The National Interest

When reporting on the Islamic State, try reporting on more than its ties to Islam

When reporting on the Islamic State, try reporting on more than its ties to Islam

We're told that on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, ISIS is consistently losing ground, thanks in the main to air strikes led by Russia and the United States. But here's something else, perhaps even more important.

Poll results released last week said that ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, and, in Arabic, Daesh) is also losing ground in the battle for popular support among Arab Muslims

This piece from The Washington Post details the poll in question. Here's the nut of it:

The new poll, based on face-to-face interviews with 3,500 respondents ages 18 to 24, suggests that young Arabs are both increasingly fearful of the terrorist group and less swayed by its propaganda, compared with previous years. More than half the participants ranked the Islamic State as the No. 1 problem facing the Middle East, and 3 out of 4 said they believed that the group would ultimately fail in its quest to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
The survey suggests that religious fervor plays a secondary role, at best, when young Arabs do decide to sign up with the Islamic State. When asked why Middle Easterners join the group, the participants listed joblessness or poor economic prospects as the top reason. Only 18 percent cited religious views — a “belief that their interpretation of Islam is superior to others” — and nearly as many picked sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites as the chief motivating factor.
Young Arabs from countries with high unemployment rates were more likely to list economic hardship as a top reason for wanting to join the Islamic State, the survey found. The results align with the findings of other researchers who have noted that many recruits use religion mostly as a rationalization.

Now that's interesting. Economics is said to be the driving factor; not religious radicalization but religious rationalization. Which is to say that there's more to the problem of ISIS than its version of Islam, as some on the anti-Muslim right -- including you-know-which-presidential-wannabes -- loudly exclaim.

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Concerning 'evangelicals,' dogs, pick-up trucks, Southern 'stuff' and, yes, Donald Trump

Concerning 'evangelicals,' dogs, pick-up trucks, Southern 'stuff' and, yes, Donald Trump

When you grow up as a Southern Baptist in Texas, you hear lots of good preaching and you hear lots and lots of what can only be called "Southern stuff."

Every region has its share of off verbal twists and turns, but I'll put the Deep South at the top of the list when it comes to off-the-wall sayings and wisecracks. There are plenty of blunt Southern grandmothers who are funnier -- intentionally or otherwise -- than some comedians I could name.

So listen now as World magazine scribe Warren Cole Smith -- author of the book "A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church" -- tries to sum up the whole "Donald Trump is the savior of evangelical voters" debate with one deep-fried expression that I am sure he stole from some older member of his family. This is from an essay called "10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Evangelicals" at OnFaith.

We have an old saying in my part of the South: “Just because my dog sleeps in the garage, that doesn’t make him a pick-up truck.” Just because a blogger calls himself (or herself) an evangelical doesn’t make it so. You don’t have to vote Republican or go to a particular church, but you gotta believe in that stuff in #1 above, or you’re something else.

Ah, but there is the rub. What is the doctrinal content of his #1 reference? And who gets to case a so-called "evangelical" into outer darkness?

We could argue about all that 'til the cows come home (and your GetReligionistas have been spilling digital ink on that topic for 12 years) and not agree on the fine details.

But, journalists, here is the key once again: The term "evangelical" must be defined in some way by belief and behavior (again, read Ed Stetzer and the Rev. Leith Anderson), more than the political issues of the day. (Yes, there are ancient doctrines linked to marriage, abortion, adultery and other issues that often affect political debates.) So where does Smith start?

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