On Islam, ISIS and War

In the aftermath of the attacks on Paris, we are getting the usual chorus of think pieces about how ISIS is not Islamic and does not represent Islam. We are getting ridiculously pedantic parsings of words to argue that we are not in a clash of civilizations. While I think there are points to be made here, I think the writers of these pieces are missing the forest for the trees.

First, it goes without saying that most Muslims are not Islamists and radicals. It goes without saying that you can read through the Koran (which I have) and find many passages that support peace and coexistence. But that’s kind of beside the point.

Here we land at the centre of the problem — a centre we have spent the last decade and a half trying to avoid: Islam is not a peaceful religion. No religion is, but Islam is especially not. Nor is it, as some ill-informed people say, solely a religion of war. There are many peaceful verses in the Quran which — luckily for us — the majority of Muslims live by. But it is, by no means, only a religion of peace.

I say this not because I hate Islam, nor do I have any special animus against Muslims, but simply because this is the verifiable truth based on the texts. Until we accept that we will never defeat the violence, we risk encouraging whole populations to take against all of Islam and abandon all those Muslims who are trying desperately to modernise, reform and de-literalise their faith. And — most importantly — we will give up our own traditions of free speech and historical inquiry and allow one religion to have an unbelievable advantage in the free marketplace of ideas.

Islam, like every other religion on that planet, has many strains. You will find many people — some 80-90% Muslims — who take the tolerant passages of the Koran and build their lives around that. But you will find others, basically everyone we are fighting right now, who take the more war-like passages of the Koran and build their lives around that. To pretend that they “aren’t practicing Islam” is a pedantic word game at best. At worst, it is not only inaccurate but censorious, trying to elide periods of history and Islamic writings that are inconvenient.

I’ve linked this before in my previous discussion of the nature of ISIS. It’s worth reiterating:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Me:

When the President says that violent extremists like ISIL are not the real face of Islam, he is both right and wrong. The face of Islam can be one of tolerance and peace. But it can also be one of intolerance and violence. Islam has gone through periods of enlightenment and gone through periods of horrific fundamentalism. At this point in history, it hangs in the balance caught between hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims and violent sects that, while a minority, wields enormous power and influence. We’ve seen in pre-war Afghanistan and in the ISIL-controlled territory what these people want: beheadings, slavery, crucifixion, stoning. Their ideology recognizes no authority other than “pure” radical Islam. Whether they represent a minority or not is beside the point. The Nazis were never a majority in Germany. The Communists were never a majority in the countries they ruled with an iron fist. But they were able to control massive parts of the world and enormous armies through violence, intimidation and bloodshed.

The “most Muslims are good” argument, while based in truth, has no practical meaning. Most Germans are good people. We still had to defeat them in two wars. Most Russians are good people. We still had to fight a dangerous and tense Cold War against the Soviet Union. Most Japanese are good people. We still had to drop two atom bombs on them. It doesn’t really matter what the vast majority want when the monsters have the floor. The problem is that while most people are good, they are also easily persuaded or coerced to do bad things or stand aside while bad things are done. This is true of everyone in the world. There is not a religion or country that isn’t capable of doing horrible things. The question is: who is in charge? We’ve seen what happens when people like ISIL are in charge: entire regions of the world become unspeakably violent.

And now they are exporting that violence. And, to head off another talking point, they aren’t exporting their violence because of our “aggression”. France and Russia were not leading the campaign against ISIS. And ISIS did not target politicians or military personnel or defense contractors. They targeted civilians specifically because of Western values. They targeted them, according to their own words, because Paris is “the capital of prostitution and obscenity” (by which they mean consensual sex and any entertainment other than stoning women to death).

This is their stated goal. No one out having a good time … anywhere in the world. No one out at soccer stadiums except to watch executions. No one out drinking, obviously. No one at theaters. Women completely covered and regarded as little more than sex objects for the powerful. And they won’t stop if we leave them alone and stop bombing them. They will simply ramp up their attacks.

Call me crazy but when someone says, “this is why we are attacking you”, I think it behooves us to consider the possibility that this is why they are attacking us.

It seems we are destined to be caught between two groups of idiots. The first insists that all Muslims are this way. This ignores, of course, the hundreds who have tipped off authorities to radicals, the thousands fighting an actual bloody ground war against ISIS and the millions who condemned the Paris attacks and prayed for the dead. But there’s a second group who try to insist this violence has nothing to do with Islam, as though ISIS were just a street gang.

Again: we don’t have to guess at ISIS’s motives. They’ve stated them. They want to establish a caliphate, bring about the apocalypse and establish a worldwide Islamic state built on the most radical principles taken directly from the most extreme passages of Koran and the Hadith. That the vast majority of Muslims disagree with them does not change the nature of their ideology. It does not bring back the dead in Paris and more than “that’s not real Christianity” brings back the dead of the Crusades or “that’s not real Judaism” brings back the victims of the Caves of the Patriarchs massacre.

If a Jewish terrorist murdered a bunch of Arab men, women and children and took their daughters as sex slaves, citing the Midian War as his justification, we wouldn’t pretend it had nothing to do with religion. If a Christian terrorist burned down a bank and cited, as justification, Christ turning out the money-changers, we wouldn’t pretend it had nothing to with religion. Hell, when a radical Christian calls for executing gays or murders an abortion doctor — things completely antithetical to the teachings of Christ — we don’t pretend it has nothing to do with religion. But when Islamists murder people in the street and cite centuries-old writings as their justification, we suddenly pretend religion’s got nothing to do with it?

ISIS is a tough problem to deal with and it’s not exactly clear where we go from here. Can we destroy them sans a massive decades-long occupation of the region? I don’t know. I know we can probably decapitate their leadership and cripple them militarily. But, ultimately, this will come down to that majority of Muslims who oppose ISIS and their evil ideology (and are fighting them right now). They are the ones who must stop this horror. We can support and help. But we don’t support and help by covering our eyes and pretending that at least part of this conflict isn’t a war for the heart and soul of the world’s second largest religion.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    I would start dropping atomic bombs on ISIS and state, “this will continue until they are all dead” – then perhaps the rest of the muslim population will be motivated to do something other than run away from them and complain.

    Yeah, I’m getting a bit jaded about the whole thing.

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  2. Dr. Bill

    Obama does not want to hurt or cause trouble for his Muslim brothers….

    Remember, not too many years ago, when he first applied for college in California, and again , two years later when he applied at Columbia, what he wrote on both applications, was that he was an Indonesian born Muslim…Only after becoming a Community Agitator in Chicago did he become an American born Christian !!!!!!

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  3. richtaylor365

    First, it goes without saying that most Muslims are not Islamists and radicals.

    And yet every time a serious discussion on the subject is initiated, you guys feel the need to preface that discussion by saying it, why is that? No criticisms can ever be leveled at Muslims, any Muslims, without it being wrapped around a sugar coated blanket of discomfort that they might be offended.

    You will find many people — some 80-90% Muslims — who take the tolerant passages of the Koran and build their lives around that.

    Which totally ignores the simple truth that those same 80-90 percent of peace lovers understand the desire and religious mandate to work towards the ultimate goal of Sharia governance, world wide. I guess it is time to repost this;

    and this:

    Me:

    That’s all fine and dandy but it does not go far enough. The notion that only a small percentage of Muslims wage jihad ignores the fact the many of those so called peace loving Muslims support and condone jihad. The real jihadists know this and are emboldened by that support. Funny, but when you ask Christians what they think of nutjobs like Fred Phelps and his neanderthal followers, they uniformly condemn both him and his actions and work towards marginalizing him he is the antithesis of what they believe. Where is this outrage in the Muslim community? Tepid at best.

     

     

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  4. Hal_10000 *

    No criticisms can ever be leveled at Muslims, any Muslims, without it being wrapped around a sugar coated blanket of discomfort that they might be offended.

    1) Because every time something like this happens, there is spike in crimes against Muslims (and Sikhs, who aren’t Muslim but look scary, I guess).  Fire bombings, murders, assaults, the whole megillah.

    2) Because we are in a conflict for the heart of Islam. And saying, “You are not our enemy; these guys are” is critical. Bush understood this very well. It was a key reason why we were able to rally Muslims to our side to fight AQI and now ISIS. If the perception rises that this is a Western crusade to destroy Islam, this mess gets horrifyingly messier.

    As for the videos (the first, at least, is from a known hate group that has opposed Muslims becoming professors at universities and has proclaimed that Muslims can not be loyal American citizens), I’ll put more trust in the polling that shows that vast majority of Muslims oppose any kind of institutional sharia, any violence in pursuit of Islam and that ISIS and other Jihadists have perverted the faith.

    Question: what do you think about Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee speaking at a meeting for a preacher who says gays should be executed?  Those aren’t random dudes on the street.  Those are two governors and a senator running for President.

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  5. AlexInCT

    IT WAS A MEAN VIDEO THAT MADE THEM DO THAT KILLING STUFF!

    Now let us control social media and the intertubes, for your own protection of course…..

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  6. richtaylor365

     1) Because every time something like this happens, there is spike in crimes against Muslims (and Sikhs, who aren’t Muslim but look scary, I guess).  Fire bombings, murders, assaults, the whole megillah.

    So if we preface every single Muslim discussion with ,”But of course it goes without saying that most Muslims are not violent jihadists”, this will have a magical effect on those crazies, an epiphany, “Hey Joe, you know I just learned that not all Muslims are violent jihadists, instead of firebombing that mosque like we were going to, let’s just go get a pizza”.

    Because we are in a conflict for the heart of Islam

    Your average jihadist does not give a fig what we think or how we sugar coat our comments. Each Muslim determines for himself whether he will live in peace and tolerance, or go all medieval on the infidels. No amount of prefacing, lack thereof, will force an otherwise peace loving Muslim to pick up the sword.

     It was a key reason why we were able to rally Muslims to our side to fight AQI and now ISIS

    The Muslims you speak of are fighting ISIS not because of some magic words we say, they are in a fight for their very survival and that of their homelands, that is why they are fighting.

    (the first, at least, is from a known hate group

    You have got to be joking. How hateful is it to shove a microphone at a Muslim and let him speak his mind, Or do you think that guy was an actor reading off a script? Come on Hal, you used to have some objectivity.

    I’ll put more trust in the polling that shows that vast majority of Muslims oppose any kind of institutional sharia

     

    I would like to see those polls, I have a few;

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Question: what do you think about Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee speaking at a meeting for a preacher who says gays should be executed?

    I don’t know what incident you are referring to, please elaborate.

     

     

     

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  7. richtaylor365

    Oh, and how could I miss this gem;

     

    If the perception rises that this is a Western crusade to destroy Islam, this mess gets horrifyingly messier.

    I suspect you will be at your chiropractors all day fixing that back injury sustained by that massive leap you just made. Who is talking about a Western crusade to destroy Islam? You forget, it is the western democracies that want to live and let live, that will grant tolerance to all faiths and actually has codified laws that protect religious freedom. No, it is the Sharia fanatics who espouse the killing of apostasies and infidels, they are the ones waging holy war to kill democracy, not the other way around.

    And I think I found what you were talking about with Cruz, Huckabee, and Jindal. It was at this conference. Looking at their website, this is part of their vision;

    With an increasingly aggressive leftist minority rising, now is the time to bring religious liberties, parental rights, and freedom from big government to the forefront of consideration in national politics.

    Do you have a problem with any of that? That preacher you speak of was one of many. Here is how Huckabee addressed the nonsense;

    https://soundcloud.com/just-ask-joyce/11-06-15-live-from-iowa-part-onemp3

     

    Go to the 13:40 mark.

     

     

     

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  8. Section8

    As for the Death to Gay thing, I don’t agree with this pastor and his puritan agenda by any stretch, but I’ve seen several leftist sites that claim he’s said death to gays, only to link to other sites that say he said that as proof, then those sites link to other sites that say he said it as proof.

    Personally though, I think Hal’s biggest regret in life is he doesn’t have more sides in his mouth to speak out of.

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  9. Section8

    “As for the videos (the first, at least, is from a known hate group that has opposed Muslims becoming professors at universities and has proclaimed that Muslims can not be loyal American citizens),”

    What I’ve seen of this so far is that the founder of this “hate group” doesn’t think the type of Muslim that prays 5 times a day and follows the religion to the letter would be a good fit for public offices. Tell me how this is more hateful than you thinking a Kentucky clerk should be arrested, or how Christian conservatives won’t get your vote? I’ve found other quotes she made that were considered broad generalizations, but she’s clarified many of those.

    Fact is though over all we live in separate cultures throughout the world. And separate cultures are fine. The problem I have is just saying come on in, and expecting our culture whose claim to fame these days is to apologize for not apologizing fast enough to end up being the dominant culture in said country. You’d have to be a fool not to figure out the eventual outcome.

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  10. Hal_10000 *

    So if we preface every single Muslim discussion with ,”But of course it goes without saying that most Muslims are not violent jihadists”, this will have a magical effect on those crazies, an epiphany, “Hey Joe, you know I just learned that not all Muslims are violent jihadists, instead of firebombing that mosque like we were going to, let’s just go get a pizza”.

    As a matter of fact, yes.  Countries that made these kind of caveats so way less anti-Muslims violence than countries that didn’t.

    he Muslims you speak of are fighting ISIS not because of some magic words we say, they are in a fight for their very survival and that of their homelands, that is why they are fighting.

    They are fighting because they don’t want ISIS radicalism imposed on them. And we need to always make it clear that we are on their side.

    And look at polls of the United States. Very different. The videos are clearly cherry-picked from massive crowds. It’s no different than when liberals go into a Tea Party crowd and come away with a video of some guy saying Obama’s the secret child of Malcolm X. For fuck’s sake, did you guys learn nothing from Moorewatch?

     No, it is the Sharia fanatics who espouse the killing of apostasies and infidels, they are the ones waging holy war to kill democracy, not the other way around.

    Yes.  And so you’re saying we shouldn’t act to counter that message? To make liars out of them? Look, this is not complicated. We have frequently had to navigate the political waters of dealing with extremists without alienating everyone else. We’ve done it in our own country with differentiating between environmentalists and environmental terrorist; between peaceful Leftists and left-wing bombers; between the broad pro-Life movement and doctor-murdering psychopaths. Now all of the sudden this is a big ask?

    What I’ve seen of this so far is that the founder of this “hate group” doesn’t think the type of Muslim that prays 5 times a day and follows the religion to the letter would be a good fit for public offices. Tell me how this is more hateful than you thinking a Kentucky clerk should be arrested, or how Christian conservatives won’t get your vote?

    Because someone who prays five times a day and follows their religion to the letter but doesn’t impose their religion on anyone else is fine. Someone who tries to impose their religion on other people — by denying them marriage licenses because they think Jesus doesn’t like it — is not.

    See the difference now?

    (I also find it hilarious that in a post where I spell out exactly what we are at war with and why it’s important to recognize that religion does play a role here, you guys are fixated on this. Can’t wait to see how you react to the next post.)

    Personally though, I think Hal’s biggest regret in life is he doesn’t have more sides in his mouth to speak out of.

    Talking out of both sides of mouth being S8 code for a view that’s anythings less than “LIBERALS! MUSLIMS! OBAMA! AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!”

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  11. richtaylor365

    As a matter of fact, yes.

    As a matter of fact, your naivete is simply mind boggling.

     Countries that made these kind of caveats so way less anti-Muslims violence than countries that didn’t.

    So that’s where you allegiance lies, protecting the folks from terrorist attacks -not important, we most at all costs reduce the few isolated instances of anti Muslim violence, got it. And since you brought up official state positions (which is not what we were really talking about), please back up your assertion, what heads of state have said, “Our position is simple, ALL Muslims are radical jihadists, there”, are there any, at least one?

     And we need to always make it clear that we are on their side.

    Our very laws in protecting religious freedom and our way of life of tolerance towards all, this makes it clear enough. And you aren’t really saying that those Muslims in the ME that are fighting ISIS really don’t know who their friends are and need the magical words of ,”But it goes without saying that not all Muslims are radical jihadists”  to identify friend from foe?

     To make liars out of them? 

    But they are not liars, that’s is what you just can’t figure out. Some more reading on Sharia is in order, what it is and what compels Muslims to adhere to, follow and promote Sharia.

    And look at polls of the United States. Very different.

    At the risk of pointing out the obvious, you do understand that the US Muslims make up a small minority of the Muslims world wide, don’t you? Do you have a quibble with the graph I posted? The great majority of world wide Muslims believe that Sharia should be the only government body by which we should live by.

    . It’s no different than when liberals go into a Tea Party crowd and come away with a video of some guy saying Obama’s the secret child of Malcolm X. 

    Ah, yes it is, and you know it. The Tea Party does not have some bible (and followers that believe it) that identifies the lineage between Malcom X and Obama.

    Can’t wait to see how you react to the next post.

    Don’t tell me, more Salon parroting that the murdered in Paris deserved it, a ringing endorsement of Kerry when he said there was legitimacy in the Charlie Hebdo murders, or that Republicans really are afraid of women and children and that’s why they are against all these unvetted Syrians refugees.

     

     

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  12. Hal_10000 *

    So that’s where you allegiance lies, protecting the folks from terrorist attacks -not important, we most at all costs reduce the few isolated instances of anti Muslim violence, got it. 

    Jesus fucking Christ, Rich, you know that’s not what I’m saying.  Did you actually read the post or did you just stop two paragraphs in?

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  13. richtaylor365

    Did you actually read the post or did you just stop two paragraphs in?

    Yes, I did read it, and agreed with a large portion of it, but where we differ is this, you seem to think that as long as we tread lightly, as long as we nuance our discussions of radical Islam, as long as we don’t offend the Jihadists, then they will like us more and be less prone to want separate our heads from the rest of our bodies. I am tired of the placating ,”But they aren’t all that way, just a few bad apples”. And I really want those peace loving  US Muslims you keep bringing up to grow a pair and state categorically and undeniably ,”Yes, we are Muslims, but we love our country, we love it’s democracy and religious freedom, and no, we do not want Sharia to supplant the existing governing body”. Couple that sentiment with a million Muslim march in DC denouncing the violence, and declaring a renewed clarion call for tolerance and love worldwide. This would go a long way in tempering my ire.

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  14. Hal_10000 *

    I don’t care about offending the Jihadists. As far as they’re concerned, I mostly care about a) destroying them; b) keeping them from committing more acts of terror (see (a)).  I do, however, also care about offending the millions on the fence and driving them into the arms of the Jihadists. One of the many ways we countered the Soviets was by supporting the dissenters in their midst and making it clear we didn’t hate the Russian people.  Supporting them did not mean dismantling our nuclear arsenal or backing down in central Europe.  But it was a weapon in the arsenal.

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  15. Section8

    “Talking out of both sides of mouth being S8 code for a view that’s anythings less than “LIBERALS! MUSLIMS! OBAMA! AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!”

    Yeah that’s what it is Hal. It has nothing to do at all with posts about how big government is bad, just as long as no one puts up a fight to reduce it. Hey let’s have a socialist as the next president. Not just one ideologically, but one in name as well. Great idea! That way the GOP can keep him in check, just as long as they don’t put up a fight, that would be wrong. Hey Jihadists are bad, but don’t forget, a few people going overboard in a RESPONSE to an attack make us all just a bad. Don’t forget that people. You need a friendly reminder from Hal to behave. Personally, I can’t imagine anyone buying your shit anymore. The shtick has run its course I think.

    And no, I don’t think jailing that lady is a rational response. I think mayors that are providing shelter to people who are here ILLEGALLY should though. Of course you posted some ridiculous comparison to gun background checks which are an optional choice. Do you think she should be in office because of what Jesus thinks? Obviously not which is fine, but hey a devout Muslim no problem, and anyone who disagrees gets the tried and true left wing hate label from you.

    So yeah, considering this is a RIGHT THINKING blog, I’d expect more RIGHT THINKING. Too hard to comprehend. By the way, Halloween is over. You can take the mask off now. Now one is buying the costume gettup anyhow.

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