Wisecracks like that may very well soon become dangerous in countries far from the front, as Islamic State, Daesh, gains not only more ground but more grip on its potential recruits. If its impressive territorial expansion in Syria, only 20% of which is now controled by Bashar-al-Hassad, perhaps brings to mind those graphic representations of Hitler’s rapid domination of Europe that filled the newspapers when we were kids, the comparison will be recognized not only as exaggerated but myopic, in that Nazism never attracted thousands of foreign volunteers to join the ranks of the Third Reich. It is this latter phenomenon that should concern us, at least as much as Daesh’s military victories, the slaughter of its Shiite enemies and the destruction of world-heritage, pre-Islamic, monuments. The battle for hearts and minds far from the battlefield, here at home, is potentially an even greater challenge.
We are fighting a losing battle on both the military and ideological fronts. But there is a growing awareness that the radicalization of young citizens of our Western countries must be stopped. More than intellectual debates about the “clash of cultures” we need massive campaigns of communication to expose and prevent the promotion of fanaticism, as well as extensive training of educators and coaches capable of detecting and deprograming its recruits. It is unlikely if not unrealistic to suggest that the target should be, like that of this Blog, religion as such. The campaign and the coaching must be Islamo-centric. Only people totally familiar with Muslim belief and practice can be effective here. The task facing them is even more challenging than that of the militant atheist. In a way it is easier to ridicule all religion than to try to deradicalize a specific fanaticism. Hasidic Jews and Lefèvre Catholics qualify as fanatics. But ultra-Orthodox Jews and extremist Catholics are not potential murderers. Jehadist recruits are. Even though they would no doubt refuse to abandon Islam altogether, we cannot tolerate their killing in the name of Allah. This is religion gone criminally insane.