Ask A Feminist: What Do We Do About ISIS?

Flag of the Islamic State.

OK, feminists. What do you think we should do about Islamic extremists? Not that Islamic extremists would listen to you, since Muslims hate women.

Imaginary Confrontational Jerk

Whoa, whoa, whoa there. Let’s settle down a little. The issue of murderous factions of extremists is a pretty fucking scary one and there’s a lot we need to do to fix the problem, starting with learning enough of Islam to stop saying dumb shit like they all hate women. I’ve never read the Quran or attended a mosque, but I’m pretty certain that if anyone had the chance to speak directly with the god Allah or the Prophet Muhammad, they would not be saying “Bitches be crazy, yo. Keep them bitches down.” Pretty much no holy person ever has said anything like that. True holy folks like the human race. The whole human race. 

That’s not to say there aren’t people walking the planet today who do hate women. There most certainly are. 4chan and entire sections of Reddit illustrate that. But the people who hate women are not religious extremists. They’re assholes. Some of them use religion to try and justify their assholery, but don’t be taken in. We’re all smart people here, and we can call a fuckwit a fuckwit.

That being said, groups of terrorists organizing to create murder and mayhem is a big problem globally. The terrorist flavor of the week is ISIS, but I’m old enough to remember Al-Qaida, the IRA, and the Contra rebels in South America. I’m not old enough to really remember the Weather Underground and other US-based groups of extremists who planted bombs, but history hasn’t forgotten them. Since time immemorial, there have been groups of the discontent who have fought to shatter the contentment of others. They’ve had many names and been in many places, and their impact has varied widely. It was the group of rebellious senators who murdered Caesar in the streets. It was King John sitting on his cousin’s throne and bleeding the people of England dry while Richard fought the Crusades. It was Guy Fawkes. It was Timothy McVeigh.

It doesn’t matter what excuse they use. It doesn’t matter what god’s will they cite. Terrorists are blindly angry. Angry because of their circumstances. Blind because they see no way to change circumstances peacefully.

Now, I’m no military or intelligence strategist so I can’t say how to track, pin down, and eliminate cells of terrorists. But I am a person who has a history of working in advocacy so I can say a few things about empowering the powerless.The first thing I say is we have to find out why they’re angry. What are the circumstances that cause the anger? And I mean the real answer to that question, not the bullshit about some god hating the way other people do things and directing terrorists to kill. No, we need to get to the real roots of the problem. Those roots are likely easy to identify. How hungry are they and their families? How cold? How poor? How hopeless do they feel when they try and fail to find a steady source of food, of heat, of wealth? If you have nothing and have no hope of gaining anything, then there’s nothing to stop you from hating everyone who isn’t in the same situation. If you have no bread, and your neighbor glibly suggests cake instead, well...ask Marie Antoinette how that goes.

So, now you’re probably saying “OK, smarty pants, you think feeding people will stop terrorism?” No. I don’t think a hot meal will stop terrorism today. But combating the intense poverty that afflicts many parts of the world could diminish terrorism in the next generation. If I were in charge of a long-range plan to combat terrorism, building hope would be my goal. I would do it by shoring up power grids and water provision in impoverished areas. I would train teachers and nurses in all villages and towns. I would bring in agriculture experts to create sustainable farming customized to the climate. I would research ways to create industry using local skills and resources and provide capital to set that up. Providing food, heat, light, education, jobs, and, most importantly, hope could reduce the anger of powerlessness. The person with a way to provide for himself, his family, and future generations has no need to reduce his neighbor to ashes.

I’m sure there are a million reasons my ideas aren’t enough. But I see no reason that feminists can’t think like the Peace Corps when we talk about terrorism. Especially since the war machines of the world haven’t eradicated it yet. What do we have to lose?

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