The recent attacks in Paris shine a light on the world's current biggest boogeyman: ISIS. "Boogeyman" is a role that delights ISIS leadership, who are always intent on inflating their profile on the international stage. In fact, the urge to aggrandize the group only plays into its hand.
According to author Salman Rushdie, ISIS has proven itself to be extremely savvy at media creation and dissemination. It uses social media sites to assist with recruiting and to boost propaganda. Its violent hype videos are always shot in a way that maximizes horror, especially the grisly beheading ones from last year. The group's goal is simple: Intimidate and scare as many Westerners as possible. Is it working?
Rushdie's new book is titled Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.
Author and peace activist Maajid Nawaz argues that we too often treat radical Islam with kid gloves. While our good intentions make us sensitive to the Muslim faith, and keep us from labeling its violent members as radical practitioners, it does society a disservice.
Odd as the comparison may sound at first, it's the same disservice that members of the Hogwarts community do by refusing to mention Voldemort's name. By refusing to label him, they prevent an open and honest discussion from taking place about possible solutions. And that is where Muggle society finds itself today in regards to radical Islam.
When we think about ISIS, it's important to try to understand what they are and why they're as effective as they are. According to retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, ISIS benefits from the fact that the Middle East and North Africa are so fractured at the moment. Just as a weak disease can prove deadly to someone with a weakened immune system, ISIS takes advantage of the context and situation. They also benefit from a savvy grasp of modern technology, social media, and — believe it or not — effective branding.
Author and anti-Islamist activist Maajid Nawaz explains how certain members of the "regressive left" threaten progress within minority communities, in particular liberal Muslims. Members of the left too often champion a brand of racism of low expectations, through which they lower their standards when looking at other cultures if those cultures happen to express a level of misogyny, chauvinism, bigotry, or anti-Semitism, and yet hold other white people to universal liberal standards. This misguided prioritization of cultural tolerance over the progress and the advancement of liberal values handicaps the evolution of minority communities and harms the weakest members of those groups. Nawaz' argument is simple: If we claim to support human rights and classical liberalism, why do we pull punches when it comes to criticizing minority communities and cultures that don't live up to those standards?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen served as Secretary General of NATO from 2009 to 2014. In this Big Think interview, Rasmussen explains how NATO evaluates terrorist threats and what the future fight against the so-called Islamic State will look like.