2018-01-05

Why Blaming Islam for Terrorism is Misguided

Creative Commons License

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

by Neil Godfrey

Yes, we know that suicide terrorists regularly announce that they are killing in the name of Allah and they quote the Koran to justify what they are doing. And, of course we should, must, listen to what they say and take it seriously.

Far from denying any of that, I think it is all necessary information that needs to be registered and understood if we want to understand why some people proclaim that they “love death as we love life”.

One Vridar reader recently invited me to read an article that presented a point of view contradicting the one in my two recent posts on Jihad and Death. The article is Islamic Terrorism is Motivated by Religion, Not Retribution.

Let me explain as simply and clearly as possible why I believe the article is misguided.

The article’s fundamental argument is that

  • if we can show that the terrorists cannot be motivated by a desire to seek vengeance against Western powers for their policies in the Middle East,
  • and if we can show that the terrorists themselves repeatedly claim to be motivated by religion and quote the Koran to justify their killing,
  • then obviously we are forced to conclude that Islam is responsible for terrorism.

The article makes the comparison with neo-Nazis. It is obviously the ideology of the neo-Nazis that motivates their hate and racism; it ought to be just as obvious that it is Islam that motivates the Islamist terrorists.

The first point of the argument (to demonstrate that it makes no sense to blame Western powers foreign policies as the motivating grievance of the extremists) can be accepted. Terrorist movements have changed over the decades. (Western powers have certainly exacerbated and even created conditions that have fanned radicalization, but it is evident that many of the terrorist attacks are not directly related to seeking retribution for Western policies.)

It is the second point that is ill-informed. Islam has been around for a long time but the Islamist terrorism that we are witnessing day is a very recent development. It is a very “new thing” claiming to be inspired by something very old. It is like a modern day Jonestown type cult claiming to have rediscovered long-lost “truths” in the Bible of which the mainstream churches have for centuries forgotten or even heretically left behind. Look into the cult’s origins and you won’t find the Bible despite the insistence of cult members that the Bible is their sole authority. No, they have learned to interpret and apply Bible verses the way a cult leader has taught them in other writings and sermons. The question to ask is, What factors cause a person to join such a cult in the first place?

Ed Husain wrote of his own experience with extremism in The Islamist: why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left, and recalls the horror with which the Islamist ideology was met by most “ordinary Muslims” when they first heard of it. His recollections as a child spending time with his devout grandfather:

As they compared notes on abstract subjects in impenetrable languages, I buried myself in Inspector Morse or a Judy Blume. I heard names such as ‘Mawdudi’ being severely criticized, an organization named Jamat-e-Islami being refuted and invalidated on theological grounds. All of it was
beyond me. . . . (p. 10)

Then later when Ed was 16 years old:

. . . I recalled Grandpa and his students, many of them clerics trained in madrassas in India and Bangladesh, talking about the Jamat-e-Islam in disparaging terms. I had heard many of these conversations taking place between imams in various towns, and they complained about the increasing influence of jamat-e-Islami activists in their mosques. They had sought clarity from Grandpa about the nature of the Jamat-e-Islami, and Grandpa had spoken repeatedly about a man named Abul Ala Mawdudi.

Born in 1903, Mawdudi was a Pakistani journalist who translated the Koran according to his own whims, without reference to or within the paradigm of classical Muslim scholarship. He developed and promoted a new brand of Islam, highly politicized and deeply anti-Western. Mawdudi . . . was the first Muslim to reject Islam as a religion and rebrand it as an ‘ideology’. (pp. 22f, my bolding)

Likewise with Islamist violent extremism. Modern day “prophets” have written their own politico-religious ideologies that they claim to be based on the “long-forgotten truths” of the Koran and hadiths. The first was Qutb with Milestones. (The links are to Vridar posts on the topics. See the side box for the initial reception among religious Muslims on another early jihadist ideologue, Mawdudi.) Others have followed. One of the most influential is The Management of Savagery by “Naji”. My recent post mentioned Al-Awlaki, a major influence among English speaking recruits.

Those writings, not the Koran, are the Mein Kampfs of jihadism. Those writings lead persuaded readers to reject the preachings and Koranic studies of the imams and to quote-mine the Koran for proof-texts to justify their political and ideological agendas.

Understanding why

If we want to understand radicalism we need to go beyond what the extremists themselves say about their motives. Yes, we must listen to them, of course, and understand their world-view. But to take an extreme analogy, if someone says he believes God told him to kill someone, we don’t necessarily take his word as the whole story. We ask, Why did he believe God told him to do that? Is he mentally ill? Schizoid?

Some extreme Christian cults do horrible things, but it is hard to say that Christianity is to blame when most Christians deplore what they do. Instead, scholars study  psychological and sociological factors that are associated with persons joining extreme or bizarre cults. Same with Nazism. It would be ignorantly simplistic to blame Nietsche or even Socialism for the National-Socialist (Nazi) movement.

If we want to understand poverty we can blame the laziness and self-indulgence of the victims or we can take a more comprehensive view that includes a study of the institutional factors that have created a class of down-and-outs.

Many communities are enlightened enough to know that policing alone is inadequate to confront the problem of youth crime. Most parents know that youth behaviour is complex. So positive youth programs, clubs, recreational venues, and so forth are also very important.

Any attempt to blame Islam for terrorism runs into a few facts that belie that charge: jihadism is a very recent phenomenon — that is, it has only very recently emerged to become associated with the Muslim world; it has attracted only a very few, many of whom are largely ignorant of the details of the Koran and Islam and who often do not practice a religious life; and most Muslims deplore terrorist violence and are even overwhelmingly the victims of it.

If the religion of Islam is responsible for modern jihadism then we have to somehow explain why Islamist suicide bombers and other murderous jihadis were not part of our landscape for most of the twentieth century and earlier. We need to explain why most Muslims condemn their violence and why, given the larger picture, terrorists target mostly Muslims.

We need to build up a big picture. That will include listening to what the jihadis say about their motives but it will not naively assume that that is the entire story. After all, most followers of the Koran deplore terrorism so saying Islam causes terrorism makes no sense. It does not explain why a handful of people, contrary to the overwhelming majority of believers, say they are so motivated.

This post is only addressing the reason I am convinced that we cannot accuse the religion of Islam itself of being responsible for terrorist violence. I am not addressing here the studies that do explore, through data-based research, a more comprehensive understanding of what lies at the root of this modern horror.

Some of the past posts that do address those studies:

The most recent ones, of course, on Olivier Roy’s Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State

A series on Riaz Hassan’s Inside Muslim Minds

A series on Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko’s Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and to Us

Series on Jason Burke’s of The New Threat: The Past, Present, and Future of Islamic Militancy

On an article by Scott Atran and a series on his book, Talking with the Enemy

Several on Thomas Hegghammer’s publications:

A key quotation in Raffaello Pantucci’s “We Love Death as You Love Life”: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists

On Nate Rosenblatt’s All Jihad Is Local

On William McCants’ article How Terrorists Convince Themselves to Kill and other writings

And several on ISIS, including….

A post on by Mohammed Hafez’s Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers

On Robert Pape’s Dying to Win

Then there are a number of posts on Islam more generally:

On Lily Zubaidah Rahim’s Muslim Secular Democracy: Voices from within

John Esposito’s Who Speaks for Islam?

A post containing an extensive bibliography:

There are many more posts accessible by searching for terms like “terrorism”, “islamism”, “islam”, “islamic state”.

 

 

26 Comments

  • Paxton Marshall
    2018-01-05 17:19:33 UTC - 17:19 | Permalink

    If the goal is to understand why terrorist attacks occur, with a view to preventing them, I think it is a mistake to focus on the motivations of the people who actually commit the acts. These end of the line, proximate agents, have been conditioned and radicalized by organizations with overtly political objectives.

    Would we try to understand the motives for the US/UK invasion of Iraq, or the Israeli 2012 slaughter in Gaza, by examining the motives of the soldiers who carried out the killings? They were carefully prepared by their respective militaries to do the job their leaders wanted done. They may have been taught to despise Muslims, while their governments who sent them to kill, may have been motivated by the desire to secure American or Israeli hegemony.

    You may be right that revenge for specific acts of western imperialism is not foremost in the minds of most jihadis, but revenge was certainly a primary motive of Osama bin Laden and the Saddam Hussein loyalists who led ISIS. The actual killers are tools of the leaders who prepared them for their mission.

    Similarly, the militarists, Christian zealots, and new atheists, who attempt to blame jihadism on Islam itself, are helping to prepare the minds of young Americans and Europeans to rain fire on Muslims anywhere without compunction. The two sides are not really so different. Leaders filling followers’ minds with a sense of their own superiority and contempt for the other, in order to get them to do their dirty work. Was ever thus.

  • Zeb Smith
    2018-01-05 17:24:29 UTC - 17:24 | Permalink

    It is the second point that is ill-informed. Islam has been around for a long time but the Islamist terrorism that we are witnessing day is a very recent development. It is a very “new thing” claiming to be inspired by something very old.

    Islamic terrorism dates as far back as 11th century.

    Modern terrorism utilizing modern explosives, modern automatic firearms, modern jet airliners and mass media is not much older than modern explosives, modern firearms, modern airplanes and mass media, for obvious reasons.

    Of course a phenomenon cannot occur before it’s even possible, but modern terrorism is just a modern form of killing infidels, which is as old as Islam.

    Your argument is a non sequitur.
    Recent forms of Islamic violence depend on recent developments.

    It is obviously the ideology of the neo-Nazis that motivates their hate and racism

    Yup, and whence did the original Nazis get their hatred and racism? Why were the subject of their hatred the usual suspects? Why did simple protestants largely support the Nazis? Why did catholics too, later on?
    That must have been a coincidence, Nazism must have gotten its features out of the blue, otherwise we’d have to consider the obvious religious connection.

    Those writings, not the Koran, are the Mein Kampfs of jihadism.

    Whence cometh Milestones and Management of Savagery? They just appeared apparently.
    Anyways, it’s all down to The Group Dynamic. Where that came from we cannot even think of, otherwise we’d have to consider the obvious, and we can’t cause “that’s gross, that’s racist”!

    Much of this denial about Islam is based on cutting the cause effect chains.
    Sisyphus work, if you ask me. Sooner or later one or another religion will cause another shitstorm, and explaining away will have to start over.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-01-05 21:33:28 UTC - 21:33 | Permalink

      You have simply avoided the arguments set out in the post. How can Islam be a cause of terrorism if the overwhelming majority of Muslims are actually the targets of suicide terrorists? Why did we never hear of any terrorist incidents by Muslims before the late twentieth century?

      You are simply flat wrong to suggest that modern Islamic terrorism is as old as modern firearms, aircraft, mass media and modern explosives. Why were suicide terrorists up until that time predominantly non-Muslims — Tamil Tigers, socialists, and others?

      Have you read any of the other posts I linked to or any serious scholarly studies into the causes certain persons become radicalized? Why do the UK security services say that a strong family background in the Muslim faith is actually a good indicator that family members will NOT become terrorists?

      Some historical data from one of the posts I linked above:

      Today’s waves of suicide terrorism began in Lebanon in 1982.

      Between 1982 and 1986 there were 36 suicide attacks by 41 suicide attackers against American, French and Israeli forces in Lebanon.

      We know the ideological affiliations of 38 of these 41 attackers.

      • 27 (71%) were from communist or socialist groups (secular groups with no commitment to religious extremism of any kind) such as the
        • Lebanese Communist Party,
        • the Lebanese National Resistance Front,
        • the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,
        • Amal,
        • the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party,
        • the Arab Socialist Union,
        • the Arab Egyptian League,
        • and the Baath Party
      • 3 (8%) were Christians
        • a female Christian high school teacher (Norma Hassan)
        • a Christian factory worker (Elias Harb)
        • one from the Vanguard of Arab Christians
      • 5 (21%) were from an Islamic fundamentalist group
        • Islamic Jihad
      • 3 were not clearly identified with any ideology.

      All 38 were native Lebanese.

      Moving beyond Lebanon and surveying suicide terrorist attacks more widely between 1980 and 2003. . . .

      An interesting datum emerges when one looks at the sex differences across the various suicide terrorist groups.

      From 1980 to 2003, the numbers of female attackers employed by the various groups were:

      • None by al-Qaeda
      • 6 by Palestinian groups (5%)
      • 6 by Lebanese groups (16%)
      • 23 by the Tamil Tigers (20%)
      • 14 by the Chechens (60%)
      • 10 by the Kurdish PKK (71%)

      This suggests an interesting hypothesis: Islamic fundamentalism may actually reduce the number of suicide terrorists by discouraging certain categories of individuals from undertaking the act. (p. 209)

      What do we know of the ideological affiliations of this larger group of suicide attackers?

      The survey Pape uses contained information on the religious or ideological affiliation of 384 of the 462 suicide terrorists worldwide from 1980 to 2003. Of the 384 attackers for whom we have data:

      • 166 (43%) were religious (mostly al-Qaeda and about two-thirds Palestinian)
      • 218 (57%) were secular (mostly Lebanese, Tamil and PKK with about one third Palestinian)

      Other data is also of interest. There are clear distinctions in economic and educational status among various groups of terrorist attackers. Moreover, occupation forces appear to only invite this sort of attack if they also belong to a foreign religion. But for now, I think the data I have been able to share here should be of some interest.

      • Zeb Smith
        2018-01-05 22:17:06 UTC - 22:17 | Permalink

        How can Islam be a cause of terrorism if the overwhelming majority of Muslims are actually the targets of suicide terrorists?

        Non sequitur.

        Why did we never hear of any terrorist incidents by Muslims before the late twentieth century?

        Because we had bigger problems early twentieth century,
        and because nobody cared what Muslims did to other Muslims before they had the chance to come in much contact with other cultures (mass media, transportation, immigration).

        Why do the UK security services say that a strong family background in the Muslim faith is actually a good indicator that family members will NOT become terrorists?

        That may well be correct, if that’s true, then there would be less terrorist attacks if there were no Muslims with weak background in faith.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-01-05 22:27:06 UTC - 22:27 | Permalink

          Because we had bigger problems early twentieth century,
          and because nobody cared what Muslims did to other Muslims before they had the chance to come in much contact with other cultures (mass media, transportation, immigration).

          You’re simply making that up. You have to actually base your argument on facts. Not fantasy. Why don’t you try to crack open a book that actually discusses the facts of the history of Islamist terrorism. Start with The New Threat by Jason Burke. I link above to some discussions of that book.

          Why do the UK security services say that a strong family background in the Muslim faith is actually a good indicator that family members will NOT become terrorists?

          That may well be correct, if that’s true, then there would be less terrorist attacks if there were no Muslims with weak background in faith.

          Well if you read the facts I cited in the previous comment you would know that that is simply not true. If devotion to the Islamic religion is common to both terrorists and anti-terrorists then it can hardly be singled out as a cause of terrorism, can it now.

          • Zeb Smith
            2018-01-05 23:07:12 UTC - 23:07 | Permalink

            If devotion to the Islamic religion is common to both terrorists and anti-terrorists then it can hardly be singled out as a cause of terrorism, can it now.

            Of course it can. No contradiction here, there’s nothing surprising in the fact that religion affects different people in different ways, that’s normal.
            It would be very strange indeed if every Muslim behaved exactly the same way.

            The MI5 statement is quite vague, but I assume they are talking about British Muslims. Taking into account that number of British terrorists is quite a small statistical sample, i wouldn’t make much of that statement.
            Actual terrorists are a few freaks, what’s more important is large support for terrorism in the Muslim world, if I remember correctly, stats showed a few hundred millions worldwide.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2018-01-06 05:02:11 UTC - 05:02 | Permalink

              You have just identified the fallacy yourself. If religion affects people in different ways then it can hardly be said to be a principle cause of terrorism any more than it can be said to be a much greater cause of peace. Islam is just an abstract concept. It is people who need to be studied, and why they act the way they do. Islam does not cause different people to act differently as if it had a mind of its own and decided to treat different persons differently. What we need to understand is what causes some people to react to Islamic ideas in a certain way that is very different from the way the overwhelming majority of adherents respond to them. If the Koran or Islam is common to both types of persons then it cannot be the determining factor in the different responses.

              You say I have not presented an argument to justify my claims, but I have linked to many posts where I have indeed pointed out the scholarly research that has identified the evidence for the argument made to explain why people become extremists.

              Yes, the British are a minority of terrorists, but it is westerners we are most concerned about, yes? Why do Westerners (or at least why did they) go off to join Islamic State and then sometimes return?

              There is nothing vague about the statement of MI5 establishing that many of the jihadists did not live Islamic lives and scarcely knew anything about the Koran. That’s important information.

              If you think they are freaks then you are one of those who could most benefit from picking up a book and seeing what the psychologists, anthropologists, historians, and others have learned from studying them. They really are very much like you and me. I can certainly identify with them and understand why they do what they do because of the strong similarities that have been found to explain all forms of radicalization or conversion to anti-social extremist groups. (I was once a member of a religious cult.)

              If you want to understand the jihadists outside the West then have a look at Jason Burke’s book.

              These books are not by journalist hacks out to sensationalize anything. They are serious studies on the same level as the serious studies I post about when discussing history and early Christianity etc.

              • Zeb Smith
                2018-01-06 11:01:53 UTC - 11:01 | Permalink

                You have just identified the fallacy yourself. If religion affects people in different ways then it can hardly be said to be a principle cause of terrorism any more than it can be said to be a much greater cause of peace.

                Where are you getting all these non sequiturs?
                Of course religion can both pacify and enrage, it’s been used as a crowd control tool for millenia.
                Whenever there’s a schism, typically there are two groups wanting to kill eachother, and the third who want just peace, but in the end, the third group doesn’t matter, they’re invisible. Will you now go on and claim schisms are not caused by religions?

                I’m with Aayan Hirsi Ali on this. Yes, some want war, some want peace, but when it comes to violence, the latter are irrelevant.

                If you think they are freaks then you are one of those who could most benefit from picking up a book and seeing what the psychologists, anthropologists, historians, and others have learned from studying them. They really are very much like you and me.

                Speak for yourself, will you?

                A few days ago you posted about views of Olivier Roy. He does blame Islam.
                Do you think he should pick a book, educate himself, catch up with the facts?

                Or maybe the facts we know so far do not support your extraordinary claim? Researchers haven’t reached an agreement yet, that’s a fact.
                Have you noticed we never argue facts, only interpretations?
                Can you tell facts from interpretations?

                You are overplaying your hand, nothing justifies your attitude at the moment.

                You say I have not presented an argument to justify my claims, but I have linked to many posts where I have indeed pointed out the scholarly research

                You have a peculiar way of discussing, you hardly ever directly address what they say. Why do you even mention that article, if all you've got are links and a bunch of generic fallacies? By the way, they are exactly the same old arguments you were throwing around about two years ago, when you were still reluctant to admit you think Islam is not to blame.

                Why don't you read that article again, slowly, and try to understand, all ten points, not just two?
                Maybe you will be able to address something they actually say?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2018-01-08 03:45:12 UTC - 03:45 | Permalink

                Before you react to my comments and posts I would appreciate it if you made more of an effort to understand what I am saying. I don’t think you understand what I am trying to say at all — nor what Roy himself is saying when you claim he “blames Islam”.

  • Zeb Smith
    2018-01-05 21:58:12 UTC - 21:58 | Permalink

    The article’s fundamental argument is that
    – if we can show that the terrorists cannot be motivated by a desire to seek vengeance against Western powers for their policies in the Middle East,
    – and if we can show that the terrorists themselves repeatedly claim to be motivated by religion and quote the Koran to justify their killing,
    – then obviously we are forced to conclude that Islam is responsible for terrorism.

    First point, they never argue that’s a necessary condition to conclude Islam is responsible.
    Second point, they say explicitly” “Islamic terrorism predates the existence of the United States as a country”. You don’t even try to argue that, instead you respond with the “modern terrorism is modern” tautology like nothing happened. Obviously you didn’t notice the claim.

    Looks like you failed to grasp the article’s fundamental argument, and just skimmed first two points, without much understanding. There are 8 more.

    I’m looking forward to your less misguided analysis of the article.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-01-05 22:31:32 UTC - 22:31 | Permalink

      Have you ever read any serious studies or research into the history and facts surrounding modern Islamist terrorism? You are just repeating ignorant nonsense here. I have posted many times the historical facts and research data that demonstrates how false your (and the article’s) claims are, and I have linked to some of those posts.

      Instead of just saying what I say is not true, how about looking into the facts — and I don’t mean just reading popular articles written by people who are no more interested in reading the historical and scholarly research than you are.

      Check out some of the posts I linked to or the books they are based on.

      Meanwhile, you fail to address my exposure of the flawed reasoning in the article.

      • Zeb Smith
        2018-01-05 23:02:19 UTC - 23:02 | Permalink

        Which facts exactly? You have yet to provide any argument in favor of your claim that’s not a fallacy.

        You write like you didn’t read my reply too. What exposure? The flawed reasoning you imagined symply isn’t there in the article.

  • Miequel Ondoneraros
    2018-01-05 23:48:45 UTC - 23:48 | Permalink

    Do the Sicarii (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicarii) (c 45 to 75 CE), Nizariis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassins)(11thc. CE), Thuggs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thuggee)(sect ended c. 1880’s), and Aum Shinriko (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aum_Shinrikyo)(late 20th c.) qualify as terrorist groups? All of them are characterized by religiously motivated mass killings.
    The Ghost Dance Cult, the politicized and militarized Imperial Shinto of Meiji Japan, American Fundamentalism (kill a commie for Christ), the Taiping faith, and yes, some Islamic cults offer their followers a plethora of pre and post mortem rewards for taking violent action against the movement’s foes.
    People who have drunk deeply at the trough of religious delusion are easily weaponized and turned into human bullets (or meat choppers in the pre gunpowder era).
    Two of the above murder sects have Islamic roots. The majority of them are “Abrahamic” in origin.

    • Joan
      2018-01-06 14:20:50 UTC - 14:20 | Permalink

      The Sicarii and Thuggee examples illustrate how useless the term “terrorist” really is.

      Wikipedia, Terrorism:
      Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.[1] It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence against peacetime targets or in war against non-combatants.[2]…
      There is no commonly accepted definition of “terrorism”.[7][8] Being a charged term, with the connotation of something “morally wrong”, it is often used, both by governments and non-state groups, to abuse or denounce opposing groups.

      Like the terms “witch”, “un-American”, “hooligan” (used in the former Soviet Union), it is a vague term that can be applied to virtually anybody in order to place them beyond the pale of human understanding, so as to obviate any need to try to understand. Thus, the only solution to the problems they pose is to simply eradicate them. This is the function served by the connotation of moral wrongness. They are so deeply flawed as to be hardly recognizable as human beings any more.

      If I remember correctly, it was Eisenman who suggested that the Sicarii originated for the purpose of circumcising anyone caught reciting the Torah without first having been circumcised. From there, they evolved to become the military and paramilitary units described by Josephus – which certainly blurs the terrorist designation.

      Likewise, the Thuggees seem to have functioned more as a criminal organization, much like the Cosa Nostra with its quasi religious rituals. It was such a shadowy figure that some have suggested it was the figment of the imagination of the British Empire. It was certainly not promoting any particular political or religious agenda.

      Aum Shinriko seems to have begun as a personality cult around its founder, much like the Jim Jones cult and the Charlie Manson cult. The followers may have believed the religious ideals, but the founder was a narcissist after power. All three hoped to spark the apocalyptic final war that would bring about the final cleansing or judgment that would usher in the final era of peace on Earth. And all three are modern phenomena.

      The current Dalai Lama could be regarded as a terrorist for his past support of the CIA led Tibet Tigers and for his support of the Aum Shinriko group. For more discussion of the sinister aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, see “The Shadow of the Dalai Lama”, by Victor and Victoria Trimondi.

  • Miequel Ondoneraros
    2018-01-06 00:04:41 UTC - 00:04 | Permalink

    I should also toss the Bacchanalian Conspirators (Livy, History of Rome, Book 39) into the mix.
    They committed “poisonings and murders of families where the bodies could not even be found for burial. Many crimes were committed by treachery; most by violence, which was kept secret …. Those who had polluted themselves by outrage and murder, those who had stained themselves by giving false evidence, forging seals and wills and by other fraudulent practices, were sentenced to death.”
    It took a supreme effort by the Roman Senate to root out, and destroy this cult of killers and deceivers. Only a pacified tightly regulated remnant was allowed to persist as a legitimate religio.

  • Jon
    2018-01-06 08:33:03 UTC - 08:33 | Permalink

    Neil, I don’t get you. Many terrorists and ISIS guys tell us that Islam inspired and motivated them to commit terrorist and violent acts. They tell us like in ISIS magazine the they (ISIS leadership/ideology) need to kill/dominate us because we are not Muslims but kuffar. It not hard to find these kind of motivational verses in Quran like Surah 9. I just don’t get why you don’t believe what they say: “they are killing in the name of Allah”? If you don’t take words of people to be a suicide bomber should you take a word of a blogger?

    • Greg
      2018-01-06 12:15:44 UTC - 12:15 | Permalink

      He’s not discounting what they say but putting it in perspective. In reality, much of these terrorists are as Islam inspired as the Jonestown cultists were Christianity inspired. Rather than pouring out of the mosques they’re being bred by self-styled prophets and cult leaders with agendas within isolated circles.

      If verses plainly in the Quran were sufficient to explain the radicalization then it makes no sense that the majority of Islamist terrorists would be affiliated with such narrow ideologies while those of mainstream Islam would be more likely to oppose such terrorism. The mere existence of Islam also fails to account for the recency of jihadism.

      • Zeb Smith
        2018-01-07 19:02:31 UTC - 19:02 | Permalink

        In reality, much of these terrorists are as Islam inspired as the Jonestown cultists were Christianity inspired. Rather than pouring out of the mosques they’re being bred by self-styled prophets and cult leaders with agendas within isolated circles.

        True, but there’s nothing un-religious about self-styled prophets and cult leaders with agendas, that’s how religions start, and that’s what happens within all religious movements all the time.

        Yes, Jonestown cult was inspired by christianity. Probably not the only inspiration, but nevertheless important.

        If verses plainly in the Quran were sufficient to explain the radicalization then it makes no sense that the majority of Islamist terrorists would be affiliated with such narrow ideologies while those of mainstream Islam would be more likely to oppose such terrorism.

        Quran is only a part of the phenomenon, but it plays an important role, because it hardly ever changes. One doesn’t even need to read the Quran to be inspired by someone who does.

        There are Muslim countries where the majority supports terrorism.
        Support for terrorism among Muslims is orders of magnitude greater than it is elsewhere, that’s what matters.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-01-08 03:37:27 UTC - 03:37 | Permalink

          Yes, Jonestown cult was inspired by christianity.

          I know of no evidence to support this assertion. If you want to understand Jonestown you would not start with Christianity. You would start with a study of the persons involved.

          There are Muslim countries where the majority supports terrorism.

          I know of no countries where a majority supports attacks on civilian targets such as we see in the UK, France, Iraq. I don’t think you do, either.

          • Zeb Smith
            2018-01-08 11:08:35 UTC - 11:08 | Permalink

            If you want to understand Jonestown you would not start with Christianity. You would start with a study of the persons involved.

            The persons involved were predominantly christians. Many cults take advantage of pre-brainwashed christians with problems, they’re easy prey.

            I know of no countries where a majority supports attacks on civilian targets such as we see in the UK, France, Iraq. I don’t think you do, either.

            According to PEW 2007, in Nigeria, Jordan and Egypt the majority of Muslims declared various levels of support for suicide attacks against civilians.
            In UK and France it’s “just” around 30%, about as much as world average.

            The question was “Can Suicide Bombing of Civilian Targets to Defend Islam be Justified?”
            I noticed some sites manipulate the results by counting the answer “rarely” as a no, so you might have been misled.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2018-01-08 21:01:15 UTC - 21:01 | Permalink

              The report you are thinking of is here.

              Here is the section you are referring to:

              Zeb, I believe that when the word “rarely” is used it is used for a reason and means what it says. I do not just assume that it means something else and that the people asking the question were somehow winking and saying, “Here, I’ll ask you the same question with this word in it so you can pretend to mean “rarely justified” when we all know you really mean that terrorism is “always” justified. — That way people like Neil will be confused and think Islam is a force for good in the world and does not support terrorism!”

              You clearly have no idea what my argument and you also have a prejudiced or hostile reading of the actual evidence.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-01-07 08:37:34 UTC - 08:37 | Permalink

      Jon, I don’t know how I could have made it clearer that I believe we should listen to what the terrorists say about their motives and take them seriously. I tried to emphasize that fact more than once in my post. But as Greg points out, serious researchers of any group don’t necessarily take what their subjects say about themselves as the whole story. People do kid themselves. We rationalize our actions. I am quite sure that every cultist, every extremist of any type, religious or political, can find good authority to prove that what they believe and do is correct, even the word of God in the scriptures in the case of Christian related sects.

      I have no doubt that suicide bombers are very sincere and mean what they say about their religious conviction and motivation.

      But I also have to take notice of what many, many others who claim adherence to the same religion also say. A researcher also has a responsibility to look at statistics, profiles, and where he or she sees certain patterns, and hears the same sorts of themes being expressed repeatedly in a wide range of interviews, etc etc etc, then all of that data needs to be taken into account, too.

      When I was in a religious cult and occasionally heard someone suggesting a psychological or sociological explanation for why I joined, I can tell you I was deeply offended and worked overtime to prove them wrong in my own mind. Their analytical description of my conversion did not match my own description of my actions. For me, the only deciding factor was my conviction that I was obeying God and his revealed will. The outsider could see how much I was part of a larger pattern of individuals who converted the way I did. I can now look back and see that the outsider was right.

      Yes, of course the suicide bomber is acting according to his understanding of Islam. But the question for us is Why? Why is he acting that way? Why does he see Islam as calling him to act that way? We can’t just take his proof-texting as the reason because most Muslim believers have a very different view of those passages. So the question is why the suicide terrorist rejects the beliefs and interpretations and studies of mainstream Islam and chooses to act with scarcely any deep knowledge of the teaching of his faith and without even being careful to practice the moral lifestyle Islam expects of him.

      That many Westerners have actually listened to the terrorists and accepted their interpretations of the Koran tells us just how successful their propaganda has been in a culture so terribly, terribly ignorant of mainstream Islam and its teachings and understanding of the Koran. Imagine if Arabs learned of Christianity through the teachings of Dave Koresh and assumed because of his followers’ prooftexts in the Bible that that’s what real Christianity was all about.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-01-07 08:51:51 UTC - 08:51 | Permalink

      If you don’t take words of people to be a suicide bomber should you take a word of a blogger?

      Can you tell me who you have in mind? Who is the blogger I am following? I have listed many of the posts I have written based on scholarly research into terrorism and its history. Is there a blogger I have overlooked, too?

      • Jon
        2018-01-08 11:21:44 UTC - 11:21 | Permalink

        Sorry that I was not clear enough. If we should not take Muslim terrorist word for why he wants to kill someone, then why should we take your word what is going on?

        You said that your “deciding factor was my conviction that I was obeying God and his revealed will”. Wsn’t that true and the reason for your action… no matter if that was a part of a larger pattern? You gave the reason and it was The Reason.

        Should we credit Jains for not killing even insects even when not all or even most of them do that?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-01-08 20:29:24 UTC - 20:29 | Permalink

          I am not asking you to take my word for anything. I am discussing the serious scholarly research and trying to encourage you to read a bit of it, too.

          And I do not say we should not take the terrorists’ words seriously. I am saying we need to understand why they have chosen to act and interpret the Koran the way they do in defiance of the way millions of others do and have done for centuries. That’s a problem that needs explanation.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.