by Richard Butrick (August 2014)
"An idea is something you have;
an ideology is something that has you."
A recent article in the Daily Mail graphically covered the gruesome beheadings, bombings and slaughtering of innocents being carried out by terrorist groups under the banner of Islam - just within a month’s period. It also quotes Andreas Krieg, a Middle East security analyst at King’s College London in Qatar, absolving Islam of blame for the current global crises involving Islamic jihadists. He acknowledges that atrocities are on the rise from Iraq to Syria to Nigeria but insisted that the terrorist acts have, “… nothing to do with Islam.” He goes on to blame Islamophobia and disenfranchisement and claims such terrorist groups are just using Islam, “… to further their particular cause. They adhere to a radical interpretation of Islam, but it has nothing to do with the religion.”
It may well be that some terrorist groups are just “using Islam” as a convenient cover for other motives. But why do they use Islam rather than Buddhism or Hinduism or Christianity? To claim that there is no basis in Islam for committing terrorist acts is ludicrous.
What is amazing is that the claim has any currency at all. But this is the “hijacked Islam” defense championed by President George Bush. It is also the “true” Islam or “un-Islamic” defense found on CAIR and other “wonderful world of Islam” sites pitched at the Western World. Such sites inform us that everything from stoning women for infidelity to suicide bombing to blowing up wedding ceremonies and market places is un-Islamic.
But it must be noted that the “hijacked” defense is not just used by defenders of Islam. It is also the standard defense of Christian apologists. When abortion clinics are blown up under the aegis of Christianity, leaders of the various Christian faiths, including evangelical movements led by Falwell and Robertson, are quick to label those involved as troubled and operating under a total misunderstanding of Christian doctrine. Just recently the Pope Francis has insisted that “faith and violence are incompatible.”
It is undisputable that the Koran comes in an easy winner on the blood-and-gore-o-meter when compared with the New Testament - the Old Testament is another matter. But the two religions have had reverse transformations. The transition from the Old to the New Testament is a transition to a kinder, gentler, loving God. The transition from the “Old” Koran (pre-Medina) to the “New” Koran (post-Medina) is a transition to a more vengeful, demanding, supremacist God.
He who at Mecca is the admonisher and persuader, at Medina is the legislator and the warrior, who dictates obedience, and uses other weapons than the pen of the Poet and the Scribe. [link]
In practice, Quranic abrogation results in a known doctrinal footprint that subordinates the milder, more moderate verses of the Quran from the Meccan period of revelation, to the later and violent verses of the Medina period. Islamic law is substantially derived from the Medinan period. Where a conflict exists, anything said during the Medinan period overrules anything on the same subject in the Meccan. And anything said in the later part of the Medinan period either overrules or controls anything said in the earlier part. [link]
A clear cut example of this is the oft quoted passage from the Old Koran, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Q 5:99) which is abrogated by the chronologically last Sura to address jihad, Sura 9, the “Sura of the Sword.” In accordance with the doctrine of abrogation, its passages represent the ultimate authority on the requirements of jihad:
Fight and slay the unbelievers wherever ye find them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (Q 9:5)
Many passages in the “New” Koran read like an instruction manual for a abattoir. The Koran, moreover, IS the word of God and not a testament as are the Old and New Testaments and is thereby much less subject to “interpretation.” The easiest way to view the reverse transformation is in the lives of the post-Medina Muhammad and the life of Christ. Muhammad is the warrior, raider and conqueror and Jesus is the apostle of love, understanding and forgiveness. Moreover, it is axiomatic in Islam that Muhammad is the perfect male to be emulated as much as possible by all male Muslims. The mission of all good Muslims is correspondingly the spread of Islam. Their mission is the spread Islam by any means possible.
The feeble attempts of exegetical legerdemain to make the case that on balance Islam is a religion of peace must keep the New Koran under the rug while pulling the Old Koran out of the hat. Yes there was basis in Christianity for inducement to violence but there is basis in Islam for justifying brutality on a horrendous scale. The bottom line is that there is textual and emulative (Muhammad) basis big time for use of violence and terrorism to establish the supremacy of Islam.
But saying there is textual and emulative basis is, by itself, hardly explanatory. Text by itself cannot provide the animus that motivates and drives.
The Mullah Factor
The broader or pre-emptive issue is whether it makes sense to blame an ideology for the actions of humans. Does one blame Marxism for the actions of Lenin or Mao? Is Nazi Ideology responsible for the actions of Nazis? Well, yes and no. It is certainly true that if Marxian texts did not exist then people could hardly come under the sway of Marxism. Though by contrast no Nazi texts begin hold the sway of Das Capital and other works by Marx. Certainly, Mein Kampf, by itself, would not launch the Third Reich.
An ideology as encapsulated in texts and doctrines needs an agent to be activated. Take a look at the leaders of the Christian world today. Weak, ineffectual, vapid. They do not inspire or motivate. Christianity today is a floundering ideology. Would there have been a Third Reich without Hitler? A communist China without Mao? A Khmer Rouge without Pol Pot? The anti-Great Man theory of History, which has some traction, does indeed claim that that is the case. Historical and sociological forces would have created a Hitler or Hitler substitute, etc. The irony in that posture is that, as far as the argument here is concerned, it still ends up being an agency theory. Alright, fine. A Hitler or Mao or Pol Pot substitute will do just fine. Strong forceful and even mesmerizing leaders are needed to bring an ideology to life. The leaders of the Sunni/Shia brand of Islam are and have indeed been led by charismatic or fearsome figures. From Mullahs like al-Sistani, Khomeini/Khamenei and al-Sadr to the leaders of terrorist organizations like bin Laden:
"I am one of the servants of Allah. We do our duty of fighting for the sake of the religion of Allah. It is also our duty to send a call to all the people of the world to enjoy this great light and to embrace Islam and experience the happiness in Islam. Our primary mission is nothing but the furthering of this religion."
Osama bin Laden, May 1998 [link]
and Mullah Omar:
[The Taliban are] "simply a band of dedicated youths determined to establish the laws of Allah on earth... The Taliban will fight until there is no blood in Afghanistan left to shed, and Islam becomes a way of life for our people."
Mullah Omar, Taliban leader [link]
The leaders of the Ummah have been and are hell bent to grow their domain of subjects and impose their will - as the will of Allah - upon their subjects.
So what accounts for the difference between a dead ideology and a live ideology? In a word, Darwin. An ideology is a blueprint for the survival/dominance of its adherents. The ideology of Nazism died with the fortunes of the Third Reich. Fascism, a legitimate political ideology since the time of Plato’s Republic, died with Mussolini’s Fascist regime when he was arrested by the Italian King in 43.The Wahabi ideology framed in the crucible of hard desert nomadic life would have remained an obscure local survival code had it not been for oil. In any case it is the pitchmen from Hitler to Khomeini who must sell or promote a dying/thriving ideology especially in hard times. If the cohort suffers under an ideology it is rejected along with its leaders - the fate of Mussolini.
This line of argument can be formulated in terms of Dawkins’ gene-meme-ideology connection. Meme generated ideologies are subject to Darwinian realities whereby the mullahs play the role of typhoid Marys that spread the virus (the Islamofascist meme). More recently, Nicholas Wade, long time science writer for the NYT, in his book, ”A troublesome Inheritance”, has argued that recent advances in genetics have shown that there may be a genetic basis for cultural differences/preferences. People get the culture or ideology they deserve (under the “direction” of their genes). The NYT somewhat dismissive review of Wade’s book is entitled, “Charging into the Minefield of Genes and Racial Differences.” That is hardly the thrust of his book which covers the clustering algorithms used in DNA research which lend credence to DNA determinants being a factor in ideological preferences. But there is no need to venture forth into this minefield here. Suffice it to say, without appealing to the notion of race, it just seems reasonable to suppose that individuals gravitate to an ideology that suits their temperament and predicament. Whether genes play a role in this is certainly interesting but not necessary to claiming that it is stupid to ignore the role of Mullahs in enforcing and perpetuating the ideology of Islam in a version which inspires their cohorts. This should be of passing interest, shall we say, since they make subjugation of Western “culture” (i.e. infidels, kafirs) a pre-eminent goal. Here are some choice readings from the peace loving Khomeini:
And I am confident that the Iranian people, particularly our youth, will keep alive in their hearts anger and hatred for the criminal Soviet Union and the warmongering United States. This must be until the banner of Islam flies over every house in the world.
Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.
But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world ... Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless.
Islam says: kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]?
Islam say: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us?
Islam says: kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender to the enemy?
Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for Holy Warriors!
There are hundreds of other ayat [Qur'anic verses] and ahadith urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.
This is not to argue that ideology is the cause of terrorist acts. In the broadest sense, from Timothy McVeigh to the Tamil Tigers to the Irish Republican Army, the “cause” is that a given segment of humanity feels that its legitimate concerns are being impossibly thwarted by an existing regime or, as in the case of the Islamic world, a dominant counter culture. Cause or cover, however, ideology plays a role in justifying, motivating and unifying an aggrieved or supremacist cohort to action and leadership is needed to coalesce and direct the efforts of the group to grow in power and dominance.
In sum, it seems foolhardy to discount religious leadership as a key factor in bringing an ideology to life. The leaders of the Muslim world in the Middle East peddle an expansionist, supremacist, totalitarian anti-individualistic ideology and have no compunction in calling for violence to establish the supremacy of Islam and the subjugation of non-believers. As the Mideast expert Raymond Ibrahim recently put it, “a tiresome but deadly” jihadi rhetoric. [link]
As for the academics and apologists conveniently living in Western democracies bemoaning the mistaken impression that Islam justifies terrorism? Go tell it to the Mullahs. Surely there can be no doubt, for example, that Khamenei would welcome a select committee of professors from Stanford and Columbia to council him on his misunderstanding of Islam. Or better yet, tell it to Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram. Or the ISIL leader al-Baghdadi. He needs to be counseled in the worst way regarding his misinterpretation of the Koran.
So, yes, blame Islam but don’t forget the Mullahs. Eliminate the typhoid carriers and the virus wanes. Yet in Western Democracies, while leaders of terrorist organizations are targeted, there is no attempt to quarantine the religious leaders - the Mullahs, Imams and Ayatollahs who are the typhoid Marys of the Islamofascist meme.
None of this, of course, translates into specific operational policy. But if Sun Tzu is right, that the first step is to know your enemy, then the first step should be to give up the inane conceit that Islam and the Mullahs have nothing to do with the spreading epidemic of terrorism. And, despite the miserable US record of interventionist diplomacy - in place of Chiang Kai-shek we got Mao, in place of Batista we got Castro, in place of the Shah we got Khomeini - let us hope that Churchill was right with his quip that “The Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.” And let us further take heed to what a New York cab driver said to me some years ago, “Better to be ruled by a dog than a mullah.”
Dr. Richard Butrick is an American writer who has published in Mind, Philosophy of Science, Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, International Journal of Computer Mathematics among others.
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