Monsters Command Fear, Losers Like ISIS Command Nothing

By Tim Brauhn, Communications Manager.

This opinion appeared at the ING blog.

I don’t often find common currency with our Chief Executive’s speeches, but earlier this week while referring to the perpetrators of the Manchester Arena terror attack, our President said, “I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them, from now on, losers, because that’s what they are. They are losers.”

In his idiosyncratic way, the President nailed down perhaps one of the best descriptions of terrorists that I’ve ever heard. Losers. Not monsters. Why? Because monsters inspire fear and awe and, sometimes, loyalty. But losers?

No way. Nobody wants to follow a loser. Nobody wants to cheer the works of losers. And who could be bigger losers than Muslim extremists like ISIS and its ilk? Their philosophy of violence and nihilism has failed — for centuries — to gain serious traction in Muslim communities around the world. Yet they keep trying to convince Muslims that theirs is the true path. And they keep failing.

Violent, extremist interpretations of any faith, Islam included, are at their core bankrupt ideologies. You peel back the layers of the ISIS Onion and find that there’s no “there” there. It has no motivating kernel beyond violence and death. Certainly not love of god and fellow human.

In a time of conflict, angry people often make (admittedly bad) allowances for attacks on military or political targets. That’s how we’ve done war since forever. But an arena full of little kids, teenagers, and their parents who cheerfully lugged them to an Ariana Grande concert? You can’t make allowances for that because…there’s no “there” there. It’s anti-human.

Our best reaction to an attack like this isn’t to restrict immigration from Libya. It isn’t to unjustly surveil Muslim communities on suspicion of future attacks. It isn’t to fall victim to the very philosophy that ISIS advances: that there is an inherent incompatibility between Islam and “the rest of us”. And it isn’t to carpet-bomb large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Our best reaction is to actively shame the kinds of people who claim that blowing up an arena full of children is good Islamic practice. Because the more that we — all of us, Christian, Muslim, and otherwise — show that ISIS and Co. are losers undeserving of our fear or awe or loyalty, the more that their bankrupt ideology of violence carries less weight with those who, for whatever reason, would cast their lot with them.

The President is gloriously and plainly correct. Members of ISIS are not monsters. They’re losers.