A recent 60 Minutes broadcast provided an illuminating glimpse into the global “war on terror.” The April 25 episode included a provocative segment on Islam entitled “Jihadists and the Narrative.” The episode highlighted Pakistani-British citizen Maajid Nawaz, a former Muslim extremist who now works to combat Jihadist ideology.
Once a chief recruiter for the Islamic extremist group Hizb Ut-Tahrir (“Party of Liberation”), Nawaz eventually concluded that radical Jihadist Islam is closer to a form of fascistic totalitarianism than to traditional Islam. In an interview with journalist Lesley Stahl, Nawaz says that everyday Muslims with little interest in politics are nevertheless being turned into radical Jihadists by what is known as “The Narrative.”
The United States of America (and its allies) is out to obliterate Islam, says The Narrative. Thus, both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were waged intentionally by America in order to achieve this goal, primarily by killing Muslims.
Many Muslims who embrace this narrative also believe the September 11 attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans were an inside job by the U.S. government. Blaming the attacks on Al-Qaida was a pretense, then, to invade the Islamic countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. The appropriate response to this America-driven war against Islam, according to The Narrative, is for faithful Muslims to strike back against the U.S. on all fronts.
Nawaz asserts that many young Muslims swayed by Jihadist ideology are economically affluent and university educated. In fact he says, “It’s intelligent people that adopt ideologies.” The 60 Minutes episode also noted that United Kingdom universities count an inordinate number of radical Muslims among their students. According to Nawaz, The Narrative is a clever use of propaganda by a totalitarian ideology he calls “Islamism”.
In response to this problem, Nawaz has founded the Quilliam Foundation a think tank that seeks to counter the message of The Narrative. He believes persuading Muslims that The Narrative is false is the way to stop the war between the West and radical Islam. In his lectures and debates he asks: “Is it not a crime when Muslims are killing Muslims? Why are we busy making excuses for the terrorists?” And Nawaz asserts: “The Jihadists are guilty of killing innocent civilians.”
Four Apologetics Reflections
Such a stimulating interview calls for four Christian considerations in response.
First, this program demonstrates the absolute need to subject grand government conspiracy theories to sustained critical analysis. It is terribly ironic that Americans who believe 9/11 was an inside job (estimated to be one third of Americans) agree with the radical Jihadists committed to fighting the United States.
I respectfully challenge anyone (especially Christians) who believes in the 9/11 conspiracy to read and contemplate the points in my article “Thinking Through Big Government Conspiracy Theories,” published in the previous edition of New Reasons to Believe. Careful attention should be paid to the five logical questions to consider when thinking about alleged plots. It is deeply troubling to note that the Jihadist enemies of America––motivated in large part by a bogus conspiracy theory––are striking against innocent civilians.
Second, the 60 Minutes broadcast also illustrates the absolutely critical––even life or death––role of big picture thinking (ideology, worldview) for individuals, nations, and civilizations. Christians who want to engage effectively in evangelism, missions, and apologetics must learn to think in terms of worldview. Knowing the basic categories of worldview thinking and how to test worldviews is crucial.
Third, Christians must value and practice sound principles of logic and critical thinking. Believers are not immune to unhealthy ideological thinking and bogus conspiracy theories. As part of the imago Dei, human beings possess intellectual faculties necessary to be what theologian John Calvin called “hunters and gatherers of truth.” Scripture implores believers to be wise and discerning when it comes to truth-claims (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Fourth, believers would do well to study the basic tenets of Islam and how those beliefs differ with the essential teaching of historic Christianity. Islam is a major force today with approximately 1.5 billion adherents worldwide. Moreover, Islam constitutes not just a religion but also a civilization and a distinct world-and-life view.
Ultimately, a false narrative needs to be replaced by the true narrative; one that results in not only a temporary cessation of hostilities, but also in everlasting peace.
E-Zine Article: “Thinking Through Big Government Conspiracy Theories”
E-Zine Article: “Religious Faces in the Crowd: The Prophet and the Son of God”