Non-Islam theories of Islamic extremism

(Note: As of September 3, 2012 there are 27 theories listed in this entry. The most recent one, added today, is that jihadists are savages.)

Islam in its concrete particulars is too alien and threatening to liberal Westerners for them to acknowledge its existence as it really is. So they keep putting Islam into this or that Western-centric conceptual box in order to make Islam seem familiar and assimilable. But because these non-Islam theories of Islamic extremism are all false or inadequate, new theories, or new variations on old theories, must keep being invented. The never-ending compulsion of Western intellectuals to explain uniquely Islamic beliefs and institutions in non-Islamic terms expresses the very essence of liberalism, which is to deny the existence of human differences that really matter. Listed below are the blog articles I’ve written on this subject.


Early Islamic conquests were driven by politics, not Islam.
[Karen Armstrong adds that Westerners’ projection of their inner violence onto Islam led to Western fantasy that Islam is a violent religion.]

Modernity produces alienation which leads to radicalism.
[Fukuyama following Olivier Roy.]

The cause of jihadism is alienation.
[And Fukuyama says the cure is a new Western national identity based on … liberalism.]

Islamic extremism caused by living in wrong “context.”
[BBC’s contribution to the debate: UK Muslims become suicide bombers because of disorientation resulting from living in a culture different from the one they grew up in.]

Extremism is motivated by the need of young Muslim men to prove their masculinity.
[… in a consumerist, welfare-state society that undercuts masculinity. A variation on the Olivier Roy thesis by British criminologist Antony Whitehead.]

Islamic extremism is caused by humiliation and envy.
[A rare strike-out by Thomas Sowell.]

The cause of Islamic extremism is sexual frustration.
[Pierre Rehov: “… kids living all their lives in pure frustration, with no opportunity to experience sex, love, tenderness or even understanding from the opposite sex…. Suicide killers are mostly young men dominated subconsciously by an overwhelming libido…. Since Islam promises 72 virgins in heaven to those frustrated kids, killing others and killing themselves to reach this redemption becomes their only solution.”]

Islamic extremism is caused by Islam having been left behind by the West.
[Modern militant Islam, Bernard Lewis has said over and over, has nothing to do with the core teachings of Islam, but is Muslims’ understandable response to the traumatic experience of having been “left behind” by the modern West. If pursued logically, Lewis’s “left-behind” analysis must lead to a counter-intuitive conclusion that no one seems to have noticed. Since, according to Lewis, the poor Muslims’ extremism is the result of their having lost their previous power and dominance, the cure for their extremism must be … to restore them to power and dominance. You know. Bring back those halcyon multicultural days when Islam had conquered and subdued half the world and almost conquered Europe.

The cure for Islamic extremism which has been caused by Muslims having been “left behind” is for Islam to regain its historic power and dominance.
[Daniel Pipes, who follows Bernard Lewis’s “left behind” analysis, has specifically endorsed the idea that the way to end Islamic extremism is for Islam to rehabilitate its past power and glory as a divinely guided society. Two months after expressing his fear of “the imposition of an Islamic order” in the West, he turned around and said that the “trauma” of Islam that has led to Islamic radicalism was the loss of Islam’s historic power and confidence. He approvingly quoted Wilfred C. Smith that the challenge for modern Muslims is to “rehabilitate” their past history, “to set it going again in full vigour, so that Islamic society may once again flourish as a divinely guided society should and must.”

[It should be added that Bernard Lewis’s scholarly specialty is Turkey and its relationship with the West, not the Islamic doctrine of jihad, about which he has never shown much awareness or knowledge. Similarly, Pipes’s topic in his Ph.D thesis was Muslim “slave soldiers.” Pipes has never seriously addressed the Koranically based, divinely mandated Islamic doctrine of jihad. Scholars—even the illustrious Bernard Lewis, before whom conservatives bow as to a god—can know a lot about a subject, but miss the essentials.]

People become terrorists as result of being beat up.
[Liberal Hollywood screenwriter’s explanation of terrorism (seen in Syriana).]

Cause of Islamic extremism is that non-Muslim world enables Muslim temper tantrums.
[“Captain Ed” Morrissey’s typically brilliant contribution to the debate.]

The latest theory of Islamic extremism: it’s a pastiche.
[David Warren says Islamism is merely a pastiche of the detritus of leftover 20th century totalitarian ideologies.]

Islamic extremism results from loss of Western confidence.
[David Warren’s sequel.]

Depraved Mideast Arab culture, not Islam, is cause of Islamic extremism.
[Ralph Peters’s contribution to the debate.]

Cause of Islamic aggression is generic civilizational clash.
[Archbishop of Canterbury echoes Samuel Huntington, who is correct on clash of civilizations, but wrong on its cause when it comes to Islam.]

Islamic extremism is caused by Muslims’ false belief that the West seeks to attack and destroy Islamic world.
[Melanie Phillips says the extremism can be cured by showing the Muslims that this belief is false. Meanwhile, leftists say that Islamic extremism is caused by Muslims’ true belief that West is attacking and destroying the Islamic world, and that the extremism can be cured by the West ceasing to attack and destroy Islamic world.]

An exchange with Melanie Phillips about Islam.
[I argue that the cause of Islamic extremism is Islam; she says my approach is crude and that we must look to a variety of factors.]

Muslims hate us for our secularism.
[Muslim says that if West becomes more Christian again, the Islam-Western clash would end.]

Islamic extremism is a Christian-style moral sin.
[And therefore, says George Weigel, the cure is for Muslims to stop sinning. He has it exactly backward: Islamic extremists are devoutly following their religion.]

Islamists are violating liberal morality.
[And therefore, says Melanie Phillips, Islamism can be ended through majority moral outrage, firm standards, and moral reform.]

An exchange with Paul Gottfried on Islamo-fascism and Islam.
[There are many non-Islam theories of Islamic extremism, and arch-anti-neocon Paul Gottfried has his. It is this: “Neocons say that Islamic extremism is a threat; therefore it’s not a threat.”]

Islamic extremism is a reaction to our moral decadence.
[D’Souza thus joins a long list of theorists who take their own bete-noire, whatever it may be, and self-interestedly declare that Muslims hate us because of that bete-noire. If you dislike America because it doesn’t do enough for Third-World poverty, you think Muslims hate us for not doing enough for Third-World poverty. If you dislike America for being imperialistic, you think Muslims hate us for our imperialism. If you dislike Israel, you think Muslims hate us because of our support for Israel. So now D’Souza comes along, and his bete noire (at the moment) is moral decadence spread by the cultural left, and so he says Muslims hate us because of moral decadence spread by the cultural left.]

Muslim hatred of America is caused by Lawrence Auster.
[Dinesh D’Souza says that Muslims hate America because they believe that America is at war with Islam, and one of their proofs of this American war against Islam is “the statements of inflammatory Americans who say, as Lawrence Auster recently did, ‘The problem is not “radical” Islam but Islam itself, from which it follows that we must seek to weaken and contain Islam.’ “]

Muslims commit terrorist mass murder for celebrity.
[The first of two theories proposed by Paul Cornish in one article.]

Muslims commit terrorist mass murder as part of a postmodern game.
[In his second theory, Paul Cornish says that the terrorists’ purpose is to demonstrate how people have a need to create meaning and purpose when there isn’t any. “[P]erhaps so little is known of the [Bombay] terrorists’ cause, because they simply did not feel the need to have one…. This could also have been a plan which had a large gap where mission, cause or vision statement ought to have been. But no matter. The terrorists might have assumed, quite correctly as it happens, that the world’s media and the terrorism analysis industry would very quickly fill in any gaps for them.”]

Terrorists commit terrorism to experience social solidarity and sense of belonging.
[Max Abrahms, backed by Bruce Schneier, says that terrorists “attach utmost importance to the social benefits of using terrorism.” In other words, says reader Harry K. who identified Abrahm’s NITOIE, people join terrorist organizations for purposes of social networking and sense of community, not for political or religious goals.]

Jihadists commit jihadist murders because they are savages.
[To which I reply: “Savages are people who are untaught, unconstrained, lawless, and wild. Jihadists are people who devoutly follow the highly articulated, carefully laid-out laws of the 1,400 year old religion of Islam. The problem with jihadists is not that they are bad people, but that they are good Muslims.”]


Everyone listen: Islam is the cause
[Lawrence Auster: The fact that young white Englishmen who had converted to Islam became suicide terrorists refutes all the Western-centric theories of Islamic extremism that are fashionable on the Left.]

The essence of Islam revealed
[A Muslim explains that Muslims believe what they believe because it is what Islam requires them to believe. Good summary of the false theories.]

List of non-Islamic theories of Islamic extremism
[Another good summary.]

Why liberals MUST have their non-Islam theories of Muslim extremism
[Lawrence Auster: Liberals can’t admit the existence of something so large and so incompatible with liberalism, because that would mean the end of liberalism. See passage starting at “I think both your points are correct.”]

Revolution! Witness tells Congress to understand Islam as Muslims understand it
[Raymond Ibrahim, sounding as though he’s been reading the articles linked on this page, tells the House Armed Services Committee: “Before attempting to formulate a long-term strategy to counter radical Islam, Americans must first and foremost understand Islam, particularly its laws and doctrines, the same way Muslims understand it—without giving it undue Western (liberal) interpretations.”]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 19, 2007 01:30 AM | Send

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