16 July 2005

The Bastard Jihad strikes again

Now it seems that the perpetrators of the 7/7 attacks in London were Shahzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, Sidique Khan, and Germaine Lindsay. They were four friends, three Muslims described as Britons of Pakistani descent, and the last a Jamaican convert to Islam. Britain's MI5 suspects that a fifth man, Magdy El-Nashar, an Egyptian chemical engineer, supplied the explosives they carried in the backpacks they used to turn themselves into human bombs on three subway ("tube") trains and a bus.

In other words, terrorists did not infiltrate into London from outside England. It was an inside job, carried out by 2nd-generation immigrants who meet weekly to play soccer (football). Perhaps England and the rest of Europe could do more to assimilate their new Muslim immigrants, teaching them not only soccer, but language, and most of all, respect for other peoples' lives and beliefs. But these were not new immigrants. They were second generation, born and raised in England, native English speakers. And the fact remains that of all immigrant groups, only Muslims are known for massacring their adopted countrymen in their adopted homelands. It is not politically correct to say it, but, in case it has not become obvious by now, something is wrong with Islam.

Islam is infected with the toxic ideology of Bin Laden and company, the people I have called jihaddicts. They think that Islam has declined in world power and influence because Islam has been and is everywhere under attack, and that defending it requires extreme measures, including suicide bombing. Their memory of humiliation, abuse, and defeat stretches back past the establishment of the nation-state of modern Israel in 1948, past the British mandate in Palestine, past the demise of the Turkish Caliphate at the end of WW I, past the end of Muslim rule in Spain in the late 1400s, all the way to the Crusades of approximately A.D. 1095-1271. According to their ideology, the failure of Islam to dominate the world is due to the more or less constant warfare that non-Muslims have made against Muslims for the last 1000 years or so.

The truth of the matter, however, is that Islam was expansionist from its founding in the early 600s until the Islamic Ottoman Empire was finally driven south of the Danube River in the Battle of Vienna (Austria) in 1683. The expansion faltered mostly because the Islamic world felt that it had nothing to learn from the civilizations which it was seeking to dominate. First technologically, and then economically, Islamic civilization simply fell behind. And it has stayed behind, despite the most massive infusion of wealth from the rest of the world in history (to purchase, not steal, oil).

In a word, the ideology of Bin Laden and company is paranoid. It is also narcissistic, in that it has an exaggerated sense of entitlement, insisting on rights for Muslims in non-Islamic countries that are not accorded to non-Muslims in Islamic countries. Finally, it is like borderline personality disorder in its compulsively generating conflict wherever Islam meets another culture, and psychopathic in its disregard for the moral code it claims to be striving for.

This is not to say that adherents of this ideology are psychologically abnormal - Marc Sageman presents evidence that they are quite normal. But that makes their sin worse - they are psychologically normal people who embrace an ideology that is sick.

But mostly, the ideology of Bin Laden and company (al-Qaeda and its sympathizers, hangers on, etc.) is illegitimate. It calls for defensive (and therefore unlimited) jihad in places and times where Islam and Muslims are not under attack from anyone but the illegitimate mujahidin themselves. [It strains the imagination to wonder how a single Muslim anywhere on earth is defended by blowing up trains in London or Madrid, or by the 9/11 attacks against America. Indeed, the situation of world Islam seems to have been made worse by these events.] Since another word in English for "illegitimate" is "bastard," one wonders whether it might be fair to characterize the Global Salafist Jihad as a Bastard Jihad, and its practicioners as Bastard Mujahidin, in order to distinguish them from legitimate jihad and legitimate mujahidin, such as those who fought to defend Bosnian Muslims when their lives were at stake.

Again, this is not to say that the Bastard Mujahidin are in any way illegitimate in terms of their families, their character, or their general behavior. Generally speaking, they seem to be honest people (mostly men) of good character. They are psychologically normal as noted above, of average intelligence, and have no particular bad habits. As Mike Sheuer notes in Through our Enemies' Eyes they see themselves in much the same light as America's Revolutionary Patriots of 1776 saw themselves. What makes them evil and dangerous is not their vices, but the illegitimate perversion of their virtues.

Of course, I could be wrong about my characterization of what I see as a problem in Islam, because I am neither a psychologist nor a Muslim. Further, my remarks may be self-serving because, as a non-Muslim, I am in the class of people the Bastard Jihad considers targets. But consider that I am willing to support any Muslim in their Islam who is willing to support me in my Christianity. Like the Qur'an, I consider that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, and are thus engaged in the common enterprise of trying to be the People(s) of God.

Which brings us to another aspect of the problem: there is a strain of thought in Islam proper that lends itself to an interpretation that is intolerant of other faiths. It is the totalitarian streak that claims that true Islam is not just a religion, but a total way of life that governs all aspects of behavior, public and private under Islamic Law, aka Sharia. Now, if an individual or a community wants to live under Sharia, that's fine. But if that individual or community wants to force Sharia on everyone, that is a recipe for conflict.

The totalitarian strain in Islam is understandable, because Islam's Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was simultaneously a Revealer of God's sovereign word, a successful general, and a head of state. But one might note that there was division in Islam over who should succeed the Prophet from the moment of his death. Those who thought his successor should be chosen by a council of his closest followers became the Sunnis, while those who thought the Prophet's closest male relative should succeed him became the Shia. Since then there have been numerous divisions in Islam, and at times several Caliphs (Commanders of the Faithful) simultaneously.

That is, when Right Guidance was believed to flow only down from the top, from the Caliph(s) to the people, there was division, and as history has borne out, wrong guidance many times. The source of this is simple. When the power of Religion was combined with the power of the State, the temptation to exert one's will over one's fellow human beings proved too seductive, and led the leaders away from God. It took 1400 years for Western Civilization to work out the concept of separation of Church and State. But, as Farid Zakaria notes, the gap created by setting the two powers against each other provided the space for human liberty (freedom from the arbitrary power of either Church or State) to arise.

Thus, I think that Islam will become less prone to violence when it realizes that leadership must become an affair for specialists, with temporal leaders concerning themselves with what people do to each other's bodies and property, and religious leaders concerning themselves with people's souls and their relationship with God. Further, I think Islam will experience a Renaissance when it realizes that Right Guidance can also flow from the bottum up - from the collective wisdom of the mass of believers. Then I think we will see a re-establishment of the Caliphate, with the Caliph elected democratically by the believers themselves.

In the meantime, Islam and its neighbors on this planet must battle the cancer of the Bastard Jihad, which seduces its youth and steals the future they could build for Muslims and everyone else, were they not destroying themselves and everyone around them.

For more, see Li'l Johnnie's Jihad Page.

09 July 2005

Ellowen Deeowen

"Ellowen Deeowen. London," wrote Salman Rushdie in The Satanic Verses. Ellowen Deeowen is a tough old girl, who has absorbed more than her share of bomb blasts, first from the IRA, and now from al-Qaeda. Expect her to grieve, and then to go on. But don't expect her to cave in, like Madrid. She has too much cohones for that.

But it sets me to thinking. How do we beat the jihaddicts? Michael Sheuer, author of the definitive biography on Bin Laden, thinks the West and the US should change our policies toward the Middle East so as not to anger so many Muslims. His idea is to drain away the motivation for people to volunteer to do violence.

I rather think that the jihaddicts are in business to stay in business. They will adapt. They will say, "See, we made them submit. They changed their policy. We are winning. Join us, and help us finish the Jews and Crusaders. We shall make them all Muslims or corpses." So much for appeasement. How about defense?

The problem with defense-only (aka "Homeland Security") is that it is expensive, difficult, and easily penetrated. Suppose we could detect a suspected suicide bomber, and temporarily immobilize him or her while authorities checked him or her out. The countermeasure is cheap and easy. Use a cell-phone, garage door opener, or other remote control so that the suicide-bomber's boss (hidden somewhere else) can set the bomb off.

Offense, making the bad guys insecure in their homelands, has its appeal, but it also has difficulties. To catch terrorists, you have to be able to go where they go, and hang out where they hang out, without being detected. We probably have people who can do that, but not nearly enough, and even they can't go everywhere.

Besides, even if we could get the heads of Usama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi delivered to the Pentagon in cardboard boxes full of dry ice, what would we really gain beyond a sense of satisfaction? As Bin Laden himself has said, more "Bin Ladens" would rise up to take his place. Well, sort of.

Perhaps we need to step back and look at the array of possible outcomes of all this struggle. All the "kinetic" options (guns, missiles, bombs, etc.) have limited effectiveness and potential undesirable side effects. Conflict done with armament alone has a way of escalating. Maybe we should work on the information end of things as well. For example, why is it that Bin Laden and company get to decide who is a Muslim and who is an Infidel? Who gave them that authority? We should seek to get Bin Laden and company marginalized to the extent that they themselves are the recognized "Enemies of God," because they commit the Sin of loving jihad more than God, illegitimately calling for defensive, unlimited jihad against those who are not attacking Muslims, contrary to established Islamic Law.