Faith and the Free Market Expelled from Iraq’s Garden of Eden
Religion & Liberty Online

Faith and the Free Market Expelled from Iraq’s Garden of Eden

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Iraq’s largest oil refinery for domestic use has been overtaken by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the radical jihadi terrorist group aiming to establish an Islamic caliphate in these two nations. As Iraq’s most lucrative resource is now siphoned off by a radical organization, the global oil market risks destabilization while financially empowering ISIS. Economic stability facilitates greater religious freedom – establishing an ISIS controlled government as detrimental to Iraq’s advances toward a stable and secular democratic state. The Christian population has been a primary target of this fundamentalist movement, with ISIS demanding they must convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face “death by the sword.” It was in here, in ancient Babylon, where political and economic institutions took stead; today these have been condemned while the Biblical story of Exodus is being retold with 50,000 Christians fleeing their homes.

Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia delivered an impassioned speech on the House floor stating “ISIS is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.” The fear of a Christian genocide is all too real, as the zeal of fundamentalism bleeds through the country. Wolf also echoed the words he and his colleagues wrote in a letter to President Obama in June: “Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.”

Central to the free market, is the assurance of property rights. If the land rights of national corporations or private firms are targeted by rogue international actors, international investment will cease – disrupting global economic security. ISIS has also begun to sell this illegally obtained crude oil on the market. Herein lies the other major concern, a radical organization opposed to Western economic ideology has been financially empowered to continue their plight to disrupt the political machinery of a country. The BBC has reported that as ISIS advances further south toward Baghdad, they have also collected valuable American military supplies, which can either be used as physical weaponry or sold to be utilized as a financial weapon. ISIS is alleged to be the world’s wealthiest jihadist organization with assets exceeding $2 billion.

Licensing ISIS access to Iraq’s natural resources will only condemn the Republic of Iraq to be held hostage by a violent independent terrorist-run state in the north and west. America cannot continue to appease terrorists if it desires to sustain the ideals of liberty and the free market system globally. Iraq serves as a conduit toward expanding Western economic practices through more stable governance in the Middle East.

The more money ISIS collects, the more appealing it is as a viable and lucrative employment prospect for Iraqi citizens. As detailed by Richard Wright in The Looming Tower, the parent organization of Islamic fundamentalism, al-Qaeda, rose to power with its ability to provide a living wage, health care, and paid vacations to recruits. Winning the hearts and minds of a people is significantly more dangerous than the acquisition of weaponry and other raw materials. An offshoot of al-Qaeda, ISIS leadership understands effective recruitment practices.

Liberty and the global financial markets are at risk with Senator Lindsay Graham declaring that “[t]he seeds of 9/11 are being planted all over Iraq and Syria.” The longer ISIS’s conquest for an Islamic utopian state is appeased by the United States, the closer it comes to destroying the Republic of Iraq as it stands.

World leadership will establish that the international community recognizes the current Iraqi government as the legitimate sovereign and will protect its authority. When world powers does not assert responsible influence, volatile organizations will take advantage of the lack of security and assert dominance, establishing themselves as the new legitimate governing entity. Fueled by the powerful appeal of religious fervor, ISIS has the strength to dismantle capitalist ideas and forcibly implement socialist economic policies.

As I discussed in a recent piece, notable Islamic theologians, including the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, have asserted that Islam and capitalism are inherently incompatible, prompting the adoption of an Islamic social economic policy that invalidates the ideas of private property and free enterprise. ISIS follows this belief and would only further this policy and destroy religious freedom in the process.

It is easy to understand why many are apprehensive toward possible intervention in Iraq, the nation has been embroiled in sectarian conflict and the wounds of Operation Iraqi Freedom remain fresh. It will no doubt be a difficult task for Iraq to construct a more cohesive government, but it is hard for political unification if a radical organization distracts the process through warfare.

For the Christian who chooses to stay in behind in ISIS controlled Mosul, a devastating future awaits. In recent days, a statue of the Virgin Mary was destroyed outside of one of the churches, and replaced with a black flag, with a remaining Christian remarking “we are in the quiet before the storm”. Mosul will not be the only major conquest of ISIS. If the world stands by, not only will the light of Christianity be darkened, but the black flag of ISIS will cloak any hope of political and economic freedom in the birthplace of humanity – Iraq – once home to the Garden of Eden.

Jacqueline Derks

Jacqueline Derks is a 2014 Charles G. Koch Fellow at the Acton Institute. She attends New York University, majoring in Politics and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.