MIAMI BEACH — Can the Islamic State, or ISIS, be classified as a "religious movement," or is it a political movement that's only superficially religious? This issue was discussed by two Middle East experts at a recent Faith Angle Forum.
Bernard Haykel noted that many of his colleagues in the social sciences "want to push very hard against the idea that ISIS is a religious movement or that Islam has anything to do with the Islamic State." Social scientists, he added, usually prefer analyses centered on race, class and gender to those centered on religion as an explanatory variable. He also noted that President Barack Obama prefers to not associate ISIS with Islam.
"If you look at the cultural production, the intellectual production, the legal and theological production of ISIS, which is plentiful on the Web, there is no question that this is a movement that's drawing on a very particular strain or trend within the Islamic intellectual history, legal history, theological history," Haykel countered. "It has particular obsessions with certain theological concepts, and, of course, it's presenting itself as an heir to the 'true' version of Islam, which is a kind of projection backwards onto what true Islam was, by people who are living with us today, by moderns." more >>
Hundreds of Kurds lined a funeral procession for American Keith Broomfield in northern Syria before turning his body over to his parents at a Turkish border crossing.
Broomfield, 36, was believed to be killed on June 3 in northern Syria in a military engagement with ISIS forces. His parents and several family members have all said that Broomfield was "led by the Lord" to fight ISIS and "believed in opposing evil." Broomfield paid his own way to link up with Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS in February. more >>
Atheist groups have denounced a recently published column by Transhumanist Party presidential hopeful Zoltan Istvan calling for atheists to be granted right to skip airport security.
Istvan, a futurist and author who's running for president on a third-party ticket, is calling for atheists to be exempted from airport security.
A group that gained headlines for organizing the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest" in Garland, Texas, that was attacked by two Muslim extremists has launched a billboard campaign in Missouri.
At a cost of about $40,000, the American Freedom Defense Initiative posted 100 billboards throughout the city of St. Louis on Monday.
It has been one year since Islamic State began its conquest of a third of Iraq and its destruction of that country's ancient Christian civilization. While a massive international aid effort has helped most of the exiled Christians to subsist, it is time to look for a new strategy to help them fully live.
In a blitzkrieg of mass deportations, beheadings, women-slave auctions, and imprisonment of children, ISIS captured Mosul on June 10, 2014, and from there the rest of Nineveh province, Iraq's Christian heartland. Apart from some who were taken hostage or killed, most of Nineveh's 150,000 Christian residents left behind all their possessions and managed to flee the jihadists' "convert-or-die" policy. (Two new books chronicle these events in detail: Christian Persecutions in the Middle East, by George Marlin, and Defying ISIS, by Johnnie Moore.)
For the past year, these survivors have put their lives on hold in miserable conditions in church-run camps in Iraqi Kurdistan and nearby countries, while anxiously waiting for someone to liberate their hometowns. As the dust settles on Ramadi — where late last month an overwhelming Iraqi force made a disorderly retreat from ISIS — it is clear that that day may be years in coming. more >>
Bewildered in recent years by all the vitriolic hatred directed toward the U.S. from foreigners? Turns out it's not all real. The propaganda machine of the Kremlin during Russia's communist era, known as Pravda, has reinvented itself and is making a resurgence, this time through "Kremlin Trolls" who litter onine news sites and social media with Vladimir Putin's agenda. Yesterday, in a huge expose, The New York Times labeled it "the biggest trolling operation in history … a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention."
Going by the innocuous sounding "Internet Research Agency," the "Troll Factory" is located in an austere, probably Soviet-era gray cement building in St. Petersburg, a creepy throwback to the communist era. The shades on the windows are never opened. A video showing employees entering the building and sitting next to each other in the "Troll Den" was leaked and posted to YouTube.
Staffed by mostly young adults eager to make higher than average wages, the trolls work in 12-hour shifts, with quotas of 135 posts or so per shift. There are an estimated 400 employees. One department is completely devoted to posting on LiveJournal, which is popular in Russia; another one is dedicated to creating images and "demotivators," images that denigrate their subject matter. One department deals entirely with Ukrainian propaganda, other departments target The New York Times, the BBC and CNN. Even the conservative site The Blaze has been targeted in its comments section. Popular social media sites trolled include Instagram, Twitter and VKontakte, which is Russia's version of Facebook. more >>