What Can I Do about ISIS, the attacks in Paris and the World at War?

The recent ISIS attacks in Paris have led to world outrage and support for France and the innocents that died in these attacks. They have also produced all kinds of opinions covering a very wide spectrum of possibilities, and in the same scattergun manner as is only possible on the debatably useful world dumping ground and communication platform called Facebook.

These opinions, and their cause made me start thinking about my own feelings and what my response should be. And rather than ignore it, as I do at least 95% of what gets posted on Facebook, I decided to get into it, that is, to get into the subject of ISIS and the attacks on Paris, and formulate a response of my own.

But first, I knew that I know sweet blow all about ISIS, who they are, where they are exactly, what they are doing, and why they are doing it. So I did some research, and here in a rather simplified and generalised form (I think the pundits would say) is what I found, and to make it even more simple I’m going to leave out place names, peoples names, and Islamic terms:

To have a reason to exist ISIS need to have a caliph (leader of all Islam who is descendent from Mohammed), they’ve got one, and a caliphate, being a piece of land that belongs to them – note: they cannot be an underground, nomadic, terrorist outfit that is continually on the move like Al Queda, they have to have a definite area of land which is their caliphate. They have this and are in the process of expanding it, more about this expansion a bit later. Their caliphate is in the area that used to be called Mesopotamia.

Next, their religion or ideology is based upon the writings of Muhammad in the Koran/Quran, as with the rest of Muslims, but in the case of ISIS they take these writings at face value and are applying them literally and completely, particularly the Sharia law, with no modification or extrapolation towards their application in modern times.

Now here comes the first hiccup that many people who might be called moderates, pacifists, and a few other similar names, have to deal with. And I, as a Life Coach, Inspirational Speaker, and Relationship Mediator have often said this, that no one has the right to firstly, judge others and secondly, tell someone else what they may or may not do, especially when it comes to religion. So if the ISIS followers want to believe in the Quran and apply it in their lives in its medieval (written between 609 and 632) context, then who am I to tell them otherwise?

Well the problem doesn’t lie in allowing them to believe what they want to believe, it lies in how they intend to, and are going about following their beliefs. And there are two parts to this explanation, let me give a flippant but true example.

I have the belief that to run around a sports field wearing shorts that are dangling around my knees or lower is totally ridiculous and inhibits my movement. Similarly, if I am going to the beach and intend to acquire a suntan then I believe it is ridiculous to wear a pair of shorts (baggies) that are also dangling around below my knees, especially when these puppies are wet! So I wear short shorts and a Speedo (apologies to Arena, TYR, Adidas, Mizuno and all the other brands that make swimming costumes). Now I can pretty much follow this philosophy of mine on any sports field or beach in the world and although there could be one or two of the feminine gender who feel like throwing up, I don’t think anyone is seriously considering killing me – back to ISIS!

A few other fundamental concepts that ISIS demands and is compulsory, as I have mentioned, is the observance of Sharia Law. Fine, if I choose to live in their country and I’m caught fornicating them I’m in for a lashing, or stealing then I’m in for an amputation, and I’m not too sure about adultery but I think it’s only the women who are stoned to death, not the men. Anyway, so if I choose to live in their country then I need to be prepared to abide by their laws – like driving on the wrong, I mean, right hand side of the road if I go to America.

Here’s where the second part and the problem lies though – it is an inherent requirement that they have to always be at war and always have to be expanding the borders of their caliphate. In fact, they do not recognise such a thing as a border, but the caliph may permit such a thing temporarily for a maximum of 10 years, but not with all neighbours at the same time.

Next problem, which initially and supposedly gives the rest of the world some breathing space – and this law asks the question as to why the Paris attacks to place and who carried them out, more on this later. ISIS are required to kill as their first priority every single apostate (person that renounces a religious belief or principle) that exists, especially if they are their neighbours. And the number one apostates to ISIS are – all other Muslims that are not following their brand of Islam!

Another slight sigh of relief for other religions is that ISIS also have a confirmed and guaranteed law in the Quran that states that infidels (actually that’s my word, I’m not sure what word to use here, let’s say Christians for now) do not have to be killed as long as they acknowledge the caliph and caliphate, and pay a tax. Not sure what happens when these Christians become neighbours though.

A last point – ISIS are very hot on the Apocalypse and all the killing is sort of geared towards bringing that closer, and they expect that there is going to be one mega tsunami of a battle between ISIS and the infidel armies, hey ho the Crusades, here we go again (and it’s seems to be fairly clear that they’re lining up America for this) in Mesopotamia, and that ISIS are going to almost lose and be down to their last legs, and then the second coming will happen and the Messiah (I think they use a different name here) will arrive and save ISIS. Interestingly they believe that it is Jesus that will be leading this rescue mission, who they regard as the second most important prophet behind Muhammed (remember, Jesus wasn’t a Christian and even though his name is often said that way I’m pretty sure his surname wasn’t actually Christ back then).

Okay, enough about ISIS. The question that everyone is obviously asking is – what needs to be done about them? There’s actually another question that everyone should be asking, and most people, especially us South Africans down at the bottom extremity of darkest Africa should be asking, but are not, and is the reason for my writing this article – I’ll get to that question next, but first, what to do about ISIS?

Perversely, and as is often the case when asked a difficult and personal question, the answer to which hasn’t been thought through very well, let me answer by saying what should not be done and what will definitely not work.

Reminding you that I am being rather simplistic here, there would seem to be three options, and as you will see I will discount each of these:

  1. Leave them alone and to their own devises. Their brand of Islam won’t catch on and it will die out. Nope – have you not read all the reports about how their numbers are growing rapidly? Oh yes, oops, did I forget to mention that another of their fundamental laws is that their followers must want for nothing and that everything will be provided for them. They can sit back and do nothing and have whatever they need given to them free, or they may improve their lot if they wish. And it doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent that they’re all living in a barren sand pit.
  1. Leave them to the rest of the Islamic faithful and other Muslim people, who, since they are regarded as apostates by ISIS and are targeted for death by them, will take care of ISIS and wipe them out. A nice idea, especially in light of the third option below, but do the other Muslim sects (if I may use that word) and groups have the wherewithal to deal with ISIS, and what are the chances of them working together to achieve this – the different countries in Mesopotamia. Not very likely I’m afraid.
  1. Send in the Christians to bomb them, burn them, and nuke them out of existence, and occupy their territory (something that America is rather adept at doing, but exceptionally crap at managing well afterwards). I would like to suggest that if there is one thing that could possibly unite all the Arab nations and Muslim communities together to create a holy war and repeat of the Crusades to the nth degree, it is this one. Does anyone really thing that all Muslims are going to stand back and allow Christians (America) to nuke their Islamic brothers, black sheep though they may be, out of existence?

ISIS are a problem that is extremely difficult to deal with and the whole of Europe and America have a huge problem on their hands to come up with a solution.

And quite frankly I don’t know what the immediate solution is but, it is my experience that the only solution lies within. Only they can change themselves. They do not want nor need constructive engagement from outsiders, they’re not interested. What they will certainly feed off is confrontation. It will also not help to take a pacifistic view along the lines of, if I do not wish to argue or have a confrontation with you then there is no argument or confrontation. To them your point of view does not matter, they will follow their path of mayhem anyway.

Now what we South Africans, and many other countries around the world, could say quite comfortably is – we’re not involved, it’s not our problem, I feel for those poor people that have died but there’s nothing much that I can do, other than to post some comment on Facebook, or hit the Like button on someone else’s post.

And this leads to the second question that people should be asking themselves, that I mentioned above. “What can I do to help solve the problem that the world has with ISIS?”

You will have seen the picture of a protester holding up a placard with a quotation ascribed to Einstein where he says something along the lines of: all that is needed in the world for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. I’ve misquoted it a bit but it was actually said by a bloke called Edmund Burke. So we say to ourselves – but what can I do from down here? And in one respect, as far as taking direct, physical action goes, the answer is very little, to nothing. I think many people start to think along the lines of jumping on a plane and going off to fight the war in Mesopotamia, and then, seriously – that ain’t gonna happen, so “Like” this post, “Like” that post …

I have a suggestion. And my suggestion is aligned with my earlier point about only being able to change them from within. To some it will sound soft and inadequate. To these people I say your dreams need to be bigger. Consider not only yourself doing this, but every single person that you ever come into contact with is doing it. Visualise it and allow your mind to see it as it could be – it is definitely possible. And then smile. And then go out and do it.

The only thing that we can really do is to start a counter revolution, by setting an example that cannot be fobbed off or discarded as the frail attempts of a pathetic few. If we do it, if we all do it, then it has the potential to solve not only the ISIS crisis but the rest of the World at War as well. Yes, I am a dreamer, and I have been accused of “tilting at windmills” in the past, and to my discredit I took on that admonishment and I discarded my plans and dreams. This time I will not, and hopefully you will all join me. What we can do is to set an example of the way people are supposed to treat each other, and by showing the rest of the world how happy we all are in and around each other, that they too can join our kindness revolution.

It is a simple thing really, two things actually, exceptionally easy to do, and after all – why not I ask you, why not?!

In your everyday life you have come into contact with many people, you are right now, and there will be many more in the future. And you have an attitude towards all these people. There will be a number of people that you have hurt or caused pain through your actions or words – you know when you have done this and you know who they are. Make amends. There are other people that you dislike because you feel they are stupid, or inferior, or pig headed, or for whatever reason. Engage with them and make them feel welcome and wanted.

Do some act of kindness to all these people. Send flowers, write a note telling them what you appreciate about them, something good about them, do something, anything. There’s no need to tell them who you are – they don’t need to know … they will know. Make a list of all the people who you would like to do an act of kindness for, especially those that you have hurt, and keep on going doing these acts. Add to your list, do a second round to them all, and keep on going.

Show kindness to strangers – smile at them, make them laugh. Last night I was cycling in the gym and I watched a young boy giving an aerobics dance class to a jam packed full class of ladies. He performed and acted and had them involved and they were all laughing and shouting and having the best time of their lives – doing exercise. And I thought to myself – he’s sending every one of those ladies home very happy tonight, and there will be many happy household tonight. That’s what I mean – that’s what you can do too.

It’s on Facebook – a Coca Cola advert of a man on a train wearing earphones and he starts laughing, and he can’t hear the rest of the people on the train, and he takes no notice of them. He just carries on laughing and doesn’t interact with his fellow passengers at all. Even so, eventually all the people on the train are also laughing out loud and openly. He created a train full of happy people, who also went home happy. That’s what I’m talking about – that’s what you can do too.

Remember – showing kindness is an act of love. Imagine every environment in which you find yourself is just full of people having fun and laughing with each other. It starts with you. Don’t post your hate mail on Facebook or Like that of others. If you feel agitated and moved to take action then go out and buy some rolls and sausage, make hot dogs and take them to the homeless people sleeping under the bridges and in shop doorways. We can’t go up there and change the ISIS problem, but we can send up through Africa and across the world our brand of help – simple acts of kindness, and smiling and laughing for each other.

I hope you have much fun, laughter, and kindness in your life – always.

Jon O’Hanlon