The San Bernardino Terrorists — So Very Predictable, So UNpredictable

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by Neil Godfrey

Farook and Malik

Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farooq fit the pattern perfectly. I’ve been posting the findings of serious research into what leads someone to radicalize and kill for some time now and will continue to do so as I read and learn more. Meanwhile assertions that the Quran made them do it defy the fundamentals how the world works and ignore the realities that at least better informed security services study and follow.

My most recent post on “how radicalisation happens” was Love, Relationships and Terrorism. We saw the theme of that post played out in San Bernardino. (Other themes covered in earlier posts also surfaced and I am not yet half way through the series.)

No-one picks up and reads a copy of the Quran, and in pious isolation from the outside world comes to believe it is the word of Allah and goes out on a killing spree. No-one, except maybe some truly mentally deranged person.

Here’s the all too familiar narrative:

The settings

Scene 1: A secular democratic Western nation, one with an ongoing history of involvement and support for Western wars against Muslim countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria) and support for dictatorial regimes (Egypt, Saudi Arabia). We won’t mention Israel.

Scene 2: Pakistan, more specifically the northern regions of Pakistan (especially Multan) where there is strong support for jihadist ideology and the Taliban.

Scene 3: We can throw in Saudi Arabia here perhaps as something of a holiday resort.

Main characters

Syed Rizwan Farooq: Dysfunctional family background, devout Sunni Muslim, American citizen and son of immigrants from Pakistan. Polite and generally accepted by the community. Educated and with a middle class job. Looking for a wife.

Tashfeen Malik: Strong Islamist (anti-Western) family background in Pakistan. Well educated and upper middle class. Looking for a husband.


The internet.


Aspects of the following are speculative but based on strong probability given what we know of others who have taken the road to violent jihad.

Farooq finds some stability from his troubled upbringing by embracing conservative Islam. Generally well accepted but also knows the rift between Muslims and others who look down on Islam.

Meets a similarly devout woman online, one who even seems more stable and devout than he and who promises to be a strong pillar for him, someone to complement and strengthen his own Muslim identity.

He travels to Saudi Arabia and meets her in her conservative environment and agree to marry.

They return to the United States together. Malik is in the land of the enemy. She has lost none of the extremist Islamist ideology that had been her world all her life.

The internet allows them to graphically monitor the ongoing violence in Middle East and fuel their minds with ideological literature.

They are inspired by the attacks in Paris and the impact those atrocities had on the West. They had the polarizing impact exactly as planned according to one of their best known ideological writings, The Management of Savagery/Chaos.

Farooq is led by Malik to embrace the same willingness to follow the extremist path. Neighbours see a change in Farook’s personality. He withdraws from his routine in the local mosque. (Muslims opposed to violent jihad according to Islamist jihadis are as much the enemy as unbelievers. After all, “the average Muslim sees . . . [violent extremists] as a notorious bunch of al-Qaeda-supporting ‘loonies'” (Quintan Wiktorowicz, Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West, p. 79) On the day of the killing Malik takes the lead and opens fire first.


The internet means that individuals no longer need to be part of “real-world” networks to register on the radar of security services whose job it is to identify and monitor potential terrorists. This makes the potential for “lone wolf” attacks all the more viable and threatening. A couple is technically not a lone wolf but I think we can stretch the idea to two people who have become “an item”.

The facility with which individuals can now enter the congregation of virtual jihadis and become active rather than passive plotters has meant that a whole secondary community of dangerous individuals has emerged who often have no connection with other violent extremists and who often do not even vaguely match the broad parameters of the profiles of previous attackers, yet remain an active menace. The threat has complicated and diversified . . . (Raffaello Pantucci, “We Love Death As You Love Life”: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists, p. 291)

Radicalization does not happen as a result of any single factor. Farooq and Malik were immersed in the violent ideology.

But ideology is never enough to make someone pick up a gun and start actually killing. There are millions of “cognitive extremists” in the world who would never turn their beliefs into acts of murder. The ideology we are talking about here is Islamism and violent jihad. This ideology is kept alive by the volatile fuel of daily feeds of ongoing wars, especially with Syria and the Islamic State. IS is another inspiring beacon for Sunni jihadis.

There is nearly always a mix of grievance to find expression through the ideology. Jihadis are not nihilists. They feel very deeply the injustices experienced by their extended identity. But grievance and injustices are never enough alone to produce a violent movement. As Trotsky said, if they were, the masses would always be in revolt. Most Muslims despise Islamic State and al Qaeda no matter how much they are enraged by the destruction of their countries.

There must also be a means of mobilisation to act. That’s where social networks and charismatic figures have traditionally entered the picture. Security services have relied upon this third factor to identify potential terrorists but the internet can change that game. Charismatic teachers, incendiary writings, and a global community witnessing the same atrocities and sharing the same grievances and being inspired by the same violent acts of others are all there on offer for anyone with a modem and monitor.

There’s more. But this is more than enough for now.

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Neil Godfrey

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40 thoughts on “The San Bernardino Terrorists — So Very Predictable, So UNpredictable”

  1. Show me just ONE other terrorist act which fits your so-called narrative (above) in this list and I will accept it is a narrative:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents,_July%E2%80%93December_2015 (hell, extend it for the last 5 years of attacks if you like)

    You can’t call something an “all too familiar narrative” if it’s basically the ONLY time it’s happened.

    I’ll give you the real narrative:

    1. Fairly devout Muslim goes to Mosque because he/she feels he/she needs to be more connected to his/her religion
    2. Any one of thousands of small extremist groups that frequent nearly every mosque anywhere in the world approach “devout Muslim” and tell him/her they’re not devout enough.
    3. They show him/her how to be devout
    4a. Terrorist
    4b. Devout Muslim leaves mosque thinking these peeps be crazy.

    1. If your narrative were valid we would be having multiple thousands of terrorist attacks every year.

      1. There must be tens of thousands minimum Muslims go to mosques regularly feeling they need to be more connected to their religion.

      2. Thousands of these devouts are approached by the thousands of “small extremist groups” and tell them they’re not devout enough.

      3. And being a Muslim and dark skinned Middle Easterner they are brain dead enough to just listen and follow like a zombie the young radical’s lesson on how to be more devout.

      4. Suddenly this Pakistani or Arab or other oriental wearing a thin veneer of civilization over his barbaric body is seized by the divine command to go out and Kill! Kill! Kill!

      How realistic is that narrative even for a small handful of real humans?

      Your narrative also condemns all Muslims because even those not persuaded are guilty for not reporting the extremists to the authorities and so having the threat nipped in the bud. How realistic is even that scenario? Or perhaps you thin Muslims and Orientals can’t be understood by the common expectations we apply to other humans.

      But the research is closer to reality. There is no evidence that there are “thousands of small extremist groups frequenting nearly every mosque anywhere in the world” — you just made that up. Is there any evidence that any such group was at San Bernardino? I think the evidence suggests otherwise.

      But if you would like to know what other terrorist acts fit the above narrative, here are some that are identified as conforming to this narrative (bearing in mind that influential relationships extend to family relations and very close friends as well as married couples):

      The nineteenth century Russian anarchists; the Red Brigades; the Sinn Fein; the Bali bombers — refer to the earlier post I cited. See an earlier post for other terrorists, many of whom conform.

      In the above post I also cited Pantucci’s research into British terrorists. The model I outlined was for most part based on his book (since it is the one freshest in my mind) but the same points are found in other studies that I have discussed/will discuss here.

      Every one of the terrorist plots (both successful and thankfully unsuccessful) that he discussed in depth (with close personal studies of each of the terrorists and their associates), from the 1980s through to 2014, including the 7/7 London bombing attacks, it’s foiled copycat attempt only months later, and the murder of Lee Rigby, — all conform to that same overall narrative and the confluence of ideology, grievance and mobilisation.

      Pantucci’s narrative structure is largely based on another research work (again one in which the researcher actually spoke to terrorists and their associates), Radical Islam Rising, by Wiktorowicz.

      I think it’s not a bad idea to at least give some time of day to the research that actually interviews and does formal and control studies of the terrorists and their close associates themselves. Might be at least as worthwhile as listening to armchair pundits and neurologists who raise the question of whether we should seriously consider killing people because of their very dangerous beliefs.

      1. Why did you make it about race? In Australia alone we’ve had it happen multiple times with white Australians. They convert to Islam, go to the mosque and get radicalized.

        My narrative happens ALL the time, yours doesn’t.

        Do you think the “cells” in these mosques are stupid enough to unload the Jihadist propaganda on a new attendee? Of course not, they wait, they see if the person exhibits the tendencies that make them a good target, then they slowly groom them into the mindset. You’re the one attributing stupidity to Muslims not me.

        (Want an example of what I’m talking about, just look at the case of the 15 year old who shot a police worker, straight from the Parramatta mosque)

        1. The fifteen year old boy you are speaking of was Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar. He was an ethnic Iraqi Kurd who had been born in Iran into a Muslim family. His acts, according to the public announcements of the police, the prime minister and foreign minister were “politically motivated” — not religiously motivated.

          His profile fits perfectly with the mix of ideology cum grievance cum mobilization (via Hizb ut-Tahrir) and fits the same depressing pattern as literally dozens of other terrorists and their partners in crime described in detail by Raffaello Pantucci in “We Love Death As You Love Life”: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists — the book upon which I based the post.

          The pattern is of a person out of place in the Australian culture, again a somewhat difficult personal background at school, finding an identity in the jihad movement.

          I am always surprised (I’ll surely get over it) by those who are the most critical of any post of mine that attempts to share what the scholarly research on terrorism demonstrates, the research that is actually based on specialists talking with terrorists and their associates, — that they speak strongly without ever demonstrating that they have actually read what I have written. Are you really suggesting that the scholars whose scenario I describe just made up all their stories and that they never talked to any of the members of terrorist groups or any terrorists themselves and concocted their whole thesis out of lies?

          The scenario they describe and that I have outlined here is well known among security services who are tasked with preventing terrorist attacks.

          But there is a key difference between the Jabar story and the Farooq/Malike one. Jabar fits the pattern Pantucci describes for most of his subjects. Pantucci stops short when it comes to the next generation who do not indicate any direct association with terrorist cells in their community but are radicalized and mobilized primarily via the internet.

          Jabar was associating to some extent with others in his community though he did act, it seems, as a “lone wolf” nonetheless.

          1. If the general terrorist attack is nearly always politically rather than religiously motivated as you are purporting, then why do we (almost?) never see people from the exact same backgrounds/countries, but who are:

            Muslims now atheists
            other religious groups

            committing “political” terrorist acts for basically the same reasons as you are outlining. From what I’ve seen it’s only the religious that commit this supposed political terror (Islam is extremely political though, pardon the pun, so I’m not saying there aren’t obvious political motives too). This makes your narrative seem shaky at best.

            1. It was not me who said he was politically motivated. Do you ever read and think about what the other person is saying before you jump off half cocked?

              Police Commissioner Scipione: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/parramatta-shooting-gunman-a-15yearold-boy-police-sources-say-20151002-gk0flb.html

              Prime Minister Turnbull: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/parramatta-shooting-malcolm-turnbull-condemns-coldblooded-murder-20151003-gk0h5c.html

              Foreign Minister Bishop: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-04/government-calls-on-families-to-fight-against-teenage-terrorism/6826392

              As for your question you obviously have not read the conclusion in my post or you would not have asked it.

              1. I read your conclusion again. I would still like you to answer my question, why don’t the non-Muslims from the same background do the same thing?

              2. What group of “non-Muslims from the same background” are you thinking of, specifically? What non-Muslims have the same background as those who are responsible of today’s wave of terrorism and the jihadi movement?

                What other (non-Muslim) groups today have the ideological, grievance and mobilisation factors that are found to lie behind radicalisation?

                This is all very new, you know. In past years we heard of terrorists who were socialists, atheists, Christians, Hindus — all suicide bombers and hi-jackers. Something has happened in recent decades to catapult Islamic terrorism to the fore. It didn’t exist before. So it would be odd if Islam itself turned out to be the “cause” of terrorism.

              3. Of course Islam is not the cause of terrorism, it is however the cause of terrorism committed by Muslims. Not the only cause, but the precipitating cause. I say it’s the precipitating cause because ex-muslims, lapsed-muslims, muslims-turned-atheists, and other minorities who come from exactly the same situations do NOT commit acts of terror.

                The Islamic terrorists shout God is the greatest when committing the terror, and specifically say in their manifestos that they are doing it for the cause of Allah and Islam (among other reasons).

                It is foolish to focus on all of the various other reasons and let the unifying and precipitating reason off with a light handslap. We’re not going to solve the Islamic terror problem [I could probably finish the sentence there unfortunately] by ignoring the religious side of it.

                Peace, out.

              4. You do know, don’t you, that the same terrorists who should Allahu Akbar also talk a lot about political grievances. Did you hear about that man in London who attempted to kill others with a knife shouted “This is for Syria!”? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-06/london-train-station-stabbing-declared-terrorism-incident/7005136 So should we say he was not religiously motivated and the fact that he was a Muslim is irrelevant?

                No-one is ignoring the religious factor. The religious factor is central, but it is not the sufficient cause or motivator. That should be obvious because if the ideas and beliefs were the reason people act violently then we should be seeing thousands of attacks every day — there really are millions who believe the same things and have the same grievances but who do not attack others.

                Researchers have studied many, many cases of terrorist attacks. I don’t think I have read of a single one where religion itself was “the precipitating” cause that pushed them to violence. Of course they shout Allahu Akbar. But if there’s one thing we know from our own history, it’s that whenever Christians (or any religious group) claims to be acting on behalf of God for religious reasons there is nearly always some other reason we can identify — greed, conquest, revenge…..

                You are correct, however, in tacitly acknowledging that there is no other non-Muslim group who has the same background as the terrorists. That suggests the background has a lot to do with the causes of terrorism.

                We know that’s true because there are millions of Muslims who have different backgrounds and who condemn the terrorists as criminal loonies.

              5. I did not tacitly acknowledge that there are no other non-Muslim groups who have the same background as the terrorists. I just focused on the ex and lapsed who wouldn’t even think of committing terrorist acts, almost certainly because they are no longer Muslims.

                So, here is a list of non-Muslim groups from the middle east who could have the same political motivations, but don’t commit terrorist attacks:
                Coptic Christians
                Maronite Christians
                All brands of unbeliever

                Please do not say, these groups are small and are not part of the majority political situation which would be negatively affected by western aggression, as this would beg your own question by purposefully excluding all groups other than the majority Muslim populations.

              6. I wish I could edit my posts.

                I overlooked commenting on the part where you said the terrorist on the tube shouted “This is for Syria”. This actually proves my point, not yours. The terrorist was not from Syria, probably has never been to Syria, and was of African descent. Therefore the ONLY thing that he could have been shouting “This is for Syria” for is because he was supporting his “brothers” of the same RELIGION currently being bombed in Syria, not political at all, pure religious solidarity. Mentioning Syria in the context of a terrorist attack marks him as almost certainly an ISIS supporter, but either way it’s religious NOT political. (Anyone who says ISIS is political is Ostrich-ing to the extreme)

              1. You said that other with the same background don’t commit terrorism but now you are telling me that those who don’t commit terrorism do NOT have the same background.

                But you did not look at the post I linked to previously. Robert Pape demonstrated that the one common factor of all suicide attacks from 1980 to 2004 was foreign occupation/invasion — whether the suicide bombers were Hindu or Christian or Socialist or Muslim or anything else.

                So we have a prima facie case that foreign invasion and destruction of a country is a likely predictor of terrorism.

                Next, we know from Pew and other polling that the overwhelming majority of Muslims deplore extremism. So it is only logical to conclude that the Muslim religion itself does not cause terrorism.

                Next, we have researchers demonstrating that three factors come together to impel certain individuals to commit terrorist acts:

                1. ideology
                2. grievance
                3. mobilisation

                Let’s have a look at those three factors in the light of the previous two points:

                A. Pape’s suicide bombers all had the ideology of nationalism (the desire to see their nation free); grievance (the fact that their people were occupied or invaded or bombed) and that made them angry and wanting to “do something”; finally, they all had networks and heroes to inspire and help them commit their atrocities. And that applied to terrorists of all religions and no religion.

                So in Pape’s work we see all three factors coming together to produce terrorists.

                B. Most Muslims do not embrace the ideology of violent jihad — they believe their religion is a religion of peace and they deplore violence. The ideology that inspires terrorism is Islamism — the desire to see their religion rule others. Most Muslims in the West especially reject Islamism and like to live in democracies. Most Muslims have family and traditional ties with the Middle East and they naturally feel affinity with their fellow Muslims, so most do have a strong grievance over what has happened to Muslim nations. Most Muslims deplore violence so they avoid networks that would facilitate violence and they do not worship heroes that would inspire it.

                So we can see why the Muslim religion does not cause terrorism: it does not have the ideology that would lead to violence.

                Now about those other groups. None of them has the same background as the Muslims. Recall that you said that no other groups of the same background are terrorists. But no other group has the same background.

                And most Muslims who do have that background also lack the ideology — one of the three necessary ingredients to lead to terrorism.

                As for those Muslims who are not from Iraq or Syria or Palestine or Yemen or Somalia or Saudi Arabia or Algeria or Afghanistan or Pakistan or any other country that Western nations regularly and continually bomb or have destroyed or have supported tyrant rulers — yes, there are a fair number in the West who embrace not normal Islam but the political ideology of Islamism. They identify as jihadi warriors because that gives them a strong and new sense of a proud identity that they did not have before. They did not have a strong pride or identity before because most of them were torn between two cultures and fitted into neither, and/or they were subject to racism, etc. Being a jihadi gives them a global identity and cause and sense of adventure and a worth-while existence. They feel they can do something about the grievances and they have networks to mobilize them.

                So these Muslims (really Islamists) identify with Syrian Muslims even if they are not themselves Syrian, for example.

                There is a big difference between Islam and Islamism. Islamism is the political ideology of believing Islam should rule, and violent Islamism is the ideology that believes that this can only be accomplished through violence. Only a miniscule number of Muslims subscribe to this. Most who do are on record (by Muslims themselves) as knowing very little about Islam. They know how to shout “God is Great” and not much more.

                (I should clarify that though Islamism is often defined as a political ideology, it is also fair to call it a political and religious ideology. It is both. But the religious beliefs are very different in major respects from other forms of Islam.)

                One more detail:
                As for the Yazidis — these are in the same position as the Muslims in Burma at the moment. There the Muslims are being killed and persecuted by Buddhists. The Buddhists are the ones inflicting the terror there and the Muslims are fleeing, — they are not terrorizing anyone. Ditto for the Yazidis in the Middle East.

              2. “Next, we know from Pew and other polling that the overwhelming majority of Muslims deplore extremism. So it is only logical to conclude that the Muslim religion itself does not cause terrorism.”

                This sentence is where you go wrong. It’s like saying the vast majority of Christians deplore what happened in the inquisition, so it is only logical to conclude that Christianity itself did not cause the inquisition. Obvious bunk. (Remember whenever I say cause I don’t mean only cause)

                It is more likely that the overwhelming majority of these “moderate” Muslims are actually the ones ignoring the full import of their religion and are actually the ones doing it wrong (ie. living their lives according to their own morals rather than those imposed by their religion, as has happened to pretty much every Christian society around the world too). The big difference is what the religion teaches in the 2 cases, Christianity doesn’t teach killing of the non-Christian so drifting away from Christianity doesn’t produce such a big change as drifting away from Islam does.

                I know personal anecdotes are not worth the breath they’re expelled on, but I have a few (or one composite). The last 3 girls I’ve dated were all “Muslims”, from 3 different countries which I will not name here but one was European, one was Central Asian and one was South East Asian. None of them took their religion seriously, none of them followed the dietary laws, the prayer rituals, the head covering requirements, they were less-than-moderate and did not care religiously or politically about their brother/sister Muslims around the world (even though one of them had not long before come out of a religious war), basically they were non-religious. These Muslims are not a problem, precisely because they are NOT Muslims anymore (except in name only). The ones that were scary were their religious relatives. I found that the more religious the relative the more scary they were, and when I say scary I mean exhibiting the trademarks of those who I would put on a watch-list if I was in anti-terror law-enforcement. Take that all with a grain of salt if you wish.

                “So we can see why the Muslim religion does not cause terrorism: it does not have the ideology that would lead to violence.” This sentence is obviously, blatantly and laughably wrong, or have you never read the Koran or any of Mo’s exploits. It was designed as a conquering (and thus violent) religion from the get-go (or more sneakily actually, from the time they were big enough to be a conquering force, Mo was smart). If you cannot see this then you are a lost cause.

              3. It’s like saying the vast majority of Christians deplore what happened in the inquisition, so it is only logical to conclude that Christianity itself did not cause the inquisition. Obvious bunk. (Remember whenever I say cause I don’t mean only cause)

                Christians were the victims of the Inquisition as well as its perpetrators (compare today where far more Muslims are killed by Islamic terrorists than any other group) and there have been no Inquisitions for most times and most places where Christianity is found so it is unlikely that Christianity can be the cause of the Inquisition.

                You acknowledge that there were other reasons which is only half correct. The inquisition was perpetrated by a certain power elite who also represented a particular power structure in the Church for various reasons. That is very, very different from blaming Christianity per se for having any role in the cause of the Inquisition. Christianity per se is just an abstract idea and did not in any way “cause” the Inquisition. Certain groups involved in power struggles in one particular Christian institution “caused” it — and that’s very much the same thing I am arguing about Islamic terrorism.

                This sentence is obviously, blatantly and laughably wrong, or have you never read the Koran or any of Mo’s exploits

                The terrorists, and even ISIS, do not follow the Koran or Muhammad’s examples except when it suits them. (It appears you are just repeating here what others say and proof-texts they pull out.) They are quite happy to violate both and argue around forever in circles to justify their interpretations against 99% of the Islamic scholars and overwhelming majority of Muslims. Like anyone else they pick and choose from their holy books what they want to find to justify their actions.

                I have a draft post demonstrating (according to a Western scholar of Islam) the several ways ISIS violates the Koran and Muhammad’s example that I hope to post soon.

                In fact, your claim here is supporting the terrorist propaganda. They want you to believe that they are the only ones who truly know and follow the Koran. The want you to repeat the so-called “proof-texts” and ignore the rest of the Islamic scriptures that the overwhelming majority of Muslims strongly believe give a proper context to those so-called “proof texts”. You have fallen victim to the terrorists’ propaganda.

              4. I taught at a school a short walk from Leytonstone Station during the years in which it went from an all-white to a mostly Asian immigrant intake. Problems have arisen in this Borough arising from the fact that it contains one of the largest Islamic communities in England and also a number of Afro-Caribbean gangs, e.g. the transatlantic air bomb plot in 2006, but it seems that the alleged perpetrator in this stabbing was a well-known local nutter.

              5. “I want to get to paradise through bananas (guns).” says 15 year old terror suspect, in totally non-religion-related way.

              6. You have missed my point entirely. Of course religion is a factor. So why do you imply I am saying there is no religious element at all? I have said all of this but you keep forgetting. The entire jihadi identity is a political-religious one.

                Stop and think. Is it the only factor? Does the boy think, “wow, paradise would be so cool. I think I’ll get a gun and do something to get myself shot just so I can go to paradise.” Is that what you really think motivates that boy to get hold of a gun, download videos of beheadings, wear black?

                He doesn’t need to do download beheadings or wear black so are those details just a bit of irrelevant data that have nothing to do with his religion? After all, isn’t it his “want” to get to paradise (your words, not his, by the way — you misquoted him) that is what makes him want to get killed? So why does he do all the extra stuff — surely none of that is necessary on your view of what motivates him.

                And not just him, but those who have influenced him. Why do they do all those other things — wear black, wave the flag, talk about Syria, target police or civilians . . . . — if the only thing motivating them is to get to paradise? None of those other things are necessary to get to paradise. Maybe something else is going on, no??

                Same with those Paris killings. Some people say, Hey, they shouted Allahu Akbar before they opened fire. Therefore they must be killing people because they want to please Allah and for no other reason (except maybe to go to Paradise).

                But then how do you explain the Islamic State explaining soon afterwards that they did the massacre in retaliation for getting bombed? Was Islamic State lying? Do we reply to Islamic State and say, No, you are lying because we have clear evidence that they did it because they wanted to get to paradise — exhibit A: They shouted “God is Great”! We rest our case! …. ??

              7. I like watching some international football. At the start of the game my team sings the national anthem. They wear colours that represent Australia. Everyone in the same room yells “Go Aussie”, etc.

                One might conclude, therefore, that we are motivated to watch the games and cheer the team because we love Australia and want to expend a lot of our energy willing our nation to win.

                But then there are other sports where Australia competes and I don’t give a damn. I don’t watch; I don’t even listen for the score. If I hear we lost then I shrug and think, well, that’s not our thing.

                What should I conclude from this inconsistency?

                The logical conclusion is that what interests and motivates me most, more than my nationality, is my love for particular sports that I know a little about and can appreciate and enjoy. I happen to like certain types of football. Some other sports bore me to tears.

                So when I stand for the national anthem and cheer my nation, it is not just because of my love for Australia — otherwise I would do the same for all sports where we compete. No, it is because I love the particular sport and am thrilled by the skills I am watching.

                I love watching the game even when it is not an international match. It is just that the international match brings out another feeling in me that relates to my national identity.

                It is the same with religion. Religion is part of a jihadi’s identity, and he will shout religious slogans, but it is a mistake to think that religion alone is what motivates him. It may not even be a motivating factor at all, in fact.

                What do you think of security services and scholarly research and all that they have to say about terrorism? Do you think they are just missing the point entirely and talking nonsense?

              8. Well, I didn’t deliberately misquote him, the quote was directly from a news article that supposedly directly quoted one of his text messages. So if it’s the wrong quote please let me know what the correct quote is.

                I am not misunderstanding you, I am trying to make the point that religion is nearly always the precipitating cause to the Islamic terrorist acts. Yes, there are plenty of other reasons (that vary by location, time, experience, etc), but the unifying and precipitating reason for all of them are the specifics of the Muslim faith; reward for martyrdom, orders to fight to establish Islam, killing unbelievers, punishment for those who don’t defend Islam, those who wage war against Allah in his land will be murdered and their feet and hands cut off, never retreat against the unbelievers, strike fear (terror) in the enemy, Allah punishes the unbeliever by your hands, and that’s just the Quran. All of these commands are open-ended, there is no time-limit, they apply to Muslims today as much as they did when the Quran was written. This is unquestionable.

                No other religion (not even Christianity, which is possibly more reprehensible for its past wars because of this fact) has this type of injunction in their Holy Scriptures. The problem is Islam and its teachings. There is nothing that the West can do to placate the situation apart from all of us converting to Islam. This is straight from the mouths of the agitating Muslims, they don’t care what we do from now on, Islam is coming, Sharia is coming, they will not be stopped.

                No amount of hand-wringing about how the West can fix the problem will help, it is all in vain. We can’t fix the problem, we can only fight it. And by fight I don’t mean with bloodshed, just so I don’t get misunderstood; there are far better ways to de-escalate this problem. (unfortunately the left won’t enact them because it means giving up leftist pipe-dreams like multiculturalism, so I fear it will be the right-wing that the masses turn to, and who knows what they will do).

              9. I am not misunderstanding you, I am trying to make the point that religion is nearly always the precipitating cause to the Islamic terrorist acts.

                But you haven’t presented any reason to think religion precipitated anything this 15 year old boy did. All you have told us is something he said about a belief of his but nothing about his motivations for a presumed terror attack.

                You are not presenting any argument at all but simply declaring that he had a religious belief and that it was a Muslim belief therefore Islam caused him to plot a terrorist act. You have no evidence to support your assertion that his belief in an afterlife if he died a martyr was the “precipitating” factor in his wish for an attack. None. You have no evidence that all those passages you know so well in the Quran motivated him. None.

                (On the other hand, I have cited researchers who have talked to scores of terrorists and terrorist sympathizers who demonstrate that such claims are false. But you ignore all of this.)

                Have you spoken to any Muslims to ask them what they believe and how they interpret the Quran? Or do you decide what their religious beliefs are from your own reading of the Quran?

                I am surprised that you have simply avoided addressing any of the points I have made that argue against your views. But as you said, you are only interested in repeating and asserting them and you are convinced you understand my position.

                If you understand my position then why don’t you address my specific points of facts and logic in the previous comments and show me why they are wrong. First of all, why don’t you try to actually sum up in your own words what you believe my position to be just so you can assure me that you really do understand it? So far you have simply ignored it and repeated your own views each time.

                Your opening comment actually led me to believe you have not understood my views at all because you would not have tried to point out that his words about paradise were indeed religious — as if I am saying religion is not a factor in his makeup.

                As another reader here said, if every time I mention a woman to someone and that person always started speaking about their breasts, then I’d be excused for thinking that breasts were all he was interested in whenever it came to discussing women. In the same way every time an Islamic terrorist is mentioned and you start talking about religion then I can be excused for thinking you have an unhealthy obsession with religion and it is leading you to grossly misunderstand terrorism in its full reality.

              10. I have just heard on the news that the court refused bail to the 15 year old because he was “strongly motivated by ideology” to commit a terrorist act.

                What do you suppose that ideology is? Do you think he was denied bail because he wants to go to paradise as a martyr?

              11. The terror cells that the Police/AFP are targeting at the moment certainly seem to be concentrating their planning on attacks against the AFP and Police. The cells are obviously aggrieved that they are the target of raids and surveillance, in fact the entire Muslim community is aggrieved about this (as is attested to by their constant whining on the subject). Should we therefore stop the surveillance or raids on the Muslim community? Whatever your answer is, how does your theory help the situation? If we stop, we are almost certainly allowing more terrorist incidents to happen with no guarantee that they will stop at some time in the future when the affected community feels less aggrieved, if we continue we just add fuel to the terrorist fire. No win situation, exactly as planned by the cells themselves (but only if the West follows the thinking of your “scholars” on the subject).

                Talking to terrorists is not a reliable method of getting to the truth of why they are committing the terrorist acts. Why? Because they are allowed to lie in their war against the non-Muslim (don’t talk to me about what the moderates think about this lying as it’s the terrorists specifically and exclusively we have to ask and who will answer with lies as allowed or more properly mandated by their war).

                Did you watch the Child Abuse Royal commission? Jehovah’s Witnesses were brought before it and they lied for most of the important parts of their testimony to protect their religion (they are specifically told that this type of lying is acceptable, just as the Hadith does for Muslims). I would trust neither religion as far as I could comfortably spit a live rat.

                As for your second comment, you do realize religions are ideologies too, and that ideology is now used as a cover word so that people (read: other Muslims) don’t get offended. BTW, shoving the word political into the definition of ideology does not negate this, because nearly all religions are in some sense political, Islam being the most political of all, again because of its TEACHINGS! Speaking of which, I notice you skimmed over the teachings/scriptures that I listed in a VERY dismissive manner. Name me one other religion that has justification for terrorism, let alone in such explicit terms, in their Holy Book. This itself is my argument for why religion is the precipitating cause in Islamic terror.

                Just look at the Wikipedia (or any other) terrorist acts list, I did some research http://www.visionofhumanity.org/sites/default/files/Global%20Terrorism%20Index%20Report%202014_0.pdf (look at pg 31 figure 12, most terrorist attacks now are religiously motivated, and other sections of the document show that 90% of all terrorist attacks are in the top 5 countries all of which are Muslim, tell you anything?). Anyway, it’s very easy to show from the facts that worldwide almost all attacks are committed by a Muslim “lone wolf” (haha, lone wolf convinced by hundreds of others behind the scenes), or Islamic terrorist organisation and are religiously motivated. You cannot tell me that there are no other groups in the world than Muslims that are being unfairly treated, invaded, aggrieved. Why is it then that it is almost exclusively Muslims that commit acts of terror? The differentiating factor is religion and the confirming evidence is that the religion itself teaches terror.

              12. I missed this comment of yours earlier.

                Oh my god. So researchers are so stupid that they don’t realize their subjects could be lying?

                As for the rest of this comment, it is clearly a waste of time trying to engage you in a serious discussion. I have addressed the points you raise several times in the past (if you are new here you may not have read them but you clearly have not taken time to even read or grasp my previous comments). I am beginning to think that certain bigots have no interest in trying to understand anything that challenges them.

                When you are ready to actually have an honest give-and-take discussion let me know. Till then, you come across as one who reads or hears a phrase that thrills his viscera and leaves no room for alternative viewpoints.

                Or are you only hear to preach your hatred and ignorance?

  2. “The guerrilla must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea” (Mao Zedong). You highlight a problem similar among Muslims to that experienced within other communities with terrorist minorities, the fear of reporting them to the external authorities; e.g. Sinn Fein/IRA. There may also be some sympathy for jihadists because of shared opposition to western state-terrorism, i.e. bombing, against equally peaceful and harmless families in the Dar al-Islam.

    I have consistently said it was foolish for western governments to get mixed up in sectarian conflicts overseas and also to import them into “our own” countries; accused of being at once a terrorist sympathizer and a racist xenophobe. Well, si monumentum requiris, circumspice.

    It can be justified to kill murderers or would-be murderous individuals in immediate self-defence, but not to murder those who hold “dangerous beliefs”. This principle doesn’t help much with such problems as – what to “do” about Assad or Haftar or Erdogan. But then it has always been easier for some politicians to get people into a bloody mess than to get them out of it.

    Your ecumenically nuanced “Study Quran” demonstrates its crucial importance to everyday life throughout the Muslim “nation”. But no more comments from me here on this subject, except with documentation hopefully emailed privately some time during Rabi’ al-Awwal 1437 AH.

    1. Muslims are reporting their radicalized associates to the authorities all the time when they know about them. They as often as not appear to expel them from their mosques. That’s not being intimidated by them. The Muslim community is one of the main allies in the efforts of the authorities to prevent these attacks. At least that’s the case in Australia and Pantucci’s work does not lead me to think it very different in the UK. The terror cells do not hold the wider Western Muslim community in fear of retaliation in the same way the IRA was able to intimidate their local community. The jihadist cells are simply not that big or supported widely enough to do anything like that.

      The situation you describe does apply to northern Iraq and eastern Syria, however, where one faces almost certain death attempting to betray or defy Islamic State.

      What to do about Erdogan??

  3. As suggested, I will try to answer further in a private communication rather than in continual posting here. I have no wish to be unfair, untruthful or ungrateful to Muslims, who have turned over criminals or given information to the “infidel” authorities. The mullah-propaganda and radicalization record in GB is mixed. Much depends on the size and concentration of the self-segregated communities. The Muslim population in the once Lucky Country probably totals around half a million. We have no certain figures for the Old Dart.

    1. Please don’t email mere opinions and assertions. What interests me is the research, the studies, the serious investigations that deal directly with the terrorists themselves, their communities and associates, or directly from court transcripts and official records and terrorist-related documents. That is, the evidence. The stuff that informs our security services. You are welcome to share, discuss and question all of that on this forum.

    1. I look forward to your annotation of Burke’s New Threat. I find his books have always been first class sources and his New Threat has contributed much to my own understanding. But do post it here, not in private email.

      1. By annotation I did not mean an extensive commentary on any publication, but a note on contents, and would not wish to list too many titles to weary your readers. I agree about Burke and his recent articles. The rest in due course.

  4. I understand the laudable desire to challenge SH’s Islam v. Jainism simplifications. But for those of us living across the wide Pacific and shaking in our boots at the idea of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg retiring or dying with a Republican in the Oval Office, what we need is an explanation of why “defeating” ISIS isn’t the solution to “lone wolf” terrorism, an explanation which we can sell to the vast center of the voters. How do we explain why the couple didn’t just move to Dubai?

    A husband and wife, newly married and with a baby, who go on a shooting rampage naturally piques our curiosity. But then, any folie a deux will tend to. Those of us who wish to deemphasize the influence of “Islam is the Answer” on the actions of the couple need another explanation.

    We have yet and probably won’t get a good history of the wife’s social and emotional development in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and almost certainly not her psychosexual development. We’re unlikely to learn her post-partum emotional state or how her self-imposed imprisonment in a Southern California condo or the threatened deracination in a foreign land affected her. How ignorant of sexual matters was she? She was without women friends and confidants. Was her husband sufficiently knowledgeable to assist her to transition from that state of considering sex vulgar and unacceptable to a state of mature sexual love. Was the husband a virgin when they married?

    Where should we look for an explanation for this highly unusual event which can deflect the excessive, even obsessive, reliance on the existence of ISIS as the explanation we Americans are being offered?

    1. Even with the defeat of ISIS I don’t see the end of this jihadi movement, though it might help. But apocalyptic movements (as ISIS is — see McCant, ISIS Apocalypse) tend to rationalise and move on rather than admit they were all bonkers.

      Defeating ISIS is probably the easy part by comparison with the problem we face in the West — though of course the threats to us are miniscule compared with the damage that has been and is being done by suicide bombers and others in Iraq, Syria and South Asia.

      Even if we identify certain psychological problems with Malik that won’t prepare us for the next attack that may well come from someone relatively psychologically and socially healthy.

      1. While I sympathize with the victims of ISIS and similar organizations no matter where they live, my ultimate interest is in the maintenance of such enlightened, progressive values as can still be found in America.

        Each time a “home grown” or “lone wolf” or self-radicalized Islamist terrorist is shown to have some connection to a “radical Islamist” organization, it’s that connection that becomes the popular explanation for his/her behavior. Yours and experts’ explanations which place a greater emphasis on the particular social, economic, and psychological causative factors get swamped.

        While I prefer your explanation to the populist one, I have to admit that yours seems academic and general; the populist offers a specific target to attack. Which explanation, in the popular understanding, is more likely to prevail?

        1. There is no one factor. Networks are important, but the question then becomes why some people get involved in such networks and not others, or why the networks radicalize one person but not another — even when both are brothers with the same upbringing we find instances where only one is radicalized.

          The internet factor is serious enough because it facilitates the production of the lone wolf who can become radicalized without any “real-life” contact with a network/organization. This is something new. Till now pretty much all, as you say, have had that real-life connection.

          I don’t dispute the network function for radicalization by any means. My post was based on my understanding (it may yet prove wrong since it’s still very early days) that Farook and Malik were acting without being part of any organization. Unless you know more up to date info than I have seen?

          1. Organization? Network? Stochastic terrorism? But that’s not what I’m asking. Maybe I’m not being clear.

            What expert knowledge can be used to counter the current popular narrative/explanation which is this:

            Home grown islamic terrorism is the direct result of actors encountering the propaganda of AQAB (although Anwar al-Awlaki’s dead), Shabab, Lashkar-e-Taiba, ISIS, etc.

            In the popular mind the defensive action to be taken is the destruction of the source of the propaganda. And if destruction is unrealistic, then, the quarantining of Muslims who might be susceptible to that propaganda may be next.

            Neither action is good for America or any Western nation.

            Unless the experts can offer an explanation which will convince the man-in-the-street that he’s emphasizing the wrong thing, the expert’s knowledge, no matter how well founded, is not useful.

            1. I don’t know how anyone can do either — perhaps I am still not understanding your point, sorry. How can one identify and quarantine “Muslims who might be susceptible” to any propaganda? How can ideas be destroyed or shut down?

              If don’t know if there is a general popular explanation (at least where I live) but if it is as you say, then I don’t think an explanation is not useful if it is not embraced by the general public. Security services and anyone responsible for countering terrorism in an official capacity, certainly most of them, are open to the best information and seek it out. Scott Atran (an anthropologist who has researched the role of networks and other factors underlying Islamic terrorism) has been asked by United Nations bodies to explain his research findings and his conclusions.

              The scholarly researchers do write stuff that is accessed and used by security services. Their opinions are sought after and utilized.

              Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIS, for example, is based soundly on the research and testimony of many specialists. I suspect many people think he’s being wishy washy and that he should just go in and invade or bomb the hell out of them all — the very approach that all the research says would be counterproductive.

  5. An important but neglected issue relevant to arguments over “terrorism” and “lesser jihad” is the desire of many Muslims to spread and consolidate sharia regulations in their heartlands but also among their diaspora in autonomous communities. I leave informed discussion here to others.

  6. pastasauceror said:

    So, here is a list of non-Muslim groups from the middle east who could have the same political motivations, but don’t commit terrorist attacks:
    Coptic Christians
    Maronite Christians
    All brands of unbeliever

    First of all, you are comparing apples and oranges, thousands of followers of these groups have not suffered from Western Imperialism like the Muslims have. The fact you lack the intelligence to even see this is pretty scary.

    I can play your game too – I can say, Muslims have the same political grievance as the Hindus in Sri Lanka, they have been marginalised for decades by the Buddhists, but it was the Hindu Tamil Tigers that were committing terrorism – suicide bombings, blowing up buses – and not the Muslims, therefore, Islam is peaceful and Hinduism is violent. Of course, this would be a completely stupid thing to say, yet this is exactly the kind of logic you employ.

    I think the greatest threat to humanity is dumb people who are fearful, this combination has throughout history caused massive damage and will unfortunately continue to do so.

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