ISIS “built the machinery of terror under Europe’s gaze,” according to The New York Times. This groundbreaking article reports that a unit within ISIS was dedicated to terrorizing Europe at least two years before the Paris attacks that left 130 dead last November. The Times estimates that this group has now killed at least 650 people.
How did authorities miss them? Local officials often did not communicate with each other when they discovered specific plots. And they dismissed ties to ISIS even when evidence was clear. Only now are we discovering the group’s existence. No one knows what will come next.
But there’s a component in the fight against ISIS that many policy leaders continue to overlook: the religious motivations behind radical Islam. To you and me, it is obvious that religious beliefs drive these jihadists. Tragically, to many leading the fight against them, this fact is not as obvious.
Yesterday I participated in a conference call on Islamic radicalization and terrorism. The conversation was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and featured Ed Husain, senior advisor and director of strategy at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Husain founded the world’s first counter-extremism think tank and writes regularly for global publications.
He is an especially credible spokesman on this issue. Husain became an Islamic fundamentalist at the age of sixteen but rejected jihadist ideology five years later and now warns the world about it. His book, The Islamist, has been acclaimed by scholars around the world.
On our call, Husain was asked if foreign policy leaders often downplay the religious roots of Islamic radicalization by blaming issues such as poverty and unemployment. His response was insightful: Such factors exist in a variety of other cultures as well, but do not lead to extremism. The religious component is what makes the difference in radical Islam.
However, according to Husain, the vast majority of European policy makers don’t understand the Christian religion, much less Islam in its various expressions. In the absence of wider religious literacy, we are led by authorities who do not observe faith or grasp religion.
The secularization of the West has already misled millions of lost souls and turned churches into museums. Now we know that it has also left us unprepared for the greatest threat we have faced since Nazi Germany. Could the same happen in America? Is it happening in America?
Here’s the good news: Wherever spiritual awakening is advancing in the world, Islam and radical Islam are in retreat. That’s why I often call readers to join me in praying daily for such awakening in our culture.
Today let’s be specific: Please pray for Western leaders to know Christ personally. Pray for them by name, beginning where you live. Pray for God to raise up believers who can influence the influencers of your culture. Pray with urgency.
And know that you are joining your Savior as he intercedes for us at this moment (Romans 8:34). You are joining your Father “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). You are joining the Spirit as he works to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).
Will you take a moment to pray, right now?