Sam Harris on what ISIS really wants


Regular readers of this blog will know that I admire Sam Harris, but also have some strong disagreements with him. What ISIS really wants is a podcast of his from the middle of last year in which he comments on an issue of Dabiq, that outfit’s mouthpiece titled in deference to their fantasy ground zero, the eye of the apocalypse. His commentary makes me aware that he is far better at making sense of Allah’s finest to those who have never been Muslim, especially those who have never known unfreedom and all-pervading unreason, than I am. I would not have been nearly as able to accessibly comment on Dabiq as he does in this podcast.

I struggle with finding the point, the knot, in the Western mental make-up that makes people reject certain unimaginable things before it even reaches their thoughts, like blinking before you see something heading for your eye. There’s much about the way Muslims are brought up to think (not just ISIS) that Harris lays out very carefully in his commentary. Much of this it would not have occurred to me to explain as I take them to be self-evident. But they’re only self-evident, I’ve come to realise, because I was once a Muslim. If I’d commented on this material, I’d have run into the same tired objections from Western people that I always run into. Harris, I suspect, will do better.

By the same token, I think he still doesn’t quite appreciate what madrassas do to the minds of children. There is a difference between someone who converts to Islam in adulthood, and someone who’d been done in a madrassa. And while the story of the Finnish convert to Islam is horrific and her worldview glows in the same light of insanity as that of her co-religionists around her (and there is no reason to doubt a word of it), it is also misleading. It tends to prejudice the reader into thinking that what ISIS calls for and offers, in fact what the Qur’an calls for and offers, is something that appeals or fails to appeal equally to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It does not. A Muslim who has been through the madrassa experience is primed to be receptive to this and does not require ISIS to turn him or her into a similar monster, indeed, does not require anyone at all, when it comes to it. For as long as there has been Islam there have been people who, if imagined within today’s context, would have been a perfect match for any of the Muslim terrorist groups plaguing the world today. In their own time, they might’ve taken up the sword, or wandered around as isolated, lonely individuals whom others might have politely avoided. I can think of several people I’d known in my childhood (before the world went nuts), who would have been viable candidates for jihad. Muslims turning to practising Islam in the manner the Qur’an demands (for example by joining ISIS) is much more like flicking a switch that sets something in motion, than the voluntarism implied by an appeal a convert might respond to.

Nonetheless, I am very glad that this excellent commentary is out there.

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t know if my personal experience, and that of the people around me, are tinting my ideas here. But I’ve always imagined the “average muslim” thinks much similarly to the “average christian/hindu/buddhist/atheist/communist/etc.”

    Namely “I need a job”, “I want to get laid”, “I want a house”, “I want kids someday”, “What’s on TV?”. At least that was how my muslim friends in South Africa, and my sister’s muslim friends in Indonesia, consistently acted like. That’s also how the overwhelming majority of Mexican catholics act.

    If you ask them (the Mexican catholics), they will talk a lot of game, and maybe even get a bit pious. But at the end of the day reading the Bible is a freaking chore, going to church on Sundays is less attractive than sleeping in, and praying every night can slip off your mind when there’s something good on TV.

    Cave dwelling goat fuckers that spend their waking hours day dreaming about the blood of the martyrs, burned infidels, the armageddon and all other nonsense are freaks. I haven’t found a better way of describing them. Their behavior is freakish and incompatible with society (not western society, ALL society). Their human experience falls way outside of the normal human experience, their familial bonds are weak or nonexistent.

    I think that targeting the specific ideology that’s getting unruly at the moment is not a great measure. It attacks the symptoms and leaves the disease unchecked. Freaks are the disease, and removing the Q’ran but maintaining the situations that make believing it appealing won’t solve anything. Once you are a freak, even The Catcher in the Rye will convince you to go shoot someone.

    The common thread I’ve noticed about those non-threatening muslims and catholics is that they are all middle class, coming from healthy families, they have homes, they have friends, they have access to stupid things like TV, movies and video games (all of them more appealing than sitting alone in the dark reading some big-ass old book). In short, they have something to lose by running around killing people, .

    I think that that comfortable-but-somewhat-challenging lifestyle has more to do with getting real moderates. People who may at the moment subscribe to evil ideas, although extremely half-assedly, but don’t really carry them out, not out of a sense of morality or anything, but because carrying them out is “like super-hard and Game of Thrones is on, so maybe later?”
    Give them enough time living like that and they’ll shed religion eventually, as has happened in Europe.

    Indonesia houses more muslims than any Middle-Eastern country, yet I haven’t heard much of Indonesian terrorists. They are usually Saudi, or Iraqi, or Syrian, or something of the sort. Places that are so heavily fucked up, so isolated, where real life is so freaking ugly that fantasy feels better. That sort of thing can really make you a freak.

    Indonesia may not be the most comfortable, prettiest place to live in (There’s a reason they haven’t gone full secular yet) but at least they don’t get their houses bombed, their families killed, their governments toppled, their schools and hospitals turned into rubble.

    That’s part of why I disagree with Sam Harris on his approach. He fixates on the specifics of the religion, ignoring that a lot of the same fucked-up principles pop-up in other (not currently as violent) places, and ignoring the larger problem of fucked-in-the-head people existing in (and threatening) every society we have.

    • secondtofirstworld says

      If you’re familiar with his approach on poaching the GOP from Evangelicals, and I’m sure you are, his distinct differentiation between the malpractice of theistic and religion, and groupthink or individual actions of radicals within a religion, it makes sense to choose that approach.

      Harris stood by his comment 2 days after the election, that Trump is an atheist president, and as a conservative, he has no qualms with GOP policies, just its justification based on supernatural grounds. He was also dodgy on the travel ban, he condemned the execution, but agreed with the principle.

      Realizing separation of church and state (where it happened) wasn’t the only thing, there are some common core values both sides share, which is literally nonexistent in America, so expecting a member of the majority to treat their members as effed up in the head, and not as separate and non-connected, isolated cases… is very slim.

      • says

        @secondtofirstworld
        I’m not sure I got you. On a first read I understood that you agree with Sam Harris on the travel ban. That you think most muslims are what I defined as “freaks” and therefore wouldn’t get rid of them. Please correct me if I misunderstood, I’m going to respond to what I think you said:

        I believe that isolation, constant fear and violence are major factors of what turns someone into a freak.

        One of the targets of the travel ban is Syria. Refugees, specifically. Syrian refugees are escaping precisely that life of isolation, fear and violence. Saying “No” and sending them back only heightens the incidence of people who have nothing left to lose and no ties to this earthly world. Y’know, freaks who then go blow themselves up because at that point they have no reason not to.

        Normal people can turn into freaks if they are subjected to extreme situations. Getting your house blown up, your family immolated, your own body and mind permanently scarred. Those are extreme situations that become common-place in war-zones like Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. The more people are forced to stay there, the more people with nothing left to lose you’ll get in return.

        That’s what I view as the most glaring weakness of the travel ban, it exacerbates the problem it intends to solve. Islam is evil, there’s no denying that. But treating it as an exceptional kind of evil (as Sam Harris has done), is counter-productive. All of the evils of Islam (pedophilia, misogyny, homophobia, misanthropy) are things you’ll find pretty much everywhere else, you’ll find that bullshit on the Torah, the Bible, the Vedas, anywhere.

        Painting Islam as special in that way only adds up to the isolation of those people when they arrive into western society. It instills in them a fear of their white neighbors. It can (and has) been used as an excuse to inflict violence on them. How can they integrate into society (and let go of their bullshit beliefs) in those terms?

        I don’t expect members of any majority to treat their fellows as “effed up in the head” because freaks are not members of any majority, that’s kind of the basis of everything I said up there, if that’s what you meant to say.

        Also:

        Realizing separation of church and state (where it happened) wasn’t the only thing, there are some common core values both sides share, which is literally nonexistent in America, so expecting a member of the majority to treat their members as effed up in the head, and not as separate and non-connected, isolated cases… is very slim.

        I really didn’t get this paragraph.
        -The separation of church and state wasn’t the only thing when it comes to what? Moderate muslims? Lack of violence in Indonesia? Lack of violence from other religions and the non-religious?
        -“Common values both sides share”. Common values among whom? Muslims and others? Radicals and moderates? Liberals and Conservatives? Middle-eastern and western?
        -What is literally nonexistent in America? Church-State separation? Islam? Common core values?
        -A member of what majority?

        I’m really sorry. This is my best reading of your reply and, honestly, after reading it a couple times over I’m not even sure if you agree or disagree with me.

        • secondtofirstworld says

          I stated, that in his own response, Harris disagreed with the execution of the travel ban, but not with its principle or intention. It was meant to highlight, that Harris is an American first, a conservative second, and an atheist third. As for my view, no, I don’t agree or condone the suspended ban. The restrictions put in place on an already slow system were unnecessary, and were just for show for white supremacists.

          I’d single out Syria as not a place of primary danger, for one simple reason: although the country has not seen democracy per se for 60 years, the former French and Ottoman colony had enjoyed a forced, but still existing secularist culture, with a highly functioning economy, that has not seen war on its land since the Six Days War, and many, who could fleeing as far as possible have the know how to rebuild the country. The problem is, there’s a new broom in Washington, and depending on the embarrassment of some of its members being in the pocket of Kremlin influences how they will act on the peace talks, or disregard it at all, to leave it in the hands of Turkey, Russia, and Iran. Based on the fact Trump treats the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one, where he thinks, politely asking Bibi to stop constructions on the settlements, and just agree to the 2 state solution is enough has not encouraged me to get my hopes up.

          Harris paints it as exceptionally evil for 2 good reasons: one, it gives the radical Christians a false sense of security, that he’s pragmatical, and willing to overlook their misdeeds (like the recent “host” proposal), and two, to show the GOP, non-religious people have the same to offer. As an American conservative, he doesn’t have to care about hyperbole or fallout, like many people do, when they appear on Fox News in support of something the pundit is saying.

          Europe has collectively suffered from both Nazism and communism, so post-WWII, and especially post-1968, the unspoken, but upheld agreement is, that neither right or left wing parties can allow militant forces to gain power, and to avoid such a scenario, secular and religious policy is formed in a way, so that people don’t have an incentive to vote for those, who only use democracy to get elected, but use the system to destroy it from the inside. In contrast, at least 5 years ago, the GOP should have attempted to influence its donors to drop the far right Tea Party, as the more power they get, the more they destroy traditional conservative values. Instead they let the trend become the voting force behind Trump. It would not be an issue, if the threats to America were taken seriously, but that’s not what is happening. The FBI has an index of 200 thousand people, an army of a smaller nation, who are domestic terrorists, and the majority of them is anti-authoritarian. Yet, outside the FBI nobody treats them as a gallery of freaks, much less take into account how many of them can be like Breivik or McVeigh.

          It could be argued, that it’s not the same, but it has to be mentioned, the religious right has put laws in place, that satisfy their needs, which in turn leaves them radical in words. There would be more, if the administration would go through with steps to ensure a culture of genocide cannot form on American soil, including the suspension of tax evasion churches, a stricter enforcement of personal responsibility with lethal firearms, abandoning the principle of wanting to curtal civil rights, etc.

    • says

      …incompatible with society (not western society, ALL society).

      This what I say and maintain about Islam. There was a time when this was not the case, but that was when society was much more primitive and ethics more brutal. I think religions reach an existential crisis when the society in which they are practised, and the ethics of the people practising them, evolve beyond those religions. This what Christianity has already experienced, as had Judaism much earlier. Even though the religion after its cataclysm may retain the superficial features of its pre-crisis self, it is fundamentally changed.

      When people say that Islam is right now in the process of reform, I disagree. I say that we are witnessing the early stages of its catastrophic failure. In this respect, the genteel moderate Muslim debates about Islamic reform are a sideshow, and not a particularly interesting one, at that. The real crisis of Islam is in the Dar al-Islam itself that, from the inside, is less and less able to hold itself together. The social transformation of its own population is the wildcard that Allah had not anticipated and his shock troops are incapable of comprehending. The Shia-Sunni schism that had already manifested in rival caliphates more than a thousand years ago (everyone still talks about “the” caliphate) might finally be coming to an end as Islam self-destructs in a civil war of reason against belief. This is both as that schism is eclipsed by the struggle between reason and belief — witness the formation of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) — and by global secularism unbound by the old enmities.

      It would be no exaggeration to describe the spread of reason through Muslim lands as a wildfire (some would say a tsunami). This spread of reason, and particularly atheism, coincides with an increase in open conversions away from Islam to other religions, almost always because those other religions are perceived to be more humane than Islam (or to have more humane gods). It also coincides with a rise and spread of a self-conscious civil society independent of the traditional structures of control. These parallel developments, in my view, suggest the consolidation of more civilised ethics amongst the populations of Muslim countries than Islam, or the social infrastructure that helps sustain it, can accommodate or adapt to.

      Such civil society developments are, of course, taken full advantage of by Islamic forces of reaction, as is the new technological infrastructure. Those with a vested interest in the continuation of Islam as rooted in the Qur’an, whether they actually live by it or not, will react to preserve/restore it. There is every reason to believe that the unmaking and remaking of Islam into something that will be compatible with society built around the autonomous individual will be swifter than the almost 200 years it took its Christian counterpart, but there is no reason to believe that it will be any less bloody. On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that it will be a great deal more so. Indeed, the carnage is already well underway, if Bangladesh were any indication. Let’s see how the OIC reacts, if the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) is not already part of that reaction*. The great co-ordinated crackdown is still to come, assuming the political mind can heal what the religious mind has so spectacularly failed to do for fourteen hundred years: transcend, or at least mitigate, the Shia-Sunni split. This is pure conjecture on my part, though, and I’d welcome comments from those who’ve actually looked into the social reconfiguration (I’m reluctant to put it more strongly than that) currently underway in the “Dar al-Islam.”

      [b/q Indonesia houses more muslims than any Middle-Eastern country, yet I haven’t heard much of Indonesian terrorists. They are usually Saudi, or Iraqi, or Syrian, or something of the sort. Places that are so heavily fucked up, so isolated, where real life is so freaking ugly that fantasy feels better. That sort of thing can really make you a freak.]

      I’m not sure I entirely agree with the absolution of Indonesia here, though certainly, it is not in the same league as the fucked-up Islamic heartlands, but your point about the depth of the insanity and degradation of the Middle East is a factor to which I haven’t till now given serious thought. Thank you.

      * Article 10 of the CDHRI reads, “It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism,” (no such prohibition of the reverse, of course). That various Muslim countries are finding it necessary, fifteen years after adopting that scandalous declaration, to introduce separate, national prohibitions on atheism suggests that these developments may not have been anticipated at the time of its adoption.

      • says

        @Anjuli
        On the contrary, thank you for listening and responding.

        I don’t disagree with you on your first paragraph, the explicit values of Islam (as well as pretty much every other religion and several non-religious doctrines) are incompatible with the very concept of society.

        I think that that social transformation that leads to the unavoidable loss of religious institutions is something brought about by the comfort and security of modern life, or at least that’s how I understand it happening in the other cases.

        There’s a reason why recent religions like Scientology, Mormonism and Jehova’s Witnesses recruit mostly troubled and down-on-their-luck people. AA is used to make the alcoholic’s recovery God’s act instead of their own. Scientology targets people seeking psychiatric help. I recently had a Jehova’s Witness open up their script by asking me about there being problems in my family. Religion requires people to be downtrodden and hurt, because otherwise motivation to sign up is null.

        I also see that those same religions also consistently demonize a lot of the same aspects of life that are objectively more interesting than the religions themselves. They attack popular books, good movies, premarital sex, video games, booze, among lots of other things. I think that on some level they recognize that once people engage in the fun things of life, religion fades from relevancy.

        I hope you are wrong about the “reformation” of Islam being that brutal, and I wish I had proof that you’re wrong, but I don’t. Powerful people will do anything to cling to their power, and will become more violent as their defeat becomes more apparent.

        I just think that “Lego Batman” will have more success in turning people away from religion than, say, “The God Delusion” or banning it outright.

    • MG says

      I agree. My own experience with religious people and my experience in Vietnam convinced me that ideology is not what motivates us humans. It justifies us doing what we want anyway. Most of us try to balance our self-interest with a bit of empathy, and at least not harm anyone. Ideologues always want to control people, so they have need of a “higher power”. It can also be parties, markets,etc. The source of the “higher power” doesn’t matter.

      • says

        Most of us try to balance our self-interest with a bit of empathy, and at least not harm anyone.

        I agree with this, too, and A Lurker from Mexico makes his point very eloquently, to which I can also add examples. I’m saying that this is nevertheless an a priori response. You go even further, “Ideologues always want to control people,” (this is not true) and “The source of the ‘higher power’ doesn’t matter” (this most definitely isn’t true). I’m saying that ready-made answers, even though they may be right most of the time, obscure their own error when they are wrong. With an a priori starting point, you cannot know when you are wrong about something because you’ve already decided beforehand that you are right. This is another way in which, for example, Islam escapes scrutiny. I am not saying that you intend to obfuscate Islam, but this is effectively what you end up doing.

  2. chris_devries says

    Regarding the travel ban, Harris published an AMA podcast today in which he says pretty much exactly what he said on Bill Maher 2 weeks ago, namely, that it’s a bad idea. He wants to try to keep out people with illiberal values while recognizing that a) it is not possible to exclude every such person, some will slip through, and b) there are plenty of American citizens of the fundamentalist Christian religion whose values are antithetical to the modern, secular nation America aspires to be, and we can’t start deporting them! Nonetheless, while acknowledging that he is no expert on the subject of the vetting process, he says that it seems to be the case that the “extreme vetting” bullshit Trump is promulgating is already taking place now, and has been in place for a long time. The trials and tribulations of refugees just trying to make a better life in the USA are well-documented, and at one point, Harris actually agrees with most of us here, explicitly, that refugees, and immigrants more generally, make the USA a better place. That may seem uncontroversial in liberal circles, but I bet plenty of people in the Trump camp feel that every immigrant entering the US is taking some American citizen’s opportunity away, that it is a zero sum situation (also discussed and refuted on the podcast).

    Let’s be frank. Harris is wrong sometimes. I think the most egregious of them (for someone as well-versed in moral philosophy as he is) is that torture is morally permissible in select cases where its application would save lives. He neglects to explore this issue further; if he did, he would find that torture doesn’t work, and thus even if its application would be morally permissible, it would provide false information that does not save lives, negating its usefulness. But I would further argue that if we are trying to fight terrorists and the fundamentalist values that they hold, the last thing we want to do is take actions that change our own values into ones that more resemble theirs. I.e. if we have to become terrible, torturing people in order to save lives (assuming that was even possible) we suffer a fate worse than the death of thousands. Our liberal values that have led to things like a universal recognition of human rights, and which have expanded those rights to all human beings (regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion), suddenly seem fragile and easily set aside when a government can find a way to sanction torture. If we want to remake the world into the image of, say, Sweden or Norway (a country that refused to extradite a criminal to the US because America prisons would violate his human rights as they do not meet basic standards of health and human dignity), then we would be hypocrites in extremis if we occasionally engaged in the forms of barbarism found in Egyptian and Libyan prisons. Do as I say, not as I do, right? Thus Dubya’s doctrine of spreading freedom and democracy around the world would have been doomed, even if it had not been so poorly-thought-out and ultimately unworkable in the countries in which the USA was involved in adventures of the military kind, because the American values he was trying to spread wide were quietly rotting away at the source.

    No, our values need to be flexible insofar as they include provisions that account for the reality that there are multiple ways of bringing about human flourishing, and that our way is not even close to the best of them yet discovered. But the moral causes of liberalism, like opposing torture and advocating for human equality, legislating LGBT+ tolerance, providing all people with equal opportunities to succeed, these must stand especially when they are hard to hold, when our ape instincts scream at us to be xenophobic or selfish. And we can hold those values while at the same time recognizing that in reality, not everyone agrees with us, and that those who cannot be convinced to change their minds should be tolerated, their rights respected, their speech just as free as ours, as long as their values don’t bring them to harm other people (not just physically – there are many kinds of harm). Thus while Harris says we must guard against those with “illiberal values” from entering America, I’m a bit more open. I think that if we are bound to tolerate and grant free speech to morons like Cliven Bundy, Ken Ham and Glenn Beck, we have no right to then turn around and say to people who are just as illiberal as those three, just also Muslim, that they can’t be Americans. My threshold would be, is there evidence that this immigrant holds values that are likely to result in harm to other people, should they become an American citizen? Values that basically come down to a passionate lack of tolerance for those who hold views that the immigrant finds contradict their own beliefs, and a willingness to harm other people because of certain deeply-held values. So we’d basically want to guard against those who say that honor killing is even “sometimes acceptable” or that if someone insults the Prophet, they say they would agree that it is incumbent on devout Muslims to avenge the slight.

    The line we draw isn’t easy to demarcate. For example, is admitting a conservative Muslim who believes in female subservience to men (a common fundy-Christian belief), and that the way women act in public impacts the honor of the entire family, a step too far? I think it may be, because though this person may say that honor killing is wrong, if they believe that the behavior of their sister or daughter is relevant to their own honor, what kind of life will these women lead, and what will happen when one of them breaks out of the conservative mold in which she was raised and starts a sexual relationship with a non-Muslim, with no intent to marry in the near-future? That this woman could do such a thing in America is great (as she would be far more closeted in Syria or Sudan), but if this opportunity would also likely mean her death at the hands of a male relative, of what value is it? These are tough questions, and who can predict how people will react to various stimuli 10 or 20 years in the future? Who can predict to what degree families will soak up the more permissive, liberal values of their community, and ditch some of the more repellent baggage of their upbringings?

    But I can tell you that the podcast episode cited here, “What ISIS really wants” is devastatingly on point. How much do these people, the most extreme of extreme Islamists, have to repeat their purpose, their goals, their beliefs, before people start believing that they might be serious? Harris made an interesting point on the most recent podcast (the Ask Me Anything #4) that parallels this (I’m paraphrasing, but this is basically what he says): what would Donald Trump have to do for his supporters to acknowledge that he was a malignant narcissist and pathological liar (1:17.03)? His every action thus far has given us so much evidence of his character flaws, but somehow his supporters can’t even acknowledge that these either exist, or that they’re flaws. It’s bizarre hyper-tribalism in my opinion. He’s their guy, and they are right-wing authoritarian followers (see Bob Altemeyer’s free web-book, The Authoritarians, for more details). There is no line he cannot cross that would be a line too far for them. ISIS wants Islamic theocracy for the Middle East and eventually the world (more specifically their brand of Islamist, Sunni, Salafi theocracy). The people who have committed terrorist acts in the name of IS, or Al-Qaeda, or the Taliban all say the same thing. They are not economically-disadvantaged people, generally. They are middle-class or higher, educated, intelligent. They have no grievance that isn’t ultimately religious at heart. And they say it so often, that the liberals who are trying to be as unracist as possible are basically denying reality when they say that we wouldn’t have Islamist terrorism if we didn’t interfere in the affairs of the Middle East, that it’s our imperialism that is causing Islamist violence. And Donald Trump is a child in a man’s body. He has no filter, and lies constantly, without even pretending that he’s trying to deceive people. Harris says it’s the ultimate power move: he’s so powerful, he can tell the media whatever he wants and even though Trump knows, and the media know it’s not true, him saying it makes it true to millions of people, because they’ll follow him wherever he leads. They won’t read the fact-checking on the New York Times website, or PolitiFact. And calling him out just leads to impromptu vitriolic tweets at 3 AM, a really charming characteristic in the leader of the fucking free world. Those on the right, those who voted for him are denying reality when they say he’s the man who is going to create millions of great, blue-collar jobs and bring the 50’s back to modern America. And the greatest irony of all is that Trump is almost certainly America’s first atheist president. For him to recognize a power greater than himself, or require forgiveness for his sins is just too big an ask, I think.

    Whoa, that post got away from me.

    TLDR: I agree with Harris a lot, but not always. Islamists mean what they say. Trump is a big, fat, pants-on-fire liar/bullshit artist who knows he’s not deceiving a lot of people who hear him lie, but doesn’t care. Those on the left and right deny reality when it conflicts with their innate tribalistic tendencies. When Clinton parroted the party-line on terrorism committed by Muslims (it has nothing, ZERO, to do with Islam, apparently), people who weren’t in the liberal bubble could see the lie, the denial of reality. They may have found Trump abhorrent and voted third party (or not at all), but they did nothing to stop Trump, at least partly because of liberal bullshit. And now that he’s president, the people on the right who voted for him, they support him because he parrots their opinion on a bunch of issues they find important (abortion, international trade, and yes, immigration), but if they think he’s actually working for them, actually going to help average Americans better themselves, they are just as deluded as those on the left who think we wouldn’t have Islamist terrorism if we had just not meddled in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  3. Nathanael says

    It’s worth noting that the sort of madrassa which primes people for this sort of insanity is… not universal.

    It wasn’t the standard sort of madrassa teaching in most of the Islamic world (North Africa, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Central Asia, etc.) for a very long time.

    ….until Saudi Arabia got their tentacles into these areas and started funding aggressively nasty fundamentalist madrassas everywhere. Saudi Arabia has been spreading the *absolute worst* ideology, and they’ve been doing it with huge amounts of oil money.

    The Torah is a morass of racism and instructions to slaughter the innocent. Traditional rabbinical Judaism found ways to “reinterpret” all of that. Of course, the fundamentalists (who are now running Israel) decided to take it literally. The New Testament is a horrific mass of authoritarian evil, and was implemented that way for most of the history of the Catholic Church. Later, some branches of Christianity decided to treat it as “metaphor”. Others, the fundamentalists, decided to support the evil gung-ho.

    The Koran is no different. When it hit Persia and the Sassanids, the rather civilized Persians simply refused to adopt the intolerant early Arab version of Islam, even though they’d been conquered and were being forced to convert. They turned it into something else. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamization_of_Iran The same thing happened when it reached other cultures, in North Africa or Indonesia.

    However, these other versions of Islam have been actively suppressed by the flood of oil money from Saudi Arabia around the world setting up their own mosques and madrassas to promoting an exceptionally nasty version of Islam — Wahhabiism, which is really completely evil.

    It is not *pragmatic* to attempt to end all religion at once. The relatively harmless versions are way too common, and appeal to common desires.

    It is pragmatic to attempt to stop the fundamentalist versions of religion. After all, the Persians managed to stop the fundamentalist version back in the Middle Ages even after they’d actually been *conquered*. (Quote from a caliph: “The Persians ruled for a thousand years and did not need us Arabs even for a day. We have been ruling them for one or two centuries and cannot do without them for an hour.”)

    I have ended up with the conclusion that the proper line of attack is to cut off funding to Saudi Arabia. Since this cannot be done politically (Carter tried, but Reagan decided to prostrate the whole US at Saudi Arabia’s feet), the only way to do so is to stop using crude oil. They derive their power from selling crude oil. Bankrupt them and they become unable to fund their Wahabbi madrassas.

  4. says

    I listened to that, and I found it contradictory except for on one main issue, that Harris wants to be right at any expense. I.e.: taking shots at people like Greenwald and Chomsky who have criticized him.

    Here’s what I mean about it being contradictory:
    Harris rightly says that the jihadis believe in what they are doing, and assign a religious context to their actions. I’m not aware of anyone he’s arguing with who denies that that’s the case, either. The arguments I’ve read (and made) on this topic are more nuanced, and insist that we must factor in the political aspects of what’s going on in the violent hot-spots of the world, with the religious fervor that is motivating some of the fighters. Harris goes on about how they’re full of hate and ideology and that it’s evil islamism, and then segues into talking about the political actions that are being done by islamists. He’s got three options:
    – It’s all religion: islam is a religion of war so muslims will tend to be dangerous killers
    – It’s a mix of political and religious motives, to different degrees, in each person
    – It’s all political
    I think it’d be strawmanning Greenwald and Chomsky to say that either of them argue the last thing; my observation and Harris’ is the middle case: it is a mix of political and religious motives. Harris certainly doesn’t make the case that it’s the first, that it’s just that Islam is bad, because he even says (Harris’ desire to be ‘right’ means he tries to take up both sides of a position) things like that the ISIS magazine (43:25) “If ever you hear someone say ‘this is propaganda’ you have to recognize what a meaningless rejoinder that is: it’s propaganda that works” Well, yes, Sam, that’s what propaganda is, and propaganda is political activity, not religious. Trying to recruit soldiers to take up arms is a political process. In the three options above: nobody that I am aware of is saying it is entirely political, and even Harris isn’t saying it’s entirely religious which means it’s all complicated. Yes, welcome to reality-land, Sam.

    Elsewhere in his spiel he goes into (35:55) inner fantasies of toxic masculinity that may be driving jihadis: that’s another example of trying to have it both ways – it’s not religion it’s a social/political dominance and control struggle (i.e.: politics) that is being justified using religion. Harris’ very argument, that jihadis can show they’re no longer “pussies”(34:34) is all about personal life-impact in the here-and-now. Uh, that’s not entirely religion: if Harris’ point is that toxic masculinity is a bad thing, and islam encourages a certain form of toxic masculinity, I don’t think anyone is arguing with that. But if Harris’ point is that, somehow, islam is inherently encouraging people to do these things, he’s got a much harder case to make, and I don’t think he makes it.

    One of the biggest problem with Harris’ argument that islam is particularly bad is that islam is clearly and obviously not causing violence except in parts of the world where there is political turmoil. In those parts of the world, the political turmoil can break into ethnic and religious and cultural lines; i.e.: it’s a political issue that is being contextualized as religion. He’s giving examples, over and over, where he talks about the social and political reasons why islam being used to green-light certain behaviors. That stuff bothers me, too, but I’m not laying it all on islam. It’s a complicated mix of religion and politics and it’s specific to the people who are doing whatever it is they are doing.

    What drives me crazy about Harris’ argument is that we don’t have a similar argument about how the politicians in Washington who are pushing political controls on the population for religious justification or even their deeply held beliefs are representative, somehow, of all believers. Or all politicians. And most rational people are also willing to assume that politicians and religious figures may be lying to promote a personal political or social agenda. If we acknowledge that, how is Harris justified in holding up what he himself admits if a piece of propaganda and treating it as the literal truth? That’d be like saying that Ken Ham literally believes in his ark park, and there’s not even the slightest possible whiff of political agenda going on there. A more rational view of Ken Ham (or the ISIS newspaper) is that some of it was written by people who were trying to politically maniupulate the reader by playing on their anger or ignorance or – as Harris slyly argues – because maybe they want sex slaves.

    I can read a magazine published by ISIS and see that it’s full of speech about religion, but I also see a political agenda behind it. So does Harris. He just wants to say it’s all islam, or something, while contradicting his own argument with his own examples. It’s a bizzare performance.

    • secondtofirstworld says

      While many people cower in terror where jihadists live, some Westerners, and not just indoctrinated Muslims by birth, but also converts, join them willingly.

      As Lurker said, some are lazy or uninterested, but the ones who join have a bigger reason, than 72 virgins. It’s the promise they will matter, they can be the heroes of their own life stories, and nobody can speak back to them. This fascination with personal authority over conformity to societal rules is not different from any other paramilitary organization.

      My problem is, that we talk so much about one theistic religion, that we ignore the misdeeds of others. I’ve recently read by Arun, that in the state of Kerala, a special female police force was formed to combat the unfortunately rampant sexual violence… except they started to reprimand couples whose crime was holding hands. In Judaism, the Hasidic sect refuses participation in the compulsory military duty, all the while protesting for the army to drive deeper into occupied territories, including the possibility of war crime, and when it’s brought up, that they should serve, they cry discrimination, and in one protest, they likened themselves to labor campers during the Holocaust. Not that the Sathmar sect is any better. Just like the Hasidic sect, they too treat women like rags, who can’t work, can’t read or educate themselves, and can’t talk to a man outside their family. They can only leave the house in a head scarf. There has been a few investigations into their practices, which violate the Establishment Clause with their internal laws, and they have domain over 120 thousand people. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, that Christians are no stranger to similar practices. If abstinence only education is proven bad (it has led to a rise in pregnancies and STDs), supervised dating is worse. Girls are dressed up to their necks, can hold hands with a guy only under strict supervision, and that guy is mostly someone picked for marriage. Unlike the Amish, these Evangelicals do not have a Rumpsringer.

      Last, but not least… I’m not denying that the issue of genital mutilation is not horrible, but it cannot be pinned on one religion. This might sound hyperbolic, but I stopped eating Kellogg’s flakes after I learned why he came up with the idea, it’s what we would be supposed to be doing instead of sex. The movement he partially spearheaded, started circumcision with the intent so that men don’t enjoy sex, and yes, they were also strong proponents of the female variant. It did not catch on (yes, they did some) for 2 reasons: the surgical procedure was more difficult and less safe, and social conservative meddling. Yes, misogyny saved women, as horrible it sounds, as they were convinced, that a respectable lady saves herself for marriage, and that women can’t enjoy sex, because only the male orgasm can be a measurement. In a truly secular country, secular laws cannot be based on personal beliefs, ergo the new idea to declare women as mere hosts who need permission to make an autonomous decision only shows, that letting such acts pass today is not having a fully functioning separation. It has in letter, but not in spirit. If I heard about a law, that requires a mother to schedule visitation rights with her rapist only because she decided to keep the baby, I’d say, yeah, that’s a crazy Latin American, or African, Eastern European or East Asian law… too bad it’s from Montana, and a contemporary one to boot.

    • says

      I never imagined I’d one day defend Sam Harris, but if it came to it, I’d even defend ISIS, or anyone else for that matter, if I thought they were right. Actually, I have defended ISIS: they claim to be true Muslims practising true Islam and I’ve defended this claim against those who would say otherwise. In responding to your comment, let’s just, first of all, get the terrain established.

      What drives me crazy about Harris’ argument is that we don’t have a similar argument about how the politicians in Washington …etc.

      The podcast What ISIS really wants is not an argument. He isn’t setting out to prove anything per se, but commenting on something. Furthermore, that something is a particular publication, viz., a particular issue of Dabiq. While it is perfectly acceptable, indeed normal, to link one’s comments to other thoughts, ideas, issues, arguments, comments, etc., there can be no expectation that a commentator do this, let alone that a particular “counter-source” be commented on as well. While he is entitled to link his comments to arguments he’d had with others earlier, he is also perfectly justified in not linking any of his comments to anything.

      I want to address what you describe as Harris’ commentary “being contradictory.” First off, you take great care in not “strawmanning Greenwald and Chomsky,” which, of course, is good. But you seem to have no such restraint when it comes to strawmanning Harris.

      You start by attempting to give your reader a false sense of security (an act of propaganda) by saying, “my observation and Harris’ is… it is a mix of political and religious motives [that drives ISIS] (your emph.).” In order to then show the contradiction, you direct the reader to Harris’ claim, “If ever you hear someone say ‘this is propaganda’ you have to recognize what a meaningless rejoinder that is: it’s propaganda that works.” I’m not sure about others, but to me he clearly means that it is propaganda that cannot be simply dismissed; it is effective in its aims and therefor must be engaged. But you ignore all that and immediately segue into implying, well, more than implying, that Harris doesn’t know what propaganda is — the first step in your strawmanning. You then proceed to enlighten him, which is the second step of your strawmanning. I shall quote you, “propaganda is political activity, not religious.” OK, but then comes the second segue: “Trying to recruit soldiers to take up arms is a political process (your emph.).” So Dabiq is political, not religious. Nice! So, “Fight in the way of Allah,” the call to jihad, is political, not religious. We are now to understand that the Qur’an is not a religious book, for that particular exhortation occurs at 2:190, 2:244, 4:74, 4:76 and in several variations elsewhere. Apart from that, it also leaves you with having to explain why Islam cannot countenance a separation of mosque and state. The whole “law of God/law of man” stuff: would you care to share your insight with the ulama? They do get terribly frothed up every time they have to defend the inextricability of mosque from state? And then you do the final softening up of the reader: “nobody that I am aware of,” (you flatter yourself to think that your readers judge anything against your repertoire) “is saying it is entirely political, and even Harris isn’t saying it’s entirely religious.” Harris wasn’t playing this “entirely political/entirely religious” twaddle. It is something that you’d set up. And in order to do what? All this in order to tell us “it’s all complicated” — are you kidding me? — and then you implyi that that is Harris’ quandary.

      Your so-called “nuance:”

      — It’s all religion: islam is a religion of war so muslims will tend to be dangerous killers
      – It’s a mix of political and religious motives, to different degrees, in each person
      – It’s all political

      amounts to nothing more than a gross oversimplification of a critical thought process. When apologists for Islam say “nuance” (I recall the moment when this particular weapon got added to the apologists’ arsenals. All of them started using it at the same time over and over again. It was a joke), it is propaganda and usually as poor as this. Fortunately, there is nothing complicated about Islamic apologia.

      The rest of the comment is simply more of the same.

  5. says

    The podcast What ISIS really wants is not an argument. He isn’t setting out to prove anything per se, but commenting on something. Furthermore, that something is a particular publication, viz., a particular issue of Dabiq. While it is perfectly acceptable, indeed normal, to link one’s comments to other thoughts, ideas, issues, arguments, comments, etc., there can be no expectation that a commentator do this, let alone that a particular “counter-source” be commented on as well. While he is entitled to link his comments to arguments he’d had with others earlier, he is also perfectly justified in not linking any of his comments to anything.

    Of course it’s an argument. It’s just a vague one. He is tying Dabiq to real-world events and is arguing that Dabiq bears a relationship to events in the real world. He is arguing that Dabiq is indicative of what ISIS wants, and what ISIS wants is related to what ISIS does in the real-world.

    If he wasn’t making an argument, was he just doing that podcast for the pleasure of feeling his lips move?

    Also: he specifically oriented his argument to try to refute some of the things that Chomsky specifically has said about his beliefs. I.e.: he is trying to shore up his position by injecting what he sees as facts into the discussion (which is why I find it extremely odd that he is presenting a piece of propaganda as facts about what an organization believes)

    But you seem to have no such restraint when it comes to strawmanning Harris.

    Your claim that I am attempting to strawman Harris is bizzare; I was attempting to fairly summarize his argument, and I chose a part of it which is contradictory as a way of illustrating part of what I found contradictory about the whole thing. Mostly that was laziness; I didn’t want to listen to the whole thing again and produce a multi-volume posting picking it apart. My overall feeling from listening to it was exactly as I described – I felt that Harris was trying to have it both ways – that we should take what ISIS writes in what is admittedly a bunch of propaganda (i.e.: manipulated opinions bordering on outright falsehood) as literal statements of their beliefs. Harris, ever the skeptic, appears to accept at face value that the alleged woman from Finland actually exists and wrote that, and actually used those words to describe her child’s martyrdom, etc. I am willing to grant that Harris may believe that piece of propaganda is literally true, which is where he starts his argument, but then he concludes that it’s propaganda that works; OK well it appears to have worked on him. Perhaps because its truthiness fulfils some point he was trying to make?

    You then proceed to enlighten him, which is the second step of your strawmanning. I shall quote you, “propaganda is political activity, not religious.” OK, but then comes the second segue: “Trying to recruit soldiers to take up arms is a political process (your emph.).” So Dabiq is political, not religious. Nice!

    You then proceed to enlighten him, which is the second step of your strawmanning. I shall quote you, “propaganda is political activity, not religious.” OK, but then comes the second segue: “Trying to recruit soldiers to take up arms is a political process (your emph.).” So Dabiq is political, not religious. Nice!

    I think of that as more a counter-argument in the form of a counter-assertion. Characterizing it as “straw-manning” is stretching things a bit much, I’d say. Especially since “strawmanning” an argument would entail substantially misrepresenting it, which I was not trying to do (in fact it’d be hard to say someone was being contradictory while misrepresenting their argument, since that would defeat my own point!)

    So, yes, I assert (with the same amount of supporting evidence that Harris presents) that producing propaganda that is attempting to recruit fighters is a political act. Because fighting is a political act. The motivations may be to some degree or other religious but when you’re talking about occupying territory and building a supposed new state, you’re talking politics – it’s unavoidable, especially because the primary interaction in doing so is going to be political interactions with other states. (It’s unavoidable because the new state that ISIS is trying to create is within existing states) I don’t see how it’s possible to argue that’s not a political process. I do see how it’s possible to argue that there are plenty of apparent religious motivations for that – which I said clearly in my comment. But if it’s a political process, to any significant degree, then everyone ought to acknowledge that it’s not purely about islam, and then we can have a productive discussion about the interface between islamism and middle east politics. Unfortunately for people who want to make ISIS all about islam, it’s pretty clear that that’s the case.

    That, by the way, is not a simple assertion that “it’s politics” – it’s an argument why it’s politics: it’s politics because it’s involving nation-states and territory, and it’s involving populations; it’s not a purely religious activity by any stretch of the imagination. Do you think that’s a strawman argument?

    he clearly means that it is propaganda that cannot be simply dismissed; it is effective in its aims and therefor must be engaged.

    Yes, I caught that point. That’s what I was talking about: since it’s effective in its aims … why is that the case? Because there is political truth to it. If Harris’ argument were that it were purely religious, and muslims are all just a bunch of deluded people, then he’d be dismissing the propaganda as a pack of lies. It’s not a pack of lies because it appeals to the political realities of what’s been going on in the region. It contextualizes them in light of religious assertions of territorial rights and hatred of decadence, but even those things are addressed in ISIS’ own document in political terms.

    Please bear in mind that I’m completely comfortable with the concept that ISIS is a political movement defined in religious terms, or even a religious movement that is playing politics. I find either of those to be very adequate explanations for both what ISIS is saying and what ISIS is doing.

    The problem with adopting my position is that one can no longer point at islam and say “the problem is islam” because, it’s complicated and doesn’t submit to simple finger-pointing “answers” Harris’ piece is attempting to say that the problem is islam (which is why I find it contradictory when he keeps discussing political realities that are not matters of faith.) Harris can’t have it both ways.

    So, “Fight in the way of Allah,” the call to jihad, is political, not religious. We are now to understand that the Qur’an is not a religious book, for that particular exhortation occurs at 2:190, 2:244, 4:74, 4:76 and in several variations elsewhere.

    I am not saying the koran is not a religious book! Not by a long shot. But now you’re moving from a discussion of Harris’ arguments to mine – which is fine with me, but if we’re doing that, I should clarify:
    I argue that religion has no truth to it, at all, and is and always has been a technique of political control. I argue further that religion’s frequent concerns with the temporal are strong evidence supporting my view: religions often concern themselves with god-granted power over others, or god-granted deed to lands. I argue that religion (not all religion, btw, some have different aspects) usually serves the political establishment’s agenda and is sheltered and promoted when it serves well, or repressed when it doesn’t. It’s a useful mechanism for motivating people to do things, without having to actually make evidenced arguments for why. It is also a useful mechanism (per Nietzsche) for appeasing the masses when they wonder why some small number of people wear gold and silk and live in nice houses while telling them to go out and fight and die and go hungry for the good of the kingdom that god has created. That’s a fair summary of my views; I could go on for much longer and perhaps I will someday but I feel that other philosophers have mined that vein more succinctly and better than I would.

    Anyhow, in that context your quoted bits of the koran make perfect sense to me: it’s a bunch of lies that serve a political purpose – aggrandizing the kings – by telling the rubes that it’s what god wants. From that standpoint, the rather embarrassing speed with with mohammed’s empire broke up into warring factions in what can only be described as a succession fight – is a pretty good illustration of how religions such as islam are used to manipulate the masses to achieve social cohesion for the king/crown/empire/state and the religious B.S. that’s tacked is mostly consumable fluff for the gullible.

    That’s why I’m not impressed by arguments like “ISIS really thinks this” because I don’t think it’s possible that ISIS really “thinks anything” – there is no cohesion there, it’s a typical political movement some of whom are religious ideologues (for sure) others of whom are political opportunists. I see ISIS as looking like every radical political movement, ever: you’ve got your Lenin, and your Trotsky, and your Stalin – each of them are fellow travellers on the path when it’s convenient but as soon as they get to a point where their paths diverge, the knives come out in spite of the deep professions of faith and belief prior to that divergence. And I also just described mohammed’s empire’s break-up and why.

    For that matter, it’s bizzare to me that anyone would look at the koran and not understand mohammed in his context as monarch and empire-builder, and the broader political context of his time and not see how that context formed his religion – not the other way around. The same must be said for the early jews and christians: their religions are results of politics and that is clear all the way through. Was Uthman’s re-edit of the koran a religious event or a political one?

    The whole “law of God/law of man” stuff: would you care to share your insight with the ulama? They do get terribly frothed up every time they have to defend the inextricability of mosque from state?

    There are always true believers that can be whipped into a froth over whatever is politically convenient at the time. I don’t dismiss their froth – I merely acknowledge the political agenda they serve, whether they serve it willingly or not.

    That, by the way, is pretty much the view that Chomsky and Greenwald are arguing as well, they’re just focused on different parts of the political picture (Chomsky believes, rightly, that a lot of the political turmoil that is energizing political islam is a result of imperialist politics and WWI and WWII and Greenwald believes a lot of the turmoil is energized by the US imperialist politics and support for israel. It’s possible for both of those positions to be right to a matter of degree, and I think they both are.)

    And then you do the final softening up of the reader: “nobody that I am aware of,” (you flatter yourself to think that your readers judge anything against your repertoire) “is saying it is entirely political, and even Harris isn’t saying it’s entirely religious.” Harris wasn’t playing this “entirely political/entirely religious” twaddle. It is something that you’d set up.

    If someone is saying that ISIS’ motivation is religion (and that the religion is bad) then they are saying ISIS’ motivation is religion, which means they are falling into the argument that religious motivations are superceeding political motivations.

    It’s not something I set up; this is not my dichotomy. I was not trying to falsely represent Harris (or Chomsky or Greenwald) by pointing out that people engaging in this argument are inevitably putting themselves somewhere on the axis between “religion causes this” and “politics cause this” – and that’s what I meant when I said that none of the people I see involved in this particular discussion are taking an absolute view of any of it.

    I’d have no problem at all with Harris’ piece if he acknowledged the greater complexity of the problem. But then he’d have to be wafflier and sound less certain and he wouldn’t be able to take digs at Chomsky and Greenwald because he’d have to acknowledge that they have a point, too.

    Personally, I think they all have points, and so do you. The question is the degree to which they promote them as fact, or understand them as influencers of a complicated reality.

    amounts to nothing more than a gross oversimplification of a critical thought process.

    Uh, yes? I am trying to explain why I reject Harris’ oversimplication of a really important problem.

    I recall the moment when this particular weapon got added to the apologists’ arsenals. All of them started using it at the same time over and over again. It was a joke

    It’s a word I used because I thought it was appropriate. I do not consider myself as falling anywhere on any axis of “apologist” – so if you think that the comment above somehow invalidates what I’m saying, I think you have made an error.

    Fortunately, there is nothing complicated about Islamic apologia.

    Are you now trying to dismiss me as an apologist? WTF!

    Acknowledging that religion serves politics more often that politics serves religion: is that being a muslim apologist in your world? Especially when I reject the truth of all religions? How does that work? I don’t even think islam is enough of a “thing” that it’s a consideration and that 95% of what’s going on is politics; how does that equate to giving one bunch of religious stupidity a pass preferentially to any other?

    • secondtofirstworld says

      To refer to your last paragraph, I too was reduced to such an apologist after pointing out, that military action in the Middle East killed more civilians, than terrorism, and have supported it with a hefty study.

      On the mosque versus state issue, to add to Lurker’s point, there’s also Malaysia, where the civilian and criminal law is based on the British law, and only strictly religious matters can be brought before a sharia court, and it cannot involve non-Muslims. An ex-Muslim, who was raised into the faith from childhood knows, that the most prominently feared sharia law is very similar to the laws of Moses, insofar it covers various topics, and it’s possible to introduce only part of it, or all of it.

      From what has been verified about Dabiq, we know, that they operate like a corporation. Unlike the Taliban, which has blown up the giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan (after the East African bombing attacks, but before they met Bush to talk pipeline business), Dabiq has besieged Palmyra with the clear goal of cataloging priceless artifacts, and auction them off, with some of them ending up in American hands. They did so for profit, and the last I checked, it “kinda” doesn’t bode well with the no interest policy. It has been verified that they lure young, unmarried women without male accompaniment to become brides (aka comfort women), which would be a deadly sin, if they were purely religious. To name just one cultural difference, several predominantly Muslim countries have their own version of the “…got talent” shows, and in contrast, Dabiq not only hates music, they actively destroy TVs and radios. It’s ridiculous to imagine, millions imbued in a culture of Turkic origin just up and abandon what they liked about life, starting with peace to willfully join them, a society cannot be voted out.

      So you’re right, it’s as much political as it is religious, and religion is subservient, even in Iran or Saudi Arabia. The images of the royal dynasty or the ayatollah aren’t simply there because Mohamed can’t be pictured, it’s also there because people are obligated to worship them, which is highly contradictory to a supposed faith is above all attitude. I’ll be frank, only because someone is a former indoctrinated member of an oppressive execution of a less than pacifist ideal, and said ideal is executed in a more humane or neutral way, or it has a different culture, the only objective view is from their own environment. I can say the same for the Soviet type socialism. I know what it was like for us, but since all dictatorships differed on the authoritarian leading style, experiences were different too. I could cite books on Marxism-Leninism claiming this is what they believed, but I also can’t ignore they wanted to ease the social burden of potential escapes by adopting capitalistic models, so that products remained beyond sub par. I can’t claim authority over life in East Germany, as our oppressors did not survey us until they thought we represent a danger. We could laugh about sanctioned jokes, there’s an urban legend the power itself joined in creating jokes. Honecker on the other hand did not like jokes, and made them into political prisoners. Same idea, different execution. Which is the same for any large organization, religion included. The possibility of bias is in the cards, if the premise is built on the idea, that humans never alter an idea from a book. Timothy McVeigh claimed he bombed in Oklahoma as a revenge for Waco, yet his obsession with the Turner Diaries was a pretty big tell he did it for white supremacist reasons, and to make a name for himself. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is no different, the biggest thing he seems to adore about Mohamed is him being a great fighter, and even if he can be killed, he envisions becoming a martyr, and every follower has his name on their lips, not Allah, or Mohamed.

    • No longer a muslim says

      I don’t think that politics can be separated from religion in a meaningful way when it comes to Islam. In Islam religion is politics and politics is religion. There’s no distinction, one isn’t “subservient” to the other, because they’re one and the same. Politics is only a mean to an end after all, and the endgame of political islam is the caliphate (“which caliphate?” is the question where different strands of political islam disagree), just like the endgame of Nazism was the 1,000 year reich or the aim of Communism was Marx’ utopia of a stateless proletarian utopia.

      Islam isn’t “just a religion” it’s a precise plan for all society, it’s a totalitarian ideology. My beef with Chomsky and Greenwald (but especially Greenwald, since Chomsky is more ambiguous on the matter) is that they seem to think that this totalitarian ideology was somehow created as a reaction to “Western”intervention and if only the “west”stopped intervening the ideology/religion would disappear and gradually lose its strength. No, the ideology was already there, “Western intervention” is/was only a useful way to rally people to support the ideology, just like the 1929 crisis and its effects on German economy. or the harshness of the Versailles treaty were used by Hitler to rally people to support Nazism.

      Thinking that islam is only a “reaction” to wars and oppression is a very stupid idea, which makes Greenwald and Chomsky side with traditional islam when traditionalists spread a narrative of the perpetual victimhood of poor, oppressed traditional muslims who only want to celebrate their peaceful religion without the mean westerners mucking it up.

      Greenwald in particular is a useful idiot for traditionalist imams. He has praised women who wear the islamic veils in the west as “brave” since they face backlash. This is idiotic. Nazis also face backlash if they wear nazi symbols, but here’s nothing “brave” in wearing a swastika.

      The fact that religion and politics were one and the same used to be true of Christianity or Judaism and it still is in some countries (Uganda, for example) or in some isolated communities, including many isolated communities in the US which have political influence in some parts of the Republican party (although they don’t thoroughly dominated it as their peers do in Uganda). This is also true of more modern cults like Scientology (which tried to infiltrate the US Government to silence its critics) or the Jehova’s Witnesses (which recommends their followers to be allied with the cult first and with any other authority only as an afterthought).

      The trouble with islam is that unlike those other religion and cults islam is based on the absolute, unquestionable truth of the Qu’ran. Christians and Jews might, if sufficiently pushed by an evolving society and contained by the checks and balances of liberal democracy, allow for some wiggle room/cherrypicking, because their books are only “inspired”, not “dictated” by god. They can bullshit their way through the horribleness of their religion by saying “oh, this was then, an old interpretation, but now we’re more clever and we can see the “real” meaning” (i.e. apply a modernist interpretation).

      Not so much in islam, where “interpreting” the Qu’ran is in itself blasphemy. Any reformation of islam should bypass this problem, which is an unsolvable dilemma for any liberal reformer.

      So what should we do to counter political islam? Banning ideas is not only highly illiberal and would betray the same ideals that islam threatens, but it’s incredibly ineffective. Germany banned holocaust denials, this has just given the holocaust denialists a reason to cry on how much they’re poor, oppressed victims. Even Chomsky (as far as possible from denialism) agreed that this wasn’t neither ethically justified (he defended Robert Faurisson) nor effective. So banning is out of the question.

      Wars are even worse, since not only they’re an even more illiberal and immoral form of banning, but they destroy order and economies, cause untold suffering and deaths and allow islamists to try to exploit weaknesses to come to power. So they’re out of the question, too.

      What comes to my mind is criticism, mockery and satire, defense of all critics of islam from violent or legal harassing, refusing to curtail criticism of islam on alleged “islamophobic” or even “racist” grounds, and promoting a world view based on liberal democracy, on science, on skepticism, where the flaws of islam are mercilessly exposed and apologists are called out on their bullshit, where the laws are equal for everyone and there are no special muslim courts or muslim councils with political influence or muslim schools, where religion is kept private and doesn’t interfere with laws.

      • secondtofirstworld says

        It can be separated, for several reasons. For your proposition to work, it would require, that all predominantly Muslim countries build a caliphate, which is why Saudi Arabia is the only country on the Arabian Peninsula, Malaysia has conquered much of Southeast Asia in cooperation with Pakistan and Bangladesh, Iran reaches up to Turkey, and has a Shiite superstate. None of it is real? Politics independent of faith. While all these countries are rich and powerful enough to see through an endeavor you propose, none go through with it. 2 years ago, when the refugee crisis became a large problem in Europe, many asked the question, how come these rich countries don’t help them directly with housing? As a former Muslim, you’re aware, that being charitable is up to interpretation, much like it’s a never ending discussion on what zakat should be used for. So, again, the powers that be interpret religion as they wish, it’s almost shocking for a politician.

        I’m sure you’re aware, there are predominantly Muslim countries in the Gulf living from tourism, who have lax rules on beach clothing, which is kind of contradictory to totalitarianism. Your assessment on how Hitler came to power is only half correct. He and his party has built a successful campaign on the idea, that both the Great War and the Great Depression was orchestrated by a Zionist shadowy cabal, and riding that rampant antisemitism was the entry ticket.

        You’re misinterpreting American Evangelicalism and Mormonism. Since you know what goes down in Uganda, you must also know, that American wrote the law. Only because they cannot do it in America (yet again) doesn’t mean they don’t want to. 3/4th of home schooled kids are Evangelical, who only learn about things based on the Bible, and thanks to the Tea Party, some of those kids are congresspeople now. The problem with the X is bad but Y is worse hypothesis is simple, it fails to address the victims of X. True, the Ugandan government executes people who identify as LGBT, but it doesn’t make it being LGBT in America better. Yay, they don’t kill them, they just humiliate them into suicide, try to introduce legislation on gay conversion therapy, and force women to consult with pro-life doctors who are allowed by law to talk about their ideals, instead of relevant and contemporary medical information. They force women to listen to the ultrasound if they wish to have a pregnancy termination, and authorities are very lax on sexual violence. Heck, I’ve mentioned this before, there’s also a law, that posits, if a rapist has not been convicted for their sexual crime, the state finds them, they force him to pay child support if the baby was born, and the victim has to directly confer the court mandated visitations with him. This doesn’t even mention how Poland tries to fully outlaw abortion.

        No, Islam isn’t that different, it’s different to you, because you lived in it, but looking at all dominant religions in their own regions, they all are cherry pickers. The notion that Christianity, Judaism or Hinduism for that matter has abandoned this practice is preposterous. What do you think pro-life is based on? The unquestionable perceived nature of the Bible. Jews and Palestinians fight each other for a land promised to them in a book, and they will continue to fight even if the whole world is a desert. On the other hand, it cannot be dismissed how much money and politics goes into the conflict to keep it going. You also can’t dismiss how the execution of the caliphate follows historical lines, not a religious agenda. ISIS doesn’t ask Chechens to break further into Russian territory and convert, just as much they don’t ask the same from the Uyghurs in China. The dominance they seek is the biggest expansion their predecessors ever made, and where Islam was kept as a major faith. The exceptions are territories conquered by the Ottomans. They don’t want to invade the Ukraine, Eastern Europe or the Balkans, and they don’t recruit there either. Why? Aren’t there Muslims mistreated by a majority? There are, but the Ottomans, according to them were false Muslims, ergo those Muslims are heathens, not even worthy of punishment.

        Finally something we agree on. I was pissed with Chomsky for defending Faurisson. It’s a little bit ridiculous to question the ethics behind Holocaust denial, when deniers attack the scientific process itself. In their book, a systematic genocide can only be proven by “performing tests”, as in they accept the Holocaust being real, and meaning what it mean if we round up millions of people and gas and shoot them. This type of denial, which gave birth to similar denials is not about the past, but the future. Its aim to desensitize people to the point that we would just simply accept what they are doing. Speaking of which: only because I disagree with your arguments, it bears no relation to a) you being a person and b) what I hold about the misdeeds of religions.

        To agree with your last paragraph, the requirement is to join everyone else in adapting it to all religions, which the separation is all about. The Sathmar Sect in Judaism has its own council and court, being lords of life and death, and Christians are not too big on minority either. If you refer to the UK situation, the country doesn’t even have separation of church and state. The only way to avoid accusations of Islamophobia or racism is to be equidistant of all theistic religions. I certainly get not registering the dangers of an other religion one did not grow up with (and this is how Christianity is viewed in Asia, and Hinduism and Buddhism is viewed this way in predominantly Caucasian ethnic countries), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

      • says

        I don’t think that politics can be separated from religion in a meaningful way when it comes to Islam.

        Why privilege islam? It’s just another religion among many, and it makes similar claims on the here-and-now as other faiths. Perhaps right now it is politically ascendant in some parts of the world, but that’s just a short-term phenomenon mostly a result of petropolitics and geopolitics.

        I reject islam, of course, because it’s just another silly religion.

        This is all good stuff, but I think Anjuli’s got cause and effect backwards regarding islam. That happens. And the result is a whole “islamophobia” debate that’s a great big side-show.

    • says

      Of course it’s an argument. It’s just a vague one. He is

      This would be no argument at all. Dabiq is an ISIS mouthpiece (as is Rumiyah). These are organs through which they say what they believe and declare their aims and objectives. What they do in the real world is to pursue exactly those aims. If anyone wanted to make an argument on this point, they’d have to argue that Dabiq, etc., are not indicative of what ISIS wants, and in the real world, ISIS does not pursue it own aims. Granted, it would be a tough argument to make, but it would at least make sense. The argument you’re attributing to Harris doesn’t make any sense, as there isn’t anything to argue, whether by Harris or anyone else. Teasing out the implications of what he’s reading for arguments he may have had elsewhere, and there could be any number of these, is not the same as actually having those multiple arguments, whether vaguely or specifically.

      He wasn’t doing it for pleasure; he was doing it to comment on Dabiq.

      Also: he specifically oriented his argument to try to refute some of the things that Chomsky specifically has said about his beliefs. I.e.: he is trying to shore up his position by injecting what he sees as facts into the discussion (which is why I find it extremely odd that he is presenting a piece of propaganda as facts about what an organization believes)

      The point about Chomsky was entirely incidental. How did he “specifically orient his argument to try to refute Chomsky”? (Just putting in my own penny’s worth at this point, if I may: there’d be no need for Harris to do this as Chomsky’s pretty easy to refute).

      Your claim that I am attempting to strawman Harris is bizzare; I was attempting to fairly summarize his argument, [if we start from the premise that he was making an argument, then sure, my claim would be bizarre] and I chose a part of it which is contradictory as a way of illustrating part of what I found contradictory about the whole thing. Mostly that was laziness;

      Again, if he was making an argument, then this would be right.

      I felt that Harris was trying to have it both ways – that we should take what ISIS writes in what is admittedly a bunch of propaganda (i.e.: manipulated opinions bordering on outright falsehood)

      This is not propaganda.

      Harris, ever the skeptic, appears to accept at face value that the alleged woman from Finland actually exists and wrote that, and actually used those words to describe her child’s martyrdom, etc. I am willing to grant that Harris may believe that piece of propaganda is literally true, which is where he starts his argument, but then he concludes that it’s propaganda that works; OK well it appears to have worked on him. Perhaps because its truthiness fulfils some point he was trying to make?

      The point of propaganda is not whether it’s true or not, or whether you believe it or not; the point is that it gets you to think, feel or act in a particular way. The point of the propaganda in question is to make Muslims want to join ISIS and to fortify those who do so. The aim of propaganda isn’t to disseminate truth, although truth is often harnessed to that end. Harris was most definitely not duped, even if he may have axes to grind, which is an entirely different matter.

      Characterizing it as “straw-manning” is stretching things a bit much, I’d say. Especially since “strawmanning” an argument would entail substantially misrepresenting it

      This is not strawmanning. Strawmanning is setting up an argument that someone isn’t making to then refute it and thereby discredit the person to whom the false argument had been attributed.

      So, yes, I assert (with the same amount of supporting evidence that Harris presents) that producing propaganda that is attempting to recruit fighters is a political act. Because fighting is a political act. The motivations may be to some degree or other religious but when you’re talking about occupying territory and building a supposed new state, you’re talking politics – it’s unavoidable, especially because the primary interaction in doing so is going to be political interactions with other states. (It’s unavoidable because the new state that ISIS is trying to create is within existing states) I don’t see how it’s possible to argue that’s not a political process.

      Harris isn’t doing this. You imputed him to be doing this. (This is where I jumped in on my own account, because you then started making an argument that it was not religious and I showed that it most certainly was. I kept out of whether or not it was political. The implication of saying that it’s not religious, especially if done emphatically, is to absolve Islam from responsibility for ISIS — it was a temptation I simply couldn’t resist)]

      I do see how it’s possible to argue that there are plenty of apparent religious motivations for that – which I said clearly in my comment. But if it’s a political process,

      It is

      to any significant degree

      To the highest degree—they’re setting up a geopolitical entity akin to a state, for goodness sake. Of course it’s political.

      then everyone ought to acknowledge that it’s not purely about islam,

      Islam is political (which is why I disagree with the notion of “political Islam” or “Islamism” – as opposed to what?). It is possible for something to be 100% political and 100% Islam. The Qur’an is littered with this kind of stuff.

      and then we can have a productive discussion about the interface between islamism and middle east politics

      Those who acknowledge Islam’s culpability are having a very productive discussion without feeling the need to let Islam off the hook.

      Unfortunately for people who want to make ISIS all about islam

      Nobody needs to “make ISIS all about Islam,” they’ve set up a caliphate, for crying out loud. How much more Islamic would they need to get?

      The problem with adopting my position is that one can no longer point at islam and say “the problem is islam”

      That is a problem of your own making, and where the suspicion of apologia started.

      because, it’s complicated

      Sure it is, but simple stating that it’s complicated is not enough. How is it complicated? Simply saying it’s complicated looks like avoidance.]

      Harris’ piece is attempting to say that the problem is islam (which is why I find it contradictory when he keeps discussing political realities that are not matters of faith.) Harris can’t have it both ways.

      The Qur’an, however, does have it both ways, which is why ISIS has it both ways and Muslims most certainly have it both ways.

      I am not saying the koran is not a religious book!

      Well, I’m afraid you are, although you may be doing so unwittingly.

      I argue that religion has no truth to it, at all, and is and always has been a technique of political control.

      I am an atheist. So is Harris, Hirsi Ali, Namazie, Nasreen, Rushdie, Ibn Warraq, Haider, the late Hitchens… Why would any of us have an issue with this.

      That’s why I’m not impressed by arguments like “ISIS really thinks this” because I don’t think it’s possible that ISIS really “thinks anything” – there is no cohesion there

      One would have to hold to a highly peculiar notion of thinking and deny that they are political to be able to advance that ISIS doesn’t think anything. It’s not possible to do what they do without thinking, and a lot of highly sophisticated thinking it would have to be. But if by that you mean hold a particular view, then I couldn’t agree either. They express their views quite clearly.

      it’s a typical political movement some of whom are religious ideologues (for sure) others of whom are political opportunists. I see ISIS as looking like every radical political movement, ever

      With, or without cohesion?

      you’ve got your Lenin, and your Trotsky, and your Stalin – each of them are fellow travellers on the path when it’s convenient but as soon as they get to a point where their paths diverge, the knives come out in spite of the deep professions of faith and belief prior to that divergence.

      This would be the ‘ideologues’, as you put it. The opportunists have their knives at the ready for any opportunity, even when they’re ideologically solid.

      And I also just described mohammed’s empire’s break-up and why.

      Those are all valid points. Indeed, so bloody and frequent are the caliphal, royal and princely successions in the Dar al-Islam, especially the murder of fathers by sons and brothers by brothers, that it becomes entertaining in its own morbid way.]

      For that matter, it’s bizzare to me that anyone would look at the koran and not understand mohammed in his context as monarch and empire-builder, and the broader political context of his time and not see how that context formed his religion – not the other way around.

      Everyone who critiques Islam in the way I do or similarly, sees it this way. This is not news. What we’re further saying is that there is something about the way Muhammad laid down the ideological foundations of his geopolitical project, and about the way his immediate followers completed those ideological foundations, that are not only quite different to other projects of that kind preceding it, but that it had perfected its built-in self-preservation mechanism: absolute obedience; fear of both what happens in life and what happens in death; brutal violence at every turn; a fatalism that removes all decisions from you, and yet at the same time makes you fully responsible for everything you do; compels you to rid the world of anyone who isn’t of you; compels you to love none other than god and his messenger; compels you to police all your co-religionists, and, the coup de grâce, it is the final religion and compels you to kill anyone who changes the foundation text or deviates from it. There is a reason it endured for 1400 years despite its incompatibility with every society it came into contact with – it could do nothing but violently subjugate them all. A more complete imperialism has yet to be devised. Muslims are faced with a stark choice, either lie to yourself or become ISIS. Over 1400 years, from time to time, someone got tired of lying.

      The same must be said for the early jews and christians: their religions are results of politics and that is clear all the way through. Was Uthman’s re-edit of the koran a religious event or a political one?

      I hope I’ve conveyed by now that you are making a distinction that doesn’t help you. Let’s take the above question. There was no Qur’an for Uthman to re-edit. There were as many Qur’ans as there were Muslims who held fragments of Muhammad’s utterances, although some had more utterances on record than others. What finally emerged was most decidedly a political document designed to hold a very diverse and restive population under a single yoke. The Arabic language itself lacked a workable script at the time of Muhammad, making it impossible for Gabriel or his boss to have written it on the wall of a cave with sufficient clarity of meaning to support the claims of infallibility made today (quite apart from the reader being illiterate). The script was pushed very hard in the 200 years after Muhammad’s death precisely so a consolidated and standardised Qur’an could be produced for the first time. Uthman’s Qur’an was the first attempt, but Arabic writing was at that early stage not yet up to the task (an odd deficiency for the language of Allah). What was good enough for heaven, however, was clearly not good enough for earth. Politics demanded a single book in Arabic and the linguists got to work. All religion is politics — that goes without saying. I think this should answer some of the points below.]

      There are always true believers that can be whipped into a froth over whatever is politically convenient at the time. I don’t dismiss their froth – I merely acknowledge the political agenda they serve, whether they serve it willingly or not.

      The point is that it is demanded of them to split religion from politics — as you’re doing in this debate — and they can’t countenance the thought, let alone do it.

      That, by the way, is pretty much the view that Chomsky and Greenwald are arguing as well, they’re just focused on different parts of the political picture (Chomsky believes, rightly, that a lot of the political turmoil that is energizing political islam is a result of imperialist politics and WWI and WWII and Greenwald believes a lot of the turmoil is energized by the US imperialist politics and support for israel. It’s possible for both of those positions to be right to a matter of degree, and I think they both are.)

      I hope you’ll excuse me for passing on this one. I’d take it on, but not here. I find that stuff just too tiresome.

      I’d have no problem at all with Harris’ piece if he acknowledged the greater complexity of the problem. But then he’d have to be wafflier and sound less certain and he wouldn’t be able to take digs at Chomsky and Greenwald because he’d have to acknowledge that they have a point, too.

      You have valuable things to say. It’s a shame that your hostility towards Harris seems to preclude you from taking him on the level. I have several disagreements with Harris myself, but I hope that’s not stopping me from giving the man a fair reading. I think you might do that, too.]

      [Nuance] is a word I used because I thought it was appropriate. I do not consider myself as falling anywhere on any axis of “apologist” – so if you think that the comment above somehow invalidates what I’m saying, I think you have made an error.

      I have. I’m sorry. I would say that your assumptions about people who critique Islam dismiss them too easily. They’ve looked at the particularities of that religion far more rigorously that you give them credit for. Harris got it right, as have many others. My beef with him is where he goes from there. It doesn’t help to insist that Islam is just like any other religion, when there are so many highly credible people who’ve done a great deal of hard work to get to the bottom of what makes it so tenacious and what makes its adherents so uniquely unfathomable. I think you can do better than simply insisting that they’re wrong. You can look at the actual work they’ve done that convinces them of Islam’s uniqueness, look at Islam itself, especially its canonical texts, with the application and seriousness that they have, and show why they’re wrong. If you don’t do this, then what you say comes across like you’re “sticking up” for Islam no matter what, rather than showing that it is not the religion that people like me maintain it is. Similarly, your reluctance to take ISIS at face value and to look at what they actually say and do, while still insisting that they fit some a priori model that addresses “all” political organizations, makes your charge of “laziness” on Harris’ part, someone who actually did the work, look peculiar, to say the least.

      Acknowledging that religion serves politics more often that politics serves religion: is that being a muslim apologist in your world? Especially when I reject the truth of all religions?

      If either of us thought there were any truth in religion, we wouldn’t be having this debate.

      • says

        The point is that it is demanded of them to split religion from politics — as you’re doing in this debate — and they can’t countenance the thought, let alone do it.

        I tend not to believe everything that I’m told under the rubric of faith. So when someone gives me a faith-based justification for a political act, I see it for a political act and dismiss the faith-based explanation.

        You and Harris are paying too much attention to their words, which – we are reminded – actions speak louder than. The whole “islamophobia” or “islamic apologist” axis hinges upon taking the political actions of people as acts of faith.

  6. says

    And PS: if you do think you’re dismissing me by accusing me of islamic apologia I hereby revoke in perpetuity your right to ever accuse anyone, ever, of “strawmanning” an argument.

  7. says

    Not sure if this thread is too dead to continue, but here I go:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2017/03/09/any-guess-as-to-when-and-where-this-photo-was-taken/
    I think this is relevant to the point I was making earlier. To my knowledge, Afghanistan never stopped being muslim, yet, the photos Mano shares in his blog show a place modernized beyond what it currently is.

    A society that somehow subscribes to a freakish ideology without being freakish itself. What the hell happened since then?

    This is where I can see how both Anjuli and Marcus are correct.
    -There current freakishness of Afghanistan has an undeniable religious component. The norms imposed on afghan women come straight from the Ol’ Book of Religious Bullshit that is the Qur’an. As does the authority by which they are imposed.
    -The current freakishness of Afghanistan also has a political component. The freaks were not in charge when the photos were taken, they were put in charge by an outside force (the US) as a proxy army to fight their political opponents (the USSR). Islam was in the process of mellowing out in that region, but outside intervention created harsher conditions and armed the mujahideen, completely derailing social progress in the name of international politics.

    There’s also the scientific progress made in the Middle East during the Dark Ages (dark for Europe),when the islamic world had things going on such as algebra, Alhazen’s approach to the scientific method, Avicenna’s advancements in surgery, some advancements in architecture, freedom of speech, among other things.

    They’ve been there before, they could get there again. In fact, it seems that the natural tendency of that society (and most societies) is towards science, philosophy, freedom and secularism. It’s only ever perturbed by more forceful entities wrecking their shit and making them start from scratch (the mongols in the 13th century and the US in the 80’s, there may have been others along the way).

    • secondtofirstworld says

      It doesn’t have to be an outside force ad necessitam. As of right now, Turkey is in a diplomatic war with the Netherlands over the foreign propagation of their constitutional referendum, which would make Erdogan a de facto dictator even more, and before the last 5 years (aka the timeline ISIS started to directly threaten Turkey), it was a deeply secular country, which removed any force that tried to end secularism.

      While it may seem as if the external threat of the Syrian civil war and ISIS shaped Turkey, that’s actually just an excuse religious hardliners use to realize the dreams they have since the ’70s, namely killing modern Turkey, and transform it back to the place that bankrupted it to begin with.

      As for Afghanistan… the tribes were primarily loyal to the king’s family until it was deposed, but even without American intervention they would have fought the Soviets, and that political chaos linked them up with zealots from the Waziristan region in Pakistan, breaking the country in 2. While largely forgotten, the Northern Alliance was successful as much it was, because the Central Asian Muslims pre-Chechen Wars times were different from other Muslims closely linked to Pakistan and Iran. Specifically, the Central Asian region from the Caucasus to Hsinkiang were always loyal to any overlord as long as they got to practice their faith, participating in the Russian and Chinese civil wars.

      The notion to place religion before political loyalty comes from the Indian subcontinent. During the Cold War era, Islamic terrorism was synonymous with Palestinians and Shiites, which is why Saudi Arabia has not joined the fray until the Mujahedin, and even then they used it to peddle their own Wahhabi faith, given that bin Laden was one. So, this resurgence started with one faction of a faith in response to a militant faction of another, and it’s not much older, than the militants who today fight for it. Going back to Erdogan a bit, he’s using faith mostly as a stepping stone, since his endgame is a pan-Turkic influence, which he can only achieve through faith, since economically they’re lodged between the influence spheres of Iran and Russia.

      Lastly, there’s one thing Trump is very wrong about which came up during his infamous talk with Turnbull. He said he doesn’t want the deal, so they don’t have to let in the new Boston bombers, except neither he, nor his advisers could not be more ignorant. The siblings were terrorists of Chechen origin, however they are, until today the only ones who committed a terrorist attack on US soil not because America has done something, rather because it did not. Way back when the Chechens expected, that if the US had intervened in Yugoslavia, they could do there too, which never happened. At this point in time ISIS did not yet recruit Chechens, so their target wasn’t Russia, or jihad in general, more like a perceived revenge for a letdown. Given that Polish history teaches their country’s communist turn as Western betrayal, it’s not new. Not everything happens for a purely religious or political reason.

    • says

      Don’t worry, I keep threats open for this very reason. BTW, I still haven’t heard from FTB Management about the comment template issues. I’ve not even had an acknowledgement of my enquiries, which is unusual. Thanks for persevering.

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