Everyone listen: Islam is the cause

The headline in today’s New York Times says:

Shock Reverberates Among Acquaintances of the Young Suspects
Three of the 24 suspects arrested Thursday were converts to Islam, one of the most unsettling aspects of the case for many Britons.

Liberals’ habitual attitude is to be “unsettled” and “surprised” at a world that contradicts their liberal assumptions, instead of understanding the world and consequently dropping their liberal assumptions.

Liberal thinking on race matters starts from two axioms: that all humans are equal, and that the West is profoundly guilty for violating that equality through its historically oppressive, exploitative, racist, and just plain mean treatment of non-Western groups. Therefore if members of a non-Western group do anything objectionable to us, it is an understandable reaction to that racist mistreatment. For example, it is widely believed in Britain, and in Europe generally, that Muslim terrorism and aggression is a response to Israel’s “illegal occupation” of Palestinian territories. The discovery that three of the 24 recently arrested terrorist suspects in London are native-born white Englishmen who converted to Islam—and that one of them, the son of a former Tory politician, converted only six months ago—upsets these liberal assumptions, since white Englishmen are not an oppressed group.

Liberals could end their cognitive dissonance if they would take in the simple fact that Islam is Islam—an integral belief system with its own structure, doctrine, and dynamic. Therefore it doesn’t matter if a Muslim was born Muslim in the Mideast and immigrated to Britain, or if he was born of Muslim immigrant parents in Britain, or if he was born of white Christian parents in Britain and converted to Islam. Once you are a Muslim, and once you go beyond the surface of your religion to its authoritative core, you come to jihad, the sacred unchangeable command to wage war on all infidels until they are converted, dhimmified, or dead.

That young white Englishmen converted to Islam and became suicide terrorists refutes all the escapist, Western-centric theories of Islamic extremism that are fashionable on the Left and among the intelligentsia: that Islamic extremism is caused by envy of Western power and success (Bernard Lewis), by the cultural dislocation of Islamic immigrants in the West (Francis Fukuyama), by Muslim despotism and lack of democracy (George W. Bush), by cousin marriage (Steve Sailer), by poverty (the Left), by Israeli oppression (the Left), or by American imperialism (the Left). No. The cause of Islamic extremism is Islam itself. Once we understand this, we can start to have an intelligent policy toward Islam.

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Thucydides writes:

You are right, of course. However, in fairness, one might say there is something to the idea that a sense of inferiority and envy is driving Muslims to devote themselves to the call to jihad. After all, there have been long periods of quiet in the past, when Islam was no more to the West than a little local color in locales visited on holiday travel, no matter what was in the pages of the Koran.

LA replies:

Yes, but that was because Muslims had no opportunity or power to be any more than that. When they had the opportunity and power they were all over Europe. People have a picture in their minds (I know I used to have such a picture) of some kind of stasis after the initial Muslim conquests. Not true. Through all the centuries of the Spanish caliphate, that marvelous Golden Age we’re supposed to want to return to, Muslims from Spain and Africa were raiding the coasts of Italy and other places in Europe, once even raiding England. Towns were destroyed, people captured and sold into slavery. Muslims raided Rome and the Vatican and did great damage. Muslim quiescence in modern times has been a function of Europe’s earlier success in driving the Muslims back and depriving them of the ability to attack Europe. It is a fatal mistake to forget that. We have forgotten it. We have invited Muslims into the West, giving them the chance to resume jihad, and now we’re telling ourselves that the resumption of this historic jihad is the result of Muslims’ sense of inferiority and envy!

I’m not denying that the sense of inferiority and envy exists. But it is an aggravating, secondary factor in Muslim aggression, not the causative factor. The causative factor is Islam’s own unchangeable teachings.

Mark P. writes:

I’d like to know if you could help me with an argument. I have a debate with a law professor friend of mine. I e-mailed verbatim your argument about the white British converts who were caught. His response is in bold.

My typical argument against that his whole response is insisting that there is never enough evidence. Do you have anything to add?

“Once you are a Muslim, and once you go beyond the surface of your religion to its authoritative core, you come to jihad, the sacred unchangeable command to wage war on all infidels until they are converted, dhimmified, or dead.” Verifiably false given that the vast majority of Muslims don’t engage in anything like the radical type of Jihad the author is concerned with.

“That young white Englishmen converted to Islam and became suicide terrorists refutes all the escapist, Western-centric theories of Islamic extremism that are fashionable on the Left and among the intelligentsia: that Islamic extremism is caused by envy of Western power and success (Bernard Lewis), by the cultural dislocation of Islamic immigrants in the West (Francis Fukuyama), by Muslim despotism and lack of democracy (George W. Bush), by cousin marriage (Steve Sailer), by poverty (the Left), by Israeli oppression (the Left), or by American imperialism (the Left).” Actually, it doesn’t undercut any of these ideas at all. All it shows is that some people in the West are willing to act on their new philosophy, quite possibly in response to the very problems quoted because of their impact on other Muslims.

“No. The cause of Islamic extremism is Islam itself.” Again, see my first response. If Islam itself were the cause – or rather the sole cause – then the far more Muslims would be engaging in violence. There is much more to it than that.

Look, at the end of the day, I’m open minded to the possibility that Islam is a much more significant cause than I currently believe it is. But articles like this are unbelievably unpersuasive. What you need to pull Mark, if you have any hope of convincing deluded Liberals like myself, is ACTUAL EVIDENCE and REASONED ARGUMENT, not speculative non-sequiturs. Only actual evidence and well-reasoned arguments could break through the cloud of bias hanging over my head.

LA replies:

My first point, that jihad war is a sacred command, cannot be proved statistically; it can only be demonstrated through knowledge and reasoned argument about Islam’s doctrines and history that jihad is indeed mandated in Islam (along with many other things, e.g., killing of apostates). The general command of war and killing of infidels until they are all converted is simply a fact. That statement doesn’t mean that most Muslims are going to become terrorists; and its truth does not rest on the demonstration that most Muslims actually become terrorists, since terrorism and suicide terrorism are taking the jihad war to an extreme. It does mean that large numbers of Muslims would either tend to support terrorism (24 percent of Muslims in Britain saying that the July 2005 bombers are martyrs) or have no arguments against it. And this is shown by the way that within Islam the terror supporters have better arguments, because they are Koranically based, than the moderates, who are trying to make up an Islam that has never been. The moderates are cowed not just because the extremists threaten them with violence; the moderates are also cowed because the extremists’ arguments are based solidly on the Koran and the sharia.

Muslims have been waging jihad and seeking martyr’s deaths for 1,400 years. Why does your friend think they have been recurrently doing it, for 1,400 years? Obviously it’s not written down, you shall be a terrorist; suicide terrorism is a new and more extreme form of martyrdom and only a small number of people are going to actually do it themselves. Yet this more extreme act rests on the vast mass of Islamic teaching and history.

The idea that jihad (and other things) is at the sacred core of Islam cannot be proved by one paragraph, nor was that my intention. I’m building on previous articles and I’m assuming that the reader is familiar with them. A person doesn’t need to become an expert in Islam, but he does need to educate himself about the basics.

And in the Islamic literature (the best source for which is The Legacy of Jihad edited by Andrew Bostom) these things are not hidden. Throughout the centuries Muslims—including conquering Muslim generals who have slaughtered civilian populations and laid their lands waste—have boasted of their jihadist conduct, which makes sense given that jihad is a sacred command. Morever—and here is the key nexus between jihad theory or law and jihad practice—over and over from the earlier days of Islam to the present moment jihad warriors have explicitly justified their actions, including the terrorism of today, on Koranic and other authoritative Islamic sources. They constantly paraphrase the Koran in their own speech. But these salient facts about Islam and its terrorist expression are not readily seen in our society, where lying myths such as “Islam is a religion of tolerance” have complete official sway. Such myths are only sustainable if people know literally NOTHING about Islam, and our culture does NOTHING to help people know the truth about Islam. You need to make an effort. Just as the default position for people in our society is liberalism, and deliberate intellectual effort is needed to cease being a liberal, in the same way, the default position for people in our society vis à vis Islam is to believe Islam is a religion of peace, and special efforts are needed to learn the truth.

Now let’s go on to your friend’s second argument. I concede that his argument is possible. It could be the case that an Englishman turns Muslim, and at that moment through identification with his fellow Muslims he “takes on” the Muslim anger over Muslim backwardness, or the Muslim anger at Muslim poverty, or the Muslim immigrant experience of cultural dislocation, though he himself has never experienced backwardness, poverty, immigration, and cultural dislocation. But if these factors are being put forth as primary causative factors in terrorism, rather than as aggravating factors, this gets rather strained, does it not? To take another example, the idea that lack of democracy and subjection to despots drive terror is prima facie disproved by British-born Muslims’ turning to terror. To maintain the argument, you’d have to invent a whole new argument, that it doesn’t matter if an individual or even a whole community of Muslims is not subject to despotism, since the hatreds roiling in the Muslim world as a result of despotism affect Muslims in Britain as well. As I said, that’s a stretch. Isn’t it far more likely that these new Muslims read the Koranic verses and the traditions about killing infidels, about the instant translation to Paradise and lifting of all one’s sins that results from a martyr’s death, and, being in a Islamic environment where this understanding of Islam is being pushed, are won over by that? Again, any number of factors may be contributing factors. But what is the primary causative factor that carries the secondary factors into suicide terrorism? Obviously it is the jihad martyr teachings of Islam.

So these are some of my responses to your friend. However, your friend, being a smart, legal-reasoning attorney, is going to keep demanding criminal-trial type proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) or at least civil-trial type proof (a preponderance of the evidence) of what I’m saying and that’s not possible when we’re talking, not about an individual fact pattern, but about the nature of an entire culture and religion. Legal reasoning is not suited to understanding large wholes such as a civilization. Yes, a reasoned case with lots of evidence that would be persuasive to an attorney is certainly possible showing that jihad is commanded in Islam. But, short of looking at each and every case of jihad martyrdom in the present and in the past, by getting each individual’s own statements about his motives or testimony from others about his statements, it is not possible to prove that the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war is the actual cause of each and every individual’s decision to wage jihad war. At a certain point we must resort to deductive rather than inductive reasoning if we are to understand Islam.

Tom S. provides I think a more succinct reply to the law professor’s objections than I did:

I was amused to read at your blog this morning that some lawyer wants proof that Islam is responsible for suicide terrorism. Well, how about these:

1. Islamic believers are almost the only ones engaged in suicide terrorism. Suicide attacks are actually very rare in human history. In the last century, the only groups that have committed suicide attacks on anything like a large scale are the Sri Lankan (or Tamil Nadu) Tamil Tigers, various Islamic fundamentalist groups, and the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. In the case of the Tigers and the Japanese, they also had ideologies that encouraged this behavior. In fairness to the kamikaze, though, the Japanese did not engage in terrorism. Their attacks were aimed at military targets. 90% of suicide terrorism in the last 100 years has been Islamic in origin.

2. All of the other reasons that are adduced for Islamic suicide terrorism also exist for other groups in the U.S. and Britain, yet they do not resort to suicide terrorism. West Indian immigrants come from societies much poorer than the U.S. or Britain. Many Asian and Latin American immigrants disagree with U.S. or British foreign policy. Most non-Western immigrants come from societies that feel inferior to the West. Many non-Western immigrants come from societies that were “exploited” (in Leftist terms) by the West (Hindu India was a colony of Britain far longer than any Islamic country, the U.S. ruled the Philippines for 45 years). Yet where are the Jamaican suicide bombers in Britain? Why are Mexicans not attempting to detonate themselves on U.S. civil aircraft? Where are the Ibo terrorists killing Westerners for their support of the Nigerian government? We all know the answer, and we all know why…

3. Not all believers in an ideology take that ideology to its fullest extent. Not every Christian becomes Mother Teresa or Robert de Guesclin. Not every Nazi killed Jews. Not every Marxist grabbed an AK-47 and headed into the hills to support World Revolution. Not every Muslim becomes a Jihadi. Most of all of the above do not. But no one would deny that Christianity had something to do with the actions of Mother Teresa, Nazism with the actions of Heydrich, Marxism with Castro, or Islam with Jihadis. To say that “Nazism was not the motivation for Eichmann, because NOT EVERY Nazi killed Jews” would be an insane statement.

LA writes:

In my above comment I should have given more examples. Here’s one. Palestinians who seek “martyrdom” via suicide terrorism, and the family and friends of such terrorists who celebrate their deaths because it means they are now in Paradise. Thus Patrick Poole writes at FrontPage Magazine about Salah Sultan, who lives in Hilliard Ohio and is associated with pro-terrorist Islamic groups. Sultan states at his website his personal vision: “To live happily. To die as a martyr. To meet the beloved ones in the Paradise of the Lord of Heaven and the earth.” In a speech to a Hamas group in 1999 he said that all Muslim children should be martyrs for the Palestinian cause: “I want every child to sleep on the wound of Palestine and the actions of martyrdom, just like that mother in the country whose son wrote to her that they are to meet in Paradise.”

Now we could say that the motive of these people has nothing to do with Islam, that it’s only about fighting what they see as Israeli oppression. But why do they fight it in this particular way? Whence comes the idea that it is martyrdom (a martyrdom that sends you directly to heaven) to kill yourself in the act of murdering scores of innocent people? It comes from Islam, namely (1) from the Koranic idea that dying in jihad war makes you a martyr, and (2) from the Islamic command to kill infidels, whether they are what we would call active combatants or not. So, the Israel-Palestinian conflict may be the immediate “provocation” (in Muslims’ minds) for the jihad-terrorist attacks, but the teaching that defines and commands jihad martyrdom come from Islam.

Further, Muslims have no end of provocations, because, as is made clear in the Koran, as long as there are people anywhere in the world who do not bow down to Allah and his Prophet, such people are evilly insulting Allah and his Prophet and deserve death and eternal burning.

And here is the core of the blindness among Westerners (and liberal non-Muslims generally) on this issue. Westerners assume that each particular grievance stated by Muslims (the Israeli “occupation,” the publication of cartoons of Muhammad, the war in Iraq, anti-Muslim prejudice) is their real grievance, so that if we cease committing that particular offense the Muslims will be pacified. But this is an illusion, because there is no action we can take, short of converting to Islam, that will pacify them. Each particular grievance is a pretext for what really bothers them: that we are infidels. Our very existence as infidels is an insult to Allah and to Islam and a cause for Muslims to wage jihad on us. This was not an issue so long as Muslims were contained in their own lands and had no power outside their lands. But now that, thanks to immigration, millions of Muslims are living in the non-Muslim West, the ancient command to wage jihad against non-Muslims kicks in and becomes operative. The more Muslims there are in the West, and the more free they are to act as Muslims, the more they will wage jihad. The jihad is most pronounced in Britain at the moment because Britain has been the most welcoming and tolerant toward Muslims of any Western society, thus empowering the Muslims to do their jihadist thing. When Muhammad was living in Mecca and the anti-Muslim rulers of Mecca were constraining him, he did not wage jihad. When he moved to Medina, where he became free of “anti-Muslim prejudice,” he began to wage jihad.

I would add that when terrorists and their supporters are constantly justifying their terrorist acts on the basis of the Koran and Islamic law, the burden of proof is not on those like myself who say that the cause of terrorism is Islam, but on those who doubt that this is the case.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 12, 2006 08:00 AM | Send

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