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Editorial: Evil finds a new face

Another extremist group has surfaced from the cauldron of the Middle East, a ruthless locust horde that leaves death and destruction in its wake.

If Americans and other Westerners find the militants under the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq to be the latest personification of modern-day evil, they’re not wrong. Their blood lust, which has resulted in the executions of those getting in their way — soldiers, civilians and journalist James Foley — is not quickly understood, even if such cruelty is a dark part of human existence.

What image is conjured up by these jihadists?

How about that of a Khmer Rouge in the Middle East?

As the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor states on its website, “... (the Khmer Rouge) set up policies that disregarded human life and produced repression and massacres on a massive scale. They turned the country into a huge detention center, which later became a graveyard for nearly two million people, including their own members ...”

It’s clear that the alarm is being sounded in the West. As the France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said recently, “... this terrorist group is of a different nature and level of danger than others. As surreal as it may seem, this group considers al-Qaida too soft.”

One question that has yet to be answered: whether the nations of the region share not only the West’s revulsion to these jihadists, but see them as the immediate threat they are. If so, it will have to be those countries, whether they be monarchies, dictatorships, theocracies, emerging democracies or some unsteady combination of government rule, that provide the key to repelling the advances the so-called Islamic State has made into the vacuum left by the political turmoil that has engulfed Syria and Iraq.

The threat posed must also be realized — and countered — by Muslim organizations in the region. Whatever their feelings might be about Western culture or other religions, they must see that what these extremists are practicing is a perversion of their faith used as a means to justify the committing of atrocities.

We’ve seen the first stirring of that reaction in recent statements by Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary general for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group representing 57 countries, and 1.4 billion Muslims. He denounced the “forced deportation under the threat of execution” of Christians, calling it a “crime that cannot be tolerated.” He also distanced Islam from ISIS, saying they “have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.”

It is, as Blaise Pascal wrote in 1670, a fact that, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

As crazy as it sounds, many in the Muslim world believe that ISIS was created by the United States and Israel. For real.

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