“Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.” So urged President Obama in only his third Oval Office address to the nation. His speech came four days after an ISIS-inspired couple killed fourteen people in San Bernardino, California, the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
The president noted that terrorism has evolved since that horrific day fourteen years ago. As we have become better at preventing complicated attacks like 9/11, terrorists have sought to radicalize people already living in America. Their strategy is working more effectively than ever before.
ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa is a new and troubling report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Its authors state that “ISIS-related mobilization in the United States has been unprecedented” and note that U.S. authorities are conducting 900 active investigations against ISIS sympathizers in all fifty states. The group’s social media strategies, the most sophisticated ever used against us, are radicalizing jihadists in the U.S. and around the globe.
It’s not enough to keep Muslim terrorists out of America—according to the report, sixty-four percent of those arrested by U.S. officials for supporting ISIS were American citizens or permanent residents. Even more troubling, forty percent were Americans who converted to Islam.
ISIS supporters in America run the gamut, from “keyboard warriors” who use Twitter and other media to radicalize recruits, to murderers such as the couple who attacked people attending a holiday party in California. One ISIS supporter identified by authorities is the son of a Boston area police officer; another is a single mother of two young children. Some are students, while others are professionals. Clusters of ISIS supporters have been found in numerous cities, including Minneapolis, St. Louis, and New York City.
What can we do about these “homegrown terrorists”?
ISIS in America notes that “law enforcement vigilance is vital but insufficient on its own.” The problem is too widespread to be countered solely through arrests. The report calls for “intervention to help sway individuals from the path of radicalization.” And it notes that “while interventions are a potential solution for Americans already on the path to radicalization, it would be even more effective to prevent citizens from even starting that perilous journey.”
This is where you and I come in.
President Obama stated last night, “Muslim Americans are our friends and neighbors, our coworkers, our sports heroes—and yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.” God wants us to see the Muslims we know as part of our mission field. Our Father has brought them to us so we can bring them to Christ. Doesn’t every person—including every Muslim—deserve to hear the good news of God’s grace?
Every generation of Americans has been called to defend our nation. On this day in 1941, 2,403 Americans died at Pearl Harbor. My father served in the war that followed and watched many of his friends die in defense of our freedom.
Jihadism is the enemy of this generation. The good news is that the gospel is more powerful than ISIS, for it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The most effective way to keep ISIS from radicalizing Americans is to lead Americans to Jesus.
What will you do today to share his love in yours?