3 Sep 2014

Archbishop: we must counter the ‘obscene simplicity’ of IS ideology

Speaking to me after an interfaith vigil for peace in Iraq, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby deplored the lack of a global strategy from world leaders for what he said could not be understood as a local problem.

“[extremist activity] is happening in Iraq, it’s happening as we speak in northern Nigeria, it’s happening in many other parts of the world. This is not a local issue.

“We can’t just take one place and then think we’ve dealt with it – it’s a Hydra with many heads.”

So are we losing the propaganda war?

The Archbishop tells me it goes deeper than that: “I think it goes to the heart of what motivates people and gives them a sense that they have value in life and a purpose in life – and that’s as much a spiritual as a practical question.

“It’s not mere propaganda, it’s not just losing arguments. People don’t go to the Middle East because they’ve heard a good argument from someone in a sermon, or elsewhere – they good because they have a sense that they have been called to do that.”

And what is that driving force?

According to the Archbishop, it is a “misshapen presentation of faith”.

“It is a distortion, but a distortion that has a simplicity, and that simplicity appears to have attracted some people and we need to counter that .. by giving people a purpose in life that is different from that obscene and terrible simplicity.”

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2 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    “So are we losing the propaganda war?”

    The answer to that is an obvious and resounding Yes. And why be surprised when anybody with their head screwed on the right way round can see what terror the West has inflicted around the World?

    Impressionable and righteous young minds see that kind of murderous, boastful activity and it triggers all their naive idealism to defend what they see as criminal assault.

    Welby is EXACTLY wrong when he says this is “misshapen presentation of faith.” It is precisely the opposite, as the history of ALL religious “faiths” will tesitify. Those who operate thus are convinced they are doing “God’s will.” The Bible, for instance, is full of such stories.

    The difference now is how the internet has almost discounted “normal” propaganda methods. For instance Channel 4 News reporting on the Middle East and Ukraine is now so preposterous it is almost laughable. And that is why Western propaganda is failing.

    There is only one rule Western Imperialists adhere to: THEY NEVER LEARN.

  2. Christopher says:

    It is difficult to do this (counter it) though when many people, particularly in the media, politics and other places of influence, want to bundle ‘religion’ together, whilst at the same time not allowing critique.

    We seem to be caught between the ‘modernists’ on the one hand who reject faith and religion as being credible and therefore patronise anybody who fits in that manufactured bracket, and ‘post-modernists’ on the other hand who say all belief systems are equal and it is prejudiced and discriminatory to disagree with another person’s faith perspective.

    This means the philosophical – and as a consequence practical – differences between worldviews/beliefs cannot be understood and critiqued and therefore those following harmful ideologies cannot be challenged.

    Usually there is a boundary, and within that boundary all worldviews are equally accepted (except by atheist aggressive secularists and other so-called ‘fundamentalists’), and it is considered wrong for those ideologies to be subjected to reasoned debate and critique. Conversely, outside that boundary the worldviews and worldview-holders are considered crazy and/or evil and therefore their ideologies are INCAPABLE of being subjected to reasoned debate and critique, and to do so would be considered legitimising them and affording them an undesirable façade of credibility.

    So what really needs to occur is for the modernists to get past this unwillingness to open ‘religion’ to reasoned critique in an open-minded manner, and the post-modernists to understand that not all worldviews are equally valid, accurate or positive.

    Islamic ideology is clearly different from Christian ideology, and even within both those worldview communities there are vast differences in beliefs, to the extent that it is difficult to have a definitive ‘Islamic’ or ‘Christian’ perspective, even though the fundamentalists and moderates wish to suggest there is.

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