How Do You Defeat an Idea?


Danube Gorge

Very delicately I assume. If you don’t understand the intentions, how do you explain the appeal?

Why does the Islamic State’s medieval religious ideals, one that seems bent on returning civilization to the seventh century, attract those from 2015? This was a question raised by a few of us on our recent trip. It became a topic of discussion.

Like lots of people worldwide, I’ve been obsessively following the news from Paris. Watching the horror unfold is something we all do, the very reaction the terrorists want. They understand us better than we do them. If we can’t understand them, how can we deal with this vast concern?

Two Climbers

Two Climbers

If governments can’t answer this question, how do they take appropriate action? I thought to research the question to find out more, but instead realized Western governments really don’t have a clue what is the draw that brings young people to a conviction of terrorism.

Some speculation is recruits are trying to find a morality, identity, right a wrong, find a call to something, or just do something meaningful with their lives. Lofty ideals. Some seek an escape from a confining, abusive or deploring home-life. Joining makes little sense to me considering the horrific means by which the extremists execute their jihad and the rules in which they live by. Others are attracted BY the very extreme nature of the acts they perform with impunity.

Danube Gorge

Danube Gorge

They use technology to navigate the modern world with ease, terrorizing in biblical proportion with calls of death to infidels. It is a version of back-street trash-talking methinks.  To them, they are purifying the world by killing people I suppose. So who are these people from an insular community?

According to this article, “ISIS draws from that quarter or third of Muslims who are comfortable with using violent means to further or defend Islamic interests.” (source) I think the real fear is this group makes their appeal for Islamic followers everywhere, especially to a religious sect that already experiences a disconnect from other cultures. One third of Muslims is a big number. There are an awful lot of disenfranchised humans out there.

Danube Gorge

Danube Gorge

The world we live in can’t change Islam, nor is it our business to try. Other nations try to win over the Muslim people, compromise with Muslim communities, or state that this violence has nothing to do with Islam.  But is it making any difference? There is a huge divide between our culture and theirs. While many Muslims assimilate into our Western way of life, by the article above, many don’t or can’t by their beliefs. That is all the extremists need to continue, all they need to spread the ideologies.


I was never expecting to come back from Europe with these views, never looking at a group of modern-day people with suspicion and fear. It only took seeing a number of young Syrian men banded together like a marauding, menacing gang to change my views. Sure they did nothing sinister, but they instilled fear with their loud, condescending actions and voice inflection. In this major, modern, clean city and all I could think was what are these men up to. I had no doubt they were not “good Muslims”.

Why do some Americans find Isis enticing?  It saddens me that some liberal friends think we can just talk to them, give them a big hug and all be friends in the end. One friend expressed that only a small number of people were killed in Paris and more than that die on our American streets everyday. It was like these deaths were insignificant. This is apples to oranges. It is incomprehensible what one has to do with the other.

Danube Gorge

Danube Gorge

So why does this bother me so much? It is simple. The world is forever changed since this whole mess began. These fanatics want to destroy everything connected to our society. They burn and bomb our and their history. You can’t replace historical art, architecture, religious icons, and archaeological finds. They are wiping out cultural heritage, documentation of human history, destroying ancient artifacts and blowing up antiquities.

In architecture school we studied much of what these jihadist have destroyed. The 2000 year old Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria was a remarkable synthesis of ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman architecture. The 1,800 year old Arch of Triumph and the ancient Temple of Baal Shamin were reduced to rubble. The bearded fascists turned them to dust. So what will happen to all the great cathedrals and even mosques around the world? What will happen to the people who pray in them? Art creates empathy for others, or so it was said. In this case, I guess not.

Danube Gorge

Danube Gorge

Post written on the plane from Amsterdam. Flying seems to make things quite clear. It really is a hard rock to climb.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
This entry was posted in commentary, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to How Do You Defeat an Idea?

  1. meander1 says:

    I admire your willingness to share your concerns.

    • Thank you. While in Europe on our trip, many of us kept asking this question. What causes these kids to join this destructive cause. Why do they give up their young lives? We may not know what death brings, but they are willing to think it is something better.

  2. Kalamain says:

    Before I go any further here I would like to ask a question…

    “Why does Christianity’s medieval religious nature, one that seems bent on returning civilization to the seventh century, attract those from 2015?”

    Now while you dwell on this a moment I would also point out that Europe has been a melting pot for many major religions over the years. Christianity, Paganism, Islam, the near eastern religions (Hindu and the like) and Judaism. All these religions bumping against each other alongside us Atheists and our definite lack of belief.
    We have, in the main, learned the hard way to get along with each other, having the harsher edges of our ideals shaved off because who wants to ‘kill the infidel’ when that infidel happens to be Mrs Singh who runs the corner shop and has the amazing garden and who’s kids are so polite and then bakes all those goodies and never fails to give sweets at Halloween?

    This is how the extremism gets out of hand. When you have harsh insular communities that don’t interact with one another. It’s only with that bump and grind, if you will pardon the term, of differing opinon that we eventually get the free running sand.

    Your moment of zen should appear when you play anything from the latest GOP debates and then listen to any ISIS level jihad rhetoric. The similarities are there.

    Is there light at the end of the tunnel though? Yes, yes there is.
    Not all Christians are like this. Not all Muslims are like this. This must be remembered, this is important.

    **You just have to understand that those squeaky wheels don’t need greasing… They need replacing.**

    Blimey…. Talk about wall of text! Sorry about that. B-)

    • I have to agree that the forceful rhetoric from both sides is alarming. It shows clearly the divide with no means of a middle ground or way to a solution. The majority of us sit in the middle with no way to change the course of frightening events unfolding unfortunately. While most of us are willing to “bump and grind” as you say, the rhetoric keeps us in our respective “boxes” through fear. Fear is destructive and a very hard thing to shed. I also see the fear being reinforced daily by the “latest GOP debates” along with the very partisan media on the other side. They battle as fiercely and sensationally between themselves as the players in the events they are reporting. Our country is a melting pot too, but it has not lasted as long as those in Europe. I suppose you can argue that Christianity has its medieval ways due to the Church, but I don’t attend church so it is difficult for me to make this connection. I just don’t see the parishioners in medieval attire. I know that is a shallow/narrow/naive way to view a connection too. The problem I see is what I posted in my last post. While “Not all Christians are like this. Not all Muslims are like this,” as you say, it is specifically the smaller, turbulent groups that are – with the numbers growing. How does one curb this? I wish governments/fanatics would see what harm they are causing – to the environment, the planet and to humanity as a whole. A group that talks about “the end of the world” has no care of these things. Governments thinking they are stopping this seething, raging, unsettled “war” are the means to the opposition’s “end of the world” scenario.

      • Kalamain says:

        There are things you can do.

        Elect more moderate leaders. *cough*BernieSanders*cough*
        Be open and question those who call for violence.
        Be the change you want to see and embrace those around you who share your ideals.

        It’s not easy to fight the surging tide. One thing you Americans can do first is to get money out of politics. It’s not so bad over here in Europe on that point, which is probably why we don’t have the same ideals.

        And I also have to say that its those moderates, those that sit in the middle, that will bridge the gap. When people see Muslims and the rest of the community living a normal healthy life they will change their attitudes.
        It worked for the Chinese and its beginning to work for blacks.

        It’s not easy though. Its never easy.

        • You are very insightful. Money is always a problem and it buys many of our politicians. I do not understand politics because in the 200+ years of time our countries’ values and ideals have changed. Maybe not constitutionally, but in how we interpret and twist those very ideas. I only wish the Muslims in those war-torn countries could live healthy, productive lives. Seeing them leaving in droves is heart wrenching. What lies ahead for them in places of Europe?

          • Kalamain says:

            This last bit I can’t answer. B-(

            And most of them are leaving that area because of our military warring with an ideal that has no base and no country to attack.
            We can’t attack all muslims because not all muslims accept that specific brand of religion or ideology… We can’t attack a country because not all people in that country are, a) Muslim and b) of that mindset.

            If anything I think that our backing out of the fight would be the best step… Not dropping more bombs and potentially hurting MORE innocent lives who only see ‘The White people’ dropping bombs on them.

            We really need education. Not just for them…. But for us both.
            The funny thing is that Gardening is possibly the best way to do it. (Hows that for bringing it full circle?!)
            Teach them to grow things and maybe, just maybe, people will learn to love and not hate a little.

            Its times like these I wish I could wave a magic wand. B-(

            • It was funny, but I thought of doing a post on Gardening and growing a “new attitude”. Heck, everyone gets happy by seeing flowers. Everyone appreciates fresh, home grown food. But then I thought it trivial (or makes light of) to think a gardener’s frame of mind “makes things all better”. My previous post, I wrote on and answered a comment in a similar fashion to what you stated. I too thought if we left or had the Muslims deal with their own problem it might be a solution. But the thing is, this group is a cancer and we all know how hard it is to curb a cancer. I am with you, a magic wand would be great. But you know governments think they hold that magic wand too. Four nuclear nations involved so far and which ones will jump in next. Might be the one most likely to flick that wand. Oh, one more point. The hacker group Anonymous right now is going to make a huge impact on the fanatics. They may be the new heroes in all this.

              • Kalamain says:

                Anonymous will likely be a HUGE help. The key thing is intelligence. The US led war so far has been all about blanket blitzing… They have stated on many occasions that their info is good. Pfft.

                With Anonymous’ help they can REALLY get some good info and make surgical strikes and bring people to JUSTICE… Not simply kill people.
                This will be a good thing. Don’t kill them… Bring their actions to open court and follow the LAW.
                This will also stop the cancerous spread of fear. If they go in and get someone neighbours don’t need to worry that their house will also get bombed. Not only that but moderate people in that area may well be less likely to allow that person to stay in the area.
                The idea of prejudicial justice didn’t work for the Nazis in WWII and it doesn’t work now. You can’t bomb an entire street because one person you don’t like lives there.
                And if all justice is served out in the open then people won’t be scared that they will be taken away too. They know that THAT ONE PERSON did something wrong and they will be fairly punished for it.

                And gardeners tend not to be militarily minded. I’m counting that as a good thing!

                And you should do that post. Be the change you want to see. B-)

                • Skip the magic wand!!! I wish I had the abilities to join Anonymous. My abilities only go so far as using VPN and some website building, but if I knew more… I would help blank out all their funding, puff, gone. Better yet, I would direct their funds to humanitarian causes helping the Muslims they are displacing. I would shut down their ability to produce and sell oil. I would flood the web with with negative and incorrect messages from THEM, screwing with their ability to communicate among themselves. Anonymous has the power to do all of this and more. I raise a glass to them. They might be doing something illegal, but all for the right reasons. They have uncovered a lot of hypocrisy and corruption previously and more power to them. You are right, gardeners are a moderate group. So are artists. I span both groups, yet my profession is about building, not destroying.

  3. roseman7stan says:

    Very interesting and thought provoking article. The subject matter seems to be one that could take years to fully discuss and fully understand all the angles. Unfortunately we do not have those “years” before the already lit wick reaches the powder kegs. Take care of you and hug those you love well and often.

    • Thank you for your kind words in this and previous comments on my photos. I have yet to load many of my images from the better Nikon D750 ( except in the post, Traveling in Europe During a Time of Uncertainty , this post included. Once we were not sailing, I kinda just shelved my D750 with the heavy wide angle lens. I was glad I took the P510 along for how little it is, but have always known the clarity in images suffer. I had to sharpen the images in this post. Most needed exposure adjustment, but I did not do any more editing.

      I believe the thought process has been ongoing for years, but since the attacks that happened here or on US concerns elsewhere have been separated by time, common people in our country have turned the proverbial blind eye. Not because most don’t care, but because it is too frightening to contemplate. In the US, the media pounds us with info, not because it is things we need to know over and over and over, but because it makes them money with ratings. I can not understand why America is not getting mad. Not only at what is happening worldwide, but because of how our politicians and media turn all this sensational. How our government uses it to justify military action without getting beneficial results. The money they spend each day is staggering. Can you imagine if that money went to humanitarian concerns? If it did, we might have the Muslim allies we need in this fight. Having them run from their homes is what ISIS wants. If they could have stayed to defend their homes, it would be a much different outcome.

      I cannot understand the contrived feelings of the media behind the reports or actions. If they made the reports altruistically, it would be different. It seems people or governments don’t do things without getting something in return. You are so right right, the fuse is lit and seems to be getting shorter by each day.

  4. Emily Scott says:

    You raise some really interesting points. From what I’ve read/seen in TV documentaries, the Isis propaganda is incredibly sophisticated and well-funded. If you’re a young person who is perhaps lonely, being bullied or just trying to find a place for yourself in the world, somewhere you’re wanted, I can start to see the appeal. Then once they’ve been lured over there it’s very hard for them to leave. I’m not condoning anyone who joins, just trying to understand why they do. In one of the documentaries I watched, there was a program in place where Muslims who had joined Isis and then escaped told others considering joining what it was really like – that seemed to be very effective in deterring people.

    • That is a key point, well funded. The war on terror needs to employ a bit of that same terror back – not in killing, but in cyber tactics. If we defeat the flow of funding, they get defeated. No more weapons buys. I read they are looking to get their hands on nuclear materials for dirty bombs. Can you imagine that? Stop them in their tracks by halting the flow of cash. I don’t care how illegal it is in our country, I hope they (government or Anonymous) make every effort to shut them down. I agree that kids are looking for a path in life of their own choosing. I too saw a documentary on this when I got home. It was after I wrote this and the last post. It helps when kids that escaped, and that is far too few, tell others that joining is no picnic and can lead to sex slavery and all the horrific changes in lifestyle they are accustomed. Kids do not make changes in all their creature comforts so easily. It is only kids with nothing to start that make the best junior Jihadists I am sure, but sadly, there are probably plenty of kids of misfortune.

  5. debsgarden says:

    The Danube Gorge is breathtaking! There are many Muslims that are peace-loving, but the fact is that the most repressive and intolerant countries in the world are Islamic. The higher the percentage of Muslims in a county, the greater the threat grows. Our freedom is an affront to them. The moderate Muslims need to take a firm stand against the extreme Jihadists, but many don’t dare, because they fear they themselves would then become targets. It is a complex problem with terrible implications.

    • Kalamain says:

      With respect, but why would extremest Muslims care what moderates think?
      Do Christian extremists care what the moderates think? Did Scott Roeder care what fellow Christian Dr George Tiller thought when he shot him through the eye because he was offering help for women and giving abortions?

      Extremists don’t care. They have been radicalised through one way or another. The best thing to do is to NOT antagonise people and feed the fire of hate. Most of the problems coming out of the middle east at the moment are because the US invaded Iraq after 9/11. They went in all guns blazing because of bad intel that Saddam Hussein had a hand in it. (Hint: He didn’t)

      You are right that it is a very difficult issue to deal with but war is rarely the issue for dealing with this kind of group. Education and counter-intelligence would be a better idea.

      War breeds war.

    • Thanks Deb both for the compliment on the photos and for your honest thoughts. So many, even worldwide have the exact same feelings, and those feelings are not unfounded as you cited examples in the last post. The Jihadists have posted those beheadings for all the world to quiver and fear. It is a form of marketing for future extremists too. I agree that extremists want us to feel awful about what they are doing (they hope we are repulsed) and they relish each and every way they shock our sensibilities, but I find it hilarious that they care about what we call them. It kinda makes them seem a bit silly in that worry. I fully agree if the moderate Muslims could find the courage to stand up to the extremists, eventually the problem would subside. I understand their apprehension since the extremists are killing Muslims too. The problem is far too deep and complicated, but the more people talking about it, the more common ground we can find to address this huge issue confronting the whole world. When the world reaches consensus on what course to take, we head to a more unified peoples of this planet. I know how idealist that sounds, but there likely will be a breaking point for the world to unify. I always thought it would be on the environment, but that seems to be shoved in the back seat for now. Was not that what the summit was to be about before the focus shifted?

  6. johnvic8 says:

    This is an issue we will be discussing for some time. What a challenge.

    • Sadly, time might be running out on abating the threats like roseman7 mentioned. They will happen more and more. Governments will have to work harder to stop future attacks. Being on the defensive looks to be what we face. While we citizens will not make a difference in the big scheme of things, at least we get a chance to talk about it. Talking is always good. Listening is better though. Muslims need to know we do not think this problem is caused by them, they need to know we think them strong enough to help stop it.

  7. Kevin says:

    A very thoughtful — in so many ways — post. You raise some very important points and concerns, but one word sticks out in my mind: disconnect. I’ve worked as a school social worker for more than 25 years — and in that time, I’ve attended conferences and workshops, as well as worked with students who were attracted by the gang life. In all of these conversations, disconnect seems to be a resounding theme: disconnect from family and school and community, a feeling that they matter little to those closest to them, that they’re voice has no impact, that they do not have a place at the table. Enter the gang — with promises of value and worth, power and independence, brotherhood and sisterhood. It satisfies the need to belong to a group of like-minded people. I believe it’s the same process that draws people into cults or into ISIS or other militant/religious organizations. As individuals fall deeper into their group mentality, they see others as less than human — no matter if it’s anti-Western or anti-Muslim. A powerful documentary that explores this is “Five Steps to Tyranny.”

    You also mention the idea that if we don’t understand them . . . I think the end result is that we are constantly reactive rather than proactive. Sadly, there is no one strategy that works and no one simple answer for why things of spiraled out of control. We can sit back and place blame and point fingers, but the truth is that both sides can seem very dangerous and alien to the other side.

    There are times when I think I am a bit Pollyanna-ish, but when I worked with students in conflict one another (especially males), it always helped to have a task which forced them to work together, to process there thoughts and emotions, and to break down their differences until they can realize what they have in common. Sitting at a table and sharing food is also a big help.

    When I look at the images of the ISIS recruits and fighters, they are young males — so ill-equipped to handle their emotions and feelings, to express themselves as individuals — and yet, equipped with weapons. When I look at the people in charge on our side, they are older males — also ill-equipped to handle their emotions and feelings, and to express themselves as individuals. Both sides are unable to see outside of their self-constructed boxes.

    I’m sorry to go on and on — so I’ll leave it at that. Thank you for this post.

    • I agree with you on young people’s disconnect. Some is their own doing, while others have it thrust upon them. Kids that rebel (out of being so much cooler, smarter or badder than anyone else), alienate themselves from family and friends, even when family and friends try to steer them in a social or civic minded direction. They are the ones harder to reach I think. Its that attitude and when they find others sharing it, it becomes a powder keg of discontent. Kids of broken homes or having nonexistent parents have a completely different reason for breaking from society, although doing so is still their choice. All kids need help, but those that choose the right path despite difficulties are ones to be especially admired and encouraged. I am not sure on the, “ill-equipped to handle their emotions and feelings”, because aren’t most of these young men in their twenties? I can understand a hormone-raging fourteen year old, but not those older being so emotionally barren. I use that word because they have to be without empathy for others to do what they do. They are psychopaths, not religious paragons. How do kids not see this?

  8. A.M.B. says:

    This is a very thought-provoking post, Donna. I wish we knew the answers to these questions. Why does anyone resort to violence, whether in the name of their religion or for some other goal (like “racial purity,” as we’ve seen far too often in our country)? Thanks for the link in this post. I’ll have to look into it.

    • I think this new wave of “racial purity” by Isis will finally get the world to unite in curbing it. It has been compared to past historic horrors and the world has learned from that. It may be why countries such as Germany have been so forthcoming in accepting refugees. But now even Germany understands the need to rethink how nonchalant (as in not anxious) they have been in the refugee crisis. While I saw no picketers, I did read of huge assemblies of them. Countries being smarter, people being smarter. Not reactive.

Comments are closed.