Reader discovers a non-Islam theory of Islamic extremism

(Note see, below, my comment on security expert Bruce Schneier, whose article agreeing with the new theory is linked in this entry.)

Harry K. writes:

I recently encountered a new non-Islam theory of Islamic extremism: social networking. As explicated by its proponent, Max Abrahms, terrorists “attach utmost importance to the social benefits of using terrorism.” In other words, people join terrorist organizations for the sense of belonging and community they engender, and not necessarily for political or religious goals. While his hypothesis seems to account for some terrorist behavior, and allegedly accounts for non-Islamic terrorist groups as well, such as the IRA, one has to wonder: what are the “social benefits” of killing yourself?

Here is the pdf of his article. In a shorter article security expert Bruce Schneier summarizes and analyzes Abrahms’s idea.

LA replies:

That sounds like a genuine NITOIE. Off hand this is the first time I remember that a reader discovered one. It’s exciting to see my idea get applied and used in this way.

As for terrorists not benefiting much from improved social networking and a sense of belonging if they’re dead, that’s not a problem, since in death Muslim “martyrs” are honored by their family and community, become a part of the revered lineage of jihad warriors, and go to heaven, which is the ultimate “movin’ on up” in Muhammadland.

However, if the explanation I just gave is also Max Abrahms’s explanation, then, by admitting the Islamic component in the terrorists’ motivation, he has just lost the non-Islam aspect of his non-Islam theory of Islamic extremism. This defeats the whole purpose of the NITOIE, which is to acquit the religion of Islam of having anything to do with extremism and terrorism that’s been carried out by, uh, Muslims.

LA writes:

While I haven’t read the pdf of the Abrahms article, I highly recommend the brief and accessible piece by Bruce Schneier which sums up and agrees with Abrahms’ theory. Read it, then consider the fact that Schneier is “Chief Security Technology Officer of BT [British Telecom], and author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.”

He’s a security expert. He’s supposedly a person who thinks seriously about terrorism. But the thought doesn’t get within a million miles of his cerebrum that Islamic terrorism has something to do with Islam. Instead he instantly buys into Abrahms’ cockamamie theory. Does he have no idea of how many cockamamie theories of Islamic extremist are out there? Why does he pick this theory, and not one of the 25 or 30 other ones?

Answer: it doesn’t matter which non-Islam theory of Islamic extremism you adopt, so long as you adopt one of them, rather than blaming Islamic extremism on Islam.

Here is Schneier’s blog. I had thought from his article on Abrahms that Schneier was merely a na´ve, apolitical technologist. But there’s more to it than that, as I found from searching the word “Islam” at his site. It wasn’t hard. This man wears his heart on his sleeve. Here is the first entry I found:

January 29, 2007
Islam on Trial

“Prophetic Justice,” by Amy Waldman (The Atlantic Monthly, Oct 2006) is a fascinating article about terrorism trials in the U.S. where the prosecution attempts to prove that the defendant was planning on committing an act of terrorism. Very often, the trials hinge on different interpretations of Islam, Islamic scripture, and Islamic belief—and often we are essentially putting the religion on trial.

Reading it, I was struck with the eliminationist rhetoric coming out of the Christian Right in the U.S. today, and how it would fare under the same level of scrutiny.

Fortunately there are many commenters at the site who attack Schneier for these remarks. See in particular the comments of “Ralph Waldo Emerson.” In reply to his critics, Schneier describes any legal focus on the Islamic background of terrorist suspects as “persecuting thoughtcrime.”


Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 08, 2008 01:13 AM | Send
    

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