2013-04-27

Flawed and Dangerous: The Popular Notion of “Religious Terrorism”

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

by Neil Godfrey

otago029995
Richard Jackson is currently Deputy Director at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS).

Available online is a Political Studies Review 2009 article “The Study of Terrorism after 11 September 2001: Problems, Challenges and Future Developments” by Richard Jackson “of Aberystwyth University”. (Professor Richard Jackson has since moved to the University of Otago so is not to be confused with the current Richard Jackson at Aberystwyth University who is Professor of Accounting and Finance.)

I am copying an extract from that article here, having changed some of its formatting and added highlighting for easier reading. This section is a damning indictment on the popular notion of “religious terrorism” so I should first quote the far more optimistic abstract of the entire article.

Terrorism studies is one of the fastest-growing areas of social scientific research in the English-speaking world. This article examines some of the main challenges, problems and future developments facing the wider terrorism studies field through a review of seven recently published books. It argues that while a great deal of the current research is characterised by a persistent set of weaknesses, an increasing number of theoretically rigorous and critically oriented studies that challenge established views suggest genuine reasons for optimism about the future of terrorism research.

So there is hope beyond the travesty addressed in the following extract. (I have copied the details of the cited works at the end.)

The Rise of ‘Islamic Terrorism’ Studies

Predicated on the popular notion of ‘religious terrorism’ first articulated by David Rapoport (1984) and galvanised by the identities of the 11 September 2001 attackers and the massive media coverage given to al-Qa’eda, an extremely large literature on ‘Islamic terrorism’ has developed in the past six years (Jackson, 2007a). Silke’s analysis of articles published in the leading terrorism studies journals demonstrates that studies on al-Qa’eda and affiliated groups grew significantly after 1995 and now make up a significant proportion of all terrorism studies published in the core journals (Silke, 2004b).

With a few notable exceptions (see Gerges, 2005; Gunning,2007b; Halliday, 2002), the vast majority of this literature can be criticised for

  • its orientalist outlook,
  • its political biases
  • and its descriptive over-generalisations,
  • misconceptions
  • and lack of empirically grounded knowledge (see Jackson, 2007a).

Rooted in an uncritical and simple-minded acceptance of the notion of a ‘new’ kind of ‘religious terrorism’, this literature

  • typically adopts an undifferentiated and highly exaggerated view of the threat posed by ‘Islamism’,
  • traces a causal link between Islamic doctrine and terrorist violence,
  • attributes religious as opposed to political motives to ‘Islamic terrorists’,
  • fails to differentiate between local political struggles and a global anti-Western movement
  • and assumes that the religious motivations of ‘Islamic terrorism’ rule out all possibilities for dialogue and diplomacy
  • – among others.

Shmuel Bar’s (2006) Warrant for Terror is in many ways emblematic of this popular literature. Based on an analysis of a large number of recent fatwas, or the legal opinions of Islamic jurists that deal with the permissibility or prohibition of actions (Bar, 2006, p. x), Bar’s aim is to explore the role fatwas play in ‘Islam-motivated terrorism’ (p. xiii).

His argument, moreover, is

  • that ‘there is no religious firewall between the radicals and mainstream orthodox Muslims’ (p. x),
  • that ‘Islamic terrorism derives legitimacy and justification from Islamic mores and legal thought’ (p. 113)
  • and that ‘the role of the radical ‘ulama and their fatwas in legitimising terrorism is a pivotal one’ that both motivates the terrorist foot soldiers and convinces ‘believing Muslims through religious and legal arguments to adopt the path of jihad’ (p. 114).
  • Moreover, he suggests that until the Western political and legal arsenal adapts itself to the reality of this ‘religious war’, through, for example, restricting the boundaries of religious freedom, it will struggle in vain to control ‘Islamic terrorism’ (p. 118).

There are a number of analytical and ethical-normative problems with the dominant account of ‘Islamic terrorism’ which Warrant for Terror reproduces.

Analytical and ethical-normative problems

First, from a scholarly perspective it can be demonstrated that many of the core assumptions and assertions of the ‘Islamic terrorism’ literature lack an empirical basis and draw dubious conclusions based on popular media and official sources rather than ethnographic field research or in-depth knowledge of specific societies.

Bar’s book, for example, fails to meet scholarly standards of rigour in a number of important regards. Apart from its failure to describe his sample choice (there are literally tens of thousands of fatwas every year to choose from) or his mode of textual analysis, he cannot explain the causal link he asserts from the violent content of the fatwas he examines to the beliefs and actions of terrorist ‘foot soldiers’ and ‘ordinary Muslims’. That is, because he conducted no interviews or field research, he cannot provide a theoretical or evidentiary basis for demonstrating that the fatwas influenced the attitudes or behaviour of anyone, much less that they were ‘pivotal’ to the constitution of terrorism.

More importantly, he provides no real evidence that the ulama who issue these fatwas are anything more than a lunatic fringe who lack widespread support (see Gerges, 2005).

In a sense, Bar’s analysis is akin to examining the sermons of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Ian Paisley and concluding that they are the pivotal explanation for anti-abortion violence in the United States, anti-Catholic violence in Northern Ireland and all other forms of right-wing Christian-related violence.

The reality is that ‘it is nonsense to seek the causes, as distinct from legitimation, of violence in the texts or traditions of any religion’ (Halliday, 2002, p. 46, p. 78), because all religions have texts or traditions that allow a violent (or a pacifist) reading. It is not that the rhetorical justifications of violence are unimportant or that terrorist groups never appeal to religious ideas, but simply that they are secondary to the strategic decision to employ violence in pursuit of political goals.

Moreover, just as it is not possible to make generalisations about Christians as a single global entity, so it is highly dubious to make generalisations about ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorism’ without first locating the discussion in a specific historical,social and political context.

In addition, a growing number of studies have concluded that there is no causal link between Islam and terrorism specifically or between terrorism and religion generally (Pape, 2005; Holmes, 2005), and that on careful examination the ‘new terrorism’ thesis lacks credibility (Copeland, 2001; Spencer, 2006). And yet it is on these largely mythical foundations that a large and influential scholarly and popular literature is currently based.

Second, and more importantly, there are important political-normative consequences of constructing and reproducing the notion of‘Islamic terrorism’.

In the first place, the broader discourse of ‘Islamic terrorism’ functions to deflect attention from the hegemonic exercise of power by Western states. By locating the sources of contemporary terrorism in religious extremism rather than as a response to Western policies or state repression the discourse works to depoliticise, decontextualise and de-historicise the grievances and counter-hegemonic struggles of groups and societies (Jackson, 2007a).

Related to this, it is demonstrable that the discourse of ‘Islamic terrorism’ has functioned as a legitimising discourse for a range of international and domestic political projects, including:

  • regime change in states like Afghanistan and Iraq;
  • the expansion of a military presence to new regions, such as Central Asia;
  • the control of strategic resources like oil;
  • increased military and political support for allies in strategic regions like the Horn of Africa and Central America;
  • increased resources and power for the military establishment;
  • and more broadly, the preservation and extension of a Western-dominated liberal international order – among others.

Finally, there seems little question that the widespread notion of ‘Islamic terrorism’ as an academic and political term has functioned to

  • construct Muslims as a ‘suspect community’ (Hillyard,1993),
  • increase levels of Islamophobia and hate crimes directed at Muslims,
  • poison community trust and inter-communal relations
  • and undermine dialogue-based approaches to conflict resolution.

For these reasons, terrorism scholars need to engage in rigorous critical self-reflection regarding both the language of so-called religious terrorism and the evidentiary basis of knowledge about it.

.

Works cited

Bar, S. (2006) Warrant for Terror: Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty of Jihad. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Copeland, T. (2001) ‘Is the New Terrorism Really New? An Analysis of the New Paradigm for Terrorism’, Journal of Conflict Studies, 11 (2), 91–105

Gerges, F. (2005) The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global. Cambridge NY: Cambridge University Press.

Gunning, J. (2007b) Hamas in Politics: Representation, Religion, Violence. London: Hurst.

Halliday, F. (2002) Two Hours that Shook the World – September 11, 2001: Causes and Consequences. London: Saqi Books.

Hillyard, P. (1993) Suspect Community: People’s Experience of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in Britain. London: Pluto.

Holmes, S. (2005) ‘Al Qaeda, September 11, 2001’, in D. Gambetta (ed.), Making Sense of Suicide Missions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 131–72.

Jackson, R. (2007a) ‘Constructing Enemies: “Islamic Terrorism” in Political and Academic Discourse’, Government and Opposition, 42 (3), 394–426.

Pape, R. (2005) Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. NewYork: Random House.

Rapoport, D. (1984) ‘Fear and Trembling: Terrorism in Three Religious Traditions’, American Political Science Review, 78 (3), 658–77.

Silke, A. (2004b) ‘The Road Less Travelled: Recent Trends in Terrorism Research’, in A. Silke (ed.), Research on Terrorism: Trends, Achievements and Failures. London: Frank Cass, pp. 186–213.

Spencer, A. (2006) ‘Questioning the Concept of “New Terrorism”’, Peace, Conflict and Development, 8, 1–33.

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Neil Godfrey

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29 Comments

  • 2013-04-27 14:18:49 GMT+0000 - 14:18 | Permalink

    Hi Neil. Regarding your comment about “causal link between Islamic doctrine and terrorist violence” you may have seen the article by Geert Wilders in The Australian on 26 April, in which he says “Read the Koran and you will find the explanation. “Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it,” the Koran tells the faithful (2:216). In case anyone doubts what is meant by fighting: “I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, maim them in every limb!” (8:12).”

    Do you think Wilders is unfairly cherry-picking the Koran? Are there comparable Christian obligations to decapitate the infidel? Do you see a moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam?

    • 2013-04-27 16:20:29 GMT+0000 - 16:20 | Permalink

      It is not my comment. They are Jackson’s words. What studies did Wilder cite to support his assertion? Do you fault the studies cited by Jackson? I have not read Copeland or Spencer or Halliday but I have read Pape and quite a bit else and will be continuing to post the research findings in my series Terrorism Facts.

      Read my earlier post on how jihadists legitimize terrorism. If it were so simple as Wilder is quoted then such a post, including Hafez’s article, could not be written. Wilder’s statement is logically fallacious as the research and simple daily observation clearly demonstrates. It is, I would charge, Islamophobic and inciting up fear and hatred of a large section within our community.

      Do I think Wilders is unfairly cherry-picking the Koran?

      That is not the question. The assumption behind that question is that “the Koran made them do it.” It is that assumption that I deny, based on the clear evidence beliefs and practices of Muslims. Those who commit terrorist acts are not restricted to Islam. “We” are facing terrorists who use Islamic texts as justification for their acts and have come to think terrorism itself is uniquely Islamic. It’s not. What is related to Islam is the historical context from which these terrorists have emerged.

      Are there comparable Christian obligations to decapitate the infidel?

      Again, that question rests upon a pernicious assumption. If I quoted the biblical passages used by Zionists to kill Palestinians what would that indicate? That the Old Testament makes Jews kill Palestinians? Rubbish. The OT is used as a cover to excuse hate crimes.

      Do I see a moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam?

      This is a silly question. Do I see a “moral equivalence” between Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Hinduism? What does that mean? Which sect of Islam are you talking about anyway? Which sect of Christianity? Religions are abstractions. Believers are people. Muslims are no different from you and me in what they want in life for their families, their kids, their communities. They are not people who have had aliens plant chips in their minds to program them to become violent when the Quran 2:216 button is pressed at the right moment.

      I see a very different historical background between Christian and Muslim countries since the nineteenth centuries that clearly makes sense of what we are witnessing with the terrorists now — and they are all saying the same thing about their motivations and goals as “they” (Islamic, Christian, Socialist, Hindi. . .) have been saying since the 1980s. It is all very clear when “they” do it to others; but when they turn on us, since we are the “good guys”, it follows that they are entirely nothing but bad and mad.

      I noticed the irony of so many public voice shouting out exactly what motivated the Boston bombers, exactly why they planted those bombs, — It was Islam! The Koran made them do it! — while at the same time reading that police were still waiting to uncover the motivation. Silly stupid blind police.

    • 2013-04-28 02:07:41 GMT+0000 - 02:07 | Permalink

      When a religious muslim reader reads the Quran, he takes into account the situation in which Muhammed (allegedly) received the Surah. Just reading it out of that context – and out of context with surrounding verses – will not provide an informed knowledge about the meaning of the verse. I will not go and make any positive claims as to the meaning of the verse, but have you taken all that in context?

      On the other hand, we can compare Christian verses such as Luke 19:27. Granted, it’s part of a parable, but the parable clearly expresses a theological point: God gives things to his servants, and those servants who squander their gifts will be punished. And those who won’t have God for their king, his servants are ordered to kill them.

      Quite a clear parallel, and it being in a parable does not help at all, as that is the theological point being advanced. (Or maybe you’re going to claim the point is something astrotheological, that the talents are stars or planets or whatever … well, be my guest.)

  • 2013-04-27 17:24:33 GMT+0000 - 17:24 | Permalink

    The more you idiots defend the Muslim terrorists the more sick I get of Muslims. You’ve convinced me that Congress needs to pass a constitutional ammendment to expel them all from the US, and every fake atheist who supports them along with.

    • 2013-04-27 18:55:43 GMT+0000 - 18:55 | Permalink

      I’m retrieving this comment from the spam bin to show readers the sort of stuff descriptivegrace has been posting lately and why I’ve directed his comments to spam. I won’t be bothering to check if he’s redeemed himself in future so there’ll be no further comments from him here. And he/she calls himself/herself “descriptive grace”!

  • 2013-04-27 23:33:43 GMT+0000 - 23:33 | Permalink

    Neil, Thank you for asking me to read Richard Jackson’s informative article “Constructing Enemies: ‘Islamic Terrorism’ in Political and Academic Discourse.” I thought Jackson made a fair point that the debate suffers from ‘dramatic oppositional binaries’, given that the ‘terrorism studies’ field has often been unwilling to critique Western culture. But I don’t think he properly understood the faults of Islam compared to modern rational secular humanism.

    You ask me if I fault the studies he cited. Yes I do. Jackson says his “approach falls broadly under the mantle of discourse analysis”, and gives the Sokalian explanation that “discourse theorizing is employed within a range of different epistemological paradigms – poststructuralist, postmodernist, feminist and social constructivist.” I must say that this sort of leftist academic jargon turns me off. I respect Edward Said and his book Orientalism, but I have found that discussion of constructivism et al generally masks socialist political commitments that themselves ought to be critiqued.

    The primary study cited by Jackson is Pape’s Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, which reportedly found “little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism”, even though “about half of the suicide attacks from this period can be associated… with Islamic fundamentalism.” There is a critique of this work at http://www.cfr.org/weapons-of-terrorism/suicide-bomb/p25533 which is itself equally partisan but serves to show that Papes is disingenuous in his assertions of objectivity. Papes, via Jackson, does not really discuss the risks to stability and prosperity that are potentially involved in a scale back of American hegemony, let alone the risks of a relativist acceptance of the rise of Islamist intolerance.

    You ask “What studies did Wilder [sic] cite to support his assertion?” His name is Wilders, and his Freedom Party is surging in opinion polls, supported by 23% of Dutch voters. I have read his book Marked for Death. It is based on close reading of the Koran and extensive knowledge of Islam and the Muslim world. His key arguments are that Islam is a dangerous political ideology, and that cultural relativism has undermined western security.

    You say you deny “the assumption … that “the Koran made them do it.””

    But Neil, it is reasonable to ask why no universities in Islamic countries are ranked among the global top 200, and why Churchill saw such an ethic of fatalism and apathy in Islam. It is reasonable to consider that there are essential doctrinal features of Islam that have caused it to be stagnant in comparison to more dynamic cultures. The West was able to conquer the Islamic world in the colonial period due to cultural superiority in technology, education and administration. These all rest on science and innovation.

    “If I quoted the biblical passages used by Zionists to kill Palestinians what would that indicate?”

    You may have seen Harris’s long list of Koran quotes at his blog entry “Honesty – The Muslim World’s Scarcest Resource?” Zionist use of the genocidal texts in the Old Testament is a problem, indicating a dangerous level of bigotry. But the systematic political ideology of expansion within Islam is worse. And with Christianity, I don’t think you can coherently use Jesus Christ to justify what Harris calls “sacred hatred”.

    “Muslims are no different from you and me in what they want in life for their families, their kids, their communities.”

    As a general statement about the comparison between the Islamic world and the West that is false. Such moral equivalence is belied by the poverty and dogmatism produced by Islam. If Muslims wanted the same things as Westerners, they would reform their political systems to get them. Wanting everyone to submit to Allah produces quite a different community from western liberal rational values.

    “I see a very different historical background between Christian and Muslim countries since the nineteenth centuries that clearly makes sense of what we are witnessing with the terrorists now”

    That is close to asserting that Western economic success justifies terrorism as a response. I know you don’t think that, but you should be asking why the culture of Islam produces such levels of political corruption and conflict. Koranic education is very inadequate and delusional and stultifying. At least Christianity has generated a largely free intellectual culture.

    • 2013-04-28 00:55:47 GMT+0000 - 00:55 | Permalink

      I know I’m straying off topic, but take a look at the platform of Wilders’ Freedom Party (which, by the way, lost 9 seats last election, winning only 10% of the vote, so it isn’t exactly “surging” in the polls). Do you think they embrace anti-Islamic, anti-Palestinian, anti-foreign, nationalist rhetoric to attract voters with low intelligence so they can ram through their anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-European Union, anti-Eastern European, anti-poor, global-warming-denialist agenda? Or is it the other way around?

      • 2013-04-28 06:36:10 GMT+0000 - 06:36 | Permalink

        Tim, my source on the Dutch opinion polls was http://www.quirksmode.org/politics/polls.html

        Looking at it again, it says Wilders (PVV) polling has increased from 15 to 23 over the last six months, but it does not give the unit, which I now see appears to be expected seats, not percentage of votes. My apologies.

        Racism is associated with low intelligence. However, Islam is not a race, and there is no basis to assume that opposition to Islam is racially motivated or stupid. The question is more whether a tolerant liberal community like Holland has been wise to encourage mass immigration of people who have low tolerance for Dutch values.

        http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/Public-Remains-Conflicted-Over-Islam.aspx shows that American opposition to Islam is higher among people of lower education. However, your framing of Wilders’ opposition to Islam as “anti-poor” is highly contestable. Support for Islam is hardly likely to reduce poverty, given the bad track record of Islamic economies in promoting growth and innovation.

        • 2013-04-28 10:22:55 GMT+0000 - 10:22 | Permalink

          Robert wrote: “Racism is associated with low intelligence. However, Islam is not a race, and there is no basis to assume that opposition to Islam is racially motivated or stupid.”

          Yes, Islam is not a race. Neither is “Polish,” but the PVV is anti-Pole. Their fear and hatred of Eastern Europeans and of Turks is based on a fear and hatred of the “other.” And at its core that’s what we’re talking about.

          I happen to look like a typical white conservative guy. As a result, often when I’m out among strangers (say, at a bar) people will open up and say things like “sand-ni***r” or “rag-head.” Maybe they’re so stupid that they don’t know that being anti-Islamic is not racism. We already know they’re not smart enough to know the difference between a Muslim and a Sikh. They see that turban and their little pea-brain says — “OUTSIDER!” — and they go nuts.

          Perhaps we need a public service announcement that tells racists they shouldn’t hate Muslims for the wrong reasons. “Know your ‘others’!”

          Anyhow, I based my characterization of the party’s being anti-poor on the fact that they want to eliminate the minimum wage, cut taxes (ah, sweet austerity), limit child benefits, etc. These are the right-wing economic policies that I suspect they really want. It’s often difficult for national conservative parties to gain majorities without catering to the less-savory elements of society. Witness the Southern Strategy in the U.S.

    • 2013-04-28 01:16:45 GMT+0000 - 01:16 | Permalink

      But I don’t think he properly understood the faults of Islam compared to modern rational secular humanism.

      You failed to comprehend his point. He was explaining why framing the alternatives in that way is meaningless with respect to the actual nature of all that the term “Islam” encompasses and socially dangerous (it produces people advocating views like those of Geert Wilders just as it once produced people — who also surged in the opinion polls to around 23% — like Adolf Hiter and descriptivegrace).

      You ask me if I fault the studies he cited. Yes I do.

      Nice one. You chose to launch into some irrelevant anti-post-modernist mumbo jumbo yourself in response to an article in which in part he addressed the philosophical nature of a particular terminology yet you conveniently ignored the substance and point of this post. That point, by the way, was elaborated upon in that other article but you missed it entirely once again even there.

      I respect Edward Said and his book Orientalism, but I have found that discussion of constructivism et al generally masks socialist political commitments that themselves ought to be critiqued.

      I see. So you don’t like what others associated with his views think about other things. You are letting your political bias tell you what to think about his work and potential applications to the present day.

      Papes is disingenuous in his assertions of objectivity. Papes, via Jackson, does not really discuss the risks to stability and prosperity that are potentially involved in a scale back of American hegemony, let alone the risks of a relativist acceptance of the rise of Islamist intolerance.

      The name is Pape. Not Papes. This is rich. Pape is disingenuous in his assertion of objectivity? He does not discuss the “risks of a relativist acceptance of the rise of Islamist intolerance”? Have you read “Papes”? Do you know what he actually concludes from his data? Where is his “disingenuity in his assertion of objectivity”? If you would like to address Pape’s actual data, research, findings, conclusions, methodology then do so. But this sort of sweeping dismissal is vacuous.

      I have read his book Marked for Death. It is based on close reading of the Koran and extensive knowledge of Islam and the Muslim world. His key arguments are that Islam is a dangerous political ideology, and that cultural relativism has undermined western security.

      It’s always reassuring to read what warms our innate fears and ignorance and offers simplistic analyses of what ails modern society. By “cultural relativism” I wonder if you mean what others refer to as “multiculturalism”.

      So you simply ignore what Jackson argues because you don’t like his theoretical discussion of the discourse and fear the consequences of his arguments. Unfortunately you fail to grasp that there is a serious chance that your response to Islam is very much part of the problem — that’s the argument, and that’s what you are failing to address.

      “Muslims are no different from you and me in what they want in life for their families, their kids, their communities.”

      As a general statement about the comparison between the Islamic world and the West that is false. Such moral equivalence is belied

      Are you serious? Really? You disagree that as a general rule Muslims want the same things in life for their families, their kids, . . . . ? Does the term dehumanization mean anything to you?

      the poverty and dogmatism produced by Islam. If Muslims wanted the same things as Westerners, they would reform their political systems to get them. Wanting everyone to submit to Allah produces quite a different community from western liberal rational values.

      Islam produced the poverty? Have you read anything about Islamic countries apart from Wilders? If Muslims wanted the same things as Westerners they would reform their political system? What planet do you live on? I cannot believe I am reading this.

      Wanting everyone to submit to Christ produces western liberal rational values? Is that what you are implying?

      That is close to asserting that Western economic success justifies terrorism as a response.

      In another post I tried to preempt this sort of sick innuendo. Do you really believe that if anyone suggests one way to try to fight crime is by identifying and understanding the causes of crime that such a person is justifying criminal behaviour?

      • 2013-04-28 07:37:40 GMT+0000 - 07:37 | Permalink

        I might add a point I have made elsewhere many times now: One learns what people believe (their religion, let’s say) by listening and reading what they themselves say. Any outsider who goes through the Bible or Koran and picks out all the violent bits and posts them online to scare people about what people in the real world believe is doing nothing more socially useful than stirring up fear and hatred. Such a person is certainly not interested in attempting to understand what people believe and how they live their lives.

        Most Muslims in the world, according to serious and transparent polling, do actually want democracy. (I suspect a few of them are a bit reserved about it being delivered to them from outside with bombs and occupation, however.)

        It’s nice to be able to wash one’s hands of the racism card when attacking “Islam” (as if there is such a singular thing as “Islam”). However, social hatreds — including laws against inciting hatred — do often extend to spreading ignorant fear of groups on the basis of religion, too. And in the case of Islam, there are clearly an awful lot of racial stereotypes that have been injected into the mythical beast of “Islam”, too.

  • 2013-04-28 07:01:10 GMT+0000 - 07:01 | Permalink

    Read Ibn Warraqs “Defending The West”. It’s total debunking of Saids “Orientalism”.

    • 2013-04-28 07:11:00 GMT+0000 - 07:11 | Permalink

      Of course. But don’t whatever you do waste your time reading Said’s book. And for heaven’s sake don’t read a positive review or the history of the impact the book has had on Middle Eastern studies in academia. Postmodernist cultural relativist lefties. So long as you can find an article totally debunking what you don’t want to try to understand your job is done.

      And that’s the level of some people’s ability to respond to the arguments made in this post. There are things here we do not like. Quick, let’s find someone who also hates what is being said and hide behind them. That’s so much easier than facing up to and addressing the arguments and facts that contradict what we have preferred to believe.

  • 2013-04-28 13:44:15 GMT+0000 - 13:44 | Permalink

    Neil, you say “framing the alternatives in that way [the faults of Islam compared to modern rational secular humanism] is meaningless with respect to the actual nature of all that the term “Islam” encompasses and socially dangerous (it produces people advocating views like those of Geert Wilders just as it once produced people — who also surged in the opinion polls to around 23% — like Adolf Hiter and descriptivegrace).”

    For a start, Wilders is pro-Jewish, so the comparison to Hitler does not make sense. These are highly complex issues. I am struggling to understand your “meaningless and dangerous” remark, which seems to demonise the significant number of people who are critical of Islam. If Islam hinders the spread of modern secular rational values, it is hardly meaningful to compare people who draw attention to this problem to Hitler.

    “irrelevant anti-post-modernist mumbo jumbo”

    Jackson’s article which you asked me to read because of its supposedly great sources says upfront that its analysis of Islam is based on post-modernism. I was criticising the mumbo-jumbo, not supporting it. Post-modernism is a leftist academic political movement. If you and Jackson want to cite post-modernism in defence of Islam that is up to you. I find it hard to be confident of the “evidence-based” objectivity of a writer who proclaims this reference frame.

    “you conveniently ignored the substance and point of this post.”

    Dialogue on these topics is difficult. I have reviewed my comments and the post. I was not ignoring it. You said the point of the post is to argue for a “damning indictment on the popular notion of ‘religious terrorism’.” But it seems that the academics who cast this damning fatwa against linking Islam and terror are just as political as the Orientalists they attack.

    “That point, by the way, was elaborated upon in that other article but you missed it entirely once again even there.”

    It can be hard to see what you mean when you jump to such generalities, but I will try. It seems you regard the pro-Islam academics as basing their views on evidence, and the anti-Islam academics as basing their views on ideology. Jackson, who you recommend, said his analysis of Islam “is predicated on a shared set of theoretical commitments. .. these include .. an understanding of discourse as …open to destabilization and counter-hegemonic struggle. (395-6)

    You appear to endorse this sort of comment, while saying that criticism of it is ”letting your political bias tell you what to think about his work.” There is no question that views about Islam are coloured by political bias. If you are biased in favour of western civilization, you will tend to be more critical of Islam than if you support “destabilization and counter-hegemonic struggle.”

    “Pape is disingenuous in his assertion of objectivity? He does not discuss the “risks of a relativist acceptance of the rise of Islamist intolerance”? Have you read “Papes”? Do you know what he actually concludes from his data? Where is his “disingenuity in his assertion of objectivity”? If you would like to address Pape’s actual data, research, findings, conclusions, methodology then do so. But this sort of sweeping dismissal is vacuous.”

    Wiki about Pape’s book is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying_to_Win:_The_Strategic_Logic_of_Suicide_Terrorism

    I quoted Pape and linked to a critique. Pape’s theory “it’s the occupation stupid” is ridiculous, purely political and analytically shallow. The USA has military in 150 countries, listed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_deployments. Why have the Japanese and Koreans not killed themselves to protest the 80,000 US troops on their soil, or the Europeans to protest the 70,000 US troops who are helping to protect them? Why do the 20,000 US troops in the Middle East generate these dark comments about crusading imperialists? Basically, it looks like the difference is that those who welcome American alliance are sensible. If these Arabs could ditch Islam, they would welcome American help to become modern and democratic, instead of fighting to return to the middle ages. And it is not America’s fault that the House of Saud is corrupt.

    “By “cultural relativism” I wonder if you mean what others refer to as “multiculturalism”.”

    Yes – As German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former French President Sarkozy said in 2011, multiculturalism has failed. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1355961/Nicolas-Sarkozy-joins-David-Cameron-Angela-Merkel-view-multiculturalism-failed.html

    Wilders’ critique of cultural relativism is more pointed. He sees soceity as collapsing in guilt due to refusal to make value judgments regarding cultural difference.

    “So you simply ignore what Jackson argues because you don’t like his theoretical discussion of the discourse and fear the consequences of his arguments.”

    I hardly ignore Jackson’s argument that as you put it, he has achieved a damning indictment on the popular notion of “religious terrorism”. I understand it perfectly well,, especially its chilling effect on free speech. His theoretical discussion is shallow and wrong, failing to engage with the political danger of Islam. I do fear the consequence of his argument, a suppression of public debate about Islam in Western countries and the continued growth of Islamic influence.

    “Unfortunately you fail to grasp that there is a serious chance that your response to Islam is very much part of the problem — that’s the argument, and that’s what you are failing to address.”

    I defend a modern scientific democratic capitalist culture. I don’t accept that my views are part of the problem. The problem is the growth of Islamism, a regressive political ideology that should be given no succour. It is entirely possible to support the human rights of Muslims while engaging in a robust critique of Islam.

    “You disagree that as a general rule Muslims want the same things in life for their families, their kids, . . . . ? Does the term dehumanization mean anything to you?”

    Recognition of diversity of cultural goals is hardly dehumanising. In his recent book The World Until Yesterday Jared Diamond explains the vast difference in goals between primitive and modern cultures, while arguing that the modern has much to learn from the primitive, and of course vise versa. I think it is more dehumanising to pretend everyone wants the same things.

    “Islam produced the poverty? Have you read anything about Islamic countries apart from Wilders? If Muslims wanted the same things as Westerners they would reform their political system? What planet do you live on? I cannot believe I am reading this.”

    Wilders notes that more Jews than Arabs were uprooted by the events following the Nakba of 1948. And yet it is the Palestinians who have failed to integrate, who remain in refugee camps. None of the top 25 least corrupt countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index are Islamic, while half of the bottom twenty, the most corrupt, are Islamic. A bit less ‘inshallah’ would produce a lot more development.

    “Wanting everyone to submit to Christ produces western liberal rational values? Is that what you are implying?”

    No. I am interested in promoting rational scientific knowledge as the basis of cultural values. I do see Christianity as closer to such values than Islam is. But there is a big difference between promoting open dialogue about religion and advocating submission, a word I may remind you is the meaning of Islam.

    “I tried to preempt this sort of sick innuendo.”

    You only partially quoted my comment, as I then said “I know you don’t think that.”

    What you call ‘innuendo’ is my attempt to understand your view that “historical background… makes sense of what we are witnessing with the terrorists.” Your implication seems to be that colonial oppression is the primary cause of Muslim resentment towards the west. That simply begs the question of why Islamists have resorted to terror so much more than other cultures who also have a history of western subjugation. Other cultures don’t suffer from this smoldering revenge mentality, perhaps because they do not have a Holy Book like the Koran that presents such vigorous comments about infidels and envisages military conquest of the world.

    • 2013-04-28 18:32:16 GMT+0000 - 18:32 | Permalink

      I don’t know if I have the stomach to go through another round of tit for tat comments with you, Robin. Your opening contrary point tells me it would be a waste of time. You discount my Hitler comparison on the grounds that Wilders is pro-Jewish. Now that tells me you are missing the thematic point and meaning of what I am attempting to convey. Sorry, wrong race. Wrong target. If you can’t see the similarity between a right-wing extremist xenophobic party today and what happened with the rise of fascist and nazi parties around the world in the 1930s then you are doomed to be a part of the repeat of history. Actually I don’t believe Wilders is pro-Jewish so much as very very pro-Zionist (an ideology that can well be argued to be against Jewish interests.)

      You say I “demonise” people critical of Islam. That indicates to me that for all your words you are only looking to play word games and avoid addressing the my argument about the very real dehumanization of Muslims.

      Your veering into a critique of post-modernism when this is brought up in a context of philosophical terms of a debate is a blatant avoidance of the hard evidence and and logic that I — and Jackson — have been addressing. That stands apart from any silly post-modernist target from another article and addressing a different facet of the debate that you want to divert attention to.

      The argument is based on rigorous polling, scholarly peer-reviewed data, extensive sound research.

      You suggest Jackson is issuing a fatwa against critics! Nice. That means you don’t have to debate the issue. Just denounce your critics for demonising and issuing fatwas. I feel very ill reading this sort of . . . . I don’t know what word to use, it is beyond the pale.

      The criticism of Islamophobia is post-modernist mumbo jumbo? You have avoided the hard facts, the research, the logic of the argument I have presented in this and recent posts. You are avoiding it like everyone else who has come here to contradict what these posts have been saying. You’d be more honest if you just said, like Jerry Coyne, that I can kiss your arse if I disagree.

      How you can argue that Jackson or critics of Islamophobia are threats to free-speech when what you and Wilders are arguing for is a denial of civil liberties and even a fanning of social tensions is …. outrageous. It is so completely the opposite of the reality of this exchange (it is not “a debate” — you are refusing to debate the central questions raised and simply repeat your own demand that we all FEAR ISLAM. For you there is no debate, there can be none, over whether that fear is irrational and dangerous.)

      As for Pape, if you are really willing to discuss what he himself writes and the data he uses, then you are welcome to do so. But not having read the book and looking for criticisms of it and uttering rhetorical questions as if they make a nonsense of his case only shows (to anyone who has read Pape) your own (willful) ignorance.

      Your utter ignorance of the Palestinian and Arab (and Muslim nations’) histories is absolutely appalling. It is worse than ignorance. It is the most outrageous lying propaganda myths that substitute for reality. It only demonstrates how much more I need to do on this blog of bring the verifiable facts to a wider audience.

      Excuse me, I feel too ill to even bother to continue with your tripe.

      When you attempt to actually address the hard data, the researched facts, that are presented in posts here, then I will bring myself to respond. Till then I find your worldview as fatuous and as divorced from reality as your von Daniken-like astrotheology; the difference is that astrotheology can be treated as a harmless joke.

  • anon
    2013-04-28 18:14:53 GMT+0000 - 18:14 | Permalink

    Mythical enemies are easy to construct and even more easier to sell to those who NEED to demonize the “other” in order to validate their “identity”—“we”/”us” are better than “they/other”

    lets try an experiment…………..

    The West was founded on principles of Secular Democracy

    —these secular democracies invaded and colonized other countries

    —they dismantled the existing systems of law and education and replaced it with their own

    —they fought World Wars (1 and 2) creating a most amazingly bloody death toll

    —they took “revenge” in the most brutal manner (U.S.A.) atom bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki in revenge of Pearl Harbor and decimating Iraq and Afghanistan in revenge of New York, 9/11.

    —These secular democracies are based on the evil doctrines of “Manifest Destiny” (U.S.A.) “White Man’s Burden” (U.K.), “Civilizing Mission” (France) …etc

    —as a result of which they justify stealing the resources from the “natives” so they themselves can live in luxury while the rest of the world wallows in poverty…….

    Therefore secular democracies are the worst ideology mankind has ever invented and must be wiped off the face of the earth!!!

    Hopefully anyone with an ounce of intelligence can see how things have been twisted and generalized so that a simple narrative of “us vs them” is formed discarding the nuances, the geo-politics of various parties (not just the “West”), the historical context and circumstances…….etc.

    We are all human beings and most of us are good people. There are some among us who do bad/criminal acts and these must be condemned and the rule of law applied in order to see justice done. However this does not mean that a whole group of people or a geographic location has to be turned in the enemy.

    • 2013-04-28 18:46:19 GMT+0000 - 18:46 | Permalink

      I recall a brilliant cartoon that came out soon after the invasion of Iraq. It showed a news-banner declaring that Iraqis were about to be given American values — and here were several Iraqis with gleeful faces and skipping for joy as they sang those benefits they were about to get — unfettered access to fire-arms; the right to defy international laws and the UN; the right to wage pre-emptive wars of aggression; the right to build nuclear weapons . . . . 🙂

      • anon
        2013-04-29 16:39:32 GMT+0000 - 16:39 | Permalink

        Because we human beings both —individuals and groups—- can be amazingly blind to our own faults —-nuanced and honest evaluations/criticisms are vital.

        I had chatted with a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan some years ago—he commented on a question that was often asked by the Afghans they (U.S. soldiers) were training—the Afghans asked why American soldiers (readily) killed civilians. The reply by a U.S. soldier was that they could not distinguish between an “insurgent” and a civilian and so they killed. The U.S. soldier relating this had the attitude—“its war — that’s how it is” but I was shocked at the callousness….and pointed this out by reversing the situation…………and the Boston Bombing provides the perfect reversal—–the Bombers/terrorists were white (and at least one was American) and were in an area with predominantly “white” (Irish-American) ethnicity—so if the Boston police had used drones to flatten the whole of Boston and used the excuse—well we couldn’t tell apart the terrorist from the locals so we killed everyone!!!—or that “collateral damage” is inevitable in keeping America safe”…etc….. would these excuses have passed?……….very unlikely….yet these very excuses are used by Americans to justify the killing of innocent civilians.

        If Americans have the capacity to catch “terrorists” without collateral damage in America—then why didn’t they in Afghanistan?

        • 2013-04-29 18:49:10 GMT+0000 - 18:49 | Permalink

          Exactly. Boston is a good example for another reason, too. Significant funding for the IRA terrorists came from Boston. For some reason no-one in the UK seems to have considered bombing Boston — or any part of Ireland — to counter that terror.

  • anon
    2013-04-28 18:30:59 GMT+0000 - 18:30 | Permalink

    People do not always do right/good—and it does not matter what label we attach to ourselves–“Western” or “Muslim” or “Secularist” or whatever. But most human beings are good people. If we remember this then we will find that war and violence are not the only ways to solve problems.

    A Jewish person once explained to me his understanding of Satan. He said it was the “force that divides”. I think that if we can get rid of artificial constructs that divide us and focus instead on the unity of humanity–we will more readily extend understanding, compassion, tolerance, mercy, and justice to our fellow brothers and sisters in humanity.

  • Appollonius
    2013-04-29 09:31:23 GMT+0000 - 09:31 | Permalink

    Well, I went through your recent posts regarding Islam, Islamism , etc… the debate has been quite “hot”. And as always, the same things appear (thus very good to evoke E. Saïd): a) lack of knowledge of Islam (whether we’re speaking about Islam as a civilization (i.e.: x cultures + x histories + x peoples, etc…) or as religion (= y “islam”s, z schools, x sects, etc…), b) lack of knowledge of History (i.e.: history of Muslim societies and countries and groups/peoples) and c) the usual “essentialist” view putting all together all Muslims together wherever they are from, whenever they have lived since beginning of Islam…

    Regarding this “religious terrorism” question: we’re again in some “essentialist” approach: nowadays, religious terrorism for most people equals “islamic” terrorism: basically any act of terrorism committed by a “Muslim” (whatever that term may imply) is by definition “religious” in nature: no politics, no historical issues, no more “practical” perspective (i.e.: criminal, pathological, … individual behaviour) does exist when the “terrorist” is “Muslim”: it can be and only be religiously motivated: that’s why it’s so easy to label as “islamic” terrorism any crime, bomb attack, etc… in any place, in any time, committed by a “Muslim”: even one could easily check and see that here for example, it’s a Baloch separatist movement which did commit the attack, there it’s more a kind of local mob protecting its business with some “religious” camouflage which committed the so-called “islamic” terrorist attack, when somewhere else, you will find some fighting against a foreign invader, others engaged in a civil war, etc…

    well, plenty of various reasons which are not so uncommon, considering that quite often all those fights and situations have quite a resemblance with the ones Europe has known during the 19th and 20th centuries (nationalism, civil war, etc…): however nobody would call Franco’s Spain or Salazar’s Portugal “religious” dictatures (and their crimes as “religious” crimes), even in both cases Francoists and Salazarists would put either God or the Holy Church in their mottos (Salazar’s Estado Novo’s motto was “Deus, Familia e Patria”, when Franco was a very conservative Catholic) and acted consequently…let’s forget about the “Gott Mit Uns” on the Nazi Reich Wehrmacht soldiers’ belt buckles (as well as Hitler’s fascination for the “civilization-creating” power of the Church as expressed in some passages of Mein Kampf…

    However nobody would say that Europe in the mid-30ies didn’t actually face right-wing fascistic/nationalist regimes/parties but “Christian” fanatic regimes/parties > i.e.: with the exception of USSR, the authoritarian regimes in Europe all had some “religious” background or coating (Spain, Portugal, Metaxas’ Greece and the Orthodox Church, the pro-Catholic Arrow Cross Party in Hungary, the Romanian Iron Guard deeply influenced by some Orthodox Romanian Church radical theologians, etc…even in Finland with the Lapua Movement/Patriotic People’s Movement both Nationalist and Lutherianism inspired…oddly, I almost never read in any History book that all those parties and regimes had some “religious” motivations or could have been inspired by their religious background (i.e.: Christianism): isn’t that odd? considering that when you do the maths, that led the whole world in the most destructive and bloody war Mankind had ever known…and here, I intentionally forget the importance of this “Christian” background in the Holocaust’s machine and collaboration of so many Europeans…

    Well, here the purpose is simply to show that it’s not because you call a movement, a party, etc… “islamist” : that this movement, party or even “terrorist group” is only and simply “islamist”: like Francoism, Salazarism, Metaxism, the Lapua Movement, … weren’t only fascistic, nationalist, etc… but also Catholic, Orthodox, Lutherian…here we have a good example of “essentialism” : in one case (Europe/Occident): the religious background is simply ignored even it might explain a lot (historically/culturally), in the other case (Islam) all is simply and intentionally reduced to the “religious” element, like in the Islamic world, nationalist, political, separatist, etc… motives couldn’t play an important role and the “islamic” coating would actually be exactly that: some “coating” to attract more adherents…a simple and quick observation of the various Islamist movements/groups/parties around the world makes it quite evident that in most cases: a) local and “practical” motives are more important than “religious” ones (i.e.: war, civil war, political competition, …) and b) cooperation between “Islamist” movements/groups/parties is rather rare and when occurring mainly for temporary and practical reasons not because of some “shared” core elements, which would be the case if the “religious” element was the most important, finally c) Islamist movements/groups/parties are quite often fighting each other, and religious disputes are rarely the reason…

    Finally, as French citizen, so from a country where Laïcité is the rule, should I consider all American policies as religiously motivated/inspired considering the fact that the US President and Commander-in-Chief swears on the Bible? yeah, that would be a bit dumb from me, right?

    Muslim peoples and nations can’t be envisaged only through a religious perspective: that would be denying the diversity of their cultures, histories, etc.. i.e.: obvious essentialism, there are more differences between an Indonesian, a Moroccan, an Afghan, etc… than there are between a Swedish, an Italian, a Russian…the fact that Indonesians, Moroccans, Afghans, etc.. share a “same” religion, doesn’t mean that there are a) only “Muslims”, and b) the same. Same applies whether you are speaking about political parties or “religious” terrorist groups: the Hamas, Hezbollah or Al Qaïda have neither the same motives, nor the same background/ideology, same applies for the former Algerian FIS party, the Turkish AKP or the Indonesian PPP…and of course same applies to the historical European parties/movements I evoked earlier: reducing all to religion won’t help to understand what is currently happening in the Islamic world (my opinion being that the Islamic world is living what Europe has lived during/after the 19th century (conflicts around the ideas of nation, state, identity (culture-religion), political system, ideologies, etc…): well, a “civilizational” maturity crisis to make it short.

  • anon
    2013-04-29 16:21:09 GMT+0000 - 16:21 | Permalink

    “conflicts around the ideas of nation, state, identity (culture-religion), political system, ideologies, etc…): well, a “civilizational” maturity crisis to make it short.”

    —I would agree that in the religion (Islam) there are changes/reform/revitalization happening today (Prof Tariq Ramadan speaks on this)

    —but I also feel that there is a global “identity crises” within various peoples who are negotiating their religions, ethnicity, nationalities and other identity markers….so In Asia you hear about extremists Hindus claiming India as a Hindu country and other religions should not be allowed, there are Buddhists who are tying religion to ethnicity and this ethnicity to nationality….there are Muslims who are also trying to link religion with ethnicity, others are trying to develop national identities with artificial constructs distinguishing them from the “other”…..etc further confusing the situation are new geopolitical alliances such as BRICS, ASEAN intergration….etc and all this happening as the youth population brought up on the internet which has helped form the “global village”—is searching for identity. In the Middle East the dynamic between the “global village” and a youth population searching for identity—which turned into a cause (a cause can also create a sense of identity—such as the anti-war protests of the 60 in U.S..A) can be seen in the “Arab Spring”. In Europe, this has mostly been manifested in various expressions of alienation such as the EDL and other Neo-Nazi type organizations, those framing their identities in the rhetoric of “Judeo-Christian values” and Islamophobia. In America, one way alienation is expressed are the instances of gun violence in educational institutions another would be the rise of more intolerant Christian fundamentalism (though this, it seems, is related more to an older generation searching for identity rather than youth).

    It seems that we are living in changing times and all of us are trying to negotiate our way to a new future……………it may be chaotic and “hit-or-miss” approach……but I hope that this new future will balance the idea of the Unity of Humanity with a tolerance and understanding of the Diversity of Humanity………….

    • Appollonius
      2013-04-29 18:54:25 GMT+0000 - 18:54 | Permalink

      Thanks for your reply.

      Well, you’re right, there is some “global reaction”: however I focused on what’s happening in the Islamic/Muslim world, mainly because I tend to write too much and quite often digress…so I try to control this pattern of mine. However obviously, this “global wave” can’t be limited to Islam (I use Islam here as in French, i.e.: Islam with cap “I” = the Islamic world not the religion) and certainly is a reaction (counter-reaction) to globalization and the fact that “finally” the world not only has known limits but seems in the same to have no more limits (i.e.: the “virtual” world, instant communication, etc…).

      You evoke some European far-right movements, well usually in discussions about Islamism (European Islamist movements) and Far-Right in Europe, I tend to define both as “reactionary”: differing only by the cultural references they use: but in both cases, the “reactionary” nature appears evident, as well as this will to confine oneself into some “idealistic” identity (based on rigid concepts, usually related to ideas of nation, race, religion, culture, etc…most of the time referring to a kind of “Golden Age” or “purity”, “ideal model” ) and in the same time to basically close the door on the “Other”.

      Maybe globalization and progress have led to some kind of overstimulation, an overwhelming feeling that all goes too fast, too much info, too much crap among the info, etc…that the more we seem to know, the less we actually understand…thus a kind of civilizational “locked-in syndrome” emerges: only way to deal with a paradigm change, most humans weren’t ready to face or to live… the world is too big, and in the same too close, closer than never so let’s close the door, shut the curtain…there is in a way the desire for walls, limits, borders, etc… to define the “Us”, the “Other”, and the “Self” in a “Google-mapped” world which seems infinite.

      Whether you speak about the radicalization of European Muslim youth or the rise of European Far-Right: the discourse is quite the same in nature: reactionary, centered on some “ideal” identity (pure and recognizable), with values anchored in the Land, the Past, the Faith: i.e.: smth with definable limits so the opposite of the “global village”: some will use some “religious” coating, other ones some “ethnic/racial” or cultural coating, etc…in all cases, it’s the rejection of globalization, the economic system, etc… and quite often of all the universalistic values born out the European Enlightenment : that’s smth shared by both Islamists and Far-Right adherents…

  • 2013-04-30 04:52:23 GMT+0000 - 04:52 | Permalink

    Neil, your support for Islam has a surface intellectual and humanitarian coherence and appeal. But it is a recipe for catastrophe. In analyzing moral views, we should look below the surface to consider the practical results and theory of change that they reflect. Islam as a moral system has generally negative social and economic impact, and so should be discouraged. The politics of the Middle East can hardly be addressed through the siren song of capitulation to the caliphate.

    Muslim people deserve hope of a reformation to achieve modern rational societies. Engagement by the West in honest dialogue from a position of strength and integrity is the best way to promote such change, as we saw with the liberation of Russia from communism. Muslims can similarly be set free from the bondage of Islam.

    Palestinian refugees should have been allowed to integrate into Islamic countries just as the million displaced Jews of 1948 were able to integrate in the West and Israel. But Islamic governments used the Palestinians as cruel pawns in their geopolitical resentment against the west, holding the false hope of a right of return. I have a good level of knowledge of Middle Eastern history, and can see that superficial left wing fellow travelling with Islam has little to commend it.

    You have a perfect right to vilify my views on religion since Australia is a free country. But equally, I have a right to argue that my analysis of the astral basis of ancient myth provides a modern rational scientific perspective, and that all obsolete superstition deserves critique, including Islam. Dialogue on such complex topics is not advanced by emotion and insult, but by logic and evidence.

    • 2013-04-30 06:35:03 GMT+0000 - 06:35 | Permalink

      It’s the off-the-planet surrealness of your arguments that I find appalling, Robert. You recast my own critique of your astrotheology as “ridicule” when what I was doing was pointing out the logical fallacies of its methods. If I ridiculed anything it was your doggedly persistent refusal to address those fallacies — unless it was, at least in one case, to even deny the definition of a logical fallacy! But you have now turned all that around to say I was only ridiculing your views.

      Your portrayal of world history, let alone Mid Eastern history, is an outrageous farce that defies all context and knowledge of the real and full histories and politics of the countries you are talking about. Your comparison of Japan’s post-war response to accepting American military and cultural domination to “Islamic” country’s refusal to accept what you quaintly call an “American alliance” is . . . . well, sorry, I don’t know where to begin. I can’t believe it would be any point discussing realities with anyone who held such a view.

      Your arguments here are efforts to avoid the logic of data presented behind the distractions of dilettantism — In the face of hard data you throw up the smoke and mirrors of philosophical jargon and political bias. Anything but face the hard data itself. Unless it is to turn to a page in what Geert Wilders has written to explain it all.

      The problem is you have made your mind up about this terrifying beast you call Islam and nothing I can say will wake you from your nightmare.

      You are right about the trading of insults. But your preference for labeling over dealing with argument is no better. You dismiss Jackson’s argument because you find in another article some reference to terminology you believe associates him with “postmodernism” and “leftist” views. That’s enough for you to avoid addressing his arguments (or Pape’s or others I have posted on here).

  • Al
    2013-05-05 22:30:58 GMT+0000 - 22:30 | Permalink

    I didn’t realise, but apparently the motivations and aims of al Qaeda are the same as the Barbary pirates. Well, according to this article they are anyway.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/an-atheist-muslims-perspective-on-the-root-causes-of-islamist-jihadism-and-the-politics-of-islamophobia_b_3159286.html

    • 2013-05-05 22:48:14 GMT+0000 - 22:48 | Permalink

      Yup. I’m currently reading something not dissimilar in Tom Holland’s Millennium (U.S. title is “The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West”). Today was reading his section on the appearance of the Saracen corsairs in Sicily and southern Italy. Whatever your profession, whether bandit or bureaucrat, scholar or diplomat, slave trader or anti-slavery crusader, you can always find a way to justify our choices with appeal to something in your religion.

      Gosh, if people keep digging back into history of nations and races who adhered to some form of Islamic religion they can even find historical precedents for an Islamic culture that is the intellectual torch-bearer of the world where Christians and Jews are able to thrive, too. But I imagine some of us who are confronted with that bit of data that simply doesn’t sit with our preconceptions will be forced to resort to the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

      • Al
        2013-05-06 09:09:00 GMT+0000 - 09:09 | Permalink

        The linked article is really intellectually lazy, but it will probably get endorsement from Harris and his ilk. Speaking more seriously, a more interesting historical comparison to al Qaeda (its second incarnation) is the anarchist movement. A good book on the global jihadi movement is Scott Atran’s “Talking to the Enemy”.

        • 2013-05-06 10:05:03 GMT+0000 - 10:05 | Permalink

          Riaz Hassan has a chapter, “Life As A Weapon: Historical roots of a modern phenomenon”, in his book Suicide Bombings that looks at ancient precedents for the giving up one’s own life to fight one’s enemies.

          — He begins with Cato’s suicide in order to affront Julius Caesar rather than submit to him;

          — the crucifixion death of Jesus Christ even gets a mention;

          — around the 850s in Cordoba, Spain, some Christians, led by the priest Eulogius and his friend Paul Alvarus, launched a martyrdom movement. They publicly attacked the Islam religion in a manner calculated to bring about their own public executions, hoping that this would start a riot and the overthrow of the Muslim rulers from Spain. Fifty were executed by there was no general rebellion.

          — Also listed are the Jewish Zealots and Sicarii who terrorized Jerusalem by mingling in crowds and stabbing their victims with daggers knowing they themselves would almost certainly be killed in the process;

          — Then there was the order of the Assassins 1090 to 1256, a secretive Shia Muslim sect in north-west Iran (the Ismaillis-Nazari) who planned systematic political terror that also relied upon self-destruction;

          — Finally he mentions the Japanese traditions of political and military sacrifice. There were two types of suicide among the Japanese samurai. One was to avoid the disgrace of being captured by the enemy (setsujoku); then there was kanshi, which was entirely for political purposes. One samurai leader, Saigo, committed suicide on the battlefield against the army of what he saw as a corrupt Westernizing government: his suicide inspired the army that defeated him to also restore their traditional Japanese ways — thus his suicide won an important political victory; then there were the Kamikaze pilots of World War 2. They didn’t see themselves as committing suicide, but as making themselves human bombs to advance the cause of victory.

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