Considering colonialism in the case of ISIS: motives do not justify actions

At Macalester, discussions of colonialism are everywhere. Just the other week my friend had lunch with someone who put forth that “ISIS is not that bad” with colonialism as the basis of the argument. Now, I wasn’t at this lunch, but based on this statement I have a big problem.

Colonialism is a huge factor in the issues of the world but I have a problem with anyone saying an organization which rapes, kills and tortures in order to achieve its goals could be worse. This is what I take from the statement “not that bad,” that it could be worse. I suppose everything could technically be worse, but still, this is the organization which even Al-Qaeda supposedly said was too extreme for its tastes. That definitely says something.

I would be interested to hear the reasoning behind this argument. I understand how colonialism factors into the unrest in the region, but I have yet to understand how it excuses the actions of the extremists in the region. In my mind, colonialism is a motivation, not a justification.

Colonialism explains why so many factions and peoples are fighting over land and control. It is a factor that has yet to be resolved in negotiations and treaties. Colonialism has led to the lack of government stability and concrete borders. It is certainly a reason for the persecution of different religious groups and a reason for such extremist groups to form, but it in no way makes these groups’ actions excusable. Motivations do not pardon actions.

Colonialism is a drive certainly, but what people do with their anger and objection is up to them. We do not acquit murderers because they have good reason for murdering people. No matter what their motivation, whether it be justified or not, we punish those who deviate from the rules and morals of society. ISIS (or rather ISL) has greatly deviated from society’s values and expectations; they have committed every taboo. It doesn’t matter if the Western world is responsible for their reasons and anger; they deserve to be sanctioned. ISL is bad. It is a terrible organization that terrorizes, steals and disrupts progression and stability in the region. It does not matter if this progression and stability is necessary and novel because of actions made by European countries long ago. ISL has decided to act violently, and they are responsible for their own immorality.