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COMMENT: Anonymous could be a force for good against ISIS... But will they?

A piece from today's Independent piqued my interest.

Anonymous seem to be on a propaganda drive to attack Islamic State accounts on Twitter and expose the true identities of those who post on the social network, according to a statement released today. Could Anonymous be atheists working against religious extremism?

There is hope. Couched in their characteristic Hallowe'en-movie rhetoric ("we are legion", "we are one", we will wear smiley masks ), the hacker collective seem to be rallying behind the battle cry of taking down one of the most revolting, brutal religious fundamentalist group in our era. Or at least significantly disrupting a lot of the online activity which allows it to rally its supporters.

All is not clear. Some exaggeration of Anonymous' powers, as pointed out in another piece in today's Independent, shows many disrupted Twitter accounts had been removed by the social network itself. But it is clear the collective means business and is crippling IS's online supporters. 

So, while the hackers have decided to step up their actions against violent Islamism, Anonymous also includes in its statement that "ISIS are not Muslims". 

Aren't they?

It seems the wishful thinking which is fundamental to all religious belief has seeped into the Anon collective too. You can argue that IS radicalism is unethical or doesn't represent what most Muslims believe, but to say they are not Muslims isn't just wrong, it is failing to hold Islam responsible for real problems at its core.

As Sam Harris points out in The End of Faith, fundamentalism is only a problem if  the fundamentals of a religion are violent or dangerous to begin with. Nobody stays up at night worrying whether a Jain fundamentalist is going to blow up their children. A Jain fundamentalist may starve himself to death on the idea that the principle of not harming other living things bans him from eating even vegetables or leaving the house. An extreme interpretation of Jain theology perhaps, but certainly not one which is likely to kill anyone but the nut who believes it.

Islam, just like Christianity before it, and Judaism before Christianity, must face up to the reality of its violent core texts. The licence for slavery, forced marriage of children and the savage butchery of apostates and heathens was found by IS activists in the Qur'an and the Hadith. IS fighters are going by the principles of a religious text which contains moral injunctions most people now acknowledge as cruel, barbaric and wrong. But mainstream Islam still holds these texts to be inerrant and unquestionable. Despite moves in this direction, there has still been no Islamic reformation.

So even though I will sleep more soundly tonight knowing hacktivists are putting spanners in the works of IS cruelty, I have my doubts as to how realistic Anon's aims are. This statement may have been nothing more than an attempt to distance Anon's attacks from those of anti-Islamic organisations. But it smacks of naïveté.

I have denounced the dangerous Islamophobic trends in France and elsewhere in this blog and will continue to do so. Nobody should be arrested without a clear warrant in grounds that they are Muslim, or even apologists for terrorism. But let's be clear about one thing. Monotheistic, messaianic religion is violent and dangerous in its core, and we should have the courage to denounce it as such when its most aggressive proponents speak for it. To put it plainly if IS say they are Muslims and do things which are explicitly permitted by the Qur'an, then Islam has a problem. Pretending religious fundamentalism had nothing to do with religion will get us nowhere.


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