Fight ISIS on the Ideas Front Too

Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians
Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians

Last week former congressman Frank Wolf released an important new human-rights report on Iraq's religious minorities, aptly entitled "Edge of Extinction." Detailing some of the Islamic terrorists' cruelest practices, particularly with respect to women and children, this documentation should serve as the opening salvo in the long-neglected battle of ideas over Islamic extremism.

Mr. Wolf, who stepped down from his congressional seat last month, just returned from Iraq with the new Christian human-rights group, the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, where he is a distinguished senior fellow. In Kurdistan, less than two miles from the front line, he and his team interviewed Christians and Yazidis persecuted by the Islamic State, banished from their homes, and now huddled with hundreds of thousands like them in abject misery in Iraq's northernmost province.

One Christian woman, whose family could not flee the city of Qaraqosh when the Islamic State invaded on August 6 because her husband is blind, told Wolf, "We could hear 'Allah akbar!' in the streets. 'Christians, go away or we will kill you.' After that they came to our house. 'Convert or we will kill you.'" The next thing she knew, the jihadists had snatched her three-year-old daughter from her lap, and took the baby away.

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A Yazidi teenager called Du'a told Wolf that she was captured by the Islamic State near Sinjar and taken to Mosul where she was held with 700 other girls. One of the kidnapped girls was a seven-month-old child. The report recounts their experience in Mosul: "The girls were separated according to eye color, and members of IS were allowed to choose the young women according to their personal preference." The left-over girls were then "separated into 'pretty' and 'ugly' groups with those deemed most beautiful transported elsewhere." After this humiliation, Du'a was forcibly "married" to a Muslim man. Deeply traumatized, she nevertheless later managed to escape.

What has become of the other kidnap victims? Some were killed, committed suicide, or trafficked as sex slaves. The Wilberforce team was not able to find out the specific fates of most. The Qaraqosh family's toddler girl is still missing, as is the Yazidi infant.

But in a report of February 4, 2015, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child sheds some light on the fate of the Islamic State's kidnapped children. It states that "markets" have been set up by the group, "in which they sell abducted children and women attaching price tags to them." It notes that the former Badoush prison outside Mosul is now used as a "makeshift prison" for "the sexual enslavement of children."

The Committee also reports on the systematic killing of minority children by the Islamic State, including "several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive."

Foreign fighters continue to stream into Iraq and Syria in unprecedented numbers to join the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Nick Rasmussen, chief of the National Counterterrorism Center attested yesterday at a House Homeland Security hearing. Committee chairman Representative Michael McCaul (R., Texas) called the influx "the largest convergence of Islamist terrorists in world history." At least 20,000 foreigners from 90 different countries have flocked there so far. U.S. intelligence officials fear this is creating a worldwide security problem, creating the conditions for more terror attacks like the one recently carried out in Paris, which was led by a French Muslim who reportedly trained with al-Qaeda in Yemen.

The military and security measures being discussed on Capitol Hill are inarguably necessary but there is also an important battle of ideas that should be taken seriously. The establishment of a caliphate in the heart of the Arab world has evoked a positive vision of an earthly utopia for some young radical Muslims, even for some born and raised in the West.

The sickening injustices and cruelties of the Islamic State, the genocide of religious minorities, as the Wolf report terms it, needs to be publicized. After a flurry of media reports last August, human-rights reporting on the Islamic State has slowed. It must be sustained. Reports such as these give the lie to any dream that the Islamic State's marauding is anything but an un-holy war.

This column was originally published in National Review Online.

Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Thomas Nelson Publishers, March 2013).

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