Islamic State, “The Book of Mormon,” and the Quest for Meaning in a Secular Age

The message of the musical The Book of Mormon, writes Ross Douthat, is a very conventional one: religious people would be happier if they shed their beliefs in hellfire and other superstitions, and focused exclusively on the key moral messages of their creeds. But there will always be those left dissatisfied with the resulting secular humanism. It is to a subset of such people that ideologies like Islamic State (IS) appeal:

The deep reality . . . (a reality not unlike the one that’s playing itself out on certain college campuses right now) is that many human beings, especially perhaps young human beings, still crave a transcendent purpose, even in a society that tells them they don’t really need one to live a comfortable, fulfilling life. And more than that, many people experience both a kind of liberation and a kind of joy in submission to these purposes, even—as is the case with IS—when that submission involves accepting forms of violence and cruelty that rightly shock the conscience of the world. . . .

[I]f the West’s official alternative to IS is the full Belgium (basically good food + bureaucracy + euthanasia), if Western society seems like it’s closed most of the paths that human beings have traditionally followed to find transcendence, if Western culture loses the ability even to imagine the joy that comes with full commitment, and not just the remissive joy of sloughing commitments off—well, then we’re going to be supplying at least some recruits to groups like IS for a very long to come.

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More about: ISIS, Mormonism, Musical theater, Religion & Holidays, Secularism

 

Hamas’s Deadly Escalation at the Gaza Border

Oct. 16 2018

Hamas’s weekly demonstration at the fence separating Gaza from Israel turned bloody last Friday, as operatives used explosives to blow a hole in the barrier and attempted to pass through. The IDF opened fire, killing three and scaring away the rest. Yoni Ben Menachem notes that the demonstrators’ tactics have been growing more aggressive and violent in recent weeks, and the violence is no longer limited to Fridays but is occurring around the clock:

The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000. Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been an increase in the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. At the same time, Hamas supplemented its burning tires with smoke generators at the border to create heavy smoke screens to shield Gazan rioters and allow them to get closer to the border fence and infiltrate into Israel. . . .

[S]ix months of ineffective demonstrations have not achieved anything connected with easing [Israel’s blockade of the Strip]. Therefore, Hamas has decided to increase military pressure on Israel. [Its] ultimate goal has not changed: the complete removal of the embargo; until this is achieved, the violent demonstrations at the border fence will continue.

Hamas’s overall objective is to take the IDF by surprise by blowing up the fence at several points and infiltrating into Israeli territory to harm IDF soldiers or abduct them and take them into the Gaza Strip. . . . The precedent of the 2011 deal in which one Israeli soldier was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has strengthened the feeling within Hamas that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for bringing back captured soldiers alive. . . . Hamas also believes that the campaign is strengthening its position in Palestinian society and is getting the international community to understand that the Palestinian problem is still alive. . . .

The Hamas leadership is not interested in an all-out military confrontation with Israel. The Gaza street is strongly opposed to this, and the Hamas leadership understands that a new war with Israel will result in substantial damage to the organization. Therefore, the idea is to continue with the “Return March” campaign, which will not cost the organization too much and will maintain its rule without paying too high a price for terror.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security