Middle East expert Mark Durie, an Anglican vicar in Australia, shares the following insights on what’s fueling the Islamic violence exploding across much of the world, including the continuing attacks against Christians in Nigeria. —Mindy Belz
This violence is the culmination of two trends. One is the Islamist revival, which in response to the perceived failure of Islam in the face of Western dominance proposed a program of ideological cleansing leading to jihad as the way back to reestablish Islamic supremacy. The other is the cowardice and denial of the West over several decades, which strategically began with the adoption by the UN and Western powers of the narrative of Palestinian victimhood while not recognizing the jihad agenda, which lay under this victim plea. Thus the West lent credibility to the jihad against Israel and is now inheriting the fruits of that jihad, morphed into a global struggle.
Islam has gone through two crises in recent centuries. The first was the military, scientific, and economic failure—the civilizational failure—of Islam and its retreat before the West, leading to. This led to the Islamist revival, which has been cooking for more than a hundred years and is now erupting all over the place in violence against the infidel, fueled by the anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-infidel verses in the Quran and the Hadith. The simultaneous fruit of this revival has caused so many similar attacks at the same time—rather like a tree that bears fruit all over itself at the same time, and not one branch and then another.
This violence is not in a sense unprecedented: Such things have happened many times in the past. It is the history of Armenia, Egypt, Andalusia, and the Balkans. But what is distinctive now is that historical forces are aligning globally—the controlling mechanism being the Islamic revival—to bring different nations and societies to a similar point all at the same time.
But not all are at the same stage. Many Iranians are increasingly “post-Muslim” in their thinking. But in other places, like Egypt, the bitter fruits of the Islamic solution are being experienced as if for the first time.
The second crisis is one of doubt in Islam in the face of the patent failure of the Islamic revivalist solution. We are seeing that in the turning of Iranians to Christ. I see these present-day atrocities as the bitter fruit of a long period of denial by the West and fervent planning and activism by radical reformers. The question is, what will come to us beyond this violence? Will it lead to surrender to the forces of death and destruction—of radical Islam—or will Islam itself begin to collapse from within, as its adherents experience failure and pain rather than success? But in the meantime we are in the middle of a harvest of bitter destruction that will continue to escalate. Europe should prepare itself for millions of refugees from around the Mediterranean. We should all anticipate more and more violent attacks as the increasingly desperate and cornered beast of radical Islam tries to thrash itself out of its trajectory of failure into a season of triumph.
The challenge for Christians is to hold fast, to acknowledge the truth of what is happening: Islam is a failed ideology that is bringing only sorrow and failure to the world. We should repent and return to our core truths: the power of Christ to heal and save. And get ourselves ready to respond to the coming harvest among the Muslim world as the second crisis increasingly comes upon Muslims.
I note also that this eruption of jihad violence has exposed the futility of attempts at outreach across the Muslim-Christian divide: President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech and countless dialogue meetings, including deriving from the Common Word process and the Amman letter to the pope. What we are seeing now is a grassroots phenomenon, incubated for decades. And the worst is yet to come.