Here we go again. Any time the mainstream media takes up the question of what causes Islamic jihad terrorism, or whether it has any derivation in Islamic texts and teachings, you can be sure that the “findings” will be that Islam is peaceful and jihad terror is all the West’s fault. Here the WaPo wheels out a Berkeley prof, M. Steven Fish, to explain it all for you.
These articles appear more and more grotesque as the body count rises. Comments interspersed below.
“Why is terror Islamist?,” by M. Steven Fish, Washington Post, January 27, 2015:
Contemporary terrorism is disproportionately Islamist. In a recent book I reported that between 1994 and 2008, the world suffered 204 high-casualty terrorist bombings. Islamists were responsible for 125, or 61 percent of these incidents, which accounted for 70 percent of all deaths.
Just as disturbing is the reaction of ordinary Muslims. The torching of Christian churches in Niger by mobs of Muslims angered by Charlie Hebdo’s insults — a week after Islamist militants slaughtered the paper’s editor and other staff in Paris — understandably irks non-Muslims. And rarely are such demonstrations of rage eclipsed by shows of opposition to terrorism.
“Rarely”? How about never? When have we ever seen Muslims rallying against the alleged “hijacking” of their religion by terrorists? The few such demonstrations that have been held were all sparsely attended, and more non-Muslims were there than Muslims.
Most Muslims oppose terrorism, but how often do the streets of Casablanca, Istanbul, Islamabad, Dakar, or Jakarta fill with people chanting “Not in Our Name!” after incidents such as that which rocked Paris on Jan. 7-9?
And why do many Muslims even in the West express regret rather than revulsion over murder in the name of their faith?
Oh, condemnations by Muslims of this or that jihad attack are easy to find. But no one seems to have noticed, and no one seems to care, that all these Muslim groups that condemn jihad terror have no program, not one, to teach young Muslims why they should reject the understanding of Islam put forward by the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, etc.
One explanation we can rule out is that Muslims are violent people. Predominantly, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. The percentage of the society that is made up of Muslims is an extraordinarily good predictor of a country’s murder rate. More authoritarianism in Muslim countries does not account for the difference. I have found that controlling for political regime in statistical analysis does not change the findings. More Muslims, less homicide.
No serious analyst is claiming that Muslims are uniquely violent people. Human nature is everywhere the same. And the question of whether or not Islam teaches violence against unbelievers has nothing to do with the murder rate, as jihad terror attacks are not generally classified as homicides — although if they were in, say, Pakistan, that country’s murder rate would skyrocket.
And yet, we are still left with the terrorism problem.
Some writers explain it in terms of religious doctrine. According to Robert Spencer, the Koran contains ample rationalizations for violence against outsiders.
But the Old Testament does so as well. For example, it reports Joshua’s conquering armies massacring entire captured cities — putting sobbing children to the sword, hanging people on trees and carrying off the plunder and booty — all under God’s orders. In terms of savagery and divine enthusiasm for the slaughter of innocents, the Koran contains nothing analogous to the account in Joshua chapters 10-11.
Fish’s reasoning here is apparently that the Qur’an’s violent passages can’t be the cause of jihad terrorism because the Old Testament contains violent passages as well — even worse than the Qur’an, Fish claims — and yet we don’t see Jews and Christians committing terror attacks and pointing to their Scriptures to justify them. This ignores the fact that nowhere in the Old Testament are believers directed to imitate the actions described in the violent passages — as I have pointed out many times, the violence in the Old Testament is descriptive, not prescriptive. The Qur’an contains open-ended commands to all believers to wage war against and subjugate all non-believers. The Jewish and Christian Scriptures do not. Fish also ignores the fact that both Judaism and Christianity have mainstream interpretative traditions that direct believers to draw only spiritual lessons from these passages. The mainstream understanding of the Qur’an’s violent passages within Islamic tradition, however, is literal.
Another theory, suggested by Satoshi Kanazawa, blames sexual frustration. The promise of sexual bliss in the afterlife for the fighter for the faith is unique to Islam; and polygyny, segregation of the sexes, and normative proscriptions against premarital sex may make young Muslim men particularly prone to violence.
There is no doubt that this plays a role: witness the teenage boy who was stopped in Israel a few years ago, all wired up to blow himself up in a crowd of Infidels. As he was being disarmed, he called out, “How am I going to go to Paradise and get the virgins now?” But as even a partial explanation for jihad violence, this is not really an alternative to the idea that “the Koran contains ample rationalizations for violence against outsiders.” After all, the idea of the houris in Paradise is in the Qur’an, as is the promise of Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah (9:111).
But what little we know about the sex lives of terrorists leaves room for skepticism. In his sample of Islamist terrorists for whom he obtained family status information, Marc Sageman found that most were married men who had children. The top leaders of terrorist organizations, moreover, have been polygynous rock stars in their own earthly communities. For Osama bin Laden, heaven could wait; for Ayman al-Zawahiri, it still can.
They were imitating Muhammad, who is said in a hadith to have declared: “I would love to be martyred in Allah’s cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred” (Bukhari 52.54). But he didn’t. He stuck around and exhorted others to get “martyred.”
Another explanation finds historical rather than scriptural or social cause for terrorism and casts Muslims as bearers of legitimate, age-old grievances. The Crusades, according to Karen Armstrong, are the supreme cause of Muslim resentment.
Armstrong and Fish both ignore the 450 years of jihad aggression that conquered over half of the Christian world before there was ever a Crusade, and to which the Crusades were a tardy and small-scale defensive reaction.
Yet attributing current-day violence to events that occurred a millennium ago is questionable, especially since the Muslims under Saladin won the wars against the Christian interlopers and retained the Holy Land.
But the truth is, in the contemporary world, Christians won big. And the frustration and humiliation that Muslims now feel as a result can help explain terrorism. That frustration and humiliation is rooted in politics rather than sex and in modern experience rather than deep history. And it has little to do with the Koran.
So you see, it is all the Christian West’s fault. Fish, like so many other Leftist analysts, suffers from an unconscious ethnocentrism: while he would insist that all cultures are equal, he really thinks that only the West can act, while the Muslims can only be passive reactors to the depredations of the West: they couldn’t possibly have reasons of their own for what they do.
Let’s consider a few simple facts: Christians drew the boundaries of the states in which most Muslims live. They named those same formations, from “Senegal” to “Jordan” to “Indonesia.” Currently, people in Christian countries make up one-third of the world’s population, while holding two-thirds of its wealth and nine-tenths of its military might.
To Fish’s thinking, this must mean that the “Christian countries” have done some wrong to Muslim countries, just as socialists believe that anyone who is wealthy has ipso facto wronged poor people. Socialists cannot and will not believe that wealth could simply be a sign of success, ingenuity, and accomplishment — it can only be a sign of oppression.
Fish then sketches out a futuristic scenario in which the decline of the U.S. and the West leads to “some self-proclaimed soldiers of Christianity” lashing out “by committing terrorist acts.” Then follows the usual list of supposed Christian terrorists — Fish names three, including the ever-serviceable Tim McVeigh, and then asks, “might not some Christians countenance such acts — or even applaud them?” Yet contrary to his claim that “the slaughterers just mentioned enjoyed vocal support among some extremist groups as well as quieter, more diffuse sympathy among broader sections of the American population,” in fact they were condemned by all Christian groups, and no Christian sect teaches anything that justifies their actions.
The contrast here is stark, although Fish takes no note of it. He invokes his three so-called Christian terrorists in an attempt to establish a moral equivalence with the perpetrators of the nearly 25,000 jihad terror attacks around the world since 9/11. All the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that Muslims must wage war against and subjugate unbelievers; no Christian group teaches such a thing. Yet he then asks: “In the hypothetical scenario sketched here, isn’t it possible that some Christians would sympathize with terrorism against Muslims and non-Muslims who they regard as collaborators?” Hypothetical indeed: to establish the moral equivalence he desires, he has to enter the realm of fantasy.
But that is where the Left lives. In their world, Islam and the Qur’an are entirely benign, and “right-wing Christian extremists” are much more of a threat. Think about how many TV shows you have seen featuring crazed right-wing Christian villains, and how many featuring Islamic jihadists. This Washington Post story is in service of that cultural myth. And despite the rising jihad body count, Steven Fish’s clueless marks are still buying.