I was delighted to see that my friend Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, a secular activist born in Iraq, has published a hilarious piece on his website, a piece called “I am a jihadist and I am tired of not being given credit.” It’s short, so I’ll reproduce it all; and I’ll have more serious things to say about this issue in the next post. But do visit Faisal’s site. I’m proud to be a moderator on the Global Secular Humanist Movement Facebook page that Faisal founded (you should “like” it!).
It must be incredibly frustrating as an Islamic Jihadist not to have your views and motives taken seriously by the societies you terrorize, even after you have explicitly and repeatedly stated them. Even worse, those on the regressive left, in their endless capacity for masochism and self-loathing, have attempted to shift blame inwardly on themselves, denying the Jihadists even the satisfaction of claiming responsibility.
It’s like a bad Monty Python sketch:
“We did this because our holy texts exhort us to to do it.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Wait, what? Yes we did…”
“No, this has nothing to do with religion. You guys are just using religion as a front for social and geopolitical reasons.”
“WHAT!? Did you even read our official statement? We give explicit Quranic justification. This is jihad, a holy crusade against pagans, blasphemers, and disbelievers.”
“No, this is definitely not a Muslim thing. You guys are not true Muslims, and you defame a great religion by saying so.”
“Huh!? Who are you to tell us we’re not true Muslims!? Islam is literally at the core of everything we do, and we have implemented the truest most literal and honest interpretation of its founding texts. It is our very reason for being.”
“Nope. We created you. We installed a social and economic system that alienates and disenfranchises you, and that’s why you did this. We’re sorry.”
“What? Why are you apologizing? We just slaughtered you mercilessly in the streets. We targeted unwitting civilians – disenfranchisement doesn’t even enter into it!”
“Listen, it’s our fault. We don’t blame you for feeling unwelcome and lashing out.”
“Seriously, stop taking credit for this! We worked really hard to pull this off, and we’re not going to let you take it away from us.”
“No, we nourished your extremism. We accept full blame.”
“OMG, how many people do we have to kill around here to finally get our message across?”
Here’s a recent video from The Rubin Report in which Dave Rubin interviews Faisal about diverse issues—especially the influence of religion.
41 thoughts on “A satire of Western apologetics for jihadist terrorism”
Yes, as PROFESSOR CEILING CAT elegantly put it in his great book WEIT: Yes, professor, the evidence is convincing, yet I still don’t believe it.
I’m confused by this whole conversation. If one actually reads the scholarly literature, one finds that both religion *and* political circumstances lead terrorists to engage in their horrific acts of violence. Secularists say that we ought to listen to what the terrorists themselves say. And as a secularist, I completely agree. The point is that if one actually listens, one hears them repeatedly mentioning two phenomena: their dogmatic beliefs in ancient scriptures full of revealed “truths,” and a long, long history of Western intervention in the Middle East. In fact, the Paris attackers were quoted by media as saying two things: “Allahu Akbar,” and “This is for Syria.” The Islamic State both proclaims that the battle of Armageddon is imminent and that they hate the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Forget the Regressive Left. I’m coining the term “Single-Issue Leftists” for those who parochially fixate on either religion (e.g., Harris) or US foreign policy (e.g., Chomsky) to the exclusion of the other. The motivation of terrorism is a complex mix of multiple factors, and it’s time that people start acknowledging this.
I deal with this in the next post. Of course it’s not just religion, but there are many who deny that religion plays ANY role in the mix.
I agree that this is, unfortunately, the case. Again, I call them Single-Issue Leftists. Their narrow fixation is wrong, and at odds with the terrorism literature. Would al Qaeda have arisen in the absence of Western intervention in the Middle East? Probably not. In fact, bin Laden was quite explicit about his disapproval of US troops in Saudi Arabia and our support for dictators in the region. The 2003 Iraq War strongly confirmed the narrative that bin Laden had constructed of the West “desecrating” Muslim lands. This being said, would al Qaeda have arisen in the absence of Islam? Quite possibly no. Islam provides a notably violent framework through which to interpret worldly injustices from military juggernauts.
Would you name a “single issue leftist” who focuses purely on religion? I don’t don’t know who you are referring to.
I think your hypothesis is wrong. Here’s why:
1. We only have to look east to see evidence. There is militant Islamism against non-muslims in Indonesia that has essentially nothing to do with the middle east. So it seems the trend of violent sectarianism occurs even independently of the Israel/Palestine and in areas not ever considered under Sykes-Picot.
2. Many of the groups and philosophies undergirding radical Islam predate some or all of the factors you’re claiming caused it. Saudi Wahhabism is based on the writings of a scholar from the 1700s and the reason it was adopted has nothing to do with 20th century developments; the bin Saud family allied with Wahhab back in the 1700s and the family has supported that philosophy ever since, without break. Moving up to the 19th century, Mohammed Iqbal wrote his material in the late 1800s and early 1900s, before Sykes-Picot. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928, which is after Sykes-Picot but before the founding of Israel. Sayed Qutb’s writing about the need for political islam and sharia law was already in textbooks in the 1940s, again, way before there ever was an Israel to serve as the focus of muslim hatred. None of these radicalism sources could possibly have been caused by the mid-20th century western interference in the Mideast, because they all predate that.
Great information, eric, thank you for that!
I’m in agreement with Yakaru and am skeptical that there many examples of “Single-Issue Leftists” who don’t recognize non-religious issues. The problem, as I see it, is that enormous numbers of “leftists” refuse to acknowledge the critical role religion plays in Islamic terrorism.
There are few countries in the world that haven’t been subject to colonialism. There are few countries in the world that aren’t subject to environmental pressures from climate change. There are few countries in the world where political/economic conditions don’t need a lot of improvement. But where political terrorism breaks out, religion is nearly always involved.
Hmm…not always…I seem to recall that the Molotov Cocktail got its name from its use in non-religiously-motivated political terrorism.
But it’s hardly surprising that religion should so often be involved.
It takes an awful lot to convince most people that it is good and right to commit the atrocities of war and terror and the like. Almost nobody is going to do it just on the say-so of somebody they consider an equal; an appeal will have to be made to some much, much larger authority. Sometimes, it’s a case of protecting family and neighbors from invaders, and it’s the group that commands the authority to fight. Politics is often an extended version of that, with much blood being spilled for the Fatherland or to protect the plight of the workers or what-not.
But religion…religion can short-circuit those familial and tribal instincts. If a god tells you to do something horrific, who are you to question the god? As William Lane Craig puts it so passionately, once the god issues the orders, any possible discussion, especially including questioning of the morality of the orders, is simply not permissible.
We all here know that the gods are imaginary…but this property of the divine points to their true nature, their true power, their true horror. If you can convince somebody you speak for the gods, you usurp for yourself all the authority of the gods. And so a priest — or an imam or a king or a caliph — can simply state, “Do what I say for the gods command it,” and Thy Will Be Done.
It’s the only reason we really even have gods in the first place…and it’s why it’s so important that we pull back the curtain, make everybody pay attention to the man behind it, and expose every last god for the humbug it is.
That’s also, not coincidentally, why there’s so much opposition to atheism. Take away a priest’s gods and you take away the priest’s power….
Would Sunni vs Shia Muslim conflict have arisen without Western intervention?
Would Kurds vs Turks conflict have arisen without Western intervention?
Would Assad vs “enter an opposing group of Muslims” conflict have arisen without Western intervention?
“Would Sunni vs Shia Muslim conflict have arisen without Western intervention?” Possibly not. Historically speaking, the Sunnis and Shi’ites have lived side-by-side for centuries without war. Bin Laden has even taken money from Iran (and Iran has even given money to bin Laden). The sectarian conflict in the Middle East today broke out *after* the 2003 preemptive invasion of Iraq, for reasons that are far too complex to discuss here. This being said, the sectarian split is of course a major — indeed, critical — factor in this conflict. Religion is to blame, but it’s not the only factor to blame. One needs to look at the situation more comprehensively, the way scholars of terrorism do.
“Would Assad vs “enter an opposing group of Muslims” conflict have arisen without Western intervention?” Not everything comes down to Western intervention. The broader point of crucial importance is that there’s a complex interaction between *material conditions*, whatever their provenance, and religious ideology. One can influence the other in complicated ways, creating feedback effects whereby violence leads to (say) apocalypticism, and apocalypticism leads to more violence, etc. As it happens, the rise of ISIS, the proliferation of Shia militias backed by Iran, and so on, resulted not only from radical interpretations of Islam, but specific material conditions created by what was perhaps the biggest foreign policy blunder in US history, the Iraq War.
The reason Iran is predominantly Shia today is because Ismail I conducted a violent but ultimately successful convert-or-die campaign in Persia in the early 1500s. His anti-Sunni measures extended to destroying Abbasid caliphate tombs from the earliest reign of Islam in the region and conducting a full-on war against the Ottoman empire at least in part because they were a Sunni regime.
Yes there have been times of peaceful cooperation and acceptance between the sects. But there have also been many conflicts between them that have little or nothing to do with western interference. Because – to parallel my prior post in response to your claims – many such conflicts predate western interference. In this case, you’ve claimed a conflict (sunni-shia) is caused by the west when in fact it predates the rise of western colonialist powers altogether.
The point is that religion, Islam in this case, is being used as a common cause by a diverse number of people who see their local and global disputes in religious terms. Why else would British citizens of Pakistani parents go to Syria to fight for a violent Islamist group?
On top of that, there are many cases where it has ZERO to do with foreign policy of western or any other states. Cases where rape victims are punished for having sex outside marriage is part of the legal justice sysem as prescribed by Islam – Quran 24:2 is a direct inspiration for that. And the killing of a pious Muslim girl because she was accused (falsely) of destroying a Quran has nothing to do with US foriegn policy. Chopping off of hands for crimes is a direct response to the Quran.
Then, w.r.t. Sam Harris, he is perfectly within his right to focus on religion – as many atheist humanists do. He does not deny that US foreign policy has not helped in many cases. But he rightly denies that it is the primary cause. Even in Iraq, a war Harris did not support, the failure of the US to manage the war carefully, and the failure to manage a sustainable exit state, certainly made things worse than they could have been. But that does not then mean that the craziness of Islamism wasn’t there waiting to fill the void.
I don’t have a problem with Chomsky focusing on US foreign policy, if that’s his thing. Or Greenwald on NSA. They are not being asked to agree with Harris on every point – and many Harris supporters disagree with him too. But their demonisation of Harris is totally unjustified. And this is one of the points made in several of the Runin Report videos.
“Even in Iraq, a war Harris did not support, the failure of the US to manage the war carefully, and the failure to manage a sustainable exit state, certainly made things worse than they could have been. But that does not then mean that the craziness of Islamism wasn’t there waiting to fill the void.”
Correct. This is precisely my point. In placing blame, the facts are important. And the facts point to a duality of forces.
As for rape, you are again correct. The West has nothing to do with that. Where the issue become problematic is when people start blaming Islamic terrorism entirely on religion. Again, it’s important to listen to what the terrorist themselves say: in the name of Allah, they want to destroy the “infidels” (all religious language) for their incursions of Muslim lands (a political complaint). As mentioned above, media have reported that the Paris nutcases shouted both “God is Great” and “This is for Syria.” To borrow a line from Harris, one can’t even begin a conversation about the growing dangers of Islamic extremism without recognizing that terrorism stems from both a hatred of the West’s repeated interventions in the region and a radical interpretation of faith-based propositions revealed to a prophet centuries ago claiming special access to the supernatural.
I’m not mentioning this for tacky, self-promotion reasons (seriously), but there is, perhaps, some helpful information on my website, which is dedicated to exactly such issues: http://www.risksandreligion.org.
You were doing pretty good right up to the part I highlighted.
The Q’ran is a really, really, nasty piece of shit. It calls for the whole world to be put to the sword until everybody submits to Allah. It glorifies all sorts of really horrific war crimes allegedly perpetrated by its heroes. It sings the praises of raping pre-pubescent girls. It proscribes a legal code that’s so barbaric it makes Hammurabi look civilized.
Yes, the West has acted inexcusably in the Middle East. We have blood on our hands, lots of blood, much too much blood, and no valid excuse for that blood.
But that no more makes Islam noble than the unconscionable war reparations imposed on Germany after the Great War ennobled Nazism.
Yeah but as you yourself have pointed out on many occasions, the Bible is an equally** nasty piece of shit. Fortunately the vast majority of Muslims, like the vast majority of Xtians, don’t feel obliged to personally implement the nastiness.
I would say that invading someone’s country, or bombing them, or subjecting them to similar extreme social stress, is very likely to impel them to look up the nastier bits in their holy book. Absent that disorder, in peacetime, people generally have other considerations like making a buck and all the minutiae of their everyday lives, that make ‘just getting along’ the overriding concern.
(**Well you could split hairs about the ‘equally’ I suppose but comparing dicks – ‘my holy book is more dickish than yours’ – is not my point here).
The West is, indeed, characterized by good people who’re lousy Christians. Though there’re plenty of good people in the Middle East who’re lousy Muslims, there’re an awful lot of good Muslims who’re lousy people there, too.
Good comment. Thanks!
Yes…it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, flies like a duck, floats like a duck, eats like a duck, shits like a duck, fucks like a duck, lays duck eggs from which ducklings hatch…
…but it’s really a koala, because I had a koala teddy bear I really loved and I got chased when a goose when I was young and ducks are almost geese so it’s definitely not a duck.
Yes professor the evidence that suggests it is a duck is convincing, yet I still believe it is a koala.
For me, what makes this comic sketch especially poignant is that the far leftest characters’ dialogue is very close to what they actually say. That half of it does not seem fictional.
It seems obvious that Islamic religious zeal is the primary fuel for the terrorist; so yes Faisal is right to emphasize it’s role. I have just read that many of the recent terror attacks outside IS are directed at Shiite Muslims, including the Beirut bombing of last week, and several bombings in Baghdad that barely made the western news.
So are liberals like myself wrong to be try to separate out the good (pacific) Muslims from the bad? It seems to me that this religious war will never end until the pacific Muslims rise up, and provide good Islamic| reasons for tolerating all other religions. Might not justice be that value?
One cannot be both a good person and a good Muslim, any more than one can be both a good person and a good Nazi.
There was certainly the odd instance here and there of Nazis who were good (or, at least, less bad) people, but that came at the expense of being bad Nazis. A good person would find any way possible to save as many people as possible from the concentration camps and the death chambers, but such activity is anathema to a good Nazi. And a good Nazi wouldn’t hesitate to report any suspicions of disloyalty to the party, but a good person wouldn’t even think to be the first one to make the report.
What we need to be doing is not binding the shackles of Islam even tighter ’round the necks of the good people who happen to have the misfortune of being caught up in the terror of Muhammad. Rather, we need to be doing everything we can to help them escape it, period.
You wouldn’t condemn a German person in Nazi Germany to struggle to find the kinder, gentler side of Hitler, would you? Lots of good kids were in the Hitler Youth and grew up with Nazism being their entire life, with no real chance at the time to question what they were being taught. Should they have been urged to reinterpret the Nazi struggle for supremacy as some sort of peaceful inner quest for enlightenment?
When you privilege ideologies in the way you propose…well, only evil results.
Rather, we need to be doing everything we can to help them escape it, period.
My big fear is that they don’t want to escape it. How can you free a person who doesn’t want to be free?
Those who don’t wish to escape Islam are the same as those who don’t wish to escape Nazism. They are not good people; they are our enemies. We may be able to hope for an uneasy truce with them, but we most emphatically should not be cozying up with them — any more than you’d cozy up with those who have no desire to free themselves from Nazism.
No, I’m not exaggerating. There’re some differences in economic policy between Nazism and Islam, but all the rest of the stuff we hate Nazis for Islam has in spades — the religious intolerance and conviction of religious superiority, the urge to conquer the globe, the determination to kill en masse those whose personal habits or religious beliefs they disapprove of, their utter contempt for individual liberty, the utter brutality of their shock troops, the sheer horrific nightmare of the holy text…
…really, we have no more business trying to distinguish the good Muslims from the bad ones than we do trying to distinguish the good Nazis from the bad ones.
NOTE: Good or bad Muslims and Nazis. Separating good Arabs and Persians and Africans and the rest from the bad ones is as easy as separating the good Germans from the bad ones. The good Germans weren’t Nazis; the good Arabs / Persians / Africans aren’t Muslim.
Why should “good” Muslims be the only people on Earth entitled to get what they want?
Come off it Ben. Most Muslims, being human (I am assured that, genetically, they are) have the same human aspirations that we and even most Christians have. Making a (fairly) honest buck, living a reasonably satisfying life, and neither bombing the shit out of people or having the shit bombed out of them.
I would call that ‘being a good person’. If only *all* people (not just ‘most’) had those ideals, we’d have a lot fewer problems.
So don’t make ‘being a good person’ dependent on renouncing Islam. Don’t tell them that by being good people they’re being bad Muslims. That’s just forcing them to pick sides and if you do that they’re likely going to pick the side you don’t want.
Yes. As would I. But I wouldn’t call it being a good Muslim, and more than I’d call the Nazi who hid his Jewish neighbors from the SS a good Nazi.
Then that would mean that they’re not good people, after all.
I happen to think that, just as it turned out that most Germans really were good people despite all the Nazis running amok amongst them, most Arabs and Persians, etc., really are good people despite all the Muslims running amok amongst them. And I think that, just as Germans today are ashamed of their historical association of Nazism and are amongst the first and loudest to denounce that horror, there’s no reason why the next generation of Persians and Arabs (etc.) can’t similarly disown Islam.
And I think the “little people” argument that they can’t or won’t do that is…well…frankly, if there really were a good example for what the sort of racism meant by the term, “Islamophobia,” is meant to capture, that’d be it.
But the Jew who accepts his homosexual neighbor and who is just fine and dandy with the hostess of the party who serves shrimp cocktail is not a good Jew, likewise the xian (remember, Jesus revoked not one jot or tittle of the law). Being a good person comes at the expense of being a good (observant) X across many denominations and religions.
There’s lots of understanding amongst Jews that you have to, for example, keep kosher to be a good Jew, but you don’t have to be a good Jew to be a good person. Outside of the crazy fundamentalist types, even the rabbis won’t berate somebody for failing to keep kosher (or whatever) unless keeping kosher (etc.) is important to the person who’s slipping. (Generally; there’ll be exceptions.)
Similarly, I’ve even known Catholic priests who simultaneously openly joke about “Christmas and Easter” members of the congregation, even in sermons, but in a good-natured way that, again, says that regular attendance is how you become a good Catholic but the Church is still happy to see them on whatever schedule works.
But, again, you’re not a good Jew if you eat bacon-wrapped cheese-stuffed shrimp, and you’re not a good Catholic if your butt isn’t in that pew at least weekly. And everybody pretty much agrees with that and is cool with it on all levels of the religiosity scale, and has no problem with the idea that you can be a secular Jew or a lapsed Catholic or whatever and still be a good person, even though you’re obviously not a very good member of the religion. Hell, you can drop out of your bowling league, lose all ability to throw a ball, and people will still think you’re a good person even though you’re clearly not a good bowler.
You can’t be a good Muslim unless you submit to the will of Allah, and the Q’ran is pretty clear about what that submission entails. For many, especially Shia Muslims, that includes jihad. To be a good Muslim, in many flavors of Islam, you must be a mujahid…and you just simply can’t be a mujahid of any type and be a good person — any more than you can be a Nazi officer and be a good person.
Yes, very amusing. How the left won the jihadist war. By ignoring their hellish goals to inconsequential oblivion. Yeah that will work. I can just see them walking off mumbling to themselves, allah was great, till the wet left doused his flame.
That is an absolutely perfect satire! In just a few brilliant lines it epitomizes the problem with the apologist left more clearly than any number of long, serious monographs.
I trust that this will somehow find its way to be seen by Nicholas Kristof, Ben Affleck, Reza Aslan and Scott Atran.
Ha ha! One can only hope!
And they will of course find some way to dismiss or even vilify it.
Hmmm. It’s hard to see how making a jihadist lose his tiny little mind and not get what he wants, is a bad thing. Anyway they’re both right
Islam “We are angry hornets”
West “Poke poke”