Sunday, March 01, 2015
I'll See Your Cult and I'll Raise You One
They're dying to get at each other or at least they would be if only we gave them a chance. Radical, fundamentalist Islam versus radical, fundamentalist Christianity - the End Times grudge match right there on the floor of the desert of ancient Mesopotamia.
An article in today's Independent explores what there is about ISIS that's drawing so many young Britons to the cause. It suggests that ISIS is essentially a messianic cult with heavy End Times overtones. The report identifies two areas in which ISIS has succeeded where others before it failed.
First, it’s come closer than other Salafist organisations to creating a “caliphate”, a geographical location where teachings of the Prophet Mohamed govern every aspect of existence. In that sense, it offers a homeland where disaffected young Muslims can turn their backs on everything they dislike – or have been encouraged to dislike – about the modern world.
Second, it understands the power of slick propaganda videos and wanton destructiveness.
...we are dealing with an eschatological movement of a type that became common in the Middle Ages. You and I may be looking forward to a long and peaceful existence, but these guys are eagerly anticipating the apocalypse.
In November, when the American hostage Abdul-Rahman (formerly Peter) Kassig was about to be murdered, his killers deliberately chose Dabiq as the site for their latest gruesome exhibition. “Here we are, burying the first American Crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” the man we now know to be Emwazi says in the propaganda video. It’s tempting to dismiss this as empty rhetoric, but it refers to prophecies that the final showdown between Islam and its enemies will begin in Dabiq; members of Isis are expecting the imminent arrival of the Mahdi, a messianic figure who will lead a Muslim army to victory before the end of the world.
I don’t know whether the story is apocryphal, but, according to some sources, Osama bin Laden was warned in 2008 that the founders of what would become Isis were obsessed with the Mahdi and the end-of-days. He’s supposed to have written to them, saying, “Cut it out.” Sadly, this eschatological movement took no notice.
It has now eclipsed al-Qaeda as the go-to terror organisation of the day, with the added attraction of controlling an area larger than some long-established countries. Running away to join Isis isn’t an attractive option for most of us, but the picture might look different if you believe the world is about to end. People do remarkable things under the influence of millenarian ideology, and Isis is something new in the field: an apocalyptic movement that offers a temporary refuge from the modern world and a last chance to be saved.
Well that sure sounds like a cult to me. Messianic, eschatological, End Times, afterlife stuff laid on pretty thick. But we've got messianic, eschatological, End Times, afterlife (Rapture) folks of our very own only they're Christian. So why not match them up - our cult versus theirs? Something akin to a desert cage match. Two great religions enter the cage, only one will come out. One night, in Dabiq - winner takes all. The pay TV rights alone should be astonishing.