2016-09-01

The Founder of Islamist Extremism and Terrorism

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

nolanNazi ideology was set out by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, Communism was explained for all by Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto, and radical Islamism was planted with Sayyid Qutb‘s Milestones. Qutb was hanged in 1966 for involvement in a plot to assassinate Egypt’s President Gamal Abdul Nasser. Qutb’s ideas appear to have been more deeply entrenched as consequence of his various experiences during a visit to the United States 1948-1950.

jnolan

James Nolan

James Nolan includes Sayyid Qutb in his book, What They Saw in America: Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, G. K. Chesterton, and Sayyid Qutb and there is an interesting interview with James Nolan his book (with an emphasis on Qutb) at The violent legacy of Sayyid Qutb’s visit to the USA on Late Night Live.

A famous tipping point for Qutb that seems to pop up frequently in any discussion of his experiences in America was a church dance, and not least the lyrics of the pop song being played, Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Racism in America was another stench that outraged him.

milestones-sayyid-qutb-3.gifI want to follow up Nolan’s interview about Qutb with some comments on Milestones.

Milestones is said to have been studied intensively by Osama Bin Laden and other Islamist leaders today. To anyone who has read Milestones its influence is very obvious in the propaganda pronouncements of ISIS today.

I would even say that it is essential reading for anyone who is genuinely interested in understanding the Islamist movement and the ideology behind Islamist terrorism. It is not the only work of significance (I have mentioned others, especially Management of Savagery), but a reasonable case can be made that Milestones is “where it all began”.

I have never had any personal interest in the Muslim religion but reading Milestones evoked a very strong sense of déjà vu for me. I was transported back to the days when I was reading the Armstrong literature that led me into the Worldwide Church of God cult. All the same buttons were there.

Press the one to arouse uncompromising idealism.

Press another to stir up the thrill and heavy responsibility of being part of a vanguard movement destined to change history and save mankind.

What was needed was a long-term program of ideological and organizational work, coupled with the training of a dedicated vanguard of believers who would protect the cause in times of extreme danger (if necessary by recourse to force) and preside over the replacement of Jahiliyyahh by the Islamic state. . . .

It is the right of Islam to release mankind from servitude to human beings so that they may serve Allah alone, to give practical
meaning to its declaration that Allah is the true Lord of all and that all men are free under Him. . . .

Mankind can be dignified, today or tomorrow, by striving toward this noble civilization, by pulling itself out of the abyss of Jahiliyyahh into which it is falling.

And there’s the other one for confronting hypocrisy and setting one on the path to become a self-sacrificing heroic martyr.

We must also free ourselves from the clutches of Jahili society, Jahili concepts, Jahili traditions and Jahili leadership. Our mission is not to compromise with the practices of Jahili society, nor can we be loyal to it. Jahili society, because of its Jahili characteristics, is not worthy to be compromised with. . . .The honour of martyrdom is achieved only when one is fighting in the cause of
Allah . . .

It’s all there. All the buttons that start certain people on the road to radicalization, to extremism.

And it’s all backed up by the special insights of the godly founder-figure who came to understand more deeply than anyone else the ultimate truths in the Holy Book — in Armstrong’s case, the Bible; in Qutb’s, the Qur’an.

. . . I have set down the deep truths which I grasped during my meditations over the way of life presented in the Holy Qur’an. . .

To say that the Muslim religion or the Qur’an is ultimately responsible for Islamist extremism and terrorism today is just like saying that Christianity and the Bible are ultimately responsible for Armstrongism, Dave Koresh, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jim Jones. Well, yes, in a very general sense they are, but only in such a general sense that the link become meaningless.

Just as cult leaders denounce their mainstream religionists as “false brethren”, so in Milestones we read repeatedly of the falseness of mainstream Muslims.

Lastly, all the existing so-called ‘Muslim’ societies are also Jahili societies.

We classify them among Jahili societies not because they believe in other deities besides Allah or because they worship anyone other than Allah, but because their way of life is not based on submission to Allah alone. . . . 

The people in these countries have reached this wretched state by abandoning Islam, and not because they are Muslims.

Just as cult leaders claim special insights into the Bible, so Qutb claims that his own understanding of the Qur’an is the result of long periods of study and reflection. His interpretations were not obvious at first. In fact, in Milestones he goes to considerable length to counter the arguments of mainstream Muslims condemning his extreme view of jihad and killing the faithless.

So you think the belief in being given forty-two virgins in Paradise is a motive to kill and die? Rubbish. Not a single breath of a hint of any such self-interested motive seeps into Milestones. Very much the contrary, in fact. There is a vast chasm between teachings of heavenly rewards and the actual triggers that initiate the behaviours of cultists.

I began by comparing Milestones with Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto. It’s appropriate to conclude with a link back to an earlier post — ISIS is a Revolution, born in terror (like all revolutions) — in which Scott Atran argues that the Islamist extremists we face today are indeed part of a worldwide revolutionary movement that must be stopped.

You can download Milestones here or here.

qutb

Sayyid Qutb

Other Vridar posts on Sayyid Qutb

And other posts justifying the comparison between religious cults and other extremists:

29 Comments

  • james
    2016-09-02 19:45:57 UTC - 19:45 | Permalink

    “radical Islamism was planted with Sayyid Qutb‘s Milestones”

    No it wasn’t. There were plenty of radical Islamists before 1964. This idea that so-called Islamism is a recent invention is liberal propaganda, and an attempt to whitewash 13 centuries of Islamic theocracy.

    “So you think the belief in being given forty-two virgins in Paradise is a motive to kill and die? Rubbish. Not a single breath of a hint of any such self-interested motive seeps into Milestones. Very much the contrary, in fact. There is a vast chasm between teachings of heavenly rewards and the actual triggers that initiate the behaviours of cultists.”

    Chapters 11/12 are full of this, this might be a language problem, by the Garden Qutb means Paradise.

    “Scott Atran argues that the Islamist extremists we face today are indeed part of a worldwide revolutionary movement that must be stopped.”

    Atran has been hilariously wrong about pretty much everything for the past 15 years. This is the guy who famously insisted networks of familiy and friends were the cause of terrorism, only to get blindsided by a wave of self radicalisation by lone wolves. He said social marginalisation was the cause, and jihads weren’t really interested in overthrowing dictators and running theocracies – ha ha ha ha ha. It’s ridiculous that someone who has been so consistently wrong is thought to be an authority.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-09-02 20:29:42 UTC - 20:29 | Permalink

      Sigh! Have you ever read any of Scott Atran’s research publications and books? Obviously not or you could not repeat such utter nonsense as that he claims “networks and families were the CAUSE of terrorism”. That’s a faleshood promoted by Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne and co.

      Have you ever read Milestones yourself? Obviously not. But you know it’s all bollocks, right?

      I think you might (potentially?) learn something if you even read the autobiography of Maajid Nawaz, a friend of Sam Harris. It’s called Radical. Or even the book he co-authored with Sam Harris: Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz in Discordant Dialogue

      It looks to me like the version of history about Islam that you read has a lot in common with a work supposedly exposing the historical evils of Jews, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

      For others who are genuinely interested:

      The Origins of Islamic Militancy

      So why did militants turn to attack the West? — The Saudi Arabia driver

      • james
        2016-09-03 08:12:02 UTC - 08:12 | Permalink

        “It looks to me like the version of history about Islam that you read has a lot in common with a work supposedly exposing the historical evils of Jews, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

        The difference is that there was no global Jewish conspiracy. Name one year between 622 and 1924 when there wasn’t a Caliphate?

        Have you ever read Milestones yourself? Obviously not. But you know it’s all bollocks, right?

        Yes. Have you read the history of Saudi Arabia? Was it not founded through jihad? Are they not extreme islamists? The idea that radical Islamism was started with Milestones in 1964 is not true, it has deep routes in Islamic history.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-09-04 06:56:59 UTC - 06:56 | Permalink

          What does the existence of the historical Caliphate have to do with anything?

          As for Saudi Arabia you should read Burke’s latest book or at least my two posts on it: http://vridar.org/category/book-reviews-notes/burke-the-new-threat/

          • james
            2016-09-05 23:39:45 UTC - 23:39 | Permalink

            “What does the existence of the historical Caliphate have to do with anything?”

            It demonstrates that contrary to your claim radical Islamism did not start with Qutb in 1964.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-09-06 22:41:20 UTC - 22:41 | Permalink

              How so? What does the historical Caliphate have to do with radical Islamism?

              Was Qutb completely ignorant of what he wrote about the historical Caliphate and have all the Islamists who have studied Qutb since failed to spot his error? Are all the Islamists and Muslims ignorant of their own history?

              Did you ready my two posts on the rise of Islamism at http://vridar.org/category/book-reviews-notes/burke-the-new-threat/

              (Actually Qutb was indeed partly misreading his own history of the Caliphate, but not in the way you seem to think.)

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-09-07 00:26:11 UTC - 00:26 | Permalink

              From my post about a recent historian’s work on the Arab conquests:

              So were the Arab conquests inspired by Muhammad and their zeal to spread the Muslim faith? For that we have no evidence. I don’t mean there is no evidence for the seventh century Arab conquests. They are not doubted. But what is open to question is whether these Arabs were adherents to Islam at that time. Or did the Muslim religion appear subsequent to those conquests?

              When the Romans or Persians conquered territories they left indisputable evidence of who they were and what they believed. When the Arabs conquered both Christian and Jewish peoples they left no evidence that at that time they belonged to any particular religion. Apparently some Christians feared they were in league with the Jews because they allowed Jews to return to some of their places of prayer.

              Particularly curious is that there is no mention of Muhammad in any of their coins or other records pertaining to this period. Another curious datum from the documentary (not in the interview) is that the earliest known mosque in the Palestine region is not facing Mecca, but east, for prayer.

              The first coin with the name Muhammad on it does not appear until around fifty years after the conquests of Palestine.

              At the “height” of its power the Caliphate was a focus of court luxury, and court poets praising the joys of wine and boys . . . Islamic radicalism indeed!

  • james
    2016-09-02 22:00:54 UTC - 22:00 | Permalink

    “Sigh! Have you ever read any of Scott Atran’s research publications and books? Obviously not or you could not repeat such utter nonsense as that he claims “networks and families were the CAUSE of terrorism”. That’s a faleshood promoted by Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne and co.”

    Yes I have read Atran. Remember Atran has played a key role in counter terrorism policy. Now mentally review the below in light of the last 10 years.

    From Atran: Trends in Suicide Terrorism : Sense and Nonsense. 2004.

    “Through indoctrination of recruits into relatively small and closeted cells—emotionally tightknit brotherhoods—terror organizations create a family of cellmates who are just as willing to sacrifice for one another as a parent for a child… These culturally contrived cell loyalties mimic and (at least temporarily) override genetically based fidelities to kin while securing belief in sacrifice to a larger group cause… Key to intercepting that commitment before it solidifies is grasping how, like the best commercial advertisers but to ghastlier effect, charismatic leaders of terrorist groups turn ordinary desires for kinship and religion into cravings for the mission they are pitching, to the benefit of the manipulating organization rather than the individual manipulated…

    Social psychologists have long documented what they call “the fundamental attribution error,” the tendency for people to explain human behavior in terms of individual personality traits, even when significant situational factors in the larger society are at work. This attribution error leads many in the West to focus on the individual suicide terrorists rather than the organizational environment which produces them… : no instance has yet occurred of religious or political suicide terrorism resulting from the lone action of a mentally unstable bomber (e.g., a suicidal Unabomber) or someone acting entirely under his own authority and responsibility (e.g., a suicidal Timothy McVeigh). The key is the organization, not the individual.”

    Q1. Do you think Atran is correct in his dismissal of lone wolf terrorists? Can Islamist terrorism occur based on theological motivations in the absence of organisational support, or is recruitment and manipulation in cells driven by charismatic leaders neccessary as Atran claimed? Has terrorism unfolded as Atran predicted based on extrapolations from research into Palestinian terrorism?

    From Atran: The Moral Logic and Growth of Suicide Terrorism. 2006.

    “Jihadis Are Not Nihilistic (Even If Apocalyptic)

    A third misconception is that those who carry out attacks in the name of Al Qaeda or through its inspiration do so mostly because the terrorist is desperate or a nihilist who, in the words of President George W. Bush, “hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises dissent” and wants only to replace the current mildly corrupt and undemocratic regimes with the terrorist’s own far more authoritarian and arbitrary form of “evil.”32 This is the thesis of the U.S. leadership.33 It is hopelessly tendentious and willfully blind.34” …charges of nihilism against an adversary usually reflect ignorance of the adversary’s moral framework or an attempt publicly to cast it as simply evil to mobilize domestic support for war.

    Q2. Do you think Atran was correct is his rejection of jihadist ambitions to create “authoritarian” and “evil” regimes? Have any real world developments challenged Atrans view? Did these charges of support for Caliphism reflect warmongering “ignorance” of jihadis moral frameworks, or an accurate understanding of their theological and scriptural motivations?

    Atran’s theories are catastrophically wrong. He absolutely failed to predict both self-radicalisation and the rise of jihadi states – both incidentally deductable from the Harris/Coyne model of scriptual motivation. I do not know how people can take Atran seriously when he had so confidently argued for the impossibility of the two main recent developments in jihadism.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-09-03 00:32:17 UTC - 00:32 | Permalink

      Before I respond to your questions I think it is reasonable to expect you to respond to the key opening point of mine. If you have read Atran then do cite where argues that “networks and families were the cause of terrorism”. If you somehow think that your quotations above answer that question, please point out how.

      Before I respond to your point about lone wolf terrorists, and since you are clearly in angst over Scott Atran’s presumed arguments, do tell me what articles of Atran’s you have read concerning the lone-wolves.

      Are you aware of the changes in terrorism that have occurred since the 1980s and the way different scholars have kept apace with these changes in their research? Have you read any works published since 2004 or 06?

      • james
        2016-09-03 07:47:26 UTC - 07:47 | Permalink

        Before I respond to your questions I think it is reasonable to expect you to respond to the key opening point of mine. If you have read Atran then do cite where argues that “networks and families were the cause of terrorism”. If you somehow think that your quotations above answer that question, please point out how.

        One of many examples:

        “What seems critical is belonging to action-oriented networks—of families, friends, and fellow travelers—especially when these young people are in transitional stages in finding meaning and a place in life (e.g., immigrants or students in search of friends, mates, jobs).

        Young jihadis are powerfully bound to each other—they are often campmates, school buddies, and soccer pals—who become die-hard bands of brothers united in what they perceive to be a thrilling and heroic cause.”

        Atran has been consistent that indoctrination in small and closeted cells is needed to create terrorists – it runs through almost everything he’s wrote even as self radicalisation took off. I don’t know why you would try and deny this.

        “Are you aware of the changes in terrorism that have occurred since the 1980s and the way different scholars have kept apace with these changes in their research? Have you read any works published since 2004 or 06?”

        Yes. The situation reminds me of scientists who claimed “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”, except they were humiliated on the demostration that their theories were wrong. Somehow tightly bonded terror cell theorists still have careers…

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-09-04 07:01:24 UTC - 07:01 | Permalink

          Atran has been consistent that indoctrination in small and closeted cells is needed to create terrorists – it runs through almost everything he’s wrote even as self radicalisation took off. I don’t know why you would try and deny this.

          Now I know you have not read Atran’s works but nothing more than a few paragraphs presumably through the guidance of Sam Harris or such. Atran says no such thing. The networks he speaks of are not Atran’s theory, by the way, and he certainly does NOT say they “indoctrinate” anyone.

          You overlooked my other comment pointing out that Atran begins the article you cite with a declaration that the terrorists we are talking about are motivated by religious ideas.

          • james
            2016-09-04 07:18:27 UTC - 07:18 | Permalink

            Now I know you have not read Atran’s works but nothing more than a few paragraphs presumably through the guidance of Sam Harris or such. Atran says no such thing. The networks he speaks of are not Atran’s theory, by the way, and he certainly does NOT say they “indoctrinate” anyone.</i/

            Did Atran not write this?

            From Atran: Trends in Suicide Terrorism : Sense and Nonsense. 2004.

            “Through indoctrination of recruits into relatively small and closeted cells—emotionally tightknit brotherhoods—terror organizations create a family of cellmates who are just as willing to sacrifice for one another as a parent for a child…”

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-09-04 08:01:49 UTC - 08:01 | Permalink

              You got me. Yes he did. The indoctrination of which he is speaking is a social process, a shaping of ideas through peer-to-peer social interaction. That is also apparent in that same article. It is the same gradual social conditioning that leads to what Zimbardo called “the Lucifer Effect” and that Atran supports with the following footnote in that article:

              Studies of people who become torturers for their governments demonstrate the eventual power of such blind obedience. See Mika Haritos-Fatouros, “The Official Torturer: A Learning Model for Obedience to the Authority of Violence,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 18 (1988): 1107–1120. The recent scandal involving American servicemen torturing Iraqi prisoners, which has been attributed by American military investigators to “leadership failure” and “lack of supervision” that allowed deviant “criminal” behavior, may in fact result from a less direct and more pervasive culture of abuse promoted by authorities in military intelligence. “Leadership Failure Led to Prison Abuse, Says US General,” Agence France Presse wire, May 12, 2004, http://sg.news.yahoo.com/040512/1/3k6s5.html; Peter Slevin, “Red Cross Describes Systematic Abuse in Iraq,” Washington Post, May 10, 2004.

              What is clear from Atran’s work is that what he (and it’s not only Atran, by the way) is attempting to understand is what are the most reliable predictors of someone becoming a terrorist. And networks are indeed still the most widely used predictors. There is no “ha ha ha ha ha ha” mud on his face as you fatuously assert.

              Sam Harris would have us believe, I think, that the most reliable predictor is being a Muslim. Right. So all Muslims must be suspect; Islam is the enemy.

              Since 2004/06 terrorist networks have inspired “lone-wolf” attacks and this testifies to the power of the internet, also addressed in Atran’s and others’ works. That this was not the primary method of certain types of attacks we have seen since does not invalidate anything. Anti or counter-terrorist agencies still use networks as their primary focus for identifying potential terrorists.

              The difference is that they are now confronted with the additional problem that networks can also be “virtual” and far harder to identify beforehand.

              To suggest that a description of the essential predictors of joining a terrorist group and becoming a terrorist oneself is somehow “wrong” because not all terrorists today join a terrorist group does not make any sense.

              • james
                2016-09-04 08:23:51 UTC - 08:23 | Permalink

                “The difference is that they are now confronted with the additional problem that networks can also be “virtual” and far harder to identify beforehand.”

                No. Atran’s networks – and I’ll quote this again – are “action-oriented networks—of families, friends, and fellow travelers … powerfully bound to each other—they are often campmates, school buddies, and soccer pals”.

                He wasn’t talking about people IMing a twitter account in Syria before shooting somewhere up. Atran had a specific theory of social motivation in kin group – not just from interviews on groups at the time, but from general anthopological theory. History hasn’t been kind.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-09-04 09:44:42 UTC - 09:44 | Permalink

                Understand what predicting means. How has anyone’s work (no need to focus on Atran who is not the only person making these points) been falsified?

                Atran had a specific theory of social motivation in kin group

                And this has been falsified?

                To suggest that a description of the essential predictors of joining a terrorist group and becoming radicalized this way is somehow “wrong” because not all terrorists today join a terrorist group does not make any sense.

                It makes no sense to fault anyone for not explaining a situation they was not describing. Especially when they have written about the place of the internet and kept apace with the changing faces of terrorism.

                But I guess understanding all of that will deprive you of your ‘ha ha ha ha ha ha’ moments.

                Tell me more about your conspiracy theory concerning Atran.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-09-03 04:46:11 UTC - 04:46 | Permalink

      Okay, I promised not to respond till you engaged with my own comment on your earlier comment first, but I have just caught up with the first article of Atran’s that you cite. I have to ask: Did you read the entire article? Did you read the very first line/second sentence in Scott’s article that says:

      The past three years saw more suicide attacks than the last quarter century. Most of these were religiously motivated.”

      Now, what was it you were saying about Atran denying the religious [i.e. Islamic!!] motivation of terrorists?

      Exactly what works have you read by Scott Atran about terrorism? More to the point, what works of any specialist in terrorism have you read in full, on their own terms and in their own right, without the tendentious blinkers of the likes of Sam Harris?

      • james
        2016-09-04 08:03:18 UTC - 08:03 | Permalink

        “Now, what was it you were saying about Atran denying the religious [i.e. Islamic!!] motivation of terrorists?”

        Atran view is basically sacred values + action oriented groups are needed. By sacred values he means a very very broad class of ideas: communism, democracy, buddhism can all be sacred values. So religion is there, but he doesn’t see it as anything particularly unique to religion – it could as well be any higher motivating cause. That’s why I used scriptural and theological, rather than religious, in my comment. Atran will admit a “sacred” motive in a very general sense, but refuses to accept specifically “Islamic” motivation or to engage with doctrine.

        Obviously the classic example is denial that jihadis actually want to establish a theological tyrany that I reference above.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-09-04 08:10:44 UTC - 08:10 | Permalink

          Can you point me to where he assigns sacred values to some sort of “very general sense”? Most of his work that I have read place sacred values at the forefront of his explanations. The one I linked to in the post above certainly did.

          Where does Atran deny that jihadi’s want to establish a theological tyranny? He certainly gives the very opposite perspective in the article I linked to.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2016-09-03 01:30:35 UTC - 01:30 | Permalink

    Hi James,

    You are outraged at what you have falsely heard about Scott Atran and by what you have read into selected paragraphs of his works, but let me invite you to another researcher into terrorism. It is someone I think is from “your side” of the fence, certainly no “liberal”, that is one who belongs to a right-wing think-tank (Foundation for Defense of Democracies), Daveed Gartenstein-Ross: The Myth of Lone-Wolf Terrorism .

  • james
    2016-09-03 07:58:59 UTC - 07:58 | Permalink

    “You are outraged at what you have falsely heard about Scott Atran and by what you have read into selected paragraphs of his works, but let me invite you to another researcher into terrorism. It is someone I think is from “your side” of the fence, certainly no “liberal”, that is one who belongs to a right-wing think-tank (Foundation for Defense of Democracies), Daveed Gartenstein-Ross: The Myth of Lone-Wolf Terrorism.”

    I agree that lone wolf attacks are often falsely declared (ironically enough so that people can deny that Caliphist ideology is motivating IS to launch attacks against the west). However, noting that jihadis are in online contact with IS planners does not validate Atran’s theories. His claim was that “action-oriented networks” of people with tight social bonds “campmates, school buddies, and soccer pals” was needed – not that it could be achieved by whatsapping some dude you’ve never met in Syria.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-09-04 07:07:52 UTC - 07:07 | Permalink

      What do you mean by “caliphist ideology”? (Please respond with a thoughtful answer, not a flippant knee-jerk reply.)

      Atran along with countless other terrorism experts says radicalization happens through networks because in all the situations they study that’s exactly what happens. That’s not a prediction or a law saying that some other situation is impossible. Atran has also spoken about the place of the internet, too, — I trust you knew that.

      What a bunch of complete fools are the experts on terrorism employed by the governments of the USA, Australia, UK, European nations …. Why the hell isn’t the United Nations calling on Sam Harris to come and offer expert testimony about the underlying causes of terrorism and what to do about it instead of the likes of scholars like Scott Atran?

  • james
    2016-09-04 08:04:42 UTC - 08:04 | Permalink

    “What do you mean by “caliphist ideology”?”

    I mean the traditional division of the world into the house of islam and house of war, and the classic sharia view that the Caliph has a religious duty to wage war on non-muslims until they convert or accept his authority. People who oppose foreign intervention (which may well be the right view regardless) are motivated to attribute attacks to lone wolves rather than admit they’re being planned and directed from IS – which if the fact were admitted would weaken their case.

    Atran along with countless other terrorism experts says radicalization happens through networks because in all the situations they study that’s exactly what happens.

    No. Atran’s back peddled, because reality hasn’t given him a choice. But went very strong on groups – organisations are key, networks are critical – because of his anthopological theories on social motivation. That’s not been borne out.

    Why the hell isn’t the United Nations calling on Sam Harris to come and offer expert testimony about the underlying causes of terrorism and what to do about it instead of the likes of scholars like Scott Atran?

    It’s very obvious why the Jordan chaired Security Council invited Atran to address a debate on Islamic terrorism Countering Violent Extremism presided over by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II, rather than Sam Harris. I’m sure even you agree that inviting Harris would have made for a more entertaining event.

    I do wonder whether Atran’s published views are his true beliefs – it would just not be possible to interview jihadists or get support from the places Atran gets support if he had said the stuff about Islam Harris has. His published views are still awful though.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-09-04 08:15:28 UTC - 08:15 | Permalink

      So you suspect there is a conspiracy behind Atran’s career and professional status?

      You really ought to read Milestones and the other works I have suggested so you can see that the Islamists complain that mainstream Muslims (mainstream Islam) has NOT supported their views on jihad. That has something to do with why they kill far more Muslims than Westerners. The extremists claim to be the only true Muslims and you believe them and reject the views of mainstream Muslims. Nice.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2016-09-04 10:04:30 UTC - 10:04 | Permalink

    Evolution is not falsified as we learn more about how life evolved and find there is more to it than just “natural selection”. Newton’s laws are not falsified as we learn more about how the universe works. Describing the role of networks is not invalidated because different types of networks and how they radicalize persons have emerged since.

    Scott Atran once took the time to comment on this blog so I suspect he is approachable. Why not email him and ask him to “explain himself”? Or would you prefer to hang on to your “ha ha ha ha ha ha” moments? See what he says about your conspiracy theory while you’re at it.

  • Zbykow
    2016-09-05 22:21:13 UTC - 22:21 | Permalink

    “So you think the belief in being given forty-two virgins in Paradise is a motive to kill and die? Rubbish. Not a single breath of a hint of any such self-interested motive seeps into Milestones.”

    Who’s the man of straw who says that?

    It goes without saying that belief in afterlife alone is hardly a sufficient motive to go on a killing spree. That’s not how it works.

    There’s a variety of stupid motives, but if one wants to kill people in hostile territory and get away with it – that’s very difficult. On the other hand, if he doesn’t necessarily expect to survive, that makes it a different game.
    That’s where the belief in the reward in afterlife comes in, it helps make that decision – expendable grunts that is, propagandists hardly blow themselves up.

    That’s how belief in the afterlife kills people. It enables certain solutions, provides cannon fodder, makes killing more effective, increases the likelihood of people being killed.
    It need not be the motive for killing.

    Besides, so you found a piece of propaganda that doesn’t dwell on the concept of heavenly reward, what does it prove?
    Is it some kind of argument from selective silence?

    Quite frankly, you’re wrong even on that. The guy quotes the following verse from Quran, and he makes it clear he agrees:
    “They ought to fight in the way of God who have sold the life of this world
    for the life of the Hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of God and is
    killed or becomes victorious, to him shall We give a great reward.”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-09-06 22:34:42 UTC - 22:34 | Permalink

      I presume you opine that the motive for killing others in a martyrdom operation would be motivated by the Quran or belief in certain passages of the Quran and if such a person had any hesitation then the belief in paradise would tip him or her over into carrying out the operation. And if they quote the Quran in their actions then that is all the proof you need that the Quran motivated them. Do I understand correctly?

      Do you understand what my argument is by comparison? Can you sum it up as I have attempted to do yours — and ask for corrective feedback if I have misunderstood?

      • Zbykow
        2016-09-07 18:24:42 UTC - 18:24 | Permalink

        That’s not what I meant.
        I meant belief in heavenly reward is hardly a sufficient motive for killing, but along with many other important factors and beliefs it contributes to terrorism e.g. by making one less reluctant to kill and less afraid of being killed. It’s of little relevance whether it’s written anywhere, more important is whether there are terrorists who hold such a belief. Qutb certainly did.

        Second, you draw conclusions about motives of large number of individuals from one text by one individual, that’s fallacy.

        Third, contrary to your claim in Milestones there’s evidently more than a breath of a hint that there’s a reward in heaven awaiting those who die fighting for Islam.

        “Do you understand what my argument is by comparison?”

        I was referring to just two specific sentences, they’re clear enough.

        If you mean the gist of the whole post, you seem to be trying to argue Milestones suggest that Islamic terrorism has less to do with Islam than some people think. I’m not sure why you think it follows, it feels like most reasoning is going on behind the scenes.
        Anyway, I doubt such an argument can be made using this kind of evidence.

        One thing can be said for sure about Milestones – Qutb appears to be influenced by Islam way more than by anything else.

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