The New Age of Religious War

by Hal Gershowitz and Stephen Porter on July 27, 2014

It is upon us.

To draw such a conclusion is not to be an excitable alarmist.  It is to be but a rational observer.

A movement of great historical significance has quickened and begun to metastasize and grow.  It is radical Islam, a movement at war with civilization. The Islamists are at war with almost everyone — with Muslims who look west and who embrace modernity – We see Sunnis murderously attacking Shiites. — All Christians within the radical Islamists’ reach are squarely in the crosshairs of this radical onslaught. – Jews are special targets (for simply being Jews) – Infidels (those who do not live a life of submission to Allah) are being targeted in incident after incident from Syria to Pakistan, and from Libya to Nigeria. The old “dark ages,” that very gloomy and war-ravaged era, was an almost unimaginable blight — a plague, as we have written, on mankind and mankind’s imprint on history.  And, today, those writing a new grizzly volume to an old, dark tome are summarily executing men and women and even children who fall under their control.

We may have now entered a period that history will record as the Second Age of Religious War.  Mosul, a major city in Iraq has, essentially, been emptied of its ancient Christian population.  Those who have lived peacefully in Mosul, and who identified themselves as followers of Christ, have been ordered to convert, or leave or face death by the sword. They have all departed, except for those too old or too ill to leave.  The elderly and ill, according to press reports, have reluctantly begun to convert to Islam.  They will remain, perhaps, as secret Christians reminiscent of the Jews who remained secret Jews during the Spanish Inquisition.  Their fate, if discovered, will no doubt be just as tragic.

Grotesque videos of wanton murder by beheading and firing squad have gone viral over the Internet. Radical Islamic insurgents, just this week, intercepted two minibuses in central Afghanistan and murdered no less than 14 of the passengers including children as young as three years of age because they belonged to an ethnic Shiite sect.

Radical Islam, in the name of Hamas, has showered 2,000 rockets down on Israeli civilian population centers representing a new low and a new norm in this new era.  A new Dark Age seems to have dawned in vast stretches of the world, digitally recorded and transmitted in real time.

Religious war was the human constant for much of the period from 1,000 AD to 2,000 AD.  Only the enlightenment following the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 brought a respite from the madness.  But the enlightenment never really influenced that part of the world where the tribe remained more important than the individual.  The enlightenment was the antithesis of submission, but in those vast stretches from the Mediterranean southward through Africa, and eastward all the way to the westward reaches of China little light was shed by the enlightenment.

As we wrote in our last essay, only the effectiveness of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, kept the unprovoked Hamas barrage of nearly 2000 rockets fired at Israel’s populations centers from becoming an immense massacre.  Israel’s defense of its civilian population has now escalated into the very deadly bloodletting that the radical Islamists of Hamas had intended all along.

James Stavridis, retired 4-star General, and now Dean of the Fletcher School of law at Tufts University writes in Foreign Policy: “In the Arab and Persian worlds today, geopolitics and economics are clearly at work… Iran seeks to dominate as much of the Middle East as it can, and it is willing to use the genie of Sunni versus Shiite to allow it a dominant voice in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. On the Sunni side, the Persian Gulf monarchies have incautiously supported radical Sunni groups, resulting in the germination of not only al Qaeda and its subsidiaries, but also the emergent Sunni terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). As in the European wars of the Reformation, the potential for all this to spread is high, and the ability to extinguish it is low. That is a bad combination indeed. The use of religious fury and internecine warfare, once permitted to take root and coupled to the energy and resources of geopolitics and economics, is difficult to stamp out.”

It goes on. The National Counterterrorism Center 2011 Report on Terrorism found that Sunni extremists accounted for the greatest number of terrorist attacks and fatalities for the third consecutive year.   More than 5,700 incidents were attributed to Sunni extremists, accounting for nearly 56 percent of all attacks and about 70 percent of all fatalities. Among this perpetrator group, al-Qa‘ida and its affiliates were responsible for at least 688 attacks that resulted in almost 2,000 deaths, while the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan conducted over 800 attacks that resulted in nearly 1,900 deaths.

What is happening today in the Middle East is historic in that history will, before long, recognize this period as a renewed era of religious war.  It is not apt to be short lived, nor is it apt to be confined to the Middle East. Blogger Safran Mohamad writes, “Islamic nations in the Middle East find themselves in continual conflict with their non-Muslim neighbors: Jewish Israel, Hindu India, and Christian Europe. These other countries do not find themselves involved with the same level of conflict with each other, but they are constantly at odds with Muslims – even to the point of military actions. Is this simply a coincidence?

No, probably not, Mohamad writes: “Muslims today in the Middle East suffer from history – or more accurately, the memories of their own history. At one time, Muslim nations were the place to find some of the most advanced cultural and scientific developments in the entire world. They were also the place to find some of the most extensive religious tolerance.

Today, however, matters stand quite differently. Muslim nations produce little, if any, scientific advances. They do not export cultural products like literature and music, which appeal to the rest of the world in the same way that other nations do. They are also not a place to find a great deal of religious tolerance.”

According to the US State department, attacks on religious figures and institutions took place in 32 countries in 2013. There were a total of 9,707 terrorist attacks worldwide, resulting in more than 17,800 deaths and more than 32,500 injuries. In addition, more than 2,990 people were kidnapped or taken hostage. The countries that experienced the most terrorist attacks in 2013 are the same as those that experienced the most terrorist attacks in 2012. And where is this insanity taking place?  Iraq, the Philippines, Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, India, and Thailand.  In Nigeria, the total number killed increased 31 percent. Terrorist attacks occurred in 93 different countries in 2013, and as might be expected they were heavily concentrated geographically. More than half of all attacks (57%) and fatalities (66%), and nearly three-quarters of all injuries (73%) occurred in three countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Throughout western countries we see the spectacle of demonstrations and protests against the victims and not the perpetrators of radical Islamic violence. Jewish-owned stores and even synagogues are attacked and burned in Paris.

When the victims finally strike back as Israel has done after bearing unrelenting assaults from radical Hamas Islamists, the western press displays the resulting carnage, and it is as if the cause of the carnage has quickly faded from memory. Naive democratic leaders, whose countries and cultures are the real ultimate targets of the Islamists, decry the bloodshed and bring immense pressure to bear on those who vigorously strike back in an effort to protect their own people.  Israel, in need of allies, finds mostly those who want to mediate the conflict and bring the customary pause to the current round of bloodletting while the perpetrators lick their wounds, rebuild their tunnels and restock their arsenals.

As Vladimir Lenin is reported to have intoned when commenting on those in the west who naively refused to recognize that they were the ultimate targets of his bloody excesses, “they are our useful idiots.”


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We are sailing off the coast of Maine and have limited Internet access.  We will release our current essay when we return next week.


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