Few Call it War: Religious Terrorism: Then and Now

Few Call it War: Religious Terrorism: Then and Now

by Robert Michael Hicks


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Most Americans could not fathom how Islamic terrorists could bring down the World Trade Center or an army psychiatrist could turn on his own soldiers, taking their lives in the name of his religion. How could an ex-army veteran blow up a federal building, or a Jewish doctor gun down Muslims at worship? Or how can one understand why a meditation guru would put sarin gas in a Tokyo subway? None of these incidents fit our conceptions of the benevolence of religion. More importantly, is there something inherent within religions that justifies the taking of human lives?

In Few Call It War , Dr. Robert Hicks explores these questions and takes the blinders off illuminating the roots of religious violence, what religious terrorists have in common, and how they differ. He focuses on the current administration’s struggle to call ISIS or ISIL what it really is: War. Hicks disagrees with the administration’s slow recognition of this enemy. In reality, this war is not as unique as some might think. It is a modern explosion of ancient religious ideologies that masks its historic roots. As Hicks points out, all major religions have used violence and terrorist methodologies at some points in their histories. Few Call It War reveals how the teachings of religious founders and the sacred writings attributed to them provide rich soil from which contemporary religious clerics and ideologues gain converts.

Hicks raises the crucial question often asked: “Is there any difference between a Timothy McVeigh and an Osama bin Laden?” For those making the moral equivalence arguments between various terrorists, Hicks dispels the equivalence with a clear understanding of history and religious ideologies. If one is interested in gaining an answer to the question, “Of all the religions in the world, which are most prone to using violence?” Few Call ItWar provides a well-reasoned answer that is well worth the read.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781630477851
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 07/19/2016
Pages: 286
Sales rank: 321,497
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Dr. Robert Michael Hicks, a military chaplain of thirty-two years and a retired colonel of the United States Air Force, has also served as an undergraduate and graduate instructor at various institutions. Currently, he is adjunct professor of history at Belhaven University in Orlando, Florida. A published author of eleven books including bestsellers Masculine Journey and Failure to Scream , Hicks also regularly consults with military and law enforcement agencies and has made more than 300 radio and TV appearances.

Read an Excerpt


The Blinders Were On Prior to 9/11

Awakened by a boom ... boom ... boom, I quickly looked at my watch. It was 5:30 in the morning. Rushing to the door of my thatched enclosure, I saw nothing. I had no idea what had happened until I dressed and walked to our kibbutz breakfast at eight o'clock. Over a Mediterranean breakfast of boiled eggs, cheese, and juice, I learned the news. A cadre of Islamic terrorists had come ashore across from Camp Achiev, where I was spending the night with other students. They had been spotted by Israeli naval forces.

The booms I had heard were the sounds of Israeli gunboats zeroing in on the hostile intruders. The only populated area in the region was the very camp in which I was spending the night. The targeted victims were self-evident. Within an hour or so, news cameras were on scene reporting the incident. The speed with which they arrived amazed the whole community at Camp Achiev. It was my first close call with Middle East terrorism.

It's one thing to read about such events or to watch the repeated images on television. But when I realized the terrorists were coming for me and my companions, everything changed. After the explosion a deflated dinghy was pulled ashore, loaded with all kinds of explosives, AK47s and grenades. It was a direct confrontation with reality and with my own mortality.

An appalling irony immediately struck me. I was in Israel in 1980 to study its geography with primary interest in Biblical history. Suddenly I was confronted not with identification of Biblical sites but with contemporary geopolitical issues. In that moment over breakfast, I felt like a naïve victim of something much larger than myself. Being a student of ancient history did not make me immune to current history.

Years later I led a small group of adults on a tour of Israel. I had planned a day of walking around the old city of Jerusalem, complete with lectures at the famous Biblical gates. While driving from our hotel to the old city, we turned toward the New Gate passing the Notre Dame Hospice. Suddenly an angry crowd of black-hatted Hasidic Jews confronted us with stones in hand. As I waited for the light to change I noticed the car in front of our VW bus had Palestinian license plates. Immediately, the Hasidic Jews hurled stones at that car. I looked over at my guide, a former student, friend, and reservist in the Israeli army. I blurted out, "What do I do now?" Without acknowledging my request or even looking at me, he lowered his head and started praying! As I looked to him desperately for direction, he merely prayed for God's protection. I had to confess later that I was looking for some military tactic to get us out of there, not prayer! But his prayer must have worked. As the Hasidic crowd pounded the car in front of us with stones, not one rock hit our bus. As we drove around the corner, we breathed a sigh of relief, realizing we had been spared, while also wondering about the fate of the Palestinians in the car. At that moment I again realized the ever-present realities of being in the Middle East. Terrorism not only comes from the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) Muslims, but also from Israeli Jews ... religious, orthodox, yarmulke-wearing Jews.

But a particular group of Christians needs to be included in the list of terrorists as well.

While I was serving as National Guard Chaplain my commander asked me to evaluate the conscience of one of our unit members. Racist literature had been found at various locations on our base, and it had been attributed to this individual. As Chaplain, I was tasked to evaluate the sincerity of this individual and his religious beliefs. When I spoke with him, his beliefs were very apparent. He felt America had been taken over by political correctness that had excluded and devalued the rights of white Anglo-Saxon males. He believed the US Constitution duly authorized state National Guard units (militia) for the protection of a state's citizens. As such they were the only hope for the restoration of distinctively white Anglo-Saxon values. The discovered literature expressed themes of white supremacy, the dominance of Christian Identity and the necessity of arming for a coming conflict with federal government authorities. In short, the beliefs he advocated were just as violent as the Muslim and Jewish acts I had encountered in the Middle East. The only difference lay in the "Christian" justifications he claimed from the Bible. In short, I became fascinated by the commonalities in attitudes and actions I observed in these diverse religious groups.

While my fellow guardsman was relieved of his commitment to the National Guard based upon his racist views, I realized there was not much difference between his Christian Identity beliefs and the views of the PLO in Lebanon or some of the orthodox Jewish settlers in Israel. Striking commonalities existed between the views of rightwing religious Jews in Israel and the Islamic and Christian groups who justify violence in the name of God.

Years later, I was equally shocked to learn that a Japanese religious cult conducted the first use of a weapon of mass destruction. As I watched the news coverage and read the literature detailing the release of lethal sarin gas in a Tokyo subway, I had to drastically change my view about Eastern religions. The information that surfaced was that the group, Aum Shinrikyo, was anything but a passive group that only practiced meditation. In fact, they were apocalyptic, genocidal, and messianic. Aum surprised even the most sophisticated intelligence networks by their clandestine underground operations. The impact of their significance was made pale only by the horror of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing which happened a few weeks later.

This raises a fundamental question. What do a decorated Gulf War veteran, a Jewish rabbi, a Saudi billionaire's son, and a blind Japanese acupuncturist have in common? To the average observer they are as diverse as oil and water. Upon deeper investigation they have a surprising common attribute. They are all terrorists! Not only are they terrorists, they are terrorists of a particular, very unique kind ... true believing religious terrorists, individuals whose faith in God apparently directs them to justify violence in God's name. The violence to which they are committed flows from the passion of their religious convictions and respective faith histories. As such they are unique and far more difficult to understand than the traditional political terrorist. In the opinion of this writer, they are potentially far more lethal.

Prior to 9/11 most Americans viewed the sporadic expressions of terrorist violence as inhuman and shocking. The events might have captured our attention for a few days, but then after bingeing on the coverage, we returned to our routines without giving much thought to the deeper significance of the violence. The press did not help either. They were quick to place labels on terrorists in the void of meaningless, irrational events. "Religious Fundamentalists," "Extremists," "Right-Wing Radicals," and "Militants," became convenient sound bites to explain the complexity and severity of these terrorist actors. Pop psychology "experts" portrayed terrorists as wide-eyed, drug-induced fanatics or undereducated disenfranchised poor ... both being used by clandestine political players to carry out political ambitions. This is where most academics stuck to the purely political approach in trying to understand this new breed of terrorism. The approach resulted in a political oversimplification that failed miserably to explain the religious complexity of the nature of this violence. It doesn't grant the crucial, fundamental premise that sincere, religiously motivated individuals can carry out violent acts in the name of God ... a terror in the name of Heaven that few call war. It is to this premise that this book is written.

My interest in the subject of religious terrorism began very early in my educational experience. While studying history, I was surprised by the extreme violence that took place at the hands of supposedly godly men. (Few women are found, though there have been women terrorists.) The Christian Crusades, the Catholic Inquisitions, the Thirty Years' War, medieval pogroms against Jews, the religious wars between the popes and Protestants, and of course, the expansion of Islam by the sword of Mohammed, all seem to go against the nature of religion. Yet the history is there. During the sixties and seventies, I followed from a distance the terrorist acts of the fringe left. They were somewhat predictable, in-your-face terrorists who wanted everyone to know about their cause. Marxist and various Liberationists daringly hijacked airliners and kidnapped famous people for the notoriety it gave their cause. Groups like Black September, the Italian Red Guard, the Weathermen, and the Irish Republican Army were easy to understand because of their very clearly pronounced political agendas.

But during the past decade and a half, somewhat imperceptibly, a new kind of terrorist was born. This was a terrorist not motivated by mere political objectives. The hearts and motives of these perpetrators were elsewhere. Some didn't even care if their organizations or groups got credit for their violent acts. Knowing their objective to strike deep into the psyche of their enemy was pleasing to their God was in itself enough acknowledgement. No other credit or recognition would be required.

It was in the context of this cultural shift that I attended the United States Air Force War College. One of the first electives I took was entitled simply "Terrorism." Throughout my study in the course, I kept noticing what I considered religious underpinnings for many of the issues in discussion. Religious factors were significant players in the liberation movements in Central and South America and apartheid in South Africa. Likewise, religion dominated Middle East conflicts and played a significant role in understanding the conflicts in the Balkans. The renewal of the Russian Orthodox Church and its collusion with the new, more "democratic" Russian government, along with the "ethnic" war against Muslim Chechnya, illustrated the role religion was still playing in Russia. If religious tensions between Pakistan and India and the religious conflicts in the Sudan, Indonesia and North Africa are also factored in, it seems almost every hot spot in the world today has a religious dimension to it.

More recently, most of the Middle East has seen revolutions against long-serving leaders in the so-called Arab Spring. From Tunisia to Egypt, Bahrain to Baghdad, including now Libya and Syria, it would be naïve to think religion is not playing a role in events. Iraq is being split by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS or ISIL). Its leader, Al Baghdadi, has called for an Islamic Caliphate. Iran continues to support its Shia consensus in Baghdad proper but is being surrounded by ISIS. The Kurds in the north have fought well and reversed some ISIS advances, but only time will tell what the long term results will be: true democracies or religious states modeled after medieval caliphates?

My War College professor finally grew tired of my questioning and offered, "Look, I know a lot about terrorism, but very little about religion. Why don't you do your research project for this course on the subject of religious terrorism?" This volume was born in that exchange.

As it turned out, I wrote my War College thesis on "Right-Wing Religious Terrorism." Upon completion of the year I was offered an opportunity to stay and teach on the subject the following year. Most of the material and insights found in this book have their origin in the research done at the Air University Library (Maxwell AFB, AL) during those two years. Subsequent conversations with professors and fellow military officers filled in the gaps in research. These conversations included senior officers of all the armed services, international officers, DOD, CIA, FBI, and Department of State officials. Though classified sources were consulted in the research, all material found within this book is unclassified and available in the public domain. Conclusions or connections made by the author are his alone, and not to be taken as official statements by any of the branches of the US military or Department of State or other government agencies. I have tried to source my conclusions and connections with a reasonable amount of evidence for both the benefit of the reader and the conscience of the author.

The importance of this book arises from the emerging milieu of the twenty-first century. The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus somewhat prophetically observed in 1997, "The twenty-first century will be religious or it will not be at all ... At the threshold of the third millennium, it seems that the alternatives to religion have exhausted themselves ... The perversity of the human mind will no doubt produce other ideological madnesses, but at the moment it seems the historical stage has been swept clean, with only the religious proposition left standing."

With the ideological stage empty, religion has not only filled the vacuum, it has filled it with a vengeance. This conflict that few call war did not begin on 9/11, and it did not end with the killing of Osama bin Laden. Harlan Ullman, a DC policy adviser, cautions about the current American propensity for not doing war: "The Achilles' heel is our geostrategic thinking and fixation on winning battles not wars." He goes on to point out, "limited uses of force through no-fly zones ... and pre-emptive strikes, illustrates our failure to think seriously about wars, only battles." The vengeance continues and constitutes a holy terror, justified with heavenly credentials.

My year at the USAF Air War College was one of the finest educational experiences I have enjoyed. However a critique of the program lies in its omission of religion as a key player in the study of international relations, foreign policy and national security issues. Whatever subjects were discussed, the academic lenses given to us to evaluate issues were routinely the political, economic and military lenses. If religion was addressed at all, it was under a subcategory of cultural issues. It was not given the independent value it deserves.

At a 2011 symposium on the Role of Religion in Foreign and Public Policy, two former State Department speakers hit the nail on the head. They both confessed the official policy of the US State Department was this: Religion is a problem in doing foreign policy, therefore it is off limits to discuss. The perspective of these Georgetown University professors was: If religion is the problem, then it is also the solution and absolutely must be addressed.

What is even worse: religious discussion is also taboo in our own Supreme Court. Dahlia Lithwick, writing about Justice Antonin Scalia, says, "In a country averse to political debates about competitive faiths, nowhere is frank discussion of religion more taboo than at the US Supreme Court ... it is not something that's talked about in polite company." Not only does our State Department have blinders on when it comes to religion, but even our Supreme Court out of politeness sees it as a taboo subject.

The problem goes to the heart of our educational and political systems. Political scientists and government bureaucrats rarely study religion, and theologians are rarely interested in national security issues or foreign policy. I hope this work will bridge the gap.

"More than at any point in human history, the interest of nations and peoples are shared. The religious connections we hold in our hearts can forge new bonds among people or tear us apart."

President Barak Obama, UN General Assembly, September 22, 2009


This Kind of Terror is Not New

Early Religious Terrorism

What is surprising about the subject of religious terrorism is most of the earliest examples of terrorism are religious in nature. Some have argued that the Bible records one of the earliest terrorist acts in Jail's covert act of driving a tent peg through the skull of Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army, while he was asleep (Judges 4:21). From the writings of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, we learn of the sicarii, a Jewish political-religious faction that attacked fellow Jews who were not in favor of revolting against the Roman occupation. The Sicarii would attack during religious holidays and celebrations by hiding daggers (the sica) under their coats and murdering selected political enemies.

In the eleventh century a Shia Muslim sect called the Ismailis established an entire Order of Assassins active throughout Persia, Syria, and Palestine. They viewed Sunni Muslims as traitors and killed both Sunnis and Christians through clandestine actions. A Christian leader, the Marqui Conrad of Montferrat, who ruled Jerusalem at the time, was killed by a small group of dagger-carrying "emissaries" disguised as Christian monks. In offering advice to the King of France, a Christian priest advised, "I name the Assassins, who are to be cursed and fled. They sell themselves, are thirsty for blood, kill the innocent for a price, and care nothing for either life or salvation."


Excerpted from "Few Call It War"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Robert Michael Hicks.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter One The Blinders Were on Prior to 9/11

Chapter Two This Kind of Terror is not New

Chapter Three A Brief History of Religious Terrorism

Chapter Four The History of Violence in Religion

Chapter Five Zionists, Crusaders and Jihadists

Chapter Six The Jewish Fist: Sanctification of the Name

Chapter Seven Guns and Jesus: Christian Identity and the Patriot Movement

Chapter Eight Christian Patriots: Serious Activists and Stolen Identity

Chapter Nine Islamic Jihad: Holy or Unholy Warriors?

Chapter Ten Allah’s Sweet Revenge: Black Gold in the Ground

Chapter Eleven Unlikely Bedfellows: Uncommon Commonalities

Chapter Twelve Are All Terrorists and Religions the Same?

An Open Letter to My Religious Readers

About the Author

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