What do ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham – area of Syria around and including Damascus), or ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – greater Syria), or increasingly just IS (The Islamic State) really want?

They want to bring about

The Extinction Of The Grayzone.

On 14 February 2015 the radical Islamist website ansarukhilafah happily announced that

The grayzone is critically endangered, rather on the brink of extinction. Its endangerment began with the blessed operations of September 11th, as these operations manifested two camps before the world for mankind to choose between, a camp of Islam – without the body of Khilāfah to represent it at the time – and a camp of kufr – the crusader coalition. Or as Shaykh Usāmah Ibn Lādin (rahimahullāh) said, “The world today is divided into two camps.”

The goal is that

Eventually, the grayzone will become extinct and there will be no place for grayish calls and movements. There will only be the camp of īmān (believer) versus the camp of kufr (unbeliever).


Ironically, one of the allies cited in the battle against the “Grayzone” is a former US President:

Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.

Thus tragically, we in the west cooperate with the strategy of ISIS/ISIL/IS as we too abandon the “Grayzone.” We refuse to embrace the possibility of compromise, conversation, discussion, and negotiation with “terrorists.” We speak only of “enemies,” “evil ones,” and “barbarians” who, in the words of French President Francois Hollande must be “neutralized.” The French President’s analysis is that

What the terrorists want is to scare us and fill us with dread. There is indeed reason to be afraid. There is dread, but in the face of this dread, there is a nation that knows how to defend itself, that knows how to mobilise its forces and, once again, will defeat the terrorists.


But their goal may be more complex and insidious than merely inciting fear. It may be that what ISIS/ISIL/IS really wants is to force us to retaliate driving more and more people to join those who haunt the extremist fringes of Islam. In our determination to crush the “enemy”, we may only succeed in creating new enemies. When we  fight back and seek revenge we use the violence we seek to extinguish.

I want to live in the “Grayzone”. The place in the middle is the only place where human prospering is possible. The view that there is more than one side to every issue may feel less secure than simply identifying and attacking the enemy. But the comfort of fleeing to one end of the spectrum in an attempt to face the terror that afflicts the world is not worth the danger of perpetuating violence.

It is time to try a different strategy. Surely, by now we should have discovered the wisdom of of Jesus who, when one of his friends raised the sword in his defense in the Garden of Gethsemane, said,

Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

Violence begets violence. As Pope Francis said on Saturday,

the road of violence and hatred does not resolve humanity’s problems.


Rather than retaliation we need to practice listening more deeply. In the place of vengeance, we need to seek greater wisdom. Instead of rushing to retribution, we might pause, take a deep breath, and look for a new way forward that is not based on the same consciousness that caused the problem in the first place.


Can we bear the sorrow? Can we allow our hearts to break open to another level of consciousness? Can we respond from that deep place of compassion and gentleness that views the world as a whole and refuses to retreat from the Grayzone where there is hope we might find room for everyone?