Darrow Miller and Friends

The War Against ISIS is a Religious War

In the War on Terrorism, We Must Win the War of Ideas.”

Helle C. Dale, senior fellow in public diplomacy at the Heritage Foundation, says it all in the title of her recent post at The Daily Signal.

Why is this true? Because in the same way that every action is rooted in a thought, entire movements spring from sets of ideas. To ignore this reality is hapless folly. As we watch the evil flow of jihadist terrorism engulfing wretched victims and threatening free societies, no effort to stem that tide which does not include the ideological element can ultimately succeed.

Unfortunately, the Western media, and intelligentsia, steeped as they are in an atheistic-materialist worldview, seem to be little inclined to consider how religious and ideological elements might play into these conflicts. But South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is one exception. Graham effectively expressed the truth about this matter during an interview on Fox News last week.

We are in a religious war with radical Islamists who’ve embraced a religious doctrine that requires them, compelled by [Allah], to purify their religion, to kill all moderate Muslims or people who don’t agree with them within the faith, to destroy every other religion.

The jihadists themselves understand the religious nature of this war. Their recruitment messages appeal unabashedly to youths—male and female—who are disaffected with the superficiality in life in the West. They want to change the world and ISIS gives them that opportunity, as Holly Yan writes at CNN World.

It’s a message frequently posted by ISIS on social media: “You have to join. It’s your religious duty,” CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said.

today's conflict with jihadism is a religious war says Darrow Miller in Emancipating the WorldThe false messages of ISIS can only be countered by the truths of the Bible. This is one of the messages from Darrow Miller’s 2012 book, Emancipating the World:  A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism. His analysis includes the following excerpt which speaks to the religious nature of the current conflict which, for many millions of people, effectively began on September 11, 2001.

A Religious War

Most Western media, news, and university elites are cultural relativists; they are tone-deaf to the pronouncements of the jihadists. They see the poverty of and injustices committed against Muslim societies as the primary source of jihadists’ rage against the West. And yet, as we have seen, this is not the rhetoric fueling al-Qaeda. The elites of the Western world are in a Neville Chamberlain mode, in denial of the dangers we face.

Dr. Mary Habeck, associate professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, has written:

The consistent need to find explanations other than religious ones for the attacks says, in fact, more about the West than it does about the jihadis. Western scholars have generally failed to take religion seriously. Secularists . . . discount the plain sense of religious statements made by the jihadis themselves. To see why jihadis declared war on the United States and tried to kill as many Americans as possible, we must be willing to listen to their own explanations. To do otherwise is to impose a Western interpretation on the extremists, in effect to listen to ourselves rather than to them.[1] [emphasis added]

We have witnessed this over and over again in the politically correct statements of President Obama and his administration. In November 2009 US Army major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim radical, cried “Allahu Akbar” as he murdered fourteen people and wounded thirty-one at the Fort Hood army base. Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, commented on the rampage: “This was an individual who does not, obviously, represent the Muslim faith.”[2] In February 2010 the Department of Homeland Security’s Quadrennial Homeland Security Report “failed to make any reference to the Islamist nature of the threat.”[3]

Today many academics, reporters, and government officials view the world through an atheistic and materialistic set of glasses. They see all problems and their solutions through political and economic lenses. They cannot understand how jihadists can be motivated by religious belief. Robert Spencer, American author and director of Jihad Watch, writes:

Even at the Wall Street Journal they don’t understand that the primary motivation of the jihadists is a religious ideology, not resentment born of economic injustice or marginalization. Economic injustice and marginalization are things they understand; a religious ideology that can move men to give up good lives and devote themselves to murder and destruction is so far out of their purview that they cannot even imagine it, and take all the evidence of it that is in front of their faces as indications of something else.[4]

–  Darrow Miller

[1] Mary Habeck, Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 7.

[2] “Napolitano Warns against Anti-Muslim Backlash,” Fox News, November 8, 2009, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/11/08/napolitano-warns-anti-muslim-backlash/.

[3] Kim R. Holmes, “Who Links Terrorism to Islam? Not America,” The Washington Times, February 19, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/feb/19/who-links-terrorism-to-islam-not-america/.

[4] Robert Spencer, “Does America Have a ‘Muslim Problem’?” FrontPageMagazine.com, September 9, 2005, http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=7325.



See these related posts:

Every Conflict is Rooted in a War of Ideas

What A Nation’s Culture Reveals About its God

Home-Grown Terror: The Fruit of a Neglected Worldview


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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).


  1. Randy Uthe

    January 19, 2015 - 4:12 pm

    Ok Darrow,

    You’re right, ideology and epistemology don’t have anything to do with it. It is primarily a religious issues. Not that there aren’t fundamentalist and foundationalists within Christianity or Judaism; or even Hinduism or Buddhism that cause similar problems. Of course there are specific ideological and cultural issues within Islam that make it uniquely vulnerable to certain behaviors but hey, not like they are the only religion or social group to be hijacked right!? We both agree that Christianity has the better answer, but again we’ll agree to disagree on the subtleties of the interactions of culture, epistemology, philosophy, socio-economics and upbringing on religion.

    • admin

      January 30, 2015 - 4:36 am

      Good Morning Randy

      Always good to hear from you. Yes, we can agree that there have been radical wings in most religious movements that have brought havoc to their communities regions and reputations. And this is so, even for the “non-religious” – secularists. Their reach through Fachsim and communism has perhaps been the most bloody century of human history. And in this century, it is proving to be the radical Islamists who are defining the violence. It has been good lately to see President of Egypt el-Sisi calling for reform within Islam. May he prove to be a man of peace.


  2. Clark Dahl

    January 20, 2015 - 7:02 pm

    “Most Western media, news, and university elites are cultural relativists; they are tone-deaf to the pronouncements of the jihadists.” This tone-deafness must be related to their stone blindness regarding the reality of fallen man. It is simply amazing to me, that given all the evidence of the jihadis violence, they do not understand that the jihadis don’t want empathy, that they will destroy the elites just as much as the rest of us, given the chance. We will understand why, the elites won’t have a clue. I mean they “empathized” didn’t they?