(NOTE: The first post I made on this general topic was to address the then impending war in Iraq. I thought the commonly provided rationales against it were bogus, though at the end I provided my own reasons for being opposed to going to war in Iraq. I now think, more than ever that it was a bad idea at the time (but I also think our recent precipitous withdrawl was a strategic blunder of a level to easily match going in in the first place).This has been a general topic I’ve researched and studied and written about for a long time. Some of this material appeared in that first post though I have, in the past few days preparing this post, returned to review it for needed modifications or corrections. )
The world is responding to the murders of the satirical journalists and cartoonists in Paris. First of all there is a display of hypocrisy that would be amusing were it not part of such a tragic event.. Many of these sudden “supporters” of Charlie Hebdo, especially those “friends” on social media, would have led the charge to flay alive any writer with the temerrity to write or draw such insulting stuff and post it, say, on Facebook or other public outlet Issues of 1st Amendment Rights aside, the modern liberal mind would have exploded to think someone would openly write such scurrilous things about a group their sensitivity to diversity would go to great lengths to protect regardless of their somewhat anti-social behaviors. But this document is not about the brilliance or lack of it or even common taste and respect involved in openly ridiculing someone’s beliefs, it is about a belief system that allows or encourages followers to kill the authors of said insults.
Regarding the murderers, it seems to me to be a no-brainer to think it likely that killers shouting “Allah is Great” in Arabis. and “The Prophet has been avenged” are Muslims. That does not seem surprising to me though it does seem discomforting to those insisting that Islam is THE religion of peace and that their actions do not reflect the teachings of Islam as revealed in the Qu’ran and Hadith, the sacred texts of Islam..
Right…Let’s examine that, especially in the bloody light of modern terrorism. Below I’ll also look at some other factors that I believe are playing into the time-bomb that is the Middle East and is accelerating toward critical mass. Is there a solution to terrorism? There was a time, right after WWII when it might have actually been so simple as having Britain and France keeping their word. We would still see probably constant inter-tribal warfare but at least some of the animosity directed at the west would not be there. But from days long before that and adding in modern issues as well, solutions are no longer simple or easy and certainly not painless. Maybe they cannot be solved at all, perhaps it is too late and the war of cultures is beyond solving until one side or the other ceases to exist. I would like to not believe that but what I do believe strongly, is that until we in the west are willing to see the various parts honestly we will never be able to solve them. As long as we deny some of the root and fundamental realities in the name of political correctness we will never address the issues that actually might lead to resolution.
I will try to address several of them here. I’m sure there are other more localized issues as well. But under them all, driving perceptions and behaviors is a belief system — Islam. So long as we continue to blind ourselves to the literal meaning of the words in the Koran and Hadith, we are fooling ourselves and preventing us from truly understanding on of the core issues that desperately needs resolution. So long as we only concentrate on other issues, even legitimate ones, but do so to the exclusion of accepting the reality of the words of the Qu’ran, we will not, we CAN not, solve the conflict in any properly civilized manner.
But once again, well meaning Americans search only for simplistic answers while awash in the blind acceptance of warm and fuzzy apologies that do honor to Pollyanna, trying to excuse savagery and brutality of the present by savagery from hundreds and in some cases thousands of years ago all so that they can see a different culture in a better light than our own. Their agenda betrays them but more importantly betrays anyone searching for real answers. Indeed this essay is inspired in no small part by a correspondent on social media that actually wrote that calling someone uncatholic and expelling them verbally from a religious enclave was no different than killing over differences in religious belief. That level of moral bankruptcy stunned me. So I thought it time to quit dancing around the edge and get into the fray after some updated research to check facts, dates, personages, etc. and to see, honestly, if my own views would change in light of more recent data. It, in fact, HAS on some topics. But this time the first hand impressions I got long ago have only been strengthened. The result was too long for a Facebook post but a blog essay was doable.
Now let me be clear at the start, I truly am indifferent to what someone believes vis-à-vis their belief in and their relationship with a divinity. I have no standing, by my beliefs, to judge that on theological grounds. But when that belief takes on physical action it is another story. As with our Constitutional Rights, anyone else has an absolute Right to swing their arms but that Right stops at the end of my nose. When someone’s beliefs, therefore, hold that it is OK to do violence to my own Rights then not only am I willing to judge them, given the opportunity I am willing to carry out judgement. A character flaw perhaps, but since I am now surrounded by weak-in-the-knees apologists for every belief different from those of our core culture while being first in line to put down those beliefs that allowed this country to become, at least at one point in time, the bright beacon to the world, it seems to me someone has to be willing to stand up and say, “Sorry, but that is unacceptable.”
If people within a consenting community think it good to hack each other to bits I think that is their right. It is just more chlorine in the gene pool in my estimation. But when the violence puts a single toe over the borders of their space into the space of others then I have no issue with the idea of cutting it off. If we do not want that spread of violence to happen then we must ask where would the belief that violence aimed outside of their group is OK come from?
The problem is that actions, good and ill, are informed by beliefs. Only sociopaths have no inhibitions doing things they know to be evil in the eyes of others. That does not describe terrorists. They all, including these killers in Paris, believe they are doing good as perceived through the filters of their own belief system. In a phone interview with with one of them yesterday when he was holed up with hostages, he was clear of his own innocence. He, in his own mind, was NOT a killer of other innocents which Islam does prohibit; he was instead doing the good work of Islam by visiting just and proper “revenge”” (his word) on those that had insulted the prophet. Relieving them of life was NOT killing to him.
Will you please take a moment and wrap your minds around that position! Some belief system had convinced him of that. He felt no pangs of regret since he had done as his religion told him his God demanded, not by killing but by avenging an insult. What???? And that belief is based on their core beliefs as expounded in their theology. That sick perception is no different than for those seeing moral equivalence between harsh condemnation and killing. What we have is a failure of values but that is another issue for another post.
And that means, in regards to terrorists, if we wish any chance to solve this sort of thing, we have to view that belief system objectively and based in reality not in just happy thoughts about how we all (i.e. people everywhere) really think the same and want the same thing. We have to accept that there is a belief system that makes it possible for a follower to slaughter others, kill children, murder women who will not marry them, .engage in “honor killings,” without seeing their actions as actual killings.
No, the core fundamentalists/jihadists do not just want what we want or think like we do. I had that realization slap me in the face during a mission, long ago, through Ethiopia and into the Sudan where our “guides” were local tribesmen. It was the only time when my team was more concerned about those we were helping than those we were eliminating. To be honest although I had a double major of studio art and philosophy in college and had studied comparative religions extensively, I had read their sacred texts and knew how Judaism and then Christianity has evolved over the centuries and assumed the same for other religions. I was surprised to discover that was not the case so in order to get a better understanding upon my return I re-read the Qu’ran. After 9-11-01 I re-read it again. The second and third times no professor was there to tell me what I was reading was not what it really meant. Given the frightening potential of a literal reading the professor’s stance made sense to my (then) liberal mindset. But reality had forced a different view. Those tribesmen had proven to me it meant what it said and its followers took it literally.
We dismiss “fundamentalists” as some looney fringe of a religion. A fundamentalist of any belief, however, is simply someone who believes the sacred text says what it means and means what it says. It is apostates that wish to ascribe new meanings or modify or moderate the words to better fit the more modern world in which they live. In our fantasy about how the world ought to operate we see that moderation as positive and it certainly allows for more of us to get along with each other. But the honest ones realize that to stay in a religion where they no longer can accept the words of the core text is hypocritical. Martin Luther understood that when he posted his famous Papal Bulls and broke with the Catholic Church as part of the “reformation.” He no longer disingenuously pretended to be Catholic.
Christianity, broadly defined, is full of splinter groups from the true fundamentalists to the “do whatever feels good” concepts of some of the California based TV preachers. Yet Catholics or Lutherans have not strapped on explosives and tried to blow up the Crystal Cathedral. Even the moronic zealots of the Westboro Baptist Church have not hauled out their weapons and tried to slaughter Unitarians or Methodists. Hundreds of years ago that was not true but those who follow the Judaeo-Christian theologies have, for the most part, matured out of those awful days. You cannot hold a modern moderate believer accountable for the actions of their theological ancestry which they have disavowed… unless, that is, they have continued the same behavior.
But at the core in terms of how the words of the Qu’ran and Hadith are viewed and followed, Muslim sects have not changed. Yes, it is heartening that a few moderate Muslims are speaking out against this atrocity, sometimes at great danger to themselves. But despite the pandering of the newsmedia, the moderates are, based on the words of their sacred text, not the true believers… unfortunately it is the Jihadists and extremists that, by definition, are. We need to come to grips with that reality and below I’ll let the Qu’ran itself make the case for me.
Meantime Sunni, Shia, and to a far lesser extent Sufi and even Kurds kill each other wholesale over trivial differences in dogma. If we continue to refuse to grasp the depth of those beliefs and the passion that inflames their actions, we will have zero chance of ever dealing with it and reducing the world of terror. In a previous post I wrote that we were crippled by an increasing inability to understand the difference between an ideology and faith. An ideology is something changeable. I started out in college being liber, ran into reality and became conservative, owned a business and went from even more conservative to a middle ground where socially I became far more liberal again and morphed over the years into some mutant libertarianism, combined with some liberal social views and some conservative fiscal and geopolitical views. The changes came with additional information, experiences, broadening influences, associations, etc. THat is my ideology. But faith, a sense of relationship with a diety, the universe, however it is comfortable for you to view it, is more deeply personal and profound and leads to far more passion about my sense of values and ethics than my feelings about how I relate to the government. Americans want to see everything as a mutable ideology and so are clueless when dealing with behaviors stemming from a deep personal faith, especially when those run counter to their own sensibilities.
And we of the western world have another problem: we long ago ceased being a nation of chess players. Now our leaders seem unable to predictably win a checkers game with the nearest potted plant. We have become short term, bottom line, simplistic thinkers with minimal if any ability to understand or deal with an adversary who takes the long view and plans out a strategy for the distant future utilizing tactics mixing political goals with theological values and military-style actions. And because it might be seen as politically incorrect, we ignore those in the intelligence community who can and try to tell us.
And into that already volatile mix we have the disastrous fall out and continual anger over the British and French led arbitrary break up of tribal areas into their own “spheres of influence” following WWII where after placing their faith in T.E. Lawrence and helping to destroy the Ottoman Empire in promise for their own tribal lands returned to their control, the Europeans ignored those promises and carved up territory to suit themselves and their own interests. To fully understand how the Arab leaders were betrayed look up the Sykes-Picot or “Asia Minor Agreement.” It takes our broken treaties with Native Americans to a whole new level of perfidy and deceit.
The current situation then is exemplary of the complex and long term strategy we are facing. Images, cartoons, satirical articles, etc. are not the real issue. Collectively they are a Red Herring. The goal is to divide the world of disbelievers to create openings for the advancement of the Qu’ran-promised global Islamic State. The long term strategy – something to which our low information population is notoriously blind – of fomenting a complete breakdown of any acceptance by Muslims of our depraved culture is aided by the tactic of making our culture see themselves as victims of Muslims per se that will, through expected backlash, attack all Muslims including the moderate ones, and drive all of them back into the accepted corrals. That is certainly working domestically with us on a political/economic front and it works globally on a geopolitical front. Having a plausibly acceptable focal point such as Rushtie’s writings or Charlie’s cartoons provides the perfect cover and distraction from which, and with which, to increase the rancor and push both sides toward a final glorious showdown as the Prophet promised..
I am so tired of this knee jerk denial and acceptance of evil, this is simply tolerance transformed into cowardice. Instead of believing what those with a vested political/economic interest in your opinions and support are saying, those of you who credit yourself with such careful research interests, how about reading the source material — The Qu’ran. The whole thing. I admit that because it is alien to how North Americans think it is almost impossible to believe the bottom line without reading the premises first hand. It makes so much more sense to our modern sensibiities to assume that is a misinterpretation. But the words and admonitions of the Qu’ran are actually pretty clear on the face of them.
The truly unfortunate reality is that the conflict between the Muslim and non-Muslim world is a core issue that will not go away with a victory or loss of Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan or any of those artificial States. It is, therefore, I believe, imperative that we understand the foundations of the larger and future conflict. I believe we are seeing the worst possible amalgamation of tribal and theological beliefs. The warm and fuzzy acceptors of anything so that no one will look closely at them either, are engaging in dangerous delusion.
From the very beginning, Muhammad’s warrior culture history was evident in his writings. He grew up in, lived and believed in, that warrior ethic and the Qur’an is infused throughout with it. From a merchant family he spent time as a youth alone meditating and finally came to believe the archangel Gabriel came to him and dictated what was to become the Qu’ran/Koran and charged him with converting others to the beliefs contained in the writing. From that very first effort, Islam was established and spread through conquest… Yes, just like early Christianity, it was parent and host to unacceptable, sometimes unspeakable atrocities in advancing its conversions and theological/political goals which it sees as intertwined. But the admitted excesses of one group does, in no way, excuse the excesses of another.
Though at the first (when the writing is ordered chronologically which the Qu’ran does not do) he preaches getting along. That was necessitated by reality because he was vastly outnumbered and needed to be careful to survive amidst the pagan believers and leaders he was threatening. Starting to gather followers around 622 a.d. in Medina he was conciliatory to attract converts and not bring the then powers crashing down on him and his followers. But around 630 a.d., now with an army of 10,000 converts and Medina under control, he took Mecca, then dispatched armies of newly minted Muslims to spread the word, destroy the pagan temples there and throughout Arabia. After the victories that put he and his followers in the driver’s seat, the tone of the writings that that were written later changes dramatically. By 632 a.d., the year he died, he had united (then) Arabia under Islamic rule.
Preaching virtual slaughter he emboldened and hardened his followers thusly with Surah II, 216 that states clearly, “Warfare is ordained for you though it is hateful to you. It may happen that you hate something that is good for you or love a thing that is bad for you. Allah knoweth, you know not.”
In this context, nearly 1,400 years ago his tactics were no different than other savage despots of the time. And it worked as it had worked for centuries. So it continued through history. Saladin, (Sala a din) in the latter quarter of the 12th Century became Sultan of Yemen, Egypt, and Syria, recaptured the “Holy Land” from the previous Crusade, and ruled the Levant with an iron fist and sharp sword. Under later Ottoman Turkish leadership Islam expanded enormously. The Moors conquered northern Africa, southern Europe and Sulleiman The Magnificent even expanded Muslim rule well into middle Europe (Vlad Tsepes “Dracula” became a Romanian national hero because of his successes at holding off Turkish incursions into his principality). The Ottoman Turks brought Islam to a major portion of the world from Europe to India. It had embraced the knowledge of the world in science and most arts. It was an Egyptian astronomer, Ibn Al Hassan who first wrote of what we today would call a pinhole camera. However, following the admonitions in the Hadith (post Qu’ran writings of Mohammed and the writings of subsequent Imams, all sacred writings to Muslims), icons and portraits were, however, forbidden as idolatrous leading to an art form of dazzling calligraphy and design. Idolatry, per se, is addressed specifically in the verses of the Qu’ran below.
What is most important to grasp first is that Islam had made a bold promise to the believers that seemed to be coming true for hundreds of years, for example the words of Surah XXIV, 55. “Allah has promised such of you as believe in him and do good works that He will sure make them to succeed in the earth even as he caused those who were before them to succeed.” And Surah XXXIX, 10 “O, my bondsmen who believe! Observe your duty to your Lord. For those who do good in the world there is good, and Allah’s world is spacious. Truly the steadfast will be paid their wages without stint.”
Allah would give the dedicated followers the world, the Imams and Mullahs told them, if they were just willing to live a righteous life following the dictates of the Qu’ran to the letter, accept Sharia, and fight in his name to achieve it. And until the growth of scientific knowledge and the European Renaissance began to bump into theological tenets of the Prophet, it seemed to be working extremely well and providing a reinforcement of the rightness of the beliefs.
At that point the western world began its slow climb into the modern era while the Muslim world sat on the intellectual/economic plateau it had reached, mired in its own theological constraints while Christians began to question church doctrines that ran counter to observation – something few Muslims would dare do publicly. As the western world continued to grow, expand, and progress, the comparative world view of Islam began to shrink and fall away because economically, scientifically, industrially it could no longer keep up. Taking a defensive posture behind in an increasingly obsolete world view that essentially let fundamentalists ignore half the population’s brain power and potential contributions and who rewarded dissent with grim death, it ultimately had no chance. Islam had, in some senses, failed to learn the lessons of its fellow theologies in that when scripture that, in context, referred to man’s cosmic, heavenly goal was interpreted literally to daily life, all manner of aberrations could be done in the name of the scriptures and of God and cultural progress was stymied.
Christianity, of course, went through some inexcusable behavior itself before it matured. But when you believe, as the followers of Muhammad were told, that if you strictly obeyed the Prophet’s words you were destined to greatness, then only blasphemy and heresy (which was a danger that made the Spanish Inquisition seem like child’s play) could make one even think that perhaps the problem lay internally in the system. Therefore, by definition, and by faith, whatever was letting the outside world get ahead of the believers absolutely had to come from outside. From “them.” From those people who were somehow getting ahead and had to be doing it by the evil work of the Devil since it was the only workable explanation. Translation: “From us.”
We are the ones seen as persecuting the believers and waging an insidious covert war specifically keeping them from their promised glory. Their sacred text allows for no other conclusion. No interpretation need be applied here, only a simple reading of the words and an acceptance that they mean what they say just as the followers of Islam believe them to.
Well, happily for them, the Qur’an has a solution for the problem. And it is a simple and incredibly effective one. Kill the infidel who is holding back the Faithful from their rightful global Islamic state. Don’t forget, that “infidel,” that purveyor of depravity and sin, those minions of the Devil, that’s us. And it’s a very difficult position to face since there is no room for negotiation.
You don’t believe it? It certainly is not what the apologists are telling you about the “Religion of Peace.” So instead of believing me, would you believe the Qur’an itself? Let’s see what, in addition to the section above, it says with a few examples…
Surah III, 196-197. Let not the vicissitude of the success of those who disbelieve deceive thee. It is but a brief comfort. And afterward their habitation will be hell, an ill abode.
Surah V, 10. “They who disbelieve and deny our revelations, such are the rightful owners of hell.” .. (14) “And with those who say, “Lo, we are Christians,” we made a covenant but they forgot a part of that whereof they were admonished. Therefore we have stirred up enmity and hatred among them till the day of resurrection”. (51.) “Oh ye who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians for friends. They are friends to one another. He among you who takes them for friends is one of them. Allah does not guide wrongdoing folk.”
Surah VIII, 12-13. … “So make those who believe stand firm. I (Allah) will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger. That is because they oppose Allah and his messenger. Lo! Allah is severe in punishment.” (38-39) “Tell those who disbelieve that if they cease from persecution of the believers that which is past shall be forgiven them. But if they return thereto, then the example of the men of old hath already gone before them for a warning. Fight them until the persecution is no more and religion is all for Allah.” (65) “O Prophet, exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you (believers) twenty steadfast they shall overcome two hundred and if there be one thousand steadfast they shall overcome two thousand by permission of Allah. Allah is with the steadfast. It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land.”
Surah IX, 36. … “Wage war on all the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you. And know that Allah is with those who keep their duty unto him.” (123) “O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you and let them find harshness in you and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty unto Him.”
There are 114 Surahs in the Qur’an. And from Surah X to Surah CXIV they continue with this same unremitting hatred and encouragement of violence against the disbelievers and those who, in their view, persecute them. Don’t be fooled by people trying to put a polite spin on this. Islam is indeed, sometimes, a VERY peaceful religion if – IF — you are also Muslim AND of the correct sect. But if you are not; if you are, by their definition, a disbeliever or worse, an apostate, then it has no patience, no room, no quarter, and no mercy for you. If Sunni and Shia are anxious to kill each other, and both willing to kill Sufi and Kurd (even though the Great Saladin was Kurdish), over subtle disagreements in dogma, why would you not think they would delight in killing complete disbelievers?
So is there a solution? We all want fast, simple, clean solutions to every problem with minimal fuss and no real effort on our personal parts. When we can’t find them we tend to go into delusional denial to make it go away. But this issue is not going to go away. With at least – at least – four major issues at play: (1) Intra-Muslim conflict over final control of the final Caliphate, (2) the dictates of the Qu’ran for its followers to establish that global Islamic state/Caliphate, (3) the incredible betrayal of faith by the secret Asia Minor Agreement of WWII, and though we have not mentioned it before, (4) the centuries old paranoia flowing from the Crusades which is, to the Arab street something that happened a few days ago and we are simply reincarnated Richard the Lion Hearted returned in BDUs, it is hard to imagine the leadership insight available to us now that might be able to begin unraveling this situation.
We are now faced with a real “Gordian Knot.” Alexander The Great famously solved it with a sword. But we have neither the will nor ability to do that. That leaves us with the monumental task of trying to untie it. But whatever the sequence of steps that might be able to start bring peace to the region and a diminution of terror, it will never be started until we admit and accept the reality of the fundamental issues to begin with, starting with the literal directives of the Qu’ran to the followers.
However a positive sign has happened. This event is so atrocious that finally, it may be the final straw for the modern moderate Muslims to stand up and denounce the actions of the murderers. Several interviews today were with Muslims who have been wavering; especially ashamed of the actions of those who were killing children, though it was not enough to get them into action. This final act of pure barbarism seems to have pushed them over the line. If that actually proves to be contagious in the Muslim community then the real goal of creating a backlash and dividing Muslim and non-Muslim into violently opposing camps could backfire and fall apart.
That would be wonderful and a major step toward resolution. But it will have to become widespread, not just a few isolated voices. But it is a very commendable start.