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An Open Letter to Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

I will start out politely, with the traditional As-salaam-u alaykum, peace be to you, and I will even use the title you have given yourself, and I will try to keep this note brief, for I can only imagine the press of your days, what with trying to manage a nascent state, and a fractious staff, and . . . . Continue Reading »

Compassion, Yes, But Prudence, Too

The Syrian refugee crisis has metastasized to a crisis for more than just the refugees. With at least one of the terrorists responsible for the slaughter of innocents in Paris having gained European entry from among the cohort of evacuees fleeing the Levant, the fear that the refugee crisis could . . . . Continue Reading »

Holy Warriors

In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire by robert g. hoyland oxford, 320 pages, $29.95 Amedieval Islamic tradition recounts that the Prophet Muhammad once told his companions after they returned from a battle: “You have come from the Lesser Jihad to the Greater . . . . Continue Reading »

Did Muhammad Perform Miracles?

On Thursday, August 27, 2015, the first part of Iran’s most expensive movie trilogy, “Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah,” opened nationwide in Iran. It took more than eighty months for this movie to be completed. Its primary goal, according to its director Majid Majidi, “is to reclaim the . . . . Continue Reading »

When Africa Bleeds

Seldom in recent memory has the Western world seemed more united than on January 11, 2015, when an estimated 1.5 million people, including forty-four world leaders, flooded the streets of Paris to protest the atrocities carried out by Islamist terrorists at the offices of the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Who can forget the impressive show of unity—with the notable absence of the top constitutional officers of the United States—as Christian, Jewish, and Muslim lead Continue Reading »

My Life With Charlie Hebdo

As a student at the Sorbonne in my early twenties, back in the mid 1990s, every Wednesday before hitting the subway I would buy Charlie Hebdo. I was young, I was studying French literature in the course of becoming a teacher, and Charlie Hebdo was a weekly break from the classics. I didn’t pay much attention to the politics, which were far left. My friends and I would discuss the drawings, our favorite part of the magazine: “This one is perfect!” “Right on!” “And this one! Poor [insert name of politician]! They really got him!” “But Charb exaggerates in this one—it’s just mean.” Continue Reading »

Challenging Radical Islam

The world is being subjected to horrific images of religious violence. The Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria records its beheadings. Boko Haram in Nigeria parades hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls. Al-Shabaab in Somalia attacks a shopping mall in Nairobi. These barbaric acts can make us feel . . . . Continue Reading »

What Makes ISIS Appealing?

With widespread news about ISIS selling kidnapped women and girls as sex slaves, smiting necks of non-Muslims or expelling them from their homes, one would assume that everyone on the planet views ISIS as wicked. Yet not only in the Muslim-majority countries, but also in Europe, Australia, and even the U.S., ISIS has drawn support. The group is obviously successful in continually recruiting Muslim men, women, even children as its members. What in the world makes these individuals love ISIS? Here are three possibilities. Continue Reading »

A Line Crossed in the Middle East

Say goodbye to one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world. Last week, members of ISIS—the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” a Sunni Islamist group that recently has captured parts of Iraq and declared a new caliphate—began going through the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and marking the homes of Christians with the Arabic letter “Nun.” “Nun” stands for “Nasara,” from “Nazarenes,” a word that refers to Christians. The implications were clear. Mosul’s Christians faced the same fate the Christians of Raqqa, Syria, had when ISIS captured their city last spring. “We offer them three choices,” ISIS announced: “Islam; the dhimma contract—involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.” Continue Reading »

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