The links between western jihadists and ISIS are getting even tighter. The BBC reports on a Khaled Sharrouf, a terrorist who was jailed for planning attacks in Australia. When he was released after four years in prison, he illegally left the country to fight with jihadists in Syria. Now he has provoked a domestic controversy in Australia by posting a picture to his twitter feed showing a young boy, who may be his son, holding the severed head of a Syria. Australian PM Tony Abbott has condemned the picture, and the country is trying harder to prevent domestic radicals from leaving the country to fight abroad.
Stories of this nature are continuing to proliferate as the jihadi madness draws citizens of the western democracies into its vortex. Among the bad consequences of this intensification will be deepening polarization around issues of immigration and surveillance in Western countries. The best thing that can happen is for Muslim individuals and groups to strongly and visibly condemn the perverted cult of these Death Eaters. For religious, personal and political reasons western Muslims must make this a high priority. If western Muslim communities fail to publicly reject jihadism, tensions between western religious communities will grow, as will popular suspicion of all Muslims.
It is wrong to tar all Muslims with the brush of jihad or to say that fanaticism is somehow uniquely a problem for Islam. All religions are capable of distortion; Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish history all have ugly stories to tell. At this very moment in time, Muslims face horrible persecution and unjustifiable discrimination in many countries. We will continue to chronicle these sorry stories. We are anything but indifferent to the plight of people being persecuted on account of their faith, Muslims included.
But Muslims have to be realistic. Except for those of us who have Muslim neighbors and friends, the terrible deeds of ISIS and its brethren are more visible to the average citizen of western countries today than the quiet and peaceful lives of hundreds of millions of Muslims who want nothing to do with this madness and evil. Whether it is from the standpoint of dawa, of preventing the blasphemers of ISIS from shaping the public image of Islam, or of protecting themselves and their loved ones against a backlash driven by ignorance, hatred and fear, Muslims around the world must make their loathing and rejection of these criminals unmistakably clear.
Though as a Christian I cannot instruct people of different religious backgrounds on their duties, it seems to me that this is a matter of both religious obligation, benevolence to ones neighbors (protecting them against ignorance and a resulting sin of hate), and practical common sense. It cannot come too soon.