Jihad and Death, the global appeal of Islamic State

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by Neil Godfrey

Now that Islamic State has been defeated in the most prominent of its several bases it may not be a bad idea to extend our understanding of what we have just witnessed and its likely ongoing ramifications.

Olivier Roy

There is something terribly modern about the jihadi terrorist violence that has unfolded in the past twenty years or so.

Of course, neither terrorism nor jihad is a new phenomenon. Forms of “globalized” terrorism . . . developed as early as the late nineteenth century with the anarchist movement, culminating in the first manifestation of global terrorism with the alliance formed by the Baader-Meinhof gang, Palestinian extreme left groups, and the Japanese Red Army in the 1970s. As for the reference to jihad, it is found in the Quran and regularly resurfaces in the Muslim world—particularly through the term mujahid, characteristic of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) and the Afghan resistance.

What is new is the association of terrorism and jihadism with the deliberate pursuit of death.

Those are the opening lines of Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State by Olivier Roy, translated from French by Cynthia Schoch. The book has been noticed with reviews easy to find on the web — in Church Times, The Economist, Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, Haaretz, Jihad WatchMiddle East Media and Book Reviews Online, The National, New York Journal of Books, Our Daily ReadThe Times. . . .

Most of history’s terrorists are on record as carefully planning their escape. Olivier Roy sees the current wave Islamic State inspired terrorists as fundamentally a nihilistic youth movement. The perpetrators are not as a rule long and deeply immersed in Islam; on the contrary, their sentiments of fervent religiosity are expressed by a smattering of decontextualized “proof texts” and surface only in a matter of weeks or months before those perpetrators embark on their ultimate goal of a suicide mission. Before that time, and even during that same period, their lives are stained by unreligious practices — petty crime, alcohol, sex, drugs — but suicide, they believe will atone for all of their sins and even grant apostate family members a path to paradise.

It is a generational movement, Roy argues, comparable to the terror once wreaked by China’s Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution and by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The old Islam of their parents is to be wiped out to make way for the original faith and practice. But they are not even making room for a new society; they seek death.

The caliphate is a fantasy. It is the myth of an ideological entity constantly expanding its territory. Its strategic impossibility explains why those who identify with it, instead of devoting themselves to the interests of local Muslims, have entered a death pact. There is no political perspective, no bright future, not even a place to pray in peace.

Roy speaks of the Islamization of radicalism. He rejects the notion that it is Islam that is being radicalized. No, it is the other way around today. Fundamentalism, he argues, does not produce violence. Other factors contribute to violence. Islam, moreover, condemns suicide missions of the type longed for by modern day Islamist terrorists, because it anticipates God’s will. The suicide bomber does not allow God to decide the time of his or her death and is for that reason condemned by even Salafi Muslims.

But while the concept of the caliphate is indeed part of the Muslim religious imaginary, the same is not true for the pursuit of death. Salafism, accused of all kinds of evils, condemns suicide because it anticipates Gods will. Salafism is primarily concerned with codifying individual behavior: it regulates everything, including the use of violence. Salafis are not out to die. Instead, obsessed by salvation, they need life in order to prepare to meet their Lord at the end of an earthly existence led according to its rites and rituals. (Roy, p. 4)

There is no military or strategic advantage to be won by ongoing suicide operations. Yes, we know about asymmetrical warfare and the power and even success achieved by small bands against organized national armies. But suicide attacks lose trained and hardened warriors every time. The goal as set out in radical manifestos is to fan further radicalization, especially among Muslim communities. Hence most targets are Muslims in the Middle East, not Westerners.

I believe that the systematic association with death is one of the keys to today’s radicalization: the nihilist dimension is central. What fascinates is pure revolt, not the construction of a utopia. Violence is not a means. It is an end in itself. It is violence devoid of a future. If this were not the case, it would be merely an option instead of a norm and a conscious choice.

But what about the lone wolf nutter?

The genius of ISIS is to offer young volunteers the narrative framework within which they can achieve their aspirations. So much the better for ISIS if other volunteers to die—psychopaths, people with suicidal tendencies, or rebels without a cause—have little to do with the movement, but are prepared to play out a scenario that lends their personal despair a global dimension. (p. 5)

It’s not easy reading interpretations like Roy’s. I look forward to what other specialists in the field have to say about his book, but so far he does not seem very far removed from what several of them have written.

If so, it will surely pass, just as other nihilistic and suicidal “fashions” among youth in the past have passed. That doesn’t make the present any easier, of course, and it leaves us apprehensive of what might follow.

This association of course does not cover the entire issue. It is perfectly conceivable that other, more “rational,” forms of terrorism might soon emerge on the scene. It is also possible that this form of terrorism is merely temporary and that the protest will take on other forms, perhaps more political ones. (p. 5)



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31 thoughts on “Jihad and Death, the global appeal of Islamic State”

  1. Fundamentalism is characterized by hopelessness and abject cynicism. Both violence and suicide emerge naturally from desperation. Death is the last way out.

    The difference between a lone wolf and organized group is the magnitude of the spectacle that can be created, but there isn’t any belief that spectacle will change anything, any more than the spectacle of the next Star Wars movie will change anything.

    It’s ironic that one individual lone wolf can kill and injure hundreds, but organized groups may only be able to strike tens due to the logistics of getting an armed group into a secure populated area. And still killing hundreds disappears from the news cycle in days.

    ISIS presence in the news was little more than a philosophical debate. If you look through their history, most of the events involving ISIS were very minor. The media rarely talked about anything specifically they did, which wouldn’t get a category of attention above a local news level, such as a car bomb or single person shooting, doesn’t even get national news attention when in happens in the US.

    1. Fundamentalism is characterized by hopelessness and abject cynicism. Both violence and suicide emerge naturally from desperation. Death is the last way out.

      What interests me is the scholarly research (usually checked by control studies) that puts armchair musings to the test. It is far from established that fundamentalism is characterized in the way you describe. Hopelessness, feelings of being lost in despair — these are as likely, even more so, to be related to withdrawal and isolation and the very antithesis of seeking to proactively attack society, of violence of any kind.

      1. Hi. By fundamentalism we mean what? If a belief in a set of eternal truths is fundamental then what is a belief that does not have eternal truths in terms of the potential for violence? How do we assess whether the belief system actually has the claimed – or imputed – eternal truths? If fundamentalism is a belief not based on eternal truths then how do outsiders assess (if this is even possible) the ‘what’ that is fundamental? Fundamental to whom? How could fundamentalism ever lead to hopelessness or abject cynicism? The fundamentals of any matter would surely be an enlightenment in any context. It is surely the twiggy bits that lead to hopelessness, etc. A Church for example that has a government structure that degenerates – under the infiltration of spooks – to a hierarchy from some more noble arrangement is more likely to give rise to hopelessness among and within its congregants than a parallel Church who stays with an evangel, that is the fundamental bit (and focussed upon due to no competing demands on their attention). Those congregants that stay with the ‘baby’ and allow the ‘bathwater out’ are more likely to feel oppressed but never discouraged or hopeless. Quite the contrary, as time goes on the growth deriving from the evangel is a powerful antidote to any kind of extremism.

        1. Hi Ian and June

          I don’t know what your religious affiliations are or have been in the past thirty or so years but reading between the lines of your comment (and of course I admit I may be misreading badly) I am wondering if you have stayed with “the church” under the leadership of Tkach senior and Tkach junior.

          What do we mean by fundamentalism? I invite you to take a look at Ten characteristics of fundamentalism. (Much has been written by serious researchers on fundamentalism and many posts addressing its characteristics have been posted here.)

          As for Olivier Roy in Jihad and Death, he explains a distinction between “absolute” and “radical” belief that you might appreciate:

          Religious fundamentalism exists, of course, and poses considerable societal problems, because it rejects the values based on the centrality of the individual and personal freedom in all realms, starting with the family, sexuality, and procreation.10 But it does not necessarily lead to political violence: a Hasidic Jew or a Benedictine monk is an “absolute” rather than a radical believer, living in a sort of social secession but not politically violent. Similarly, most Salafis are non-violent.

          As for the ability of complete outsiders to explore and understand the processes involved, an excellent article by Stephen Young was published a couple of years ago: Young, S. L. (2015). “Protective Strategies and the Prestige of the “Academic”: A Religious Studies and Practice Theory Redescription of Evangelical Inerrantist Scholarship.” Biblical Interpretation, 23(1), 1–35. https://doi.org/10.1163/15685152-00231p01 The key is the distinction between “descriptive reduction” — the importance of accepting the terms and beliefs and language of the believer, and “explanatory reduction” — explaining the believers experiences in terms that may be quite unfamiliar to the believer and not meet the believer’s approval.

          By the way, another interesting article addressing the ongoing growth of fundamentalist religious movements by Olivier Roy is “Rethinking the Place of Religion in European Secularized Societies: The Need for More Open Societies,” http://cadmus.eui.eu/handle/1814/40305 (That’s actually the endnote #10 in the quotation above.)

          Anyway, welcome back. I had thought you had left us after you expressed a condign assessment of Tim’s intelligence for his post about scholarship relating to the Nativity and failed to respond to his and my replies.

          1. It is true that if Armageddon is not on your immediate forecast the way it is in Christianity, fundamentalists are able to play a very long game beyond what secular people imagine. Violence need not be physical or immediate if there are other ways of hurting or overcoming outsiders such as selective trade and there are other ways of retaining members than directly threatening or coercing them such as through social bonding, genuine personal connections. You will find people with different personality types leading them than we see in Christians. Personality styles inspire successive leaders as a matter of tradition.

            A narcissist is not going to adopt a traditional leadership style, won’t be inspiring or leave a legacy that anyone wants to hold on to. He’ll be a showman, draw crowds, new faces, but membership collapses after he’s gone. He’ll also damage other communities and their leaders by drawing people away and even outright attacking them. Rivalry between charismatic pastors in Christian communities used to amuse me, but they do lots of damage that gets swept under the rug in order to frame changes in leadership in terms of made up doctrinal purity instead of actual corruption or sexual abuse. You just can’t maintain any longstanding traditional community based on corruption and abuse, yet Christian fundamentalism has burned hot for several decades straight on almost exclusively that.

            Violence does emerge if losses of membership increase suddenly and become undeniably apparent. Aggressive fundamentalist movements such as in Christianity show a distinct lack of and disrespect for culture and tradition. They may speak defensively about protecting these things, but they don’t actually have them. Members sucked in by force don’t have deep connections to older traditions and leaders seeking to expedite growth will throw out anything slowing them down, especially if it’s easy to dismiss as impure. We see exactly these techniques being used by Republican Congress. They didn’t just make that up this year.

        2. P.S. I have posted often enough on the research that demonstrates that religious beliefs per se do not lead to violence, contrary to much popular opinion. I have also posted on research into radicalization processes, how individuals get mixed up with extremist groups. The processes are remarkably similar to the processes that lead persons into religious cults.

        3. Fundamentalism is a delusional construct of an abstract pure form of true faith. The purpose of violence is purification.

          Since fundamentalism is based on delusions, proof or definition of it in itself is beside the point. The point is to find the proof of impurity and to remove it.

          Outsiders by definition are not capable of recognizing truth. One is not Saved by one’s own power, Salvation is a gift to the chosen.

          Fundamentalism teaches that the unsaved are lost, worthless, garbage in the sight of God. The saved are also the same garbage but in spite of this God chose to save them anyway. Because of this view, they see everyone including themselves as hopelessly incapable of being good or moral. If you ever say anyone is a good person, it means you aren’t cynical and fundies will know you are not one of them.

          The route to becoming a fundamentalist is that either you yourself or others make you aware of bad things you’ve done, even if you did nothing if you are constantly shamed as a bad person throughout your childhood you start to believe it.

          Hopelessness is reinforced by prophecy that God is going to destroy the world soon. It has been coming soon for two thousand years, but it’s still soon, this generation, every generation is this generation. The modern age has made it more palpable with constant chaos in the middle east and nuclear weapons. Modern news is constantly framed in terms of Armageddon. If you went into fundamentalism because you lost your job and your wife left you, the end of the world is a relief for your hopelessness. Suicide is considered self-serving and therefore sinful, but as long as you can’t commit suicide, the rest of your life is hopeless, the end has to come some other way, a way demonstrating God’s choice and power.

          Individual churches don’t degenerate into fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a large scale, long term response to the loss of members. Over a long period of time going back to the Enlightenment age, liberalization of society makes it possible to leave church behind without consequence by governments providing services to the less fortunate. Fundamentalism is an effort to create consequences for anyone leaving the church and to pull the social safety nets from the government back to the church.

          Fundamentalism has a side effect of reducing taxes for the rich. The rich are always able to get away with things forbidden by the church because of donations, including to their political alliances.

          Fundamentalists derive an alternative to hope from the suffering of those they consider enemies. They take joy in who will be destroyed and spend eternity in Hell. Vengeance is all people have left after they lose hope.

      2. I just don’t see us ever getting any peer reviewed text comparing the real time lived experiences of young Arabs in Europe and young whites in America tempted into militant groups, but we already fully know what it’s like to be a young person tempted into a street gang.

        There are no social workers or feminist researchers in terror cells and definitely not real ones in Christian youth groups. No one exists to write these stories. I can’t write anything because I purposely disassociated myself from people I knew were dangerous and anyone else with my experience will have the same limitation.

        Most of the people I would have to talk about from my youth are middle aged now like myself and they see themselves as especially civilized, what conservatives think civilized means, and therefore above suspicion. They believe their allegiance with God is the reason their methods haven’t involved the use of improvised explosives.

        You just can’t go into your church looking like a True Christian armed with a cut length of garden hose packed with dirt as you could in the street gang days of yore, all gangsters open carry. I had to be surprised that all my former comrades all now own multiple firearms and whine to me about how restrictive the laws are in Canada. They want Canada to have the gun violence that the US does, they don’t fear it. The US is their shining example of a True Christian Nation and they despise the multicultural and socialist (both said with dripping contempt) nature of Canada.

        One threatened to burn down a local shopping mall, in Canada, because it didn’t put “Merry Christmas” on a banner. I really don’t want to know what they’re doing, but they’re still connected to people I am connected to. Why aren’t they seeing what I’m seeing? The mall didn’t burn down, but I already know that if it did burn down it wouldn’t be enough to change anything, but I know that I would be attacked for making it “political” (?). The attacks I’m subjected to, by “average” people, not even Christians, even throwing up my hands feels like it threatens them on an existential level.

        If someone threatens to do something you don’t wait until after they do something to assume that person has psychological issues, but of course EVERYONE does that, and afterwards they say they “did not know” in Good German fashion, but hey the media found that post on Facebook that everyone saw, but still you didn’t see anything so there’s nothing wrong with you, nothing.

        People assume that criminals commit crimes because they are criminals and that psychological issues are only a means to excuse a tiny minority of people who don’t deserve the proper punishment. Therefore “good” people (there are no such things in Christian circles, just Christians and non-Christians) can’t be criminals and Christians are not psychologically ill if their theology is in order (War on Christmas, check).

        What I lived as a younger man tells me that psychology is too gentlemanly a profession which would never dare suggest that most people are clinically neurotic and not even barely keeping their heads above them. I’ve read dozens of books on Nazi Germany, half of them defend the average Nazi with a straight face just because you can’t condemn so many average German people, you must but you can’t. These things are already established in the body of knowledge of psychology, but it wouldn’t be professional to say that psychology says almost everyone is crazy. There is no way society or government will do anything about it, especially a fucking Nazi government.

        The government does invest a little bit in trying to keep youth off the street but too many people mistakenly think that religion does good in helping with that instead of making things much worse, plus the churches need taxpayer funding because they spent the donations to send the biggest donors’ kids to Africa. Somehow an Islamic center in the inner city isn’t in any way responsible for youth in that area ending up in Syria. But what about the Christian center? Kids with rich parents get in trouble as much as poor kids and they all learn very quick that religion is the same business as money laundering: bad deeds go in, clean religious veneer comes out, along with that abysmal cynicism that makes Christians such fun people. There is literally nothing more to the daily business of religion at all, right down to and especially martyrdom.

        Christianity is intertwined with fully delusional levels of paranoia, narcissism, and antisocial personality disorders. These are the traits of the leaders and also those who enforce their order. It’s more than an assumption that Islamic groups work exactly the same way, and street gangs work the same way, but of course. Most average people have the other non-intimidating disorders which deter them from speaking out or changing the status quo or just look like a looney. You can’t convince most people that their resistance to change or boatrocking is a disorder. There is a mass shooting in the US almost every day, every day with very few exceptions. Yet the party fully committed to resisting gun control is locked at a marginal victory level of public support. This is a symptom of massive, widespread public psychological disorder, but half of these people feel that the president in particular has a psychological problem, that if he and he alone were removed somehow the mass shootings might be curtailed, actually they don’t care about mass shootings.

        There is no personality disorder which motivates anyone to stand up against any kind of injustice, simply because each and every personality disorder is rooted in a basic fear. They only stand up against either the delusion that they believe threatens them or those people they feel are threatening, such as those New Atheists who stir up the hornet’s nest.

        1. There are no social workers or feminist researchers in terror cells and definitely not real ones in Christian youth groups. No one exists to write these stories.

          Are you suggesting that scholars are not in a position to get to know members of terror cells and study them directly? If so, that is not entirely true. Some of them — whose works I have posted about here — have risked their lives to do their work.

          There are also studies that can be done of the persons involved from the messages they leave behind, from getting to know about them in the same way police investigators get to know them and their psychological makeup, their social networks, etc.

          Pretty much all of the studies I read come from both types of sources. The data is rigorously authenticated. I’m not sure what studies you are using as the basis for your own views.

          1. I would be extremely suspicious of anyone claiming to be a genuine academic author acting as an observing member of a terror cell or Christian youth group or street gang for research purposes. It’s not a question of risking your life. Anyone who leaves one of these groups risks their life by definition. Members of all of these groups will be suspicious of anyone who might threaten them and Christians know how to tell who is a fake Christian and it has nothing to do with What Jesus Would Do.

            Police investigators aren’t social workers or academics. The psychological tools they use are already worked out. The only thing they tell you is which type of person it was who did this crime in the aftermath. The fact that we only discover the signs we missed beforehand tells us that we are not looking and claiming blindness. Facebook sells views and clicks. Their software doesn’t flag terrorists, nobody would use it if they were being profiled and flagged for investigation.

            Virtually every instance of terror was predictable using tools like social media. For example, the Las Vegas shooter was on prescription psychotic medications, was known to abuse alcohol which aggravated his medications, filed a vindictive lawsuit against the city of Las Vegas, which in itself should have been a huge red flag, and was legally allowed to purchase and keep an arsenal in spite of all this. Nobody saw anything.

            What I’m saying is that if we really want to stop terrorism, society and government have to focus on mental health in a major way, not dismiss mental illness if it is contextualized by religion and recognize that organized religion is actually to blame when it is sponsored to be active in the community without any oversight.

            1. Tige, you are rambling. You are just making up this stuff. You evidently have not read the scholarly works you nonetheless imagine deserve criticism. You cite no studies as a basis for any of your opinions and come across as uninterested in reading anything that might make you better informed. This is not a useful way to fill up the comment space.

              1. I could say the same, if you have a link to an academic article written by someone who was embedded in a terror cell as part of their research I’d really like to see it.

              2. You are descending into troll-dom, Tige. No-one spoke of being “embedded in a terror cell” and that you would suggest that should be a condition of scholarly analysis is another step by you into rank anti-intellectualism.

              1. Christian youth ministries are 90% about not boring kids to discourage them from leaving, motivated to prevent parents from kicking their young teens out on the street for not going to church, because that’s exactly what they’ll do. And they’re lucky if the pastor isn’t a pervert, so the idea of adding someone else to the group who doesn’t belong is going to attract suspicion. Saying that kids stuck in Christian groups aren’t threatened is mocking the experiences they’ve had.

                Islamic youth groups on the other hand are fronts for militant groups. There aren’t girls in such groups, and rather than boys there are young men who for whatever reason are not able to find wives.

  2. “He rejects the notion that it is Islam that is being radicalized.”

    That is a contention that will be difficult to prove. Significant minorities to very large majorities of Muslims take positions on many Enlightenment issues that can only be described as radical to first-world sensibilities. The same statistics apply to their ideas about what is allowed in defense of their religion, and yes, that includes violence and terrorism. And this occurs even among Muslim immigrant populations in Europe.

    And, as we look around the Muslim world, we do not see liberalization of Islam – we see more and more Islamic nations becoming ever more theocratic, ever more conservative, ever more anti-scientific, and less and less tolerant. The data seems pretty darned clear on this: Compared to the other Abrahamic religions, Islam is clearly radicalized.

    1. I think it would help if you could focus your thinking and be very specific and clear about the concepts and terms you use. A multitude of sins can be hidden beneath generalizations, vague terminology and the indeterminate passive voice.

      What is it that accounts for the what you call the contemporary increase in “radicalization” of Islam, do you think? Is it “Islam” as an abstraction that is becoming radicalized? Or is it the overwhelming majority of persons identifying themselves as Muslim who are becoming “radicalized”, in your view?

      1. “Is it “Islam” as an abstraction that is becoming radicalized? Or is it the overwhelming majority of persons identifying themselves as Muslim who are becoming “radicalized”, in your view?”

        I’m not sure there is a difference. Islam does not have a single central authority. There is no Muslim Pope, so to speak.

        There IS one unifying text, and it is about as “radical” a document as one can find – it authorizes the subjugation of women, and the slaughter of gays, Jews, infidels, etc. There are some interpretive texts, and along with the current views of a spectrum of imams, etc Islam is practiced as it is, today.

        So, it seems to me, that the unifying text of Islam – the Koran – is objectively and staunchly anti-Enlightenment. And it also seems to me that how the texts are interpreted, what the imams instruct, and what the people who practice Islam itself believe – while sometimes not as reactionary as the Koran – are still dramatically less liberal than the other Abrahamic religions. And there is data on this – Pew has interviewed many thousands of Muslims around the world. The results of these surveys, the continuing rise of Islamism (theological Islamic government as specifically instructed by the central Islamic text document), the rise of Islamic terrorism – all of these weave a consistent, multiply- and independently-attested narrative not of liberalization but of reactionary radicalization.

        1. “Islam does not have a single central authority” but Islam is still an abstraction. It is people who follow customs, hold beliefs, etc. The Koran is like the Bible. It is also anti-enlightenment but people interpret its texts, and most people interpret it in a way to make it compatible with the society in which they happen to live, along with all its cultural and historical heritage and values.

          The religious Muslims discuss their texts and find the same sorts of accommodations. Muslims in the USA tend to interpret their texts in a way that enables them to live compatibly with American values, ditto in Australia.

          Notice that the research — the research — establishes that those who take up terrorist acts are the least religious of all. They do not know their texts the way the more religious Muslims know them and talk about them. I think in the next post in this series I point to an MI5 report that concludes that a strong religious background — meaning Muslim background — is actually an indicator that a person is less likely, not more likely, to fall into a terrorist cell.

          As for the Pew polls, do study the questions asked, not just the summaries in popular media. They do not tell us that most Muslims believe it is right to kill or that terrorism is a good thing. Notice the wording and the contexts of those questions and think about the persons being asked those questions and what they are really saying. Most Muslims really are people like you and me. They deplore the murderous acts of their extremists.

          Muslims are the major targets of terror attacks. And those killed are innocent civilians in a market place, worshipers in a mosque, etc.

          Many of us have opinions that are shaped by the mainstream or certain elements within the media. I will try to collate the posts I have presented here that covers the research and raw data on all of these issues and make a ready-accessible index or set of links that addresses all of these questions readily available.

    2. I would dismiss the use of the word “radicalize”. Like its converse “normalize”, neither of these words actually conveys any moral value. They are used in the mainstream as if morality is immutable, the way religion sees it, instead of to describe social evolution. Nothing can be “radicalized” into the mainstream which by definition is “normal”. They are trying to avoid saying something like “conservativization” as the counterpoint of liberalization because they are afraid of backlash.

      If you look at Christianity now, it is very much a caricature of what atheists accused it of being 20 years ago. Atheists back then were being created out of the cutting edge radical churches, which have now become normal everywhere.

      Christians saw liberal churches losing members and decided on their strategy to turn hardcore to stop the leak, which ended up driving more people away. They seek to abuse government power to stem people leaving because of the bigotry. Islam doesn’t presently face such circumstances because of continuous state sponsorship. People aren’t leaving Islam because they can’t and it has always been so. So-called “radical” Islam is actually the product of government hypocrisy in Islamic states, but it still prevents people from leaving. Real radical Islam would recognize, as Christians originally did a few centuries ago, that for the sake of the religion itself it needs to be separate from the state, then everything else follows from that waypoint.

      Turkey just recently turned theocratic, so Islam is still in the very early stage of liberalization, still resisting the separation from state which led to violence in the first place. In a sense this is sort of where US is in terms of its fascination with guns. The US recently made it legal for people with mental illness to purchase guns.

      The real problem in Islam, as it is in the US, is misdirected frustration. Muslims focus their frustration on the west instead of the governments which hypocritically sponsor Islam while bowing to the west, because those governments are still effectively Islamic. Just as we know, Christians will not remove Christian leaders no matter what they do.

      1. Tige, your comments are starting to become lengthy rambles. Can you provide supporting citation for your assertions.

        For example, your last paragraph claiming that Muslims (not Islamists, but you say Muslims — a meaningless generalization since it is Muslims who are the majority of the victims!) focus their frustration on the west instead of their own governments. That is simply not true. The overwhelming number of jihadi attacks are happening against Arab governments — Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and even the conflict against Saudi Arabia. If you read a single piece of Islamist jihadi propaganda or treatise, or read/watch a reputable international news source, I don’t know how you could not realize it is “corrupt Muslim governments” who are the primary targets of the jihadis.

        Attacks on the west have become a negligible, almost non-existent, sideshow by comparison.

        1. Are you saying that violent attacks on average people are the same as attacks on government? Average people always have it in their control to overturn their governments.

          All of Eastern Europe including Russia overturned their tyrannical governments once it was shown to them that it was possible. But in the chaos following revolution people often elect new dictators to bring back order.

          The United States poisoned its own ability to effectively intervene in Arab Spring for the sake of democracy and it still doesn’t show signs of actually supporting real democracy.

          The present government of Egypt is the extension of the military dictatorship since overthrowing the American supported Islamist elected by the people after the Arab Spring. Not sure anything has really changed in Egypt.

          Turkey has turned theocratic. Turkey had been the example of liberalism in the middle east. The US seems to be all-in with Erdogan except on Israel which is ultimately what everything is all about to delusional paranoid people.

          Syria is a proxy neo-cold war battlefield between Russia and the US, despite Trump being a puppet. The US opposes the socialist president of Syria because conservatives project Assad’s relationship with Iran as “theocracy”.

          Saudi Arabia’s continued relationship with the United States is the central point aggravating Islamists.

          Saudi Arabia and the United States desperately try to continue the Arab Spring uprising in Yemen, yet Saudi Arabia and Bahrain both put down Arab Spring uprisings by their own people, as did Iran. People expect Russia to get involved in Yemen but Russia is a tiny impoverished country run by corrupt oligarchs. It’s like expecting Canada to turn the tide if Canada were taken over by organized crime.

          Islamists in the middle east are the same as Christians in the United States. They won’t remove Islamist political leaders because they are Islamist no matter what they do. It is impossible for such people to be a part of let alone orchestrate a popular revolution. The so-called “Tea Party” in the US is morally equivalent to an Islamist revolution, accomplishing all of making sure Christians stay in power regardless of what they do. Religion is all about scapegoating. They blame someone (the west, gays) as the cause of their problems even though their own leaders are the problem. The responses of delusional people are rationalized out of the same or some other delusion. This is the reason why there are vain sporadic attacks in the west and common arbitrary attacks in the middle east and mass shootings in the US.

          1. Average people always have it in their control to overturn their governments.

            I read your claim about what you called the cowardice of Germans in not stopping the holocaust; and I cannot read past lines like this. You are talking nonsense. Please don’t write such long comments of self-indulgent ignorance. Refer again to the comments policy.

  3. Rather than radicalized, I think one should say Islam in general is becoming increasingly reactionary, is embracing medievalism and tribalism , and becoming inured to and even accepting of extreme violence as a behavioral norm.
    Also hopelessness and cynicism rather than inducing withdrawal and isolation produce frustration and rage which seeks an outlet in destructive acts that can be directed against the agents who are blamed for being the cause of the frustration.

    1. Islam is an abstraction that exists only in our heads. People (not an abstract idea) are radicalized, become tribal, inured to and accepting of extreme violence etc.

      I have in the past attempted to post the studies that examine the research data that best explains what leads people to violence. I hope to do more this coming year. But I don’t think hopelessness and cynicism themselves have been found to be generally tied to acts of violence. I think there are many people who feel these emotions intensely without ever a serious thought of becoming violent as some sort of release.

      1. Neil:
        I stand corrected, substitute “some of the practitioners of Islam” for the blanket term Islam.
        As for the other, there are a lot of factors that determine whether someone will react passively or actively to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, say for example, why one husband responds to a shrewish wife by sinking into a slough of despond, and another sends her to the A&E.

      2. I don’t personally know any fundamentalist who has been actually violent or even shown violent tendencies. The potential might be there, but an external trigger or circumstance seems to be required.

        If someone made threats however, this I have heard, it should NOT be dismissed based on past experience, that would be naive, but people defend it after not reporting something beforehand.

        I have known people who were not associated with fundamentalism that were violent. In those cases triggers are very personal. When people have hard times, others are sympathetic and allow too much leeway for behavior. This loosens their sense of boundaries and makes it more likely a person will do something wrong. I’ve seen people start abusing alcohol and even get into drugs in a downward spiral. People are afraid to intervene, out of guilt for not doing more sooner when it would have made more of a difference, it’s harder to intervene the further out of control people get. Police will intervene eventually.

        At some point people in a downward spiral or after being jailed are tempted by and become involved in fundamentalism for the cleansing and redeeming veneer it offers. It’s sold as a too easy way to clear your image. For people who have violent tendencies, this is perhaps a funnel where violence pours in.

    2. Tribalism. People get defensive about that because it’s accurate and a core characteristic of fundamentalism.

      I don’t see how “medievalism” carries any meaningful value, as the Golden Age for Islam. MAGA is actually a not so subtle dogwhistle for something else, the age of slavery, not a Golden Age. You may as well say they are obsessed with destroying Israel. There’s a larger narrative at work there.

      Reactionary behavior is not explanatory, it’s another symptom, of desperation from things changing too quickly (40 years is apparently too quick for most people) or an inability to build an accurate mental model of what’s going on around you and therefore not effectively plan for the future.

      Most individual reactionaries don’t care, they follow leaders, and things go south when their leaders are wrong. Islamists won’t remove Islamist political leaders no matter what mistakes they make. This is going to cause reactionary behavior because none of their politically motivated explanations will ever point to the real cause.

  4. I think the primary motive for terrorism, whether by Islamic jihadists or disaffected white losers is revenge against those perceived to have ruined the terrorists’ life and stolen their opportunities. In the case of jihadists from areas that have been ravaged and exploited by western imperialism, this is not a delusional belief. Yes, they chant Islamic slogans and claim to kill in the name of Islam, but Islam is their rationale, not their motive.

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