David Brooks writes: “How much is religion involved in jihadism, or psychology, or politics?…For clarity on that question, it helps to start with William James’s classic work, ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience.'”
I might have suggested a different book. How about the Qur’an? When one opens the Qur’an to answer the question “how much is religion involved in jihadism,” one encounters these passages:
2:191: “And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and persecution is worse than slaughter.”
4:89: “They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.”
5:33: “This is the recompense of those who fight against Allah and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be killed, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement.”
8:12: “When thy Lord was revealing to the angels, ‘I am with you; so confirm the believers. I shall cast terror into the unbelievers’ hearts; so strike above the necks, and strike every finger of them!”
8:39: “Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s entirely; then if they give over, surely Allah sees the things they do.”
8:60: “Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to strike terror thereby into the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not; Allah knows them. And whatsoever you expend in the way of Allah shall be repaid you in full; you will not be wronged.”
9:5: “Then, when the sacred months are over, kill the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.”
9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, and do not practice the religion of truth, even if they are of the People of the Book — until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.”
9:111: “Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of Allah; they kill, and are killed.”
9:123: “O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you; and let them find in you a harshness; and know that Allah is with the godfearing.”
47:4: “When you meet the unbelievers, strike their necks, then, when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds; then set them free, either by grace or ransom, till the war lays down its loads. So it shall be; and if Allah had willed, He would have avenged Himself upon them; but that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will not send their works astray.”
Brooks writes, working from William James: “It seems blindingly obvious to say, but the spirit of religion begins with a sense that God exists. God is the primary reality, and out of that flows a set of values and experiences: prayer, praise, charity, contrition, grace and the desire to grow closer toward holiness. Sincere faith begins with humility in relation to the Almighty and a sense of being strengthened by his infinite love.” James was writing primarily about religion within a Western framework, but all that does indeed apply to some degree to Islam. However, in Islam Allah is not infinite love, as he does not love non-Muslims. Two more Qur’an verses:
3:31-32: “Say: If you love Allah, then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive you your faults, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Say: Obey Allah and the Apostle; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers.”
30:43-45: “Then turn your face straight to the right religion before there comes from Allah the day which cannot be averted; on that day they shall become separated. Whoever disbelieves, he shall be responsible for his disbelief, and whoever does good, they prepare for their own souls, that He may reward those who believe and do good out of His grace; surely He does not love the unbelievers.”
What’s more, that “charity” that flows from the realization that God is the primary reality does not extend to non-Muslims. Again, the Qur’an:
48:29: “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; those with him are harsh against the disbelievers, merciful among themselves.”
Brooks, like virtually all Western analysts, tends to see Islam through a Judeo-Christian prism, instead of evaluating it on its own terms. He can’t let go of his preconceived notions long enough to make an accurate assessment. And it doesn’t help, of course, that an accurate assessment is so politically incorrect and unacceptable to today’s political and media elites.
“Religion’s Wicked Neighbor,” by David Brooks, New York Times, June 17, 2016:
…On the other hand, Donald Trump is abhorrently wrong in implying that these attacks are central to Islam. His attempt to ban Muslim immigration is an act of bigotry (applying the sins of the few to the whole group), which is sure to incite more terrorism. His implication that we are in a clash of civilizations is an insult to those Muslims who have risked and lost their lives in the fight against ISIS and the Taliban.
The problem is that these two wrongs are feeding off each other. Obama is using language to engineer a reaction rather than to tell the truth, which is the definition of propaganda. Most world leaders talk about Islamist terror, but Obama apparently thinks that if he uses the phrase “Islamic radicalism” the rest of us will be too dim to be able to distinguish between the terrorists and the millions of good-hearted Muslims who want only to live in fellowship and peace.
Worst of all, his decision to dance around an unpleasant reality is part of the enveloping cloud of political correctness that drives people to Donald Trump. Millions of Americans feel they can’t say what they think, or even entertain views outside the boundaries laid down by elites, and so are drawn to the guy who rails against taboos and says what he believes.
The fact is that 15 years after 9/11 we still haven’t arrived at a true understanding of our enemy. How much is religion involved in jihadism, or psychology, or politics?
And the core of our confusion is that we are unclear about what a religion is, and how it might relate to violence sometimes carried out in its name.
For clarity on that question, it helps to start with William James’s classic work, “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” In that book, James distinguishes between various religious experiences and “religion’s wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate dominion, and religion’s wicked intellectual partner, the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying down the law.”
In other words, there is the spirit of religion and, frequently accompanying it, its wicked neighbors, the spirit of political and intellectual dominion.
It seems blindingly obvious to say, but the spirit of religion begins with a sense that God exists. God is the primary reality, and out of that flows a set of values and experiences: prayer, praise, charity, contrition, grace and the desire to grow closer toward holiness. Sincere faith begins with humility in relation to the Almighty and a sense of being strengthened by his infinite love.
In some sense the phrase “Islamic radicalism” is wrong because terrorism is not a radical extension of this kind of faith. People don’t start out with this kind of faith and then turn into terrorists because they became more faithful….