Sadly, ISIS has chosen to behead Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old man from Indianapolis. Peter, who converted to Islam while in captivity and changed his name to Abdul Rahman, was a humanitarian. He went to Syria to help people suffering in the Civil War there and was captured by ISIS.
It seems his captors cannot understand the concept of humanitarianism, even though charity and charitable works is one of the five pillars of Islam.
I am reminded again of our experience in Ghana, where we lived for seven years. Frequently, people would accuse me of working for the CIA, in spite of my protestations to the contrary. At the time, I had never even lived in the United States, let alone worked for the American government. I came to the conclusion that they could not comprehend why any westerner would live in West Africa when they didn’t have to; that trying to serve people was an alien concept to them.
We in the West can be quite naïve when it comes to other cultures. We cannot understand how different the thinking is. Another victim of this failure to understand was a British taxi driver who was beheaded a few weeks ago. Again, like Peter Kassig, he had gone to Syria to help alleviate suffering.
A further example of the incredible gulf between west and east lies in history. In the West most people are not interested in history. This is especially true of the United States. It comes as quite a shock to find that in the Middle East, history really matters. When Peter Kassig’s executioner referred to Coalition soldiers as “Crusaders,” he was referring to the crusades that began in 1095 and continued for two centuries. Frequent references to the crusades show that, to many in the Middle East, it’s as if they were a recent event. Israel is often referred to as “the Crusader State,” thereby avoiding the use of the word “Israel.” Westerners in the Middle East are seen as the modern equivalent of the Crusaders, out to conquer the region at the earliest opportunity.
The author Salman Rushdie, who came from a Muslim background, explained in a speech some years ago, that when a Muslim from the Middle East comes to Detroit, he is not looking for an opportunity to better himself, to take advantage of the American way of life. Rather, he sees himself as part of the advance guard that will spread Islam to the United States. With this intent in mind, perhaps it’s not surprising they cannot understand why Americans go to their part of the world.
A third lesson from this tragic incident is that the West is going through a prolonged period of religious confusion. After decades of anti-Christian propaganda in schools, it’s not surprising that so many of our young people, like Peter Kassig, convert to Islam, which is a simpler religion. Islam is even propagated in schools in an attempt to promote multiculturalism. However, converting to Islam, as some captives have done, does not gain any mercy from ISIS captors.
There will no doubt be more beheadings. American troops are still in the area. If any of them are captured, they can expect the same fate, along with any other aid workers from western countries still hoping to make a difference.