On Sept. 10, 2014, President Obama, in a televised address to the nation, presented a plan for combating and eliminating ISIS. Two days later, ISIS responded by beheading their third victim, a British subject David Haynes, whom they held prisoner in Syria.

Mike Haynes, the grief stricken brother of the murdered man, issued a tearful statement to the press saying: “The radicalization of the world, not of Islam, is to blame for my brother’s murder.” I empathize with Mr. Haynes’ grief. I disagree with his blame finding. ISIS readily and appropriately claimed responsibility for the crime.

Radical Islam, like Hydra of Greek mythology, has many tentacles. Boko Haram has taken hundreds of young girls into captivity and sold them into slavery and human trafficking. The Taliban has committed mass murders of men, women and children. In an attempted murder, they shot Malala Yousafzai in the head for advocating education for girls (since then, she became the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize at 17). Al Qaeda hijacked planes and used them as missiles to kill thousands of people by flying them into buildings. ISIS executed thousands, committing genocide against religious communities. They posted images of beheadings or burning of hostages on social media. The brutality of Islam’s radicals stands out in infamy. Even Nazis and Stalin did not gloat and boast about their barbarism.

Radical Muslims claim to represent Islam. They also profess adhering to its fundamental beliefs. Their conduct, however, defiles the image of a noble and great religion. They invoke God’s name as they perpetrate atrocities against humanity and violate the directives of their religion which says: “If you take one human life you murder all humanity.” Meanwhile, responses by the mainstream Muslim communities have been timid and insipid. 

As a result, the world is left with a distorted image of Islam.

In a previous essay, I equated the spread of radical Islam with the pandemic spread of a deadly virus like ebola. Focusing on elimination of only ISIS or any other terrorist group is myopic. It’s like having physicians treat symptoms instead of addressing the underlying disease. Factions of Islamic radicalism are analogous to lesions on an infected body. In this case, Islam is the host body to the pestilence.

A parasitic virus devastates and eventually kills its host. Hence, Islam is in peril. An early symptom of the impending devastation of Islam is having its shining image stained, tarnished and defaced by the radicals. Losses of stature, credibility, respect, and trust are likely to follow in an insidious progression.

The spread of such decay would make Islam ineffectual and irrelevant as a religion. Western military powers cannot provide an antidote. Mainstream Islam must purge the pathogens, cleanse itself, and reform, or it will succumb to the infection and perish.

Fred Natkevi is an Oak Park resident.

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