Terrorists are monsters, but no one KNOWS they are a monster. Almost everyone creates a script inside their head justifying their own cause and demonizing others. The Nazis told themselves that the Holocaust was “right” because the “Jews were a danger to Germany”. The soldiers and CIA handlers who tortured innocent Iraqis told themselves they “had” to because they were “protecting America” and “patriotic”. The guy who beat his wife to death? He’ll insist she “drove him to it” when she tried to leave him.
Indubitably, terrorists tell themselves a similar story. It is transparently bullshit from the outside, but inside their noggins they are “defending” their religion from the West. They claim that the West is trying to destroy Islam. This makes anyone who isn’t one of them or their allies de facto enemies of God, and thus murdering them is justifiable. And don’t act like that doesn’t happen here. I’ve seen too many comments about “kill all the ragheads” to think there aren’t plenty of people in the West who would believe it was “good” to slaughter Muslims (whom they conflate with Arabs) just for being Muslim. I’ve seen too many otherwise good and decent people argue that there is something inherently wrong with Islam, without the least awareness they are echoing ‘intrinsically evil’ arguments used by Nazis about Jews. Americans used to say “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” and that’s how an attempted genocide happened in the USA. Do think the American colonists who paid money for the scalps of Native children KNEW they were the bad guys?
The human ability to rationalize away any horrific action as “necessary” means that the terrorist monsters reconfigure themselves “defenders of the faith” to justify their atrocities. Thus, the goal of a terrorist attack is to provoke a rabid anti-Islam narrative and a military assault on Muslim populations. This allows them to argue that Islam is under attack, and any “good” person must join them to fight for God. This bolsters the recruitment of disenfranchised Muslims and loosens the wallets of uber-rich Muslim oil barons.
Clearly, the jihadist twatwaffles knew what they were doing when they attacked France. France occupied a lot of Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East during colonization, and they have a large and impoverished Muslim majority that Daesh is trying to stir up.
In the seventh issue of ISIL’s magazine Dabiq, shared last night on Twitter by author and analyst Iyad El-Baghdadi, the Islamic State expands on these themes, calling for a clash of civilizations. Jihadists are threatened by democracy, but they are empowered by narratives of sectarianism, mistrust and discrimination. Jihadists are not just becoming savvier at manipulating media, but at using attacks to advance their strategy of “exclusion.” They find a major fault line, seek to undertake an attack that will widen this fissure, and reap the whirlwind as people in divided societies run in opposite directions.
So how do we fight terrorism? The only way to stop terrorism is to 1) cut off their money supply and 2) blow a hole in their recruiting script.
Lets be honest; there is too much wealth to be made by the Western moneyed elites for any government to actually cut off the cash pouring into the Middle East. We are dependent on oil and oil is needed to generate a lot of Western commerce. Too many Western billionaires need oil to keep their billions multiplying to actually give the furry crack of a rat’s butt if innocent Jane and John Does are dying because of it, and billionaires have de facto control over Western governments. It sucks, but there it is.
That means the best shot we (the little people in the street who are not rolling in lucre) have is to negate their recruiting script. How? Well, we can stop the insane Islamaphobia that makes all Muslims the “enemy”for one thing. Nothing says “they are coming to get us” like people actually saying “we should go get them”. Making all Muslims analogous to terrorists just makes more Muslims into terrorists. There are 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and the Pacific Rim, and calling them all Middle Eastern Terrorists is asinine.
Islam, like every other religion, is modified and expressed through the lens the local cultures who adopted it. In patriarchal cultures, Muslims insist God wants women to be pure and subordinate. In cultures where “honor” is a big deal to men, lo and behold the Quran justifies honor killings and vengeance. In cultures with a strong matrifocal tradition, Islamic texts giving women power are emphasized and female imams abound. It is culture that determines religious behavior, not the other way around.
Nor is Islam an intrinsically violent religion. Yes, some of the Quran has verses suborning violence, but have you read the Christian Bible lately?
Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them,” God says through the prophet Samuel. “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom.
There are dozens of similarly vile verses in the Bible that ancient men insisted came from God, rather than from their own self-justification for aggressive theft and their lust for wealth/power. In my book The Jezebel Effect I point out that acts of non-violence could actually be held against you, because it theoretically displeased God:
Ahab began enacting policies that they considered to be flouting the will of Yahweh. It was expected that during war a conqueror would sacrifice captured enemy combatants in order to thank the deity who had provided his victory. Ahab, in conservative opinion, lacked the bloodlust of the truly devout and was appalling reluctant to slaughter thousands in Yahweh’s name. 1 Kings Chapter 20 documents the king’s sin against Yahweh:
1“Now Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria and attacked it … 13 Meanwhile a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord.’ … 21 The king of Israel advanced and overpowered the horses and chariots and inflicted heavy losses on the Arameans. 22 Afterward, the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, “Strengthen your position and see what must be done, because next spring the king of Aram will attack you again.” … 26 The next spring Ben-Hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel … 28 The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’ 29 For seven days they camped opposite each other, and on the seventh day the battle was joined. The Israelites inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Aramean foot soldiers in one day. 30 The rest of them escaped to the city of Aphek, where the wall collapsed on twenty-seven thousand of them. And Ben-Hadad fled to the city and hid in an inner room. 31 His officials said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of Israel are merciful. Let us go to the king of Israel with sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads. Perhaps he will spare your life.” 32 Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says: ‘Please let me live.’ The king answered, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.” … 42 [an unknown prophet] said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die.[c] Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.’” 43 Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.
Fundamentalists were incensed at Ahab’s “betrayal” of Yahweh. In their eyes Ahab had sinned when he forgave Ben-Hadad, because the king was denying Yahweh what conservatives insisted the deity wanted – heaps of slain humans. While Ahab’s generosity appears, to the modern reader, to be an act of decency or even a foretaste of the loving God that Jesus would one day preach about, for conservatives the king’s decision to spare his captives was nothing less than vile blasphemy against the Lord.
Do Christians, who have routinely participated in wars and historically participate in genocide and wars against non-Christians and fellow Christians alike, consider their religion to be violent? I’m an Episcopalian, and I would argue vociferously that the core of Christianity is non-violent, love-thy-neighbor, socialism. However, there are many good people out their who consider themselves to be Christian who are very much in favor of the US military being used lavishly and aggressively for US interests.
Which will bring us to the next blog post — how failed American foreign policy and the Iraq war has fueled terrorism in the Middle East.