2016-08-12

Is fear of Islam a healthy fear?

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by Neil Godfrey

I have enjoyed or found profitable a recent exchange with a commenter calling him/herself pastasauceror in relation to my post, Why Petty Criminals Can Radicalize within Weeks and Kill Dozens of Innocents. As the conversation has proceeded we have found it increasingly difficult to keep our comments brief. It’s so damn hard to read walls of text in the comments, so I have moved the most recent exchange to this post for a fresh start. I know I have sometimes put my foot in it and expressed myself in ways that have been offensive and I have tried to backtrack and learn from those mistakes. I do appreciate pastasauceror’s patience in continuing with the conversation. I have been attempting to understand if conversation between such opposing views is possible, and if not, why not, etc. I do hope it is.

I copy here the most recent exchange, slightly edited. Indented sections are pastasauceror’s words. friction

Weekend is here and I have a little more time to respond.

I think the research you are using is flawed; interviews are a flawed method for judging motivation, as the way the questions are asked cannot help but effect the answers provided. Have you read any research that shows that Islam might be the cause? (it’s not like there isn’t any, as you seem to be suggesting) Or have you written it all off as being from racist bigot Islamophobes?

Whose research, or what research, do you believe is flawed? What works are you thinking of exactly?

[I have since added a bibliography of the major books on terrorist and radicalization studies that I have used in previous posts here. I have not included scholarly research articles in non-book formats.]

What research are you referring to that identifies Islam as “the cause” of terrorist acts? And what research undercuts or belies the research you say I have been using? I really don’t know what research you are thinking of. (The researchers I use are in good standing with the United Nations, and US and European government agencies that are set up to fight terrorism, and of course it is all peer-reviewed. Do they all have it wrong?)

All research I have read regarding Islamist terrorism is clear about the role of Islamist beliefs. Very often they play a critical role but the research explores why people embrace those beliefs and how radicalization happens. Not dissimilar, in fact, to the way a person comes to embrace a religious cult. And often the very heavy indoctrination in the most extreme religious beliefs comes after a person has made the decision of no return.

I only have an interest in identifying the actual problems that cause terror so that an appropriate response can be made in order to effect a reduction in the scale and number of attacks (even if that response is to actively do nothing, including reducing our current responses, as your research would suggest for a solution).

sternThe research that I am referring to (and that I have addressed or linked to here) certainly does not recommend doing nothing. My recollection of some of it is that current responses should be maintained (i.e. targeted military action) but other things need to be done in addition to that. I don’t know of any research that says there should be no military action against ISIS.

What concerns me is the way critics like Harris and Coyne mock and dismiss the research because they have some vague idea of some aspects of its findings yet they clearly have not read it and their characterizations of it denying any role of religious beliefs are simply flat wrong.

[Next, pastasauceror is responding to my question whether he feared Islam — the context was the place of the term “Islamophobia” in the discussion]

I do not think anything needs to be feared in the current situation. I am certainly not afraid of Islam or Muslims. . . . After all, if the majority of people living in the west feel fear or threat then it doesn’t matter whether there is an actual threat, things will start to happen that I’m sure both of us don’t want (reprisals, ultra-right wing governments gaining power, etc.). Who knows, maybe the best solution to this problem is to stop the media from reporting on terrorist attacks. But then, that will cause other problems and go against core western values. Oh well, I never claimed there’d be an easy solution.

If you don’t fear Islam then I don’t understand the problem. Terrorism is feared by its very definition. Surely it is healthy to fear anything that gives rise to terrorism. I fear terrorism. I fear Islamism (the belief that Islamic laws should rule society). I have argued against Islamist comments on this site and eventually asked those responsible to stop spreading their arguments here. I fear what might very well happen to members of the second generation of Muslim immigrant families in Australia who are alienated largely by overt racism here. I fear the inability of older Muslims to relate to that second generation and help them. I fear what one convicted terrorist sympathizer who was not jailed here might do and am very glad that he is being closely monitored daily by police. (He was not jailed because it was argued that jail would most likely harden his terrorist sympathies — as it is known so often to do.)

I fear the situations and groups who make terrorism more likely than not. If you speak out against what you believe is a cause of terrorism and many believe you then surely you are encouraging a fear, whether a healthy or unhealthy fear, of that cause of terrorism.

All religions pressure individuals into changing the way that same individual would act without the religious force. If they didn’t, then religion itself would be moot. Of course, some people are far less likely to be influenced and that is why we have degrees of believer in every religion, and why not all Muslims become terrorists. To clarify and hopefully answer your question, I think that religion is the triumph of one part of human nature/instinct (group seeking/cooperation) over other parts of human nature/instinct. I’m not saying this is always a bad thing, but if you could replace every religion with humanism you would negate the negative effects of religion without losing any of the positives.

newthreatNo, all religions don’t. Religions don’t do anything. People do things. There is no such thing as a religious force. There are psychological pressures and human needs and physical force. Abstractions are abstractions. That doesn’t make religion moot. It makes religion a label we give to certain cultural practices. We don’t know what the consequences would be if religion was somehow magically removed from the planet. Surely the psychological factors that give rise to religion would express themselves in some other way that would seem just as bizarre or unscientific to our Spockian minds. I have wanted to post more on this topic, and am still slowly trying to inform myself more fully, but religion is not an irrational or alien type of stupidity that somehow gets misplaced in human minds. People who embrace religion are not stupid or irrational. Religion is not like a virus or force that possesses others. It is the other way around — people’s drives can find expression in religious symbols.

My question does not purport that “all terrorist acts are committed by Muslims” nor does it say that “all Muslims commit terrorist acts”. You can replace the all with most and I’m not even claiming that. So I’m not entirely sure on your “all cows have four legs” example.

I know you are not saying all Muslims commit terrorist acts etc, but I understood you to be saying that all Muslims are either potential terrorists or potential terrorist sympathizers because, by definition as Muslims, they all have believe in the Muslim religion and its sacred writings. Am I correct?

It is you who are committing a fallacy because you are claiming my argument is based on mere correlation and not causation, when that is exactly the argument that we are having; whether Islam causes/precipitates terrorist acts (it doesn’t have to be all terror attacks, nor do all terror attacks have to be Islamic for my question to hold). In this case you are actually assuming the conclusion in your argument (against my question being valid), the informal fallacy. I set up the question purposefully in order to give you an easy way to falsify my entire argument, it is certainly not based on a fallacy. If Islam has no causal relationship with terror, then you should have many examples to answer my question with, just by weight of numbers.

I don’t know of any research that has demonstrated Islam causes terrorism, or that Islamic beliefs or belief in the Koran has caused a person to commit a terrorist act. All the research of which I am aware does attempt to explain why some Muslims (or others) are attracted to extremist beliefs, why and how people (especially Muslims today) are radicalized. It is patently obvious from both the current Muslim population today and historically that Islam itself cannot be a cause of terrorism. What is instructive, however, is that research into Islamist terrorism has identified the same sorts of contributory causes as are associated historically with other (non-Islamist) terrorism. Even nineteenth century Russian terrorism has much in common with today’s Islamist terrorism, as one series I have been posting attempts to demonstrate.

–o0o–

Another aspect to our discussion that I want to post more explicitly about is what I believe is “dehumanization” of “the other”. The way we frame the discussion of many of our conflicts, today and historically, is often a form of dehumanization. No guesses for suspecting I see this as unhelpful. I will try to explain why and how in another post.

(The illustrations in this post are just a random sample of research into terrorism that has been referenced here.)

–o0o–

List of books specializing in terrorist and radicalization studies, with some general works on Islam in the modern world and history, that I have used for previous posts. I have not included here the many additional works in journal article and web post formats.

Ali, Tariq.  The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity. London: Verso, 2002.

Asad, Talal.  On Suicide Bombing. New York ; Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Atran, Scott.  Talking to the Enemy: Violent Extremism, Sacred Values, and What It Means to Be Human. London: Penguin, 2011.

Barton, Greg.  Indonesia’s Struggle: Jemaah Islamiyah and the Soul of Islam. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2004.

Bloom, Mia. Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Burke, Jason.  Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam (2nd Ed). London: Penguin, 2007.
———.  The New Threat: From Islamic Militancy. London: Vintage Books, 2016.

Caridi, P.  Hamas: From Resistance to Government. New York: Seven Stories Press, c2012.

Chehab, Zaki.  Inside Hamas: The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement. New York: Nation Books, 2008.

Cockburn, Patrick.  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. London ; New York: Verso, 2015.

Cook, David.  Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature. Syracuse, N.Y: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

Esposito, John L.  Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York, NY: Gallup Press, c2007.

Federal Research Division of Congress, Library of Congress, and Rex A. Hudson. The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why? Honolulu, HI: University Press of the Pacific, 2005.

Filiu, Jean-Pierre.  Apocalypse in Islam. Berkeley: University of California Press, c2011.

Furnish, Timothy R.  Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama Bin Laden. Westport, Conn: Praeger Publishers, 2005.
——.  Sects, Lies, and the Caliphate: Ten Years of Observations on Islam. Sects, Lies, and the Caliphate, 2016.

Hafez, Mohammed M.  Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers. Washington, D.C: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2006.
———.  Suicide Bombers in Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom. Washington, D.C: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2007.

Harris, Sam.  Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2015.
———.  The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005.

Hassan, Riaz.  Inside Muslim Minds. Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, c2008.
——. Life as a Weapon: The Global Rise of Suicide Bombings. London ; New York, N.Y: Routledge, 2011.

Hegghammer, Thomas.  Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Hoffman, Bruce.  Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, c2006.

Holland, Tom.  In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of an Ancient World. London: Little, Brown, 2012.

Husain, Ed.  The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw inside and Why I Left. London ; New York: Penguin, 2007.

Lacey, Jim.  A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad: Deciphering Abu Musab Al-Suri’s Islamic Jihad Manifesto. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press, c2008.

McCants, William Faizi.  Founding Gods, Inventing Nations Conquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, c2012.
———.  The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2015.

McCauley, Clark R.  Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, c2011.

Milton-Edwards, Beverley.  Hamas: The Islamic Resistance Movement. Cambridge ; Malden, MA: Polity, 2010.

Napoleoni, Loretta.  The Islamist Phoenix: The Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East. New York: Seven Stories Press, [2014].

Nawaz, Maajid.  Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening. London: WH Allen, 2012.

Pantucci, Raffaello.  “We Love Death as You Love Life”: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists. London: Hurst & Company, 2015.

Pape, Robert Anthony.  Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House, c2005.

Rahim, Lily Zubaidah (ed).  Muslim Secular Democracy: Voices from within, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Ronson, Jon. Them: Adventures with Extremists. Reprints edition. London: Picador, 2002.

Sageman, Marc.  Understanding Terror Networks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, c2004.

Saikal, Amin.  Islam and the West: Conflict or Cooperation? Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Speckhard, Anne. Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & Mart. Advances Press, 2012.

Stern, Jessica, and J. M. Berger.  ISIS: The State of Terror. London: William Collins, 2015.

Tamimi, Azzam.  Hamas: A History from within. Northampton, Mass: Olive Branch Press, 2007.

Weiss, Michael.  Isis: Inside the Army of Terror. New York, NY: Regan Arts, [2015].

Wiktorowicz, Quintan.  Radical Islam Rising Muslim Extremism in the West. Lanham: Rowman; Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

 

27 Comments

  • pastasauceror
    2016-08-13 03:02:01 UTC - 03:02 | Permalink

    Thanks Neil, I too have enjoyed our conversation and feel that I have learned much from it.

    Research
    I have not found it necessary, or a good use of my time, to read much research on the subject of terror. Why would I read second hand accounts of interviews with terrorists, or scholarly opinions on the matter, when I can get extremely telling and pertinent information directly from the horses’ mouths. (Please see my link in the post you referred to for the quotes from Dabiq that I’m talking about). This doesn’t mean that I think the only motivation for all terrorist acts and actors related to Islam is religious. Also, please don’t think I’m mocking research here, I think it has its place, but all research comes with bias and I feel I can avoid that entirely by going to the source myself.

    “All research I have read regarding Islamist terrorism is clear about the role of Islamist beliefs. Very often they play a critical role but the research explores why people embrace those beliefs and how radicalization happens”. If this is what the research indicates, and you agree with this, then I really don’t see that the gulf between our views is very wide. It’s possible that we’ve been arguing over almost nothing. It has forced me to do more reading on the subject though, and that is a good thing. What I have read has been very similar to the section I quoted from you and isn’t contradictory to any of the reasoning I had in place before reading it. Maybe I’m being stubborn, I don’t think so, I hope not. 😀

    Fear
    I do not fear Islam or Muslims because in my situation I have very little reason to. People in other areas of the world and in different situations from myself could very much have reason to fear. I do not suffer from fear in anything really, but if you ask me the thing I’m most concerned about (worldwide-wise) at the moment, it would be Islamism (“the belief that Islamic laws should rule society” as you put it). If we, in the west, get remotely close to seeing Islamists deliver on their promises (or more accurately the promises from the Islamic holy texts) in relation to that, then we will truly have something to fear. The UK could be seen to be on the tipping point in this regard, and I think it was reflected in their Brexit vote.

    Religion
    OK, so I should have said “Most religions…” rather than all (I always forget Universalists, such a pain), but please pardon my bias, I grew up in a cult…haha. At the risk of repeating myself, religion is a force (it applies an external force to peoples actions and thinking, force isn’t always physical it can be psychological too), in exactly the same way that peer pressure is a force (if one friend tells you to do something, it is a small force, if 100 friends tell you to do the same it is a large force).

    In general I agree that religions don’t “do” anything, but I would take issue with your “people do things” dichotomy. Groups can also do things (that would in many cases never happen if it were individuals acting alone), and what is religion, if not a group.

    Finally
    You asked “I understood you to be saying that all Muslims are either potential terrorists or potential terrorist sympathizers because, by definition as Muslims, they all have believe in the Muslim religion and its sacred writings. Am I correct?”

    That very much depends on what you mean by potential.

    If you mean “having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future” then very much NO! I don’t think individual Muslims have any personal propensity to become terrorists.

    If you mean “existing in possibility, capable of development into actuality” then I lean a little bit more to the yes.

    If you mean “higher in likelihood than members of other groups in the same circumstances” (not a definition of potential), then I think this is a verifiable fact. When taken worldwide, surveys, terrorism stats, etc. all show that this is the case. And yes, I believe that it is because of the sacred writings of Islam. I think our whole argument might hinge on this point, and I think it’s a very hard thing to prove either way, as people often don’t tell the truth about their actual motivations (for anything, let alone terrorism).

    OK, really finally now.
    I am going to ask an off-topic question, in order to hopefully understand you better. What is your view on determinism vs free will? (I can’t remember reading any posts you’ve written on the subject, so apologies if you’ve covered it here before).

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-08-14 00:15:05 UTC - 00:15 | Permalink

      Research
      I have not found it necessary, or a good use of my time, to read much research on the subject of terror. Why would I read second hand accounts of interviews with terrorists, or scholarly opinions on the matter, when I can get extremely telling and pertinent information directly from the horses’ mouths. (Please see my link in the post you referred to for the quotes from Dabiq that I’m talking about). This doesn’t mean that I think the only motivation for all terrorist acts and actors related to Islam is religious. Also, please don’t think I’m mocking research here, I think it has its place, but all research comes with bias and I feel I can avoid that entirely by going to the source myself.

      How do you answer someone who would say you are being anti-intellectual? To qualify as a researcher and gain a professional reputation among other professional bodies one must demonstrate a clear understanding of the potential for bias in anyone’s work and address any questions causing doubts through bias. Researchers must also go to demonstrable lengths to establish that they are not just reporting their own opinions but are relying on a range of research methods (and certainly not only interviews!) that can be checked and cross-checked and even repeated by others. And where interviews are used researchers who are professional really do understand better than anyone the dangers involved and know how to present such results and check them against other data. They need to pass peer-review and maintain their reputations as reliable researchers, after all. They are not fools.

      Human understanding has advanced because that kind of scholarly research has exposed a whole raft of “common sense” myths and misunderstandings in health, political science, human behaviour, you name it.

      I also read Dabiq, and I read/have read sometimes in part sometimes in full works by other Islamist propagandists, too. The researchers you are avoiding help us place such writings in a very real context that too often escapes an outsider.

      How do you know you are not just bringing your own biases and preconceptions into your reading of Dabiq and that your conclusions are only a small part of a much larger picture?

      What sort of person does Dabiq appeal to? Why? Can anyone really come to knowledgeable conclusions from merely skimming media headlines and a few passages in the Koran?

      I have found all too common that the discussion comes down to being between those who do the hard work of research or at least know something about it, and those who ignore it and even have badly skewed, outright false, ideas about it.

      Fortunately when I listen to an expert talking about terrorism and that expert is an advisor to government or police anti-terrorist organizations I am usually hearing words that I recognize from the research. Then I read folks like Harris, Coyne and co scoffing at that advice and completely misrepresenting it, and yes, stirring up a fear of the Muslim religion as if it were a force with demonic power.

      I will respond to some other points in other comments.

      • pastasauceror
        2016-08-14 00:31:38 UTC - 00:31 | Permalink

        I agree with your points here. I am not trying to criticize research(ers), or scientific/scholarly pursuits. All I am saying is that in my limited time I cannot read all of these and have chosen to take what the major terrorist organizations claim as their motivations to be the truth. They could be lying, there could be a context that affects their comments slightly, but all things considered I don’t think either of these lets Islam off the hook of responsibility for much of the terror committed by its adherents. I think you’re being uncharitable towards Harris here, I’ve never heard him scoff at research for one thing, but I won’t go any further into that, it’s just a tangent.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-08-14 20:07:30 UTC - 20:07 | Permalink

          Would not more caution be advisable if you don’t have time to read the other side of the story?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-08-14 00:51:28 UTC - 00:51 | Permalink

      Neil:“All research I have read regarding Islamist terrorism is clear about the role of Islamist beliefs. Very often they play a critical role but the research explores why people embrace those beliefs and how radicalization happens”.

      pastasauceror
      : If this is what the research indicates, and you agree with this, then I really don’t see that the gulf between our views is very wide. It’s possible that we’ve been arguing over almost nothing. It has forced me to do more reading on the subject though, and that is a good thing. What I have read has been very similar to the section I quoted from you and isn’t contradictory to any of the reasoning I had in place before reading it. Maybe I’m being stubborn, I don’t think so, I hope not.

      Our differences are very deep. Coyne and co have ignorantly, falsely, accused people like Scott Atran of denying the role of religion. Why? I wonder if they do so because they researchers like Atran actually have a far more informed understanding of the nature of religion and human behaviour and what they say flies in the face of simplistic views that “religion” and the Koran are baleful presences in our world. They have a very skewed idea of how humans (let’s say religious humans, especially Muslim humans) work.

      Researchers help us understand the human dimension of what is happening, of terrorism. It is a far more realistic perspective that explains so much more than the simplistic view that it’s all the Koran’s fault, or it’s all about idiotic and dangerous religion. Dangerous ideas don’t just take over people like some demonic force, twisting their minds and natures, etc. That’s not how people or ideas work, and I really do think some of the New Atheism is flat wrong for suggesting that that’s how religion works.

      Recall my earlier posts pointing to the striking similarities between the processes that lead some people to join religious cults and those that draw others into extremist/terrorist groups.

      Ordinary Muslim beliefs and practices are not the problem with respect to terrorism and that should be obvious because those attracted to terrorism deplore ordinary Muslim beliefs and practices, they reject them, like a JW rejects Roman Catholicism or Lutheranism. Mainstream Islam does nothing at all for those attracted to Islamist terrorism. Mainstream Islam is what they are fighting against. Of course, like the JWs, they simultaneously claim that only they represent the true and original faith.

      Ironically, not so so ironically, most people seem unaware of the research that has helped us understand why people join JWs, too. Misconceptions abound: those who join are uneducated, unintelligent, weak-willed, gullible, etc. Research has given us a very different picture.

      • pastasauceror
        2016-08-14 01:33:45 UTC - 01:33 | Permalink

        Yes, I agree that the processes that lead people to join cults and terror groups are similar. You’re missing the point though, as it is what the group they’re led into teaches that causes the subsequent actions of that group (and this is actually the exact point I am making in my overall argument). Which, do you think, will lead to worse outcomes for society? A person who joins a “free love” cult, a person who joins the JWs, or a person who joins an Islamic extremist organization? Not all cults are the same, not all religions are the same.

        Almost no one is claiming that the beliefs and practices of “ordinary [moderate] Muslims” are a problem with regard to terrorism. At most some may say moderates provide a shield for extremists of the same religion (and you are using it exactly for this purpose here), but I, and most others on my side of the divide, are claiming that “moderate Muslim” beliefs have been mollified over the years and that the actual teachings of the Koran, and other Islamic holy texts, are the problem. And it is these that ISIS and other terror organizations are using to justify their actions.

        Do you personally think some or any of the ideas found in Islam’s holy texts are dangerous?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-08-14 03:16:23 UTC - 03:16 | Permalink

          Yes, I agree that the processes that lead people to join cults and terror groups are similar. You’re missing the point though, as it is what the group they’re led into teaches that causes the subsequent actions of that group (and this is actually the exact point I am making in my overall argument).

          Notice what those similarities are:

          Who Joins Cults — and How and Why?
          Islamic Radicals and Christian Cults: Cut from the Same Cloth
          How Religious Cults and Terrorist Groups Attract Members
          Unfreezing. Gateway to Radicalisation (Comparing Cults and Terrorist Groups Once More)
          Cults & Terrorists in Christianity and Islam

          The question we are trying to understand is what leads to people joining a group with a frame of mind or willingness to change their behaviour and do whatever bizarre things they learn that it teaches, and convince themselves the teachings are not bizarre but good, and do things they would otherwise never dream of doing. If you were to join such a group for some odd reason I am sure that you would walk straight out when you found they taught some bizarre things. Why do some people not act the way most of us do?

          No, I don’t think any ink on a page is dangerous. What I find dangerous are people who do terrible things. We all find ways (including texts if we want) to justify our behaviour. How texts are interpreted is contingent upon a wide range of factors. Texts do not interpret themselves and then change people’s thinking. People and our relationships with literature are not like that at all.

      • pastasauceror
        2016-08-14 01:59:00 UTC - 01:59 | Permalink

        Oops, I left out the most important step in my reasoning. It is almost impossible for a non-believer (in Islam) to join one of these extremist Islamic groups, because to accept their teachings requires at least a basic belief in Islam first. I’m not saying it *never* happens, but it *basically never* happens…haha.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-08-14 02:27:41 UTC - 02:27 | Permalink

          The evidence shows that to join those groups one needs only the slimmest awareness of Islamic teachings. There are many cases where people join having scant interest in religion. (Recall those guys who were caught trying to join ISIS with a copy of “Islam for Dummies” in their luggage.) Yet we know there are countless numbers who convert to serious Islamic belief and who abhor terrorism. Clearly the link you are suggesting cannot be a causal one.

          Then we have Hindu terrorists, Zionist terrorists, socialist terrorists, anarchist terrorists, nationalist-liberation terrorists of various nations, — does being a Hindu, a Zionist, a socialist, an anarchist, a national-liberationist, hold the potential for terrorist actions? Each has had its day. Today it’s the turn of the Muslims. Why?

          Perhaps the potential is a human one and we need to better understand humans.

          • Zbykow
            2016-08-19 21:35:57 UTC - 21:35 | Permalink

            “Then we have Hindu terrorists, Zionist terrorists, socialist terrorists, anarchist terrorists, nationalist-liberation terrorists of various nations”

            These are all ideologies. Coincidence?

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-08-20 00:41:30 UTC - 00:41 | Permalink

              National liberation movements are not ideologies. Russian anarchists were primarily motivated by a desire to give a better life to the downtrodden of Russian society. Palestinian suicide bombers also saw their actions as altruistic. Ideologies, I suppose, can capture the imagination by virtue of enabling an individual to enter a cause bigger than one individual.

              • Zbykow
                2016-08-21 15:04:16 UTC - 15:04 | Permalink

                “Ideologies, I suppose, can capture the imagination by virtue of enabling an individual to enter a cause bigger than one individual.”

                Yes! That’s the point.
                Terrorists don’t seem to be particularly concerned about lives of individuals, do they?

                You asked what causes an ideology generate terrorism. In my opinion, the ideology has to be disempowered in some way, while still maintaining considerable support. That’s why they don’t always generate terrorism, but notice that when in power, they tend to generate even worse phenomena.

                “National liberation movements are not ideologies”

                I’d argue. It’s a form of nationalism afterall.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-08-21 19:33:45 UTC - 19:33 | Permalink

                What I meant was that many terrorists have been strongly motivated by caring deeply for the lives and well being of those they identify with, their own people, whether that is an entire class or ethnic group.

                Yes, as for the current jihadist movement, Scott Atran believes that what we are seeing is a global jihadist revolutionary movement, one that does indeed imply “even worse phenomena” should they ever succeed.

              • Zbykow
                2016-08-22 16:57:27 UTC - 16:57 | Permalink

                If indeed, terrorists are motivated by caring for well-being of their people, their actions so far prove to be totally counterproductive.

                I’m still convinced, what they care for the most are the parasite ideas in their brains.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-08-14 04:12:48 UTC - 04:12 | Permalink

          What your “most important step” is showing us is that you are convinced that if the Muslim religion has any connection with Islamic terrorism (a tautology, of course) then the Islamic religion must bear at least some significant responsibility for terrorism.

          Of course then when we take note of a terrorist attack by a non-Muslim then we set that aside as a different question. But if a Muslim commits a terrorist act then something about the Muslim religion is to blame.

          Surely setting out your point like this makes the logical fallacy obvious.

          I thought you were implying that you disagreed with the research I referenced because you found it inadequate or flawed as an explanation for Islamic terror. But it appears you have not actually read any of it. It does seem to me that if Islam can in any way be associated with terror attacks then you think that’s all you need to establish that Islam is to blame for terror attacks.

          Did the fact that only Jews were responsible for terrorist attacks in Palestine before Israel became a nation prove that being a Jew was the cause of terrorism then?

          Did the fact that atheists and agnostics were responsible for terrorist attacks in nineteenth century Russia prove that lack of devout religion was responsible for terrorist attacks then?

          • pastasauceror
            2016-08-14 04:43:11 UTC - 04:43 | Permalink

            Yes, the way you lay it out the logical fallacy is obvious, and that is because you are strawmaning my position.

            I will not respond further to this comment, as I will let my other comments speak for themselves on whether you have been charitable to my argument here.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-08-14 20:22:24 UTC - 20:22 | Permalink

              No, there is no straw man. If a Muslim is associated with terrorism then for you it is the Islamic religion that must be primarily to blame. Specifically it is belief in the Koran that is to blame.

              I think you are avoiding facing up to that fundamental premise of your view point and what it implies.

              • pastasauceror
                2016-08-15 12:43:39 UTC - 12:43 | Permalink

                Well, it seems we’re just going around in circles now, so I will have one more go at helping you understand my position and then I will take my leave.

                I’ll try an analogy.

                There is a hypothetical religion that clearly teaches the wearing of head-coverings in certain situations.

                Not everyone in the religion accepts that the wearing of head-coverings is a legitimate teaching of the religion, some say that the wearing of head-coverings was meant for a different time and is not appropriate nowadays, and so they do not participate in the wearing of head-coverings. They often encourage others of their religion to ignore this teaching and continually reassure those outside their religion that this does not represent the correct view of their sacred texts.

                Then there are those of the hypothetical religion who say that the wearing of head-coverings in certain circumstances is definitely a teaching of their religion and, because they believe strongly, encourage those they see as weak in the teachings of their religion to fully commit their lives to their God by the wearing of head-coverings.

                In some circumstances people of other religions (some of which even have teachings against the wearing of head-coverings) and people with no religion (who don’t have any teachings one way or the other on the wearing of head-coverings) will also take to the wearing of head-coverings in an effort to deal with certain situations they find themselves in. But, in general, it is a well known identifying mark of the hypothetical religion that their followers are regularly seen in the wearing of head-coverings, and generally in much greater numbers than the rest of the population.

                Some have said that this is merely a factor of circumstance or of the particular conditions in the countries where they live; that if you were to compare the wearing of head-coverings among those in very similar circumstances you would find that there is little to no difference between those who are part of the hypothetical religion and those who aren’t. But when these factors are taken into account the wearing of head-coverings is still far more prevalent among members of the hypothetical religion than the rest of the population given the same conditions.

                My claim is that the hypothetical religion bears all of the responsibility for all of the wearing of head-coverings that occurs among their followers at a rate greater than that in the base population precisely because it is part of the teaching of that religion. (Other religions and the non-religious that don’t have a teaching on the matter, or that teach against it, do not bear the same responsibility, if any, for their followers’ actions in the wearing of head-coverings).

                [Now, you know what to do…swap all instances of “the wearing of headcoverings” for “the use of terror” and you’ll have my non-straw position on the matter.]

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-08-15 19:33:46 UTC - 19:33 | Permalink

                All of the research tells us the very opposite process happens in the case of Islamic terrorism. People do not become terrorists “because” of what they read in the Koran.

                No-one simply reads the Koran and says, “Hey, I must go out and kill those infidels. That’s what Allah says I should do, even though other Muslims disagree with my interpretation.”

                If it were true, we would expect millions more people attempting to kill infidels and this would have been happening ever since the inception of the religion, just like the wearing of head scarfs. But there is no comparison.

                That’s not how it works. The research establishes it beyond doubt. Your analogy is therefore a false one. That has been the message of my posts citing the sources I listed at the end of the post.

                But you do not have time to read any of that research though you do have time to argue that it is nonetheless wrong, presumably touted by researchers who must be biased and incompetent.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-08-15 19:46:28 UTC - 19:46 | Permalink

                When I said “opposite process” I was referring to the evidence that hardcore Islamist “martyrdom” teachings (i.e. Jihadist terror teachings) come after volunteers are prepared and set on the path of a “martyrdom operation”, not before.

                The original post of mine that led to this discussion discussing the reasons “lone-wolves” can radicalize within weeks, even, likewise was explaining the known process and pathway that leads such persons to do what they do.

                To suggest that people murder and suicide as easily as deciding to wear a head-scarf because of what they read in a holy book only indicates an outrageously simplistic understanding of the relationship between religion and human behaviour. The reason I believe such ignorance fuels unhealthy social attitudes is because it effectively conveys a less than truly human view of the motivations of Muslims. I encourage you to keep in touch with posts I write on both the research into how terrorism and religion and people really do work.

          • Bob de Jong
            2016-08-14 09:05:13 UTC - 09:05 | Permalink

            “Did the fact that only Jews were responsible for terrorist attacks in Palestine before Israel became a nation prove that being a Jew was the cause of terrorism then?”

            Why deny that both Jews and Arabs committed acts of terrorism before 1948?

            A list is not hard to find: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_and_massacres_in_Mandatory_Palestine

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-08-14 20:48:30 UTC - 20:48 | Permalink

              Bob, you make my heart sink. Can you possibly bring yourself to think that it is at all possible to say just one thing negative about a tiniest handful of Jews (I was clearly implying that the overwhelming majority of Jews were/are NOT terrorists!!!!) without being thought to harbor vicious antisemitism in my deepest heart of hearts — unless I simultaneously and every time denounce a thousand more Arabs for blatantly far more evil acts?

              If you read my posts with a less jaundiced eye you will see my past references to Arab violence and terror against Jews, but I know those posts upset you because their theme is telling a side of the story that you would rather be kept silent and forgotten.

              You will also notice (unless my one reference to Jewish terrorism completely blinds you to the fact) that I was extrapolating from my immediately prior post in which I had explained I was referring to ZIONIST terrorism.

              I do regret my change from Zionist to Jewish in my second post because I am very well aware that not all Jews are Zionists. If it helps to exonerate me in any way, then please notice that my point was to draw an analogy to the tendency today for some people to associate all Muslims with acts of terrorism in some manner, not only Sunni Muslims, nor only Islamists, or some subsection of Muslims.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-08-14 02:58:07 UTC - 02:58 | Permalink

      Fear
      I do not fear Islam or Muslims because in my situation I have very little reason to. People in other areas of the world and in different situations from myself could very much have reason to fear. I do not suffer from fear in anything really, but if you ask me the thing I’m most concerned about (worldwide-wise) at the moment, it would be Islamism (“the belief that Islamic laws should rule society” as you put it). If we, in the west, get remotely close to seeing Islamists deliver on their promises (or more accurately the promises from the Islamic holy texts) in relation to that, then we will truly have something to fear. The UK could be seen to be on the tipping point in this regard, and I think it was reflected in their Brexit vote.

      So Islam or Muslims are to be feared because they are responsible for terrible things in the world. If you have read all issues of Dabiq you would know that this is the division and fear in society that ISIS is attempting to create by their violence. Your response is playing right into ISIS’s agenda of eliminating “the grey zone” in societies.

      Then you speak of Islamism, but that is quite different from Islam as a religion. Islamism is seen as an enemy of Islam by many Muslims — even in Muslim majority countries. That becomes very clear just reading Majid Nawaaz’s biography (even allowing for his distortions in other details of his life), in Jason Burke’s newest book, “The New Threat”. . . . .

      • pastasauceror
        2016-08-14 04:40:31 UTC - 04:40 | Permalink

        Where did I say Islam or Muslims are to be feared at all? Not just that, but acting out of fear (when not in immediate danger, as fear evolved to protect us from…thus not precluding the running from a black-clad, gun-toting, Allah-Akbar-shouting person of unknown religious persuasion) is nearly always foolish. I am claiming that it is vital that we are correct in understanding the actual reasons for terror.

        You brought up Islamism, not I. But “the belief that Islamic laws should rule society”, as you defined Islamism, is actually a core tenet of Islam. Whether Muslims accept this or not is irrelevant. The big difference (and problem) with extremists as opposed to moderates is that extremists want to bring Sharia to all countries, not just Muslim ones. The Koran/Hadith is clear that Sharia should be implemented in Muslim society, less clear on non-Muslim countries, I assume because that issue seldom came up in their conquering glide across MENA, Southern Europe and Western Asia around the time the Koran/Hadith was written.

        So, let’s extrapolate. What if Muslim numbers get to a point, say in Britain, France or now even Germany, that the nation votes in an Islamic party democratically. Will Muslims see that party as having the right (or duty) to bring in Sharia law over that country?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-08-14 20:04:18 UTC - 20:04 | Permalink

          Okay, you say Islam is damn dangerous and deadly but we should not fear it. That way it is technically wrong to describe your position as Islamophobic.

          Nothing any researcher will say will make any difference to your view because as far as you are concerned the Koran contains evil texts and so it is “obvious” to you that any terrorism associated in any way with a Muslim is ultimately caused by the Muslim religion.

          No matter what mainstream Muslims themselves try to explain about their beliefs or practices and attitude toward Islamism will make any difference to you, either, because you believe what the terrorists say about the Koran and Islam instead.

  • Al Roth
    2016-08-16 10:29:02 UTC - 10:29 | Permalink

    Slightly off topic from the Islam/fear angle, but thought this was very interesting.

    http://www.e-ir.info/2016/07/28/islam-and-the-politics-of-temporality-the-case-of-isis/

  • Zbykow
    2016-08-21 18:11:03 UTC - 18:11 | Permalink

    “Religions don’t do anything. People do things.”

    That’s a deepity.
    If you mean acts of will then of course, as far as we know religions don’t perform any, but inanimate processes do cause things happen. Religions are social processes, emergent phenomena which evolve in unpredictable ways, and they cause people do things, even on subconscious level.

    “We don’t know what the consequences would be if religion was somehow magically removed from the planet.”

    But we do.
    There are a number of countries, Czech Republic, Estonia, Norway maybe, they do without well enough.

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