law, they would have been thorough and without some “politically correct” need to apologize years later. The Japanese, for example, would have been forcefully converted to Islam from their pagan ways – and if they stubbornly declined, perhaps another nuke would change their mind. The Vietnamese would likewise be offered Islam or beds of napalm. As for the Native Americans – after the slaughter of their men, those who would favor small-pox to surrendering to the Lord – then the Muslims would have taken their surviving women and children as slaves, raising the children as model Muslims and impregnating their women to produce a new generation of mujahidin. As for the treacherous Jews of Europe and elsewhere – those who would betray their covenant – then their post-pubescent males would face a slaughter that would make the Holocaust sound like a bedtime story, as their women would be made to serve their husbands’ and fathers’ killers.
Furthermore, the lucrative African slave trade would have continued, supporting a strong economy. The Islamic leadership would not have bypassed Allah’s permission to sell captured pagan humans, to teach them, and to convert them, as they worked hard for their masters in building a beautiful country. Notably, of course, those of them who converted, practiced their religion well, and were freed would be treated no differently than any other free Muslim. This is unlike when the Christian slaves were emancipated in America, as they were not afforded supposedly government-recognized equal “rights” for more than a century – and their descendants still live in a nation divided over those days.
“ISIS think western nations were too soft in their imperialism. Amazing,” the journalist Sunny Hundal marveled on Twitter. But really, how surprising is that? This is not so much an argument against Christianity as against liberalism and the Enlightenment. It is, in other words, essentially the same argument posed by the Anglo-American “alt right,” found scattered across 4chan’s /b/ and /pol/ boards and Reddit and Twitter, consolidating around culture-war causes like Gamergate and the permabanning of Milo Yiannopoulos, which is at bottom an expression of the fear brought on by the fracturing of cultural hegemony. It is, literally, an argument against political correctness—with all of the attendant anxiety and panic about strength, masculinity, and fear of emasculation.
American conservatives have been wringing their hands about President Barack Obama’s perceived desire to “apologize” for darker moments in United States history—especially its involvement in foreign wars—since the beginning of his administration. In June 2009, the Heritage Foundation, a well-financed think tank, published a listicle under the headline, “Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower.” Resentment over the (entirely imagined) “apology tour” has festered for nearly eight years.
Now, the cult of strength before which conservatives have prostrated themselves has produced a Republican candidate who, a year ago, said, “Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes?” In January, Trump said “I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good.” He has only recently begun to modulate this position of outrageous arrogance. “I will be asking for forgiveness,” Trump said in June. “But hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.”
In November, Donald Trump, the reactionary’s candidate of choice, claimed that as president he would “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, and in December, he said that he would “take out” accused terrorists’ families. “The enemy is cutting off the heads of Christians and drowning them in cages,” he wrote in a February op-ed, “and yet we are too politically correct to respond in kind.”
Obama, and all others, have been so weak, and so politically correct, that terror groups are forming and getting stronger! Shame.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2016
This is not to imply what would surely be a false equivalence between the Islamic State and neo-fascist American reactionaries, nor is it to suggest that skepticism of Christianity, liberalism, or the Enlightenment necessarily ends in totalitarianism. Rather, this is just to say that as the world comes apart at the seams, it is worth noting where those tears in the social fabric are actually taking place—that ISIS, Trump, and the alt-right have more in common than either would ever be likely to admit.