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Don’t dehumanize ISIS, says Archbishop Rowan Williams

Don’t dehumanize ISIS, says Archbishop Rowan Williams

During and following a lecture on November 17, Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke to the media’s dehumanization of ISIS:

Instead, journalists should ‘attempt to understand our enemies’, Dr Rowan Williams, now Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, said, giving the 2015 Orwell Lecture at University College London last night.

‘Somehow the obstinate attempt to make sense of those who are determined to make no sense of me is one of the things that divides civilisation from barbarism, faith from emptiness. You have to try.’

There are some exceptions, he says:

Dr Williams commended some media reaction to the recent killings in Paris and the ongoing Syrian crisis: ‘I’m interested that a number of media outlets have still wanted to hold back a little bit and say, “Hang on, we don’t just want to go down the route of saying there’s nothing to be said, there’s no imagining of the other to be done.’’ So it’s not all bad.’

He also said that it was still possible to go to war without ‘dehumanising the enemy’.

But the more mechanized and distant the war, the harder it was, he added.

‘Drones and distance warfare, modern warfare does pose a particular moral problem.’

Lapidomedia’s coverage of the lecture and discussion can be found here.



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Ann Fontaine

I don’t think you can go to war – as a soldier without dehumanizing– else you could not kill them. To kill another human is an awesome act – and hence so much PTSD– trained to dehumanize and kill – but coming back where it is once again not acceptable. A terrible place where we put military troops and what we ask of them – the men and women in the field.

Leslie Marshall

I think that we’ve seen ISIL de-humanize themselves . Or rather –they’ve chosen the human qualities of….darkness, depravity, violence, immorality, selfishness, treachery, murder, obscenity, deceit, vileness, slander, hate, brutality.

I guess to understand them, we would learn why they make their choices.

Cynthia Katsarelis

What we need to understand is why and how young people are radicalized. The attackers in Paris were French and Belgian nationals, from suburbs where radicalization happens. Why?

Why did a couple of girls from Denver try to leave to join Daesh?

I’m sure that in some cases, there are reasons of economics and marginalization. But that isn’t the case for all.

What makes a person strap on a suicide belt to kill others and oneself?

Helen rRogers

Your comments make me glad I am an Episcopalian.

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