ISIS explains why it fights: it’s the religion, stupid!

August 2, 2016 • 12:30 pm

Listen up, Islamic apologists, especially those of you who claim that the main motivations of Islamist terrorism derive from Western colonialism rather from Islam. Listen up, Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald, Robert Pape, Karen Armstrong, and Nathan Lean: ISIS has explained in very clear language that you’re just wrong. It’s religion, stupid! After reading the article summarized in the 14½-minute video below, or the article itself, you’ll have a hard time blaming Western imperialism for terrorism, or claiming that ISIS is a perversion of Islam: “not true Islam.”

You may know that ISIS has mastered social media, including the production of a slick online magazine, Dabiq. In the latest issue there’s an article called “Why we hate you & Why we fight you.” (You can find a pdf of issue 15 of Dabiq, and the article, here.) The piece explains very clearly what ISIS wants and why it fights. And if you want to reject its reasons, then you’ll have to explain why the movement’s main organ of propaganda is simply lying to the West. (I’m sure that some people will claim that.)

See (or read) for yourself. The main reason, which you could have discerned from reading Lawrence Wright’s masterful (and Pulitzer-Prize-winning) book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, is an Islamist terrorism that grew directly out of pure, unadulterated Islam: a literal interpretation of the Qur’an calling for extirpation of unbelievers, coupled with a hatred of the salaciousness and licentiousness of Western society.

Yes, among the reasons given below you’ll find colonialism and the war we’re still waging on ISIS, but they’re at the bottom of the list. As the video makes clear at 11:00, ISIS sees those reasons as secondary. Even if the bombing and colonialism stopped, they say (the latter largely has stopped), ISIS would still continue its battle, for they see foreign policy as “secondary.” What is primary is the requirement of the Qur’an to subjugate and kill nonbelievers.

This is a must-watch video—and a must-read article.

After reading or watching these, you’d be hard pressed to maintain that ISIS is “not real Islam.” I’d argue, in fact, that it is the truest form of Islam, for it’s simply interpreting literally a scripture that is meant to be taken literally, and then acting on its dictates.

h/t: Cindy

148 thoughts on “ISIS explains why it fights: it’s the religion, stupid!

    1. It’s because Islam considers him a prophet and Christianity says he’s the son of God/Allah. They find the Trinity offensive – God/Allah is one, inviolable, and making Jesus into Christ and adding the Holy Ghost is, to them, offensive to God/Allah.

      Jesus is a only a prophet in Islam and to celebrate him as a saviour and one with God is blasphemy in Islam.

      1. Jesus’s main message was that he was the son of God. So if Islam denies this, what exactly do they reckon he was a prophet of? The Islamic version of Jesus must therefore be radically different from how he is portrayed in the New Testament.

        1. Jesus message is only focused on being Son of God and Savior of the world in the final canonical Gospel, the Gospel of John, often regarded as the least historically reliable.

          In earlier Gospels, he is portrayed more as the Jewish Messiah, and a reformer of the Jewish Law. Furthermore, in the earlier Gospels far far less of his preaching is about himself.

        2. Jesus is a prophet of God but not God’s son. They’re otherwise mostly okay with his message but vehemently deny the story of the resurrection. In Islam he is just a man and not divine as he is in Christianity. He’s one of a chain of prophets which includes Moses, Abraham, and Noah. Muhammad is the final prophet – any who claim to be prophets after him are false.

          1. Apparently the Muslim consensus on the gospels is that they were given by Allah to Jesus – given that the gospels are accounts of his life and teachings, and his death, they would constitute a pretty funny sort of divine gift. Does Islam have much of an idea of the actual contents of the gospels?

            1. They call the gospel of Jesus ‘injil’ and that it has been lost. They believe parts of it are included in the Christian gospels, but that what they say is a corruption of the original gospel of Jesus. I’m not fully aware which details of Jesus’ life they believe.

              1. “They call the gospel of Jesus ‘injil’ and that it has been lost.”

                This makes sense – thanks for the clarification.

          2. Right, but it just seems he has no “message” of note if you strip out any notion of Jesus being the redeemer, Savior of mankind, and Son of God. I suppose one could be the instrument of salvation without being the Son of God or even being divine. But it would be odd to admit that Jesus could be the savior of mankind and yet not be the greatest of the prophets. I’d be interested to see the Muslim reaction to Jesus’ proclamations that unless you follow him, you “have no life in you”.

            It could be that, as JonLynnHarvey says above, the God-man savior Jesus of Christianity is largely limited to the Gospel of John (and the Pauline Epistles), such that a Muslim could effectively agree with the first three gospels?

            I raise this issue as I have always thought that in order for Jesus to logically fit into Islam as a legitimate prophet, that one would have to take a pair of scissors to the NT to such an extent that not much would remain, and given this, that this claim of Jesus being a prophet within Islam is largely disingenuous and was designed perhaps to placate Christians.

            But perhaps it is the Christians who have manufactured a God-Man Savior where there is actually scant textual evidence for one, at least in the first three Gospels.

            1. Either way you cut the cake, Islam has always maintained that the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are a distortion of the truth, all the way from Genesis to Revelation.

              Jesus message in the first three Gospels is essentially that the kingdom of heaven is immanently arriving and he is the appointed messenger of that.

            2. As I say, I don’t know all the details, but they do think that the gospels are corrupted. Though I don’t know for sure, I would assume that the “saviour of mankind” and “have no life in you” bits are some of the things they deny. This is all stuff I’m still learning about and am far from being an expert. All I can confidently say is they think all four gospels in the Bible are wrong at least partially. I think there are some who think the gospel of Barnabas is correct, but I don’t know anything about that.

              1. The Gospel of Barnabas is a lengthy redaction of material from all 4 canonical Gospels that seems to be edited to conform to Islamic doctrine.

                Part of the issue is that each of the 4 Gospels has a somewhat different theological outlook than the other three, and accounts of incidents differ from one book to another to conform to that author’s POV. (See Randall Helm’s “Gospel Fictions” for a good brief discussion of this, as well as multiple books by Bart Ehrman.)

                The first three Gospels overlap a great deal in content, but the Gospel of John departs radically from the other three, and its provenance is much more cryptic and mysterious than they. John has many “I am” sayings such as “I am the Good Shepherd”, etc.

                Jesus is referred to specifically as savior in only two of the Gospels (Luke and John) and then only once (each) in passing, but quite a lot in later books such as the Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s Letters.

            3. To begin to discuss this by quoting Jesus or anything else written down about illiterates many generations after the events is to stray away from a reasonable and scholarly discussion, in my opinion. The real trouble with all of it is that their version has as much evidence behind it as anyone’s.

          3. He’s also regarded as the *2nd most important* prophet, to boot, and has a role in some Islamic eschatology.

            As for how this is reconciled with the gospels, don’t know the details. But from the perspective of the outsider it seems to me that Mohammed may have encountered Christians at second hand or the like; even Muslims admit he was supposedly illiterate, so he can’t very well have checked the NT, no?

    1. I saw that too, the authoritarian/totalitarian declaration.

      Also, everyone else is the lesser Other, so it is explicitly racist too.

      But above all it is genocidal, torturing, insane, the Ultimate Asylum, so who cares about their motivations?


      Ironically I got upset to see that they call physios laws “inexplicable” (with a hint of finetuning) and a result of “randomness”, when all they would have to do is to look it up in the nearest encyclopedia.

      But their childishness doesn’t tempt me to be as much childish, so I put my response “under the fold”. [/pouts]

  1. Sometimes apologists seem to be going into Therapist Mode when it comes to defending religion. “Yes, yes, this is a religious fanatic — but WHY did this person become a religious fanatic? I mean, other than religion. They’re probably angry or scared.”

    And then it turns out that if EACH fanatic is angry or scared, then anger and fear are the root causes of fanaticism.

    1. Fanaticism is possibly a difficult label for anyone Islamic. Their text is full of stuff that is terribly aggressive and violent, and ALL Muslims are told to take it literally or be considered an apostate. That, and the fact that it is as much a theocracy as a religion seems to be high up there in the “Mother of all bad ideas”.

    2. Well, there’s a good and a bad version of this. The good version is trying to understand why someone behaves some way so as to prevent (in this case) it or prevent others from doing so. *This* is what at least Chomsky and so on have been doing for decades. *Why* do they hate “us” and want to join terrorist groups? *That’s* where you have to look at the next level of what they say, and *that’s* where “great power politics” plays a role. I recently read a book, _American Raj_, which goes into this in some detail.

      The bad version is thinking that by doing so one somehow exonerates the behavior, which is not always the correct thing to do. (Is it never? I don’t know.)

      1. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with going into Therapist Mode if one either is a therapist — or is asking a deeper psychological question. The problem, as you point out, is that this approach can be used to lead away from the question at hand.

        It’s also possible for reasonably normal, ordinary people with no particular personality defects or trauma in their background to say or do horrendous things — beliefs and behaviors which make sense only within an ideology. The belief system itself is toxic. Is the step from “all nonbelievers deserve eternal damnation” to “all nonbelievers must be killed” really that large?

  2. Great video, unfortunately it only reminds me, again, that, like Gamora, I am going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.

    Sad stupid shit, when ISIS can proclaim exactly what their aims are and the craven remainder of humanity enlists a cannonade of excuses.

  3. Why is it that I do not see anyone writing about Islamic colonialism? Perhaps I just missed it. But Islam did not become established from the west coast of Africa to the Philippines by means of a couple of guys in black suits, carrying attache cases and going from door to door Salt Lake City style. Beginning with Mohammad war was declared on all other faiths and with his death within the faith. These wars are continuing today from Nigeria through the Middle East and on to Mindanao.

    Colonialism is a fact of civilization. I used to tell my classes that civility is to civilization as humanity is to being human. Lest that be mistaken it is sardonic and cynical. The Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians, Chinese, Aztecs, Incas and centuries of predecessors all pursued colonialism with varying degrees of brutality. The earliest walls of Jericho had large, thick walls telling us what about the neighbors (that would be 11,000 ya)?

    Blame civilization on colonialism as people congregated in ever larger groups to protect themselves from others who wanted what they had. It has almost always involved wealth. Colonialism was not invented by Europeans and Americans although practiced widely by them. It still involves wealth.

    1. People have written about it (I saw something recently, perhaps by Maajid Nawaz); it’s just that the Left doesn’t like to be reminded of it because it turns Islam into an oppressor.

    2. Blame civilization on colonialism as people congregated in ever larger groups to protect themselves from others who wanted what they had. It has almost always involved wealth. Colonialism was not invented by Europeans and Americans although practiced widely by them. It still involves wealth.

      And to suggest that white people were the only ones to invent colonialism, conquest, civilization etc is deeply, deeply racist. The bigotry of low expectations. In making excuses for ‘people of color’ the regressives show how little they think of them, in choosing to treat them as children instead of as equals.

      1. The Quran has a whole chapter “The Booty”
        Only members of his larger tribe (Quraish)can be imams.
        In Pakistan (according to Pakistan born Tarek Fatah) its forbidden for a non Arab Muslim to give charity to an Arab Muslim – because they are superior and Pakistanis of Arab descent have special names and are more honoured than others.

        Abd means both “black” and “slave”
        Having servants and treating them like slaves is common even in supposedly more secular Lebanon (I had an article on this flagged from the journalist site the Global Mail but they actually dismantled this a while ago. It was called “The Help: Status, servants and double standards in Lebanon”
        The Hidaya recounts various class qualifications on marriage
        (Baintner edition Vol 1 pp 65-74)
        There are 6 factors that determine marriage suitability but 5 and 6 are class oriented
        5. and ON Fortune – which depends on Property and Occupation since “men consider wealth as conferring superiority, and poverty as inducing contempt”(p 75)
        6. ON Trade or Profession – This is based on “principle … that ..Men assume to themselves a certain consequence from the respectability of their callings, whereas a degree of contempt is annexed to them on account of the meanness thereof”. Though allowance is made if a male person is judged likely to sufficiently improve himself “Barbers, weavers, … workers in leather, and scavengers, are not the equals of merchants, … or bankers.”(p 76) P 74 says social and moral equality is necessary and as “a woman of high rank and family would abhor society with a mean man it is requisite, therefore, that regard by had to equality with respect to the husband….. but men are not degraded by cohabitation with women who are their inferiors.” (p 74)

        On 6 factors – established Arab and Muslim ancestry helps, as does being free and not having incurred dishonour. The other two factors are Fortune and Trade or Profession.

        A Pakistan woman recounts the amazing snobbery as well as sexism in marriage arrangements.

    3. Contrast this to Judaism, a non-prosyletizing, preferentially in-clan business strategy.

      In many ways Jews have taken the high road (if not evolutionarily risky): you’ve really got to want in.

      Christianity and Islam know the path to world domination is conversion and controlled ignorance.

      To boot, I can make the most faithful person in either of those faiths sick to their stomachs by proposing a simple ‘How strong is your faith test?’. Raise a child without a word of faith and see, if, by age thirteen, the child professes to be a Muslim or a Christian. Seriously, no takers in the history of those two fowl religions would be so foolish. Rewarding me with the unastonishing wisdom that their faith truly is shallow.

      1. Excellent typo (fowl/foul) because they’re all chicken – they don’t have the courage to take such challenges as deep down they know they’re wrong and it is only by brainwashing that they perpetuate their religion.

        1. their faith is wrong – at least the orthodox versions of it – because the only way they can perpetuate it is by violence and intra family brainwashing (e.g. prayers blasted out on loudspeakers Everywhere at 4.30 Every the morning, marrying close relatives in Pakistan and Saudi, expectation of very tight lifelong obligations – especially of women within family – and the law in Saafi and other Sunni lawbooks that muslims must impose their religion on each other when they see a muslim being slack in their religion etc. called upholding the right and forbidding the wrong under Justice chapters)

    4. I appreciate the sentiment, but mixing history with fairy tale “biblical history” always makes my head hurt s I try to filter out the “actual history” (according to historian methods, as much as a layman can verify them).

      – “Mohammad” is not a historical figure.

      – There does not seem to be any verified “Jericho”, and the initial attempt has been soundly rejected by archaeologists. The current identification between the written religious texts and the putative oral myth is tenuous, relying on 9 kyrs of putative but never documented oral history. [ ]

      – And in an the context of your comment, the earliest city walls of the random “biblical history” city was “designed for either defensive or flood protection purposes;[9][26] “. [ibid]

      1. Muhammed is an historical figure, but there is a lot of made up stuff around him. Just one example – Mecca didn’t exist during his lifetime. There has never been any archaeological evidence of it found that dates it earlier than at least 100 years after his death. The original direction of prayer of the earliest mosques converges hundreds of kms north of Mecca at a point not far south of Israel.

        1. There is no credible positive evidence supportive of a claim of historicity for Muhammad. The closest such thing is the Q’ran, which was an explicitly oral tradition for generations before being canonized in a notoriously contentious political setting. There are mundane historical events integral to Muhammad’s life described in the Q’ran which should have left clear archaeological evidence but did not. And the big outline of Muhammad’s biography is no different from any other garden-variety messenger of the gods — a role shared by Hermes and Jesus.

          Indeed, the mere fact that his official biography concludes with him riding a flying horse into the sunset is more than enough to overwhelmingly conclude that he is a figment of fantasy. That’s the very calling card of an heavenly being returning home. It’s how the ancients identified that the person described was no mere mortal but a denizen of the divine realm, and an indication that all events described prior need to be understood and interpreted in that light.

          We do not think that Bellerophon was a real human who rode an especially fast horse and about whom the tale grew after death. We understand from the start that Bellerophon’s epic riding of Pegasus into the heavens is a fictional story told of a fictional demigod, and that the story comes first and foremost, and that Bellerophon’s Ascension is an essential story element indicating the significance and nobility of the other deeds the story fabricates. And we recognize similarly the fantastical nature of all the other gods of all the other religions.

          But we do everybody a great disservice when we pretend that the current favored imaginary friends were really real.




          1. But, but, Ben, what about the chip in the rock in Jerusalem that people showed me and said it proves his horse stepped on it as it leaped into heaven? It’s about three blocks from the hole in the ground that people showed me and claimed it proves Jesus rose from the dead.

        2. His historicity is open to serious doubt. A good place to start is ibn Warraq’s Quest for the Historical Muhammad.

          1. I agree, but it’s also not quite as obvious as the real-Jesus failure. I’ll definitely check out the book though.

    5. “Why is it that I do not see anyone writing about Islamic colonialism?”

      Because that would be violating one of the fundamental rules of being a liberal of the mush-headed variety (as opposed to the more clear-thinking liberalism as proffered on this site).

      And that rule is: White people bad, non-white people good.

      So any observation that goes against the narrative the white westerners are responsible for all the oppression that has ever happened in this world is considered suspect and probably racist by the MHLs.

    6. It goes without saying that the demise of the Byzantine empire by Muslims in 1453 was not a result of Western colonialism which started about a century later.

      As medieval Christian territories go, Byzantium had a considerably higher standard of living and education than most areas of Western Europe in the same period.

      1. By the way, this demise of the Byzantine empire started with voluntarily letting in large groups of Ottomans. They felt in Byzantium like home and, from there, attacked its northern neighbor – my country (Bulgaria), at that time divided into 3 parts. All three parts fell under Ottoman domination by the end of the 14th century. Last year, when Greece formed a smooth corridor for hundreds of thousands of Muslims, predominantly young men, to move north, I had a feeling of deja vu.

        1. Yes, but what else could the Greeks do? It is such a catastrophe that even now nobody can see it entirely. I am so sick and tired of every kind of Christianity and Islam, they are two sides of the same coin.

      2. Constantinople had high culture because it was not sapped for centuries and then sacked by the European tribes chased by pastoral nomad Huns. Of course later the Huns (Mongols) sacked the Muslim lands killing, some say 75% of the population of Iran, but then most of them converted to Islam, including the forerunners of the Ottomans

  4. Trouble is, the apologists are so buried in their own twisted logic and wrong headed reasoning, they cannot see the light. When death confronts them they would rather make excuses for death than appose it.

  5. …and this would be exactly why I see it as futile to attempt to “reform” Islam “from within.”

    I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for the likes of Maajid Nawaz, but Islam’s true hope comes from Maryam Namazie and those like her.

    Because the problem is Islam, it is religion, it is the very notion that faith is anything other than the worst vice an human can even theoretically indulge in.

    Yes yes — the claim is that those still within Islam will respect somebody with one foot still on their side of the line than those who leave the camp entirely. But this essay very plainly puts the lie to that — a lie that’s rather transparent to begin with. The mistrake lies in thinking that waving the “Islam” flag is what matters — whereas what actually matters is how closely you align with whatever faction.

    Would you be fooled by somebody who was an atheist but espoused universal Sharia on purely secular grounds? No? So what makes you think an Islamist is going to be fooled by a Muslim who espouses universal secularism on purely theological grounds?

    …which is why I would propose that the actual remedy will come through a full-frontal educational campaign directed at all these ancient superstitions. You can plausibly maintain a belief in them if you consider their holy texts to be credible accounts of historical events. But once you realize that there isn’t even any reason to think the biggest and most obvious stories in the texts happened in the first place, there’s no way to maintain a pretense that any of the rest of it is reliable.

    The problem with that, of course, is that any such education that puts the lie to Islam would also plainly put the lie to Christianity — and far too many Christians would rather die for Jesus at the hand of DAESH than admit to themselves how they’re being every bit as insane as the Muslims.

    It really is the case that there’s no more actual history in the holy texts than there is in Harry Potter. Yes, a few off-the-cuff mentions of things that coincide with reality, like place names and famous people or events — but otherwise not the slightest bearing on reality whatsoever. They are so painfully obviously fiction I can’t believe I have to explain this, and demonstrating their fictional nature is trivial…yet even atheists are too often loath to make such observations. Makes no sense to me.



    1. I agree with what you say and it makes perfect sense but believe there is another more physical campaign that must be fought at the same time. Life goes on or doesn’t for many and ISIS must be destroyed as is beginning to take place in Iraq and Libya. Maybe leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many but it must be done.

      1. I am overwhelmingly skeptical of the notion that we can bomb ourselves out of a situation we bombed ourselves into.

        Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was no paradise, but it was one of the least oppressive Muslim majority Middle Eastern countries. Women were a common sight in institutions of higher education, for example — and they weren’t wearing body sacks, either. Again, not to downplay how nasty it was…but it’s important to keep things in perspective and to recognize that it wasn’t as bad as its neighbors.

        I think we can all agree that post-Hussein Iraq is an hellhole that, amazingly enough, is actually worse than Saudi Arabia. Indeed, DAESH’s Iraq is about the worst place on the planet today.

        And I think we can also all agree that, had we not invaded Iraq, it would still be much the same as it had been before the invasion…far from a beacon of civilization, but at least still not as bad as its neighbors.

        I agree that the current situation is intolerable. And I can sympathize with the urge to do something, anything, that’s perceived as likely to help.

        But we must also face the reality that “doing something” all too often is the worst thing we can do, and that doing nothing, as bad and as frustrating as it may be, is the least worst option at our disposal.

        Consider if your car’s engine overheats in the middle of nowhere. Even if you’ve got a sick friend in the back seat, a friend who’s going to die if you don’t get her to the hospital in a timely manner…banging everything inside the engine compartment with large rocks isn’t going to make things better. Yes, it’s “something,” and it might even superficially resemble what you saw the mechanic doing the last time the car broke down. But it’s not going to fix the car, it’s not going to get your friend to the hospital, and it’s only going to make sure your car never actually ever runs again. Your friend may well be doomed to death…but how is throwing rocks at your car supposed to make the situation better?



        1. I was in no way attempting to justify Bush’s war or any other in Iraq. I believe we must start from now, not continue to hash over the past or all mistakes made. Today we have ISIS and your educational campaign is not likely to have much effect on them. We can write great speeches and even books on the current situation but ISIS will not be interested in this. When you have evil in the world, regardless of what caused it, it only seems sensible that some do something about it.

          And yes, bombs are being dropped but there are also people on the ground doing the dirty work to finish the job. There is nothing wrong with being a pacifist but right now we need more.

        2. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was no paradise, but it was one of the least oppressive Muslim majority Middle Eastern countries.

          The same thing could be said about Iran before the mad mullahs took over. As bad as the Shah was, he was better then the ayatollahs, admittedly a low bar.

        3. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a country where a minority was ruling over the majority. I think that all such regimes are very brutal, even if this is not easily evident from outside. A young woman from my country, convert to Islam, went to Iraq as a human shield immediately before the 2nd war. When she returned, she had not become supporter of the war, but had no kind words for the former Iraq. She said she had eye-witnessed how 4 men were executed in the street just because they were Shia.

          I agree that the 2nd war was a bad idea. However, things got really bad with the civil war in Syria. I see no reason to think that without the war in Iraq, Syria would be at peace. Moreover, I suppose that if Saddam was still in power by 2009, the “Arab spring” would affect Iraq, with results similar to those in Syria.

          In recent decades, the USA has intervened in Grenada, Panama, Serbia and other places. These interventions may be criticized, but it seems that they have disastrous results only in Muslim countries. On the other hand, we see disastrous turns also in Muslim countries where the USA has not intervened. So I suggest that we stop blaming ourselves for everything extremist Muslims do to other people and to themselves. I think that the idea that our bombing and intervention can do only harm is a boon to ISIS and other Islamists. They, on the contrary, never hesitate to intervene; after every failure, they think how to do it better next time. In this respect, I think we should learn from them.

        4. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was no paradise, but it was one of the least oppressive Muslim majority Middle Eastern countries. Women were a common sight in institutions of higher education, for example — and they weren’t wearing body sacks, either. Again, not to downplay how nasty it was…but it’s important to keep things in perspective and to recognize that it wasn’t as bad as its neighbors.

          Hate to pick a bone about a tangential subject, but thought I had to.

          What, exactly, is your definition of “oppressive”? And “not as bad as its neighbors”? By what criteria? By the rate of international aggression and crimes against humanity? Certainly not.

        5. There are discontinuities between pre- and post-2003 Iraq, but we should not ignore the continuities.

          Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi enrolled in Saddam University in 1996: the Leader of the IS Shura Council, Abu Arkan al-Ameri, is an ex-Saddam regime army officer; the Leader of the IS Military Council Abu Ahmad al-Alwani is an ex-commander in Saddam’s army; Khalaf al-Jumaili, Head of IS Security & Intelligence Council, is an ex-Saddam Intel officer; the IS Cabinet member al-Kharmoush was in Saddam’s secret police, the Mukhabarat; the list of ex-Saddam supporters goes on and on in the ISIS senior governmental structures.

          No wonder we see such a violent Sunni-based sectarian organization. But in terms of numbers the deaths per thousand in post-2003 in Iraq are nowhere near those of the 1980-2003 period.

          ISIS is competing with, and largely the aftermath of, a regime which managed to bomb 6 countries in the region, responsible for the deaths of an estimated 500,000 Iranians and the same number of Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq war, the cataclysmic decline in the population of the Marsh Arabs from an estimated 500,000 in the 50s to ca. 20,000 by 2003 and for 180,000 Kurds in the al-Anfal campaign, in which, let’s not forget, Saddam also transported Kurds to the south and had them shot into mass graves, Katyn-style.

          As for Iraqi women, yes, at one point in the 80s they had a high literacy rate (75%, iirc) but by 2003 this had fallen to 25% in the face of Saddam’s Salafi-inspired Faith Campaign, which immured women back into traditional roles.

          ISIS even recruits and trains foreign fighters and sponsors terrorism much as Saddam did.

          We often ask what ISIS does that Mohammed didn’t do: you could equally ask the question what ISIS does that Saddam didn’t do. The answer would be that ISIS openly boasts about it.

    2. “…it is the very notion that faith is anything other than the worst vice an human can even theoretically indulge in.”

      While believing in something irrespective of the evidence and/or the logic for or against it (I think that this is a decent definition of faith as practiced in religions) is definitely a vice, I’m sure that there are worse vices, including but not limited to malice, jealousy, and the desire to control the actions and thoughts of other humans.

    3. I don’t think wholesale intervention is any solution – only increases support for Isis. Muslims are not going to become atheist in any large percentage – but if they want to keep religion in the longer term they have to radically change it for the modern world. India and Pakistan avoided nuclear war in 2003. both the non Western superpowers are becoming more assertive and Russia particularly troublesome. We now have a situation where with Islamism, superpowers, nukes and catastrophes from global warming (not least economic ones) might lead us all back to fundamentalism, extreme poverty and dark ages. Whatever Muslims say there is just no way they are going to covert the other 6 billion people – in human history no group is ever supreme. More the flip side of jihadism is sectarian war. As it is they are destroying their civilisation

  6. Has anyone compiled a list that presents the actions of ISIS alongside the scriptural justifications found in the Qur’an? When I search for this I find lots of links to articles about how they are “perverting” or “misrepresenting” islam but few that just give a “they do x because the book says X” explanation. Seems like something Sam Harris should have done by now.

      1. I’m expecting Maajid to change his tagline suggesting “it’s got something to do with Islam” to “it’s got a whole hell of a lot to do with Islam.”

  7. Many Westerners, however, are already aware that claiming the attacks of the mujahidin to be senseless and questioning incessantly as to why we hate the West and why we fight them is nothing more than a political act and a propaganda tool. The politicians will say it regardless of how much it stands in opposition to facts and common sense just to garner as many
    votes as they can for the next election cycle. The analysts and journalists will say it in order to keep themselves from becoming a target for saying something that the masses deem to be “politically incorrect.” The apostate “imams” in the West will adhere to the same tired cliché in order to avoid a backlash from the disbelieving societies in which they’ve chosen to reside. The point is, people know that it’s foolish, but they
    keep repeating it regardless because they’re afraid of the consequences of deviating from the script.

    Damn. This is one of the best summations of our “Islamophobia” problem I’ve ever read.

  8. I remember reading lots of evidence here for the theory that poverty, lack of education, and low quality of life in general are the generators or accelerants of religious belief. Can’t there be multiple causes that interact? For instance, even if we say that the religious teachings of Islam are a primary cause of terrorism, perhaps it is just as true that the economic factors are what drive people to act on those teachings. (It is a frightening prospect, since the Old Testament teaches similarly violent ideas.) However, if the fastest way to correct fundamentalist belief is to improve foreign policy, the question of which is the root cause of violence becomes moot.

    1. Many of the volunteers do not come from poverty. Quite a few have been well educated and solidly middle class.

    2. The people the Old Testament preaches violence against no longer exist. The New Testament specifically says that people should abide by the laws of the land they’re living in.

      The Qur’an specifically calls for the death of Jews, atheists, pagans and all non-Muslims. All those people still exist. The role of all good Muslims is to spread Islam throughout the world, by whatever means necessary.

      Although there’s no doubt that improvements to foreign policy are required and that economic security makes a country more peaceful, there’s no guarantee it would create less fundamentalism. The US is the wealthiest country in the world and still has plenty of fundamentalists – in fact they see their wealth as proof that God likes what they’re doing. It can be argued that all that stops US fundamentalists doing things like killing gays is the law, and they are actively trying to change that.

      1. The New Testament specifically says that people should abide by the laws of the land they’re living in.

        That same New Testament also has red-letter text of Jesus commanding his followers to slaughter all non-Christians. As Jesus himself will do “any day now” in Armageddon. And that he came to bring not peace but a sword, that all who love their families more than him will have a special place in Hell, and so on.

        And the Q’ran has some quotes that sound as nice out of context as the ones from the Bible you’ve got in mind.

        If we’re comparing the holy texts themselves, there’s no meaningful difference. Both order their followers to conquer the world, both command hatred of outsiders, both promise salvation for adherence and eternal torment for disobedience. And, indeed, both set forth horrifically barbaric legal codes.

        And if we look at the historical practice of the two religions, again, there’s no meaningful difference. The world trembled under the boots of Crusaders and Conquistadors and Inquisitors every bit as much as it did under the boots of Jihadists.

        The difference is that the Western world largely defanged and discarded Christianity in favor of the Enlightenment. And, until the Islamic world truly has its own Enlightenment and discards Islam, Islam will continue to be the driving force in global horror.




        1. Yes, I agree about Christianity. I would add though that it’s been strongly affected by Enlightenment ideals to the extent that they claim them as their own. It has ameliorated their behaviour to a great extent.

      2. Those who are well-off themselves can be just as motivated by empathy for the less fortunate. The U.S. is rich, of course, but suffers from an extremely high Gini coefficient (income inequality.) I’d be surprised if killing gays became a real goal without a large helping of economic hardship added in. That could be because of the idea that we have to obey laws in a holy book in order to get divine blessing (and we get more extreme in obedience as we get more desperate.) Or maybe just human nature and practicality: the same reason we turn against subgroups who are weaker, less productive, or seen as untrustworthy by dint of less kinship when the going gets tough. Again the question is whether it is more helpful to address the holy teachings directly via education, or more helpful to address the economic troubles that maybe led to those teachings in the first place. If physical hardship (and the need for soldier production) tempted the authors to declare death for gays in the first place it might not help as much to try to teach modern believers that the text is wrong. Instead we ought to remove the temptation. That’s the argument for economic solutions as I see it: not that the religion is really peaceful and so we should look elsewhere for causes, but that the violent dogma is itself a symptom of economic hardship (even when it takes on a life of its own) and can’t be corrected unless its root cause is removed. After that the education is essential too: first we fight the germ, then fight for recovery.

        1. I agree the economic issues must be addressed. It’s just that with the small proportion of people who are extreme fundamentalists, I’m not sure it will make a difference. As was pointed out by jay above, it doesn’t seem to be poverty that’s motivating many of the worst. They leave comfortable middle-class lives to engage in holy war.

          1. But they (see _American Raj_, etc.) *also* say that they do what they do because of the conditions *of others*, including economic deprivation in places like the occupied territories.

    3. Yes but unlike an ideology, organised religions are about spreading the population and booting the numbers of the believers – t even when the people are prosperous …. his is what makes it keep its hold as it resonates with something ancient in us if not not sustainable in the long term (except by massive deaths from violence or environmental damage starting from the beginning)
      … unless the religion itself is largely secularised over time as happened to most of Western Christianity.

      1. As I said somewhere else earlier here – Christian trinity theology is influenced by Greek philosophy and even from the beginning (suppressed to just the remote monasteries during the dark ages but very vigorous during the middle ages) Christians argued their faith with Aristotlian philosophy – and at other times Platonic philosophy – Christianity always had an element that was open to philosophy – plus of course from the start its a religion – especially Roman Christianity -that separates church and state – even during the middle ages (St Paul was a Roman citizen)

  9. Ben wrote above, “Because the problem is Islam, it is religion, it is the very notion that faith is anything other than the worst vice an human can even theoretically indulge in.”

    Yes, yes, and yes.

    Now what can we do, and I ask in a practical way, to stem the tide, to change this situation, especially given that so many religious people have a real propensity towards violence when their beliefs are challenged.

    Carl Kruse

    1. If you could persuade several billion parents all over the world to give over the teaching of their children to secular schools, you might begin to make some progress. The problem is adults hold strongly to the things they learn at their mother’s knee, but it’s hard to come between a mother and her child.

  10. More kittehs, please. This plus Trump are just too depressing for a nice summer’s day (and we don’t get cherry pies to ease the pain…)

    If we could only sic that amazing Gold Star father Mr. Kahn onto isis an the donald he would fix everyone’s clocks.

  11. The piece explains very clearly what ISIS wants and why it fights. And if you want to reject its reasons, then you’ll have to explain why the movement’s main organ of propaganda is simply lying to the West.

    Well, playing devil’s advocate here…it seems like there is a great reason for them to lie, unintentionally. I mean that they are also lying to themselves! Religion does a better job at motivating warriors than economic improvement. If I wanted to correct large-scale injustice and economic inequality then I might fight for a time but soon the short term losses might seem worse than the original problem. Religious commitment to the cause lets us fight past the local minimums in search of the global maximum (for our kin and their offspring, if not for us.)

    1. All right, since you don’t trust what they say, and clearly know their real motivations better than they do, what is their motivation for terrorism? If it’s economic inequality and justice, why aren’t Hindus from India committing terrorism, or the poor of southern Africa?

      1. Terrorism seems like it might often be a side effect. The struggle to survive creates the formation of certain religious ideas, like the rituals that help distinguish kinship. Or the idea that death in battle against the other clan is rewarded in the afterlife, or that there will be a final Armageddon in which all enemies will be (divinely) defeated. Terrorism in the sense of organized violence against civilians without any immediate military goal serves as a way to achieve that reward while provoking that final battle. Other actions which look similar might instead be revenge for earlier wrongs, but that’s more basic. I agree that not all religions or people groups hit on the ideas of martyrdom or Armageddon–peaceful solutions might be better in the long run even if they don’t motivate as well in the short term. Plus there’s the problem of when both armies at Armageddon are expecting divine help. On top of that, I don’t discount the role that another side-effect of big brains–untreated extreme mental illness–might play in the process of becoming a terrorist. So we should strive for economic solutions as far as possible, then attempt to educate, and don’t forget mental health–it will probably never completely be solved…and there might be some force required at times.

      2. I should add to the theory some facts: in the linked article the authors claim that if their enemies were to capitulate, then ISIS would be happy to stop attacking them (although they would still hate them as unbelievers) and instead levy the “jizyah” tax on non-Muslims. However I’m sure there would be lots of death sentences for various types of unbelievers, if only to lessen the likelihood of rebellion (at least that’s how it has played out so far.)

  12. These are exactly the items we should expect when asking to preview the unadulterated dinner menu of a maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew. Barbarism du jour with a side of Wahhabi sauce.

    1. Its not just wahhabism – though the obsession with killing even other sunni muslims deemed not pure enough isn’t orthodox

  13. Did anyone notice they are living in the year 1437 of the islamic calendar?! So no wonder they have all these mediaval attitudes. Lolz.

  14. The exit that atheists’ offer is much nicer. And it’s not true that you have to make fun of religious people once you’re on the other side of that exit. Do whatever you damn well please – as long as you’re living harmoniously with the rest of us, we don’t care.

    1. Wish I could remove that apostrophe after atheists’. I edited it so that it wasn’t possessive any longer, but forgot to remove the apostrophe. :/ Oh well. I’ll just have to carry on, somehow…

  15. Thanks for getting this Cindy.

    Watching this I feel like … “I told you so” to a whole lot of people I know in Australia

  16. Just heard the Rouen service and they are commenting that the religions of the book all believe in one God. There is a section in the Reliance of the Traveller where Muslims are told to explain their faith to non Muslims of the religions of the book as “We all believe in the same God” even though the book makes clear Muslims do not – so presumably to put the infidel off guard.

    Both Hidaya guide to the Islamic laws (“Institutes” in book 2 which is 10 long detailed chapters on obligation of violent jihad, how to wage war, approved ways of dividing/taking spoils, treatment of dhimmis (conquered People of the book who are allowed to keep their faith so long as they pay heavier tax and live in submission (e.g. Bat Ye’or’s work or The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise by Dario Fernandez-Moreira. Both Hidaya and Reliance of the Traveller agree on the details of this. Hidayas – Hanifi school is known as the most moderate and isn’t quite so harsh about commanding the right and standard of apostasy amongst Muslims.
    So in The Reliance of the Traveller (Shaafi School law guide) there is a lot on jihad in the Justice chapter, it says the same important things but in a lot less space! Sections entitled:

    “The obligatory character of (violent) Jihad”
    Its assumed there is permanent war with non muslim lands until they convert or are conquered and occupied and the only peace is temporary treaties.
    “who is obliged to fight for jihad”
    “the objectives of jihad”
    “the rules of warfare”
    “truces” (which must be for the benefit of larger Muslim strategy of conquest and only temporary not more than 10 years), People point to the verses of the Quran saying to fight those who break their treaties but why is there need for treaties anyway? Also the Hidaya (Hanifa guide to Islamic law specifies a preference for treaty rather than truce – with onerous conditions such as tribute, and allowing Islam to be preached in the tributary land – which are Hidaya’s preferred basis for observing the truce in addition to the condition that the enemy refrain from hostilities. Hidaya likewise says truce/treaty only acceptable if suits the continuing strategy of jihad and is not more than 10 years (though the ottoman’s often had treaties as long as 20 years)
    “The spoils of battle”
    “Non Muslim subjects of the Islamic state (Ahl Al-Dhimma)
    The Saafi treatment of Dhimmis outlined is more lenient than was often practised
    “The Non-Muslim poll tax”

    Plus in Reliance of the Traveller theres whole section on
    “commanding the right and forbidding the wrong” on how as an individual muslim to impose the faith on muslims who are not observing strictly enough, sometimes even by physical force.
    The chapter on Apostasy from Islam
    section 8.0 Apostasy from Islam (Ridda) it specifies 8.1 a person who has reached puberty and is sane, who apostatises from islam the penalty is death.
    8.0 says apostasy – the rule is more strict than in Hidaya – constitutes things as minor as a sarcastic response to a ruling such as responding to being told to trim your nails because it is sunna (a rule of Islam), with “I would not do it even if it were”.

  17. I honestly don’t know what to believe, but I’m old enough to recognize marketing when I see it… I would trust this info about as much as info from anyone trying to sell me something

    1. Okay, then you trust the motivations imputed to them by people like Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan. After all, they’re not selling something (LOL!).

      Whose explanations WOULD you trust?

  18. I don’t understand why the reason for ME’s mess can’t be both religion on one hand and the history of unnecessary Western meddling in their affairs on the other.

    And I really don’t think there is a society on earth in which the concept of “hate” does not exist. Just look at the “hate” directed toward political figures in America! The video and the article constantly remind us that they “hate” us. So what? Hate alone, is not a crime.

    Interestingly enough, the article proposes a “temporary truce”! Wasn’t that the status quo with the soviets for almost a century? I find it interesting that even ISIS can find something in Islam to justify peace! Who knew? Even the craziest of them all is still open to negotiation!

    1. I agree. See above; one needs an explanation for why Islam, and in particular, violent versions or expressions thereof, are popular. That itself cannot be done merely on religious grounds, but like any social fact has many aspects. One of them is great power politics, including things like Russians massacring Chechens, Americans invading Iraq, Americans supporting client states which are repressive (Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc.), French massacring Algerians, and so on. If one takes ISIS at their word that they are Islamic, one should also take individuals at their words when they say why the ideologies were attractive.

  19. Maybe I’m being over-sensitive, but they don’t seem very keen on christians or sodomites do they?

    They just need a hug. Preferably from a christian sodomite.

  20. Personally I found this, very clear text, as an honest expression of what they think or fantasize when looking from their position the “chosen enemy”. Obviously the (probably young) author has extensive update of what is written in western press, social networks, from politicians, analysts etc and actually tried to answer to them, to the West, the powerful enemy. The central point was about the “senseless violence” that is attributed almost unanimously and automatically to their hideous acts. This was the central subject of the article. The reason the article was written. It tried to explain that, after all, all this demonstrated brutality is not senseless. Behind all these there is a very clear logic and justification: You will not find madness here! All are calculated.

    I will leave aside the religious justification who once more tries to reinforce what we already know by now as Islamic ideology. Then what messages lurks between the lines? Sentimentally looks like an explanation a bitten bad boy gives to his powerful but estranged “father” (especially if the author was born or lived extensively in western countries “of affluence” – we can securely assume it) why has become now his adversary, about his motives, and why all this bad is necessary. He wants to be at least understood: “Father” you are wrong! Not me! I have right! And what I do is not a dead end that leads only to destruction. There are ways out of this for all if you accept the right, this God given certain right.

    Look the reality. IS is now bitten. Mosul probably soon will be lost. Some thousand fighters try to win over very powerful enemies. But dares to admit that even the bombarding stops they will cease operations in the west only temporarily. They betray willingly their strategy: First to secure the immediate interests, for example in Syria, then resuming even worse operations against the West. So brave! They say to the powerful enemy blatantly that you have no choice whatever you do: “Come and destroy me, if you dare, or submit to me”. I am tempting to ask, like David and Goliath? Or just like an ant to an Elephant? Something heroic: I can be a winner, I can be a martyr. Even I cannot win for now, a heroic act of holly desperation embraces me!

    And then another close “reality”. A vast virtual Muslim community, ideally fantasized, in waiting. Like the cavalry in old western movies, will come at the last moment to save the desperate settlers from the… Indians. Somewhere behind the hills the desperate heroes want to see the raised dirt of their own troops coming as avengers to reverse the fortunes of everybody in the scene! God’s certain!

    1. Its not heroic. Its revolting. All they value is killing and raping civilians for their blood sucking vampiric necritic belief system.

  21. The BBC website (not sure about telly) continues its new annoying habit of prepending “so-called” to every mention of “Islamic State.”

    What next? Will they start calling Clinton the candidate for the “so-called Democratic Party”? Or how about “so-callled Greenpeace” the environmentalists? Or maybe even Jacob Zuma the president of the “so-called Republic of South Africa.”

    It’s reassuring to know that while people are more capable of naming brown people’s organisations than brown people themselves.

    1. There’s a difference between Republic of South Africa and Islamic State. Islamic State is the name taken by a small number of a certain type of Muslim to represent THEIR state. Its a bit like the Ulster Scots or British calling Northern Ireland “Christian State” or “Protestant State”.
      Especially in that the Islamic State is not internationally recognised.

      “so-called” is perfectly apt in this case.

  22. “Especially in that the Islamic State is not internationally recognized.”

    Then “The Islamic so-called State” might be correct. But “so-called Islamic” is not remotely apt.

    1. so-called “Islamic State” is apt, which is the used form as I understand it, the whole name. There are a number of Islamic states, this one has appropriated the name and often puts the article in front of it.
      I knew a Lebanese guy in London in the 1980’s: when asked where he came from, he used to say “The Arab World”.

        1. The root motivator is political, any religion would do to justify it. Also no religion would do: Pan Arabism, secular Fascism

          1. Any religion…

            Like those darn extremist Jains…always blowing up themselves and others when times get tough…

            1. Jains profess non-violence the same as Christians often do. New Testament is pretty non-violent in principle. They do rationalise violence in certain circumstances however.
              “When times get tough” millions of Europeans also get themselves blown up for God, King and Country. You can always find an ideology.
              Even Christian president’s drop atomic bombs.

              1. New Testament is pretty non-violent in principle.

                This notion is a Goebbels-style “big lie” perpetuated by Christians, and one that I really wish would be called out more often than it is.

                The whole point of the New Testament is that Jesus will soon return to lead the Final Battle of Armageddon — and that, at its triumphant conclusion, all Christians will join Jesus in Heaven for an eternity of bliss whilst all non-Christians will be cast into the pits of Hell for an eternity of infinite torture. In red-letter text after red-letter text, Jesus emphatically reaffirms this. Especially in Luke 19, Jesus tells that very story as a parable whose point is that Christians today should get an head start on the slaughter of non-Christians. Most people are familiar with the “I come not to bring peace but a sword” passages — passages which are embedded amongst others that command hatred of family and that only Jesus is deserving of love.

                Yes, yes — you can find a few out-of-context quotes about love and mercy and the like…but, again, stuck in the middle of other passages where “love” is of the divine, coupled with great antipathy for the mortal realm, especially the non-Christian mortal realm, most especially the Jewish mortal realm.

                It’s wonderful that Christians have matured far beyond their holy texts, and they are to be commended most highly for that. But the texts themselves remain unchanged…and quite horrific.

                Indeed, it’s not at all difficult to propose a parallel of a de-fanged Nazism that retains Mein Kampf as its central text, only “struggle” is reinterpreted to mean inner self-struggle for righteousness, and the purity of race is considered metaphorical and non-racist purity of spirit, and so on. I think we can all agree that we’d much prefer Nazis who took that sort of an approach over the fundamentalist ones we’re all familiar with…but would any of us really be comfortable with a reformed love-and-peace Nazi still calling Mein Kampf a good and noble book? And would any of us be happy echoing such sentiments ourselves?




              2. The bowdlerization of Mein Kampf has been done: in a Market Harborough 2nd hand bookshop a couple of weeks back, I came across an old copy of Adolf’s greatest seller with 250 pages. Yup, someone had edited it: presumably to keep just the good bits. Hitler for Beginners.

                At 45 smackers for a poorly-bound copy of Hitler’s good side, I thought, “Nah, too dear.”

              3. I agree, I wouldn’t pay that much for that. I might leaf through it for a few minutes, which might or might not prompt me to find a copy in a library…but I wouldn’t pay that much, on principle alone.

                I’ll admit to a bit of surprise at learning that somebody had actually done that. Hard to imagine what stated and actual reasons could prompt such a thing.



              4. The thing is even his best mates would never have described old Schickelgruber as ‘pithy’. The Koran is like Mein Kampf without the boring bits. Hess, who transcribed MK, must have had a learning difficulty: that, or autism.

          2. “any religion would do to justify it”

            And that’s why we see so many gay people being thrown off buildings by Quakers. Also why the world is in turmoil from attacks by Methodists.

            1. That’s exactly the point. You use the blanket term Islam to cover a whole spectrum of beliefs and denominations.
              Sure an orthodox Quaker might not throw a gay off a building. But a Quaker does not speak for all Christians. Christianity has a homophobic history. With Islam, you are not making that distinction between denominations. But Christians do murder abortionists. And Norwegian Fascists commit mass murder and get written off as Christian or anti Islamic. The latter does not mean that Christianity is the cause.
              I’ve seen Catholics and Protestants murdering each other for forty years, and lived amongst it. But its not religion. Its politics. Who owns the land, has the jobs, has political power, belongs to which ethnic group, has historical resentment, feels unfairly treated (whether justified or not). Religion is the most obvious cultural or ideological identifier amongst two groups with serious differences. Take that religion away or substitute it with another religion, and those differences will be still there.
              If you think you can equate Quakers and Methodists with extremist Muslim fundamentalist terrorists, you are cherry picking the goody Christians to compare with the baddy Muslims.

              1. Kev, in the thirty years of the Troubles as many civilians were killed as are murdered globally in two months of jihadi attacks.

                Yes, there are attacks by Christians, abortion-related bombings, Breivik etc, but these attentats nowadays are outliers. It is far more difficult, although just about possible, to sketch a straight line from Christian doctrine to those terrorist attacks.

                Whereas it is extraordinarily simple to understand the form of Islamic terrorist attacks by looking at the 3 Islamic holy texts. Why did neither the IRA nor the UDA use suicide bombings? Because there is no doctrine of martyrdom-jihad in Christianity. Imagine if the Catholics in Norn Irn had been Muslims: it would have been far more likely that we would have seen suicide bombings during the Troubles. Yes the social and political differences might still have been there, but how one reacts to them depends on one’s ideology. Imagine if the Catholics in NI had been the relatively quietist Ahmadis; there would in all likelihood have been no suicide bombings. What if they had been Salafis? Mayhem, probably.

              2. It is far more difficult, although just about possible, to sketch a straight line from Christian doctrine to those terrorist attacks.

                I would agree with pretty much everything you wrote, but I would also amend this sentence to read along the lines of, “It is far more difficult to sketch a straight line from the doctrines of the modern major Christian denominations to those terrorist attacks.”

                We already know that, historically, Christianity was every bit as much a state-run terrorist effort as Islam is today; just see the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadors, and so on. And there’s more than enough red-letter instances of Jesus ordering his followers to put the sword to non-Christians to justify such. The Islamic equivalents might be more explicit about suicide attacks, but Jesus is quoted enough times about self-abnegation and caring more for the hereafter than the here-and-now that it wouldn’t take much to come up with a Christian theological justification, perhaps even mandate, for them.

                The two religions as practiced today are starkly different. But they’re cut from the same cloth and their histories for the initial baker’s dozen centuries or so are indistinguishable.




              3. Ben, I’m Dermot C, so yeah I basically agree. Parenthetically, the Gospel idea of a Parousia in the generation of Jesus actually has useful implications for our world. It never happened: so mainstream Christianity can quietly postpone then shelve the rather embarrassing prophecy. 2 Peter started the process.

                Islam, more wisely, did place the Day of Judgement in an undefined future. And to the extent that Muslims believe it (and more do than Christians), it’s logical for Muslims to still prepare for it. That has bad consequences.

                The reasons for my change of name are too arcane and dull to explain.

            2. I’m guessing you are a newcomer here. There are very few who comment here who are unaware of Christian abortion terrorism or who have not heard of religious wars among non-Islamic religions.

              You seem, also, to be perfectly happy to acknowledge that ideologies can motivate people to do awful things. Except for religious ideologies. Now why is that?

              1. ‘I’m guessing you are a newcomer here.’
                Not true. Several years.

                ‘There are very few who comment here who are unaware of Christian abortion terrorism or who have not heard of religious wars among non-Islamic religions.’

                You brought up the Quaker/Methodist argument.

                ‘You seem, also, to be perfectly happy to acknowledge that ideologies can motivate people to do awful things. Except for religious ideologies.’

                Not true. That’s not what I am saying.
                I argued that the causes are generally not, or rather never, reducible to only religion
                (It’s the religion stupid).

                If it were Islam the major issue, then why is it that it is happening now in the way it is, after 14 hundred years of Islam? It would be hard to come up with a convincing argument without invoking causes that have little to do with religion.
                (Maybe it isn’t just the religion stupid).

              2. “why is it that it is happening now in the way it is, after 14 hundred years of Islam?”

                It has been going on for 1400 years. We’re just experiencing the latest round.

                May I recommend Islamic Fascism by Hamed Abdel-Samad.

                I would also suggest you check in with the many ex-Muslims who would argue strongly with you. To say nothing of the Islamic State “gentlemen” themselves. They are absolutely certain what is motivating them.

                But then, since religion just can’t be the motivation, they must all be wrong. Colonialism. There’s the cause!

  23. I’m quite aware that they’re Fascists. Politics.
    Nazism had its initial support from German and Austrian Christians but the underlying issues were socio-political, historical, tribal, economic. The particular religion/denomination involved was the one that happened to be theirs.
    I’m not arguing that the cause is all due to Colonialism. I did not mention Colonialism at all. But it also concerns me when an issue gets oversimplified to a single cause.
    I am not disputing that they hate the ‘West’, but its not only for religious reasons, not by a long way.

    1. Of course, religion isn’t really involved. After all, there are lots of perfectly decent Muslims. And sometimes Christians do horrible things, too.


      1. A year ago I was saying exactly what kev has said here – that it’s never religion, that economics and politics are behind all human behaviour.

        I have since changed my mind, after learning more about Islam.

        I like to think of it this way – if Jains, or Quakers, were the rulers of Saudi Arabia, gays would not be executed for their sexual orientation. Indonesian maids would not be beheaded for ‘sorcery’. Women would not be executed for adultery.

        The answer is in how Islamists treat their own people. Even if they were not turning their hatred towards the west, they would still be subjugating their own people in horrific ways. A Jain simply cannot find religious justification for that. An extremist Jain is not going to murder a bunch of people in order to go to Heaven after leading a life of debauchery.

        1. The West is standing with a rattlesnake in its hands and doesn’t know what to do with it.
          One tooth or the poison is religion, but not both. The questions to answer are: how did the West come to have a rattler in its hand? Why in this particular moment in time? What are the teeth and the poison. What can be done about it? To what extent is it my fault that I am in this situation. How do I avoid it happening again?
          The ‘It’s the religion, stupid’ response is equivalent to just saying, ‘Oh, I’ve been bitten by this nasty snake’.

          1. Not a great analogy, IMO. The “West” isn’t standing with a snake in it’s hand, the world is. Most victims of the Islamic venom are not living in the “West”.

            Yes, there are other poisons in the world but this particular venom is very much religious in nature.

            1. I referred to the West because the video/ISIS pdf spent a lot of time saying why ‘we’ hate ‘you’, in which I would interpret ‘you’ as being the ‘West’. I’m assuming that the document is a reference to Eisenhower’s ‘Why do they hate us?’ of 1958.

              ‘Yes, there are other poisons in the world but this particular venom is very much religious in nature.’

              The many other poisons relating to how ISIS comes to be active can’t be summarised in a five minute comment. Fall of the Ottoman Empire, carve up of the Middle East after the First World War, oil, foreign policies affecting the region in the period after the Second World War, oil, fueling of Iran-Iraq war for ten years during Cold War, Iraq Wars, 911, oil, the destabilisation due to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria, fostering of autocratic regimes for political/economic convenience. Did I mention oil?
              That a psychotic, autocratic, Fascist element has been biding its time and emerges from that lot is not surprising. Since Islam constitutes the point of reference for the whole area this group rationalises itself with a psychotic, autocratic, Fascist interpretation of Islam. The key here is that its aims are psychotic, autocratic, Fascist. That it includes elements of Islam is an overlay.
              Religions serve the underlying socio-political agenda: that’s what they do.
              Polytheism for early Rome in its genocidal period, Christianity as it expanded across Europe and needed a convenient monotheistic religion to appeal to its varied citizenry,
              a vertical schism as East and West diverge in their interests, then Catholicism for Vaticanocentric Europe, Protestantism to cater for North European colonialist expansion and slavery, Mormonism and Evangelicalism for the New World.
              The point I’m trying to make is that you can bend religion to your exigencies. Its so malleable. Take the religion out and those exigencies remain.
              As I said before, even a Christian can find justification for dropping an atomic bomb on thousands of people.

              Its Fascism, Stupid, but we’ll call it religion. Or shall we call it Islam.

              1. No religions don’t serve the underlying socio political agenda – although they are products of agrarian or urban civilisations with class divides – in a context of settled way of life they are designed to produce maximum surviving babies for traditional pre 20th Century conditions. Women used to have to have around 8 babies each on average just to keep the population going. Huge mortality used to happen in first 5 years of life worldwide. Disease death phenomenal When vaccinations, antibiotics, clean water pumps etc sent infant mortality crashing down from the 1960s on. Poor people used infanticide or sending children away to child labor/servitude/death to deal with unwanted pregnancies int he absence of contraception at times when people malnourished and maternal death from childbirth very high or they had other very young children and not enough resources to care for two infants at a time. For agricultural lands that were overburdened there was massive warfare. Safe contraception from 1960s on came in the misogynist, violent traditionalist religions weren’t needed . Don’t suppose the left wing is intersested in the free down loads of the Yale lectures and notes of Professor Robert Wyman global problems of population growth

          2. Sunni and Shia would quite happily wipe each other off the face of the earth if they could. This is political Islam. Islam is not only a religion, it is a way of life. Politics cannot be separated from Islam. Islam *only* spread through force. If you did not convert, you were, in most cases, murdered.

            The war in Iraq did have a hand in creating ISIS, absolutely, but only because the rifts between Sunni and Shia existed previously. The west did not create the animosity between Sunni and Shia. If the west did not exist, Sunni and Shia Islamists would still happily, cheerfully even, wipe one another out. And they would do this because, in Islam, the ‘wrong’ kind of Muslim, along with any kind of non-believer or apostate, deserves death.

            Jains and Quakers don’t have a history of forcing their religion on people at the point of a sword. Jains don’t believe that rape and murder of non-believers will send them to Heaven. An extremist Jain will not find justification for rape and murder in his holy book.

          3. Well, Kev, it depends how far back you want to go. One could wonder what a religion which started in Mecca became the state religion from Morocco to Indonesia. Tom Holland named his book, ‘In the Shadow of the Sword’ for a reason.

            One could wonder why the Middle East Muslim countries are not only Arab, but Persian and Turkish, too. One could ask where the Iranian Zoroastrians are: and where the Greek Christians from 1,000 years ago are on the Turkish landmass. One might want to look into how the Turks now live in Turkey rather on the steppe.

            One could recall the Tsar 163 years ago calling the Ottoman Empire the ‘sick man of Europe. Or the British stepping in to stop the Russian Empire from breaking up the Ottoman Empire 138 years ago. Or the actual breaking up of the ME under the Sevres Treaty.

            Yet you won’t find any Middle Eastern country as a colony of the western powers or Russia: nor have they been for decades. Islamic mores dominate the area. Sharia takes different forms at different times and in different countries: in an expanding economy like Iraq in the 70s even the position of women can improve. And yes, even in the Muslim world, dictators and authoritarians play the nationalist as opposed to the Umma card: as a Muslim, one could easily imagine the dissolution of national borders to create a pan-Arab House of Islam. This has not happened: Iraqi Shi’as did not support Iran and Iranian Sunnis did not support Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war. Hashemite Jordan remains wary of putschist Palestinians.

            Even the Sunni/Shi’a split sometimes breaks down. Shi’a Hezbollah trained al-Qaeda in suicide bomb techniques in the 90s: Iran still secretes leading al-Qaeda elements within its borders.

            The west has generally been reluctant and half-hearted in its colonial designs on the Middle East. So for that matter has been Russia, the relationship has been mainly economic. Yet the west, France and the UK, tried to introduce liberal norms, the Russians to work with already established authoritarian ways.

            Russia supports Assad, in turn supported by Iran, and now Kerry is increasingly turning a blind eye to the genocidal campaign of Assad, aided by Putin, Khameini and Hezbollah. So that Aleppo children burn tires to create a no-fly zone, and the Free Syrian Army, after years of fruitless appeals to the west and the UN, now fights alongside Jabhet Fateh al-Sham, AQ in Syria. This holds the seeds of a disastrous future for Syria, whence more refugees have fled in the last 3 months than Palestinians left Palestine in 1948.

            The totalitarian and authoritarian politics are deeply embedded in the region: Islam, in whatever form it takes, is the anti-secular instruction manual.

            1. ‘The totalitarian and authoritarian politics are deeply embedded in the region: Islam, in whatever form it takes, is the anti-secular instruction manual.’

              That’s exactly what I am trying to say: if there is a totalitarian and authoritarian political mindset, that is the root issue.

              1. In all honesty, I think that yours a partial reading of my previous comment, Kev.

                There are different forms of totalitarian mind-set. Yes, original Ba’athism was influenced directly by fascism and Yemen’s marxist dictatorship reflected its status as a client of the USSR. Yet France experimented with secularity in the ME, and the UK with constitutional monarchy. None lasted: some transformed into authoritarian Islamist regimes.

                So despite the ME nationalist polities of the post WWII years, what one could call Reformation Islam such as Wahhabism or fundamentalist Islam like that of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1928 stepped in where the independent modernising ME states failed.

                Yes, the MB ideology was a response to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, but it wasn’t in general a secular yet peculiarly autocratic response such as Ataturk’s. It was a reply based on a very inconvenient fact: that it is the most plausible reading of the 3 Islamic holy texts.

                The great advantage which Islam has in the area is its communications. The word can go out every Friday in the mosques, face to face and all the more visceral for that. You could argue that Gaddafi, Saddam, Assad, Khomeini the Saud family and Erdogan have only ridden the Islamist wave for etatist purposes, that they have introduced Sharia, or wish to, but sooner or later you have to admit that they really believe it and that the ideology itself is a driver of their actions.

                You have to ask yourself the question, what would they do if they could do what they want? In ISIS we have the answer. And we only know so much about them because they are happy to tell us. Saddam, in his Salafist Faith Campaign, did the same, only on a much grander scale.

                Sooner or later, one has to credit Islamists with responsibility for their own actions and Middle Easterners with the ability to think for themselves: they are not adolescents who have no option but to have a tantrum when things don’t go their way. If you, Kev, had been raised in the Middle East, would you want to be in ISIS or would you be Nasser Dashti, this brave secularist from Kuwait?

                As he says, “How can an ‘erroneous’ understanding (of Islam) continue for over 14 centuries?…I believe it is time…to remove religion from the public sphere.” (7 mins)


              2. As for your comment about oil, Kev, really you should do your homework.

                Firstly, do you really want one tenth of the world’s oil supplies under the control of Saddam’s gangster crime family? No? OK. Imagine yourself as the CEO of, say, Exxon. Would you have been totally happy to support the risks of the 2nd Iraq War? I wouldn’t have been.

                Let’s look at the who now invests in Iraqi oil. Is it the US and the UK, the main liberators of Iraq? No.

                It’s the Dutch, Malaysians, Chinese, French, British, French, Italians, Americans, Koreans, Turkish, Angolans, Japanese. Oh, I nearly forgot, the Russians as well.

                If this was an imperialist war for Iraqi oil, the US and the UK did a thoroughly bad job of keeping Russia and China out of their sphere of influence. Things have moved on since your WWI mind-set.

                And these contracts guarantee 25% of the profits to go to the Iraqi state at a minimum. Not ideal from an Iraqi point of view, by no means, but easily enough to produce a surplus which could fund a liberal, secular democracy. If PM al-Abadi was so minded.

              3. Which the religion (Islam) very much encourages. Patricia Crone, God’s Rule. Moreover the Quran is held to be the literal word of god as a central tenet that all muslims must believe – whereas for the Torah and bible are just inspired by god for Jews and Christians. And Christianity had church state division from the beginning (at least Roman or western christianity), whilst the endless reverses of the jews led them to comprehensively reform their religion. A personal illustration of this from a person of liberal muslim background (enyah) talking to an ex salafi and both agreeing the religion is more authoritarian than others on average to start with. Enyah does lots of talks with ex Christians and Jews too but still agrees islam is more extreme on average.
                And its interested in hierarchy and control by a devout ruler first, poverty and economic equality a very poor second (see my earlier posts on this topic re Hideya. They just have the one tax not large income and property tax for social security, and part of this is used to upkeep mosques etc. Like the Catholic notion tithing. Mohammed after all, was a merchant.

            2. Islam encourages authoritarianism – both at family level, community level (e.g. the Syafi school has a subchapter on forbidding wrong and commanding right authorising everyone to police everyone else on being a good muslim, short of breaking the laws of the ruler.). and of course at rulership level – the guides to interpretation of sharia law in the same Syafi school says people must absolutely obey the ruler so long as the ruler is devout – only grounds for removal is if the ruler does not respect sharia.

              I do apologise for the soundcloud imbed – i forgot to break the link so it wouldn’t do that.

  24. To Dermot O’Sullivan

    I only mentioned oil as a series of (non-religious) elements influencing the region and concerning the main subject of the blog. As your detailed interventions attest, the issues are complex, and as my argument premises, they are far from being only related to religion (I would say the opposite actually). I was making no assertions about Imperialist exploitation
    of oil as you seem to think I was.
    I agree that outside interests don’t include only Europe and the USA as the ‘West’, however the ISIS pdf and the video use this polarising term too. A concise alternative is problematical: non ME countries with the exclusion of Israel? Non Arab, ME States. Non-Islamic ME states.
    I wasn’t wishing to go into the history in detail as you have done, or even express opinions on it, but the tenet of the subject: its the religion stupid, I find simplistic and disturbing.

    To change a religion you need to change the mindset behind it. Those changes will likely come from anything but religion.
    Religion is always politics.

    1. Religion is a lot older than secular ideology and because its obsessed with reproductive norms and geared to upholding harsh family norms and gender norms that were necessitated by older conditions it has lasted over literally thousands of years in some cases as ideologies come and go over decades. The material circumstances that necessitated it have changed (rampant infant 0=5 years mortality, lack of birth control other than child murder, limited means of resource access/use encouraging extreme class division or slavery). Mohammed had 60 slaves in his life. According to a London School of Economics paper I read on Islamic attempts to reform slavery in history (such as they are), the Muslim Brotherhood have never renounced slavery Ever. I have seen their postings celebrating it and promising it would abolish refugee crises forever by simply utilising them as slaves so long as they are non muslim! Also according to Maajid nawaz when he was in Egyptian prison, Muslim brotherhood people were explaining how to rape female slaves in the proper sharia government were eventually implemented.

      1. Whenever apologists for Islam say ‘it’s just poiltics, not religion’ or ‘Muslims have a legit grievance against the West’ I remind them that Islamic nations treat their own people in a brutal, savage manner.

        If the West did not exist, if the USA had not invaded Iraq, Saudi Arabia would still be beheading gay people.

        1. I’m not an apologist for Islam, but it is you who is saying that ‘it’s religion stupid’. If the political conditions didn’t make it possible, there would be no resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism. Look at what those political conditions are and religion will only be a part of it.
          You can’t separate politics and religion.

              1. Fascism and Nazism both grew from cultures that were predominantly and broadly culturally Cristian. Does that mean that Fascism and Christianity are also made for each other. There are no ‘literal’ or ‘true’ interpretations of religious texts principally because they are inevitably in contradiction with each other and therefore open to interpretation. You can find what you want: cherry picking. Old Testament, New Testament and Islamic texts are hardly logical or coherent in any case.
                If IS makes religious arguments to justify its psychotic behaviour, I’m not prepared to take its statements at face value concerning its true motive as Cindy is trying to argue.

              2. cindy is saying all cultures have genocidal potentials Id say also that Fascism was an extreme ideology separate from Christianity from the hyper abstractionist Platonist elements of philosophy that reduce things to simplistic theories and rely on purely deductive logic with little regard for empirical evidence. Market ideology can be like this too. Religions can be like this only they don’t try to rationalise it and nazism was not Christian – it was a secular ideology. However all traditionalist religions can be extremely violent.

                – an extreme righteous us and them ideology that was defeated. Extreme religion is a worry. I would argue Christianity is mostly watered down today but Islam isn’t. I don’t want to see a resurgence of traditionalist values everywhere in response to Islam.

              3. …and then there’s the endless islamic jew hate

                BBC documentary – Blaming the Jews
       [to stop embed]

                The jews are eternal enemies of Muslims regardless of Palestine
       [to stop embed]


                Nazi Sheikhs, Joel Whitney interviews Paul Berman
                e.g. Lots of stuff such as
                ” Nazi propaganda, mostly radio, but also leaflets, called on Arabs and Muslims to rise up and massacre the Jews. And the Mufti was especially virulent in his calls for this and issued these calls in an ancient Islamic language, sometimes quoting some hadith or scriptural traditions from Islam.
                the Mufti had a great prestige among the Nazi leaders and agitated forcefully and publicly in Europe to urge the Nazis to go further and kill still more people. ….. The Mufti was calling successfully for the Nazis to show no clemency and instead send these Jews to Poland, which is to say to be murdered.

                Plus Theres plenty of anti Jewish stuff in Islamic scriptures too – plain in the Quran – and in the hadith

Leave a Reply