Salafist Terrorism


#1

If a Muslim commits a violent act with the purpose to terrorise, and does so because of their religious beliefs, then it seems obvious to me that it’s perfectly reasonable to call that an act of Islamic terrorism (this applies to all Islamist groups), if a Christian were to do the same (and this Planned Parenthood situation would seem to qualify for me), then of course this should also be accurately described as Christian terrorism.

Conversely, the IRA, for example, were not proponents of Catholic terrorism, because their motivations had basically nothing to do with their religious beliefs (though on the other side, many Unionists did have rather paranoid views about popery and the anti-christ, so maybe you could call that Protestant terrorism to a certain degree - though it’s not the most important factor for them either).

As long as you’re just pointing out hypocrisy and rationally evaluating various different situations that’s fine, but it’s important to not lose site of the facts and end up letting certain dangerous ideologies off the hook in the process. So call out the hypocrites when you see them, but don’t go around talking nonsense about Islamophobia any time somebody points out a legitimate link between terrorism and Islam.


Hey, kids! Let's play White Terrorism Bingo
Hey, kids! Let's play White Terrorism Bingo
Hey, kids! Let's play White Terrorism Bingo
Hey, kids! Let's play White Terrorism Bingo
Hey, kids! Let's play White Terrorism Bingo
Hey, kids! Let's play White Terrorism Bingo
#2

The problem is that, far too often, the two are conflated. All Islam becomes associated with terrorism and only those connected to Islam can be considered true terrorists.


#3

Except that it isn’t reasonable. At all. It IS reasonable to call it “terrorisim carried out by a Muslim” or “terrorisim carried out by a self-identified Muslim” or something along those lines. But unless it’s carried out on behalf of the leader of [group] then it’s not reasonable to call it [group] terrorism.

The different might seem minor (“islamic terrorism” vs “terrorism callied out by a Muslim”) but semantically it really isn’t so minor. On the one hand you are ascribing the terror to the religion, while the other you are ascribing it to the individual who also happens to have other characteristics. He is a terrorist who is a white male, though.

Let me put this another way. USAF pilots flying USAF aircraft and releasing weapons as directed by their chain of command are acting as representives of the US (and I am not calling USAF pilots, or the USAF in general terrorists. That should go without saying, but this is BoingBoing, and popobawu, for example, is reading this thread). Some rando American tourist who blew up a nighclub in Toulon is - hopefully obviously - not, and it would be unfair, unreasonable, and definitely unhelpful to label the murder “American terrorism”.

Or to put this yet another way, think of other characteristics that could be used, according to your “perfectly reasonable to call it islamic terrorism” rubric:
Male Terrorism
White Terrorism
White Male Terrorism

I am a white male. I don’t partake of terrorism myself, and I’m damn sure that Robert Lewis Dear does not speak for or act on behalf of me, whites, males, or white males. He is a terrorist who is a white male, though.


#4

What you are failing to recognise is that Robert Lewis Dear does not speak for me, whites, or males. Seriously. Fuck that guy. He’s a terrorist who is white and male, but he didn’t practice “white male terrorism”.

Then why are you insisting on ‘Islamic terrorism’?

No shit, Sherlock. Not only do you disagree with your own definition, the definition is worthless to boot.

“I’m sorry you were offended” has always been a terrible nopology.


#5

What about an illegitimate link? Your claim that Islam is the primary motivation for any terrorist activity is baseless and wrong.

Where do you get this from? How do you know that? Where’s your evidence? You even acknowledge that ISIS is a group fighting for sovereignty in the face of (perceived or actual) oppressive colonial occupation, just like the IRA, but somehow it’s not the same because of some supposed causal difference that cannot possibly be proven or disproven.

Islam seems to have some frightening magical power in your mind, as if a man might pick up the Quran, read it, and as a consequence decide to dedicate and sacrifice his life in a war against western decadence. That’s the core of your Islamophobia. Or if that laughable scenario isn’t what you meant, perhaps you’d like to furnish us with a more realistic scenario in which Islam causes terrorism? Or perhaps you’ll admit, as per your own words:

Which is it going to be, caze?

I won’t say that views like yours don’t exist in Paris, but I think you’d find yourself in with the nationalist, Marine Le Pen, borderline neo-nazi crowd. The gravity and horror of what happened a couple of weeks back escapes nobody, but nobody is suggesting that it happened in a vacuum either. Plenty of anger here is directed at François Hollande and the French state for its hand in causing such events. What the hell are we doing bombing Syria anyway, people ask. Have we learned nothing from Algeria?

No, nobody’s buying it that this city got attacked “because Islam” when it’s just about harder here to find a haram restaurant than halal. The ideology at work isn’t islamic, it’s nothing more complicated than “you get up in our business, we’ll get up in yours,” and it has been since modern terrorism was invented.

I’ve never much gone in for labels, and anyway I find “islamophobia” kind of a clunky word. But your position is founded on your own ignorance. If you were to educate yourself a little it would fall apart.


#6

What you are failing to recognise is that Robert Lewis Dear does not speak for me, whites, or males. Seriously. Fuck that guy. He’s a terrorist who is white and male, but he didn’t practice “white male terrorism”.

I’m not failing to recognise that at all, I never claimed he did. “Whiteness” and “Maleness” in his situation are contingent attributes, not causative ones, so it doesn’t make sense to use those labels to describe him (they are accurate in a descriptive sense of course - you could also call him a bearded terrorist, or a terrorist with legs if you want, but they’re not much use as they don’t tell us anything about his motivations). His belief in the creation of an immortal soul at the moment of conception (a Christian religious doctrine) is important though, and that’s why it’s accurate to label him a Christian terrorist.

Then why are you insisting on ‘Islamic terrorism’?

Because it’s relevant to the motivations of the terrorists.

No shit, Sherlock. Not only do you disagree with your own definition, the definition is worthless to boot.

I’m not disagreeing with my definition, Islam is not some kind of reified monolithic substance, it is a set of texts and the various abstract beliefs and practices those texts promote, some of which are factors in terrorist activities, most of which are not. People are ultimately responsible for their actions, but if people justify their actions based on certain beliefs then the fact that other people hold the same beliefs is a problem, because it may lead them to carry out the same actions.

“I’m sorry you were offended” has always been a terrible nopology.

I don’t know how you read that as an attempted apology, there’s no apology required. Bigots have reason to apologise, not me. Straw manning my arguments to make me look like a bigot isn’t going to work I’m afraid.


#7

But, it doesn’t. The article definitely asserts it, but certainly doesn’t provide an evidence-based arguement for it. Hence, begs the question - he is assuming the conclusion.

Ooookay then. That pretty much tells me all I need to know.


#8

Ooookay then. That pretty much tells me all I need to know.

What’s this mystery glaring mistake?

But, it doesn’t. The article definitely asserts it, but certainly doesn’t provide an evidence-based arguement for it. Hence, begs the question - he is assuming the conclusion.

No he’s not. He provides plenty of evidence that the problem is greater than just ISIS, which is what he means by global jihadist insurgency.


#9

Yes, I’ve already read that article. It states your thesis, but what it describes is how rich warlords determined to snatch power in a destroyed society have used religion as a veil cast over all decisions and edicts in order to give them an air of legitimacy. It’s been done since Constantine and before, most recently to some extent by the US when invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Hell, you could argue it’s what religion is. It’s the justification, not the reason.

From the article:

Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government.

Because it’s not about religion, it’s about control.

Ultimately those in power are acting because they have a whole lot of oil money but no caliphate to show for it, and they’re taking advantage of the opportunity we’ve given them to create one. The people under them are acting because Daesh got the plumbing working, got the traffic flowing, and more than anything else, because they pay a wage. They’d have taken western democracy, if we could have supplied it, but the sad shameful truth is that Daesh are doing a better job of bringing order and stability to ordinary people trying to feed their families than we ever did.

Islam, with it’s harsh Sharia law, evolved for a reason, because it was a step better than what came before. We’ve taken them back to that step. But if you put it into a modern context, Islam isn’t a problem because Islam never was the problem. Muslim people I know are ample evidence of that.

I think that by arguing that this is an ideological war you prevent the essential critical analysis of the basic practical motivations that could be more readily addressed as a means to resolving the conflict. We will never eradicate Islam, but if we could have at least kept the water running in Iraq we might not be where we are now.


#10

[quote=“doop, post:102, topic:69942”]
Because it’s not about religion, it’s about control.[/quote]

Sorry, but that’s nonsense. Religion is synonymous with control.

They’d have taken western democracy, if we could have supplied it, but the sad shameful truth is that Daesh are doing a better job of bringing order and stability to ordinary people trying to feed their families than we ever did.

This is also nonsense, the situation was far more stable there before ISIS took control, and it’s the Islamists and Shia militias who have created the instability, not the west. The Iraqi insurgency was largely fueled by foreign fighters, who ironically were facilitated by Assad and the Syrian security services to get them into the country (Assad also released large numbers of jihadist prisoners early on in the Syrian conflict, though this may have been more down to incompetence than anything else). The Iraqi Sunnis involved quickly turned on the foreigners once the Americans paid them off and improved the political situation, which worked until al-Malaki buggered everything up again after they pulled out. The brutal version of stability they have imposed in its stead is not something most ordinary Syrians or Iraqis want either, though they are more receptive to the somewhat less extreme Islamists like Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham.

Islam, with it’s harsh Sharia law, evolved for a reason, because it was a step better than what came before. We’ve taken them back to that step.

No, they were well on their way to taking that step well before western colonial interference after the fall of the Ottoman empire (modern Salafism has it’s roots in the 18th century and has been maintained and spread by the Saudis and Qataris ever since, and that wasn’t the first example of reactionary literalism within Islam, see for example Ibn Taymiyyah). And even after the colonial shackles were cast off they’ve had repeated chances to forge a new path, and at every turn regressive forces within the religion have prevented them from achieving this. The west isn’t blameless in all this, but ignoring the religious factors is seriously ignorant, as is ignoring the other local political meddling from the likes of Iran and Syria.

But if you put it into a modern context, Islam isn’t a problem because Islam never was the problem. Muslim people I know are ample evidence of that.

Your anecdotal evidence is proof of nothing I’m afraid. Islam as a whole isn’t the problem of course, but then only right-wing idiots (who are usually Christian fundamentalists themselves) are claiming it is. A significant minority of Muslims world-wide have very problematic beliefs (look at the recent PEW studies if you don’t believe me), and in some countries those beliefs are actually the majority (e.g. apostacy). This is not a problem that can be fixed by the west, a stance of western isolationism would do absolutely nothing to resolve this, it’s a problem they have to sort out themselves.

I think that by arguing that this is an ideological war you prevent the essential critical analysis of the basic practical motivations that could be more readily addressed as a means to resolving the conflict.

I’m not arguing that this is an ideological war between all Muslims and non-Muslims. The battle is between Islamic literalists and secularists of all stripes (be they Muslim, Christian, non-religious or anything else), this is a long term thing though. The immediate problems will need to be fixed with the help of some of the less extreme literalists (those who are willing to negotiate, who don’t see the immediate establishment of a caliphate as non-negotiable), there are various forms of non-violent Islamists - some of whom want to see the establishment of democratic Islamic emirates within a pluralist secular framework.

We will never eradicate Islam, but if we could have at least kept the water running in Iraq we might not be where we are now.

“eradicate islam”?1?!

It’s hard to worry about getting the water running properly when people are suicide bombing mosques left, right and centre.


#11

But you’re also arguing that the term is warranted because Islam is the cause of the terrorism, right? Like, if they weren’t muslims, they wouldn’t be doing the terrorism, is that not correct?

To me, that implies that if Daesh wasn’t Islamic, we could have bombed the shit out of them all we wanted and they never would have retaliated in Paris like they did. You can call that “mischaracterisation” if you want, I call it reductio ad absurdum. Your point has absurd implications, therefore your point is absurd.

@LDoBe The point I was trying to make is that while religion implies control, control doesn’t necessarily imply religion. Essentially if you want to control a population you need to capture whatever ideology is most prominent in order to give yourself legitimacy. In the middle east the prominent ideology is Islamic, hence “Islamic State.” In the western world democracy is the more prominent ideology, so that has been captured instead.

In that sense, Islam is incidental.


#13

But you’re also arguing that the term is warranted because Islam is the cause of the terrorism, right? Like, if they weren’t muslims, they wouldn’t be doing the terrorism, is that not correct?

Islam isn’t the cause, it is a cause (and to be precise, it’s only certain forms of Islam).

To me, that implies that if Daesh wasn’t Islamic, we could have bombed the shit out of them all we wanted and they never would have retaliated in Paris like they did.

But this is true, the manner of their retaliation has a uniquely (in today’s world at least) Islamist form. If they weren’t Islamic terrorists they would have been far more likely to have non-civilian targets, and far less likely to use suicide bombing, this is because they have religious justifications for why it’s cool for them to indiscriminately target kafir, and religious justifications for martyrdom.

You seem to think I think that if they weren’t Muslims they wouldn’t be terrorists at all, which is just nonsense, and obviously not something I think at all.

You can also take it back a stage further, why were the French bombing in the first place? Does that have anything to with actions ISIS were carrying out that may also have had religious justifications? Yes, it clearly does. You don’t need to limit yourself to looking at attacks on western targets to find the religious causal factors in jihadism.


#14

I don’t see how this is true. Using “Islamism” seems like a really bad choice to me since I think 90%+ of the population will hear that and think it means the same thing as “Islam” (you’ve met people, right?). Saying “That’s not Islam, that’s…” is exactly what we’re talking about here, it’s just the choice of the word “Islamism” seems like a poor one. That’s why I say it’s academic. I mean, from the Daily Beast article again:

Both of these reactions will render us blind to the real wellspring of this insurgency’s appeal: the Islamist ideology, as distinct from the religion of Islam.

There you have it: “Islamist ideology as distinct from the religion of Islam.” In other words, “That’s not Islam, that’s Islamism.” The fact that we are even debating this shows what a terrible job the article does of getting across it’s message. If we replaced “Islamism” with, “a doctrine of forced conversion” or “thinking we should kill people in the name of religion” or “thinking it’s okay to kill people” then we’d be expressing what the problem is much more clearly. It’s an accident of history that we are having this discussion about Islam and not about Christianity, Buddhism, communism, or fascism.

They are very well funded, and we ought to stop participating in that funding. That is my point. The way to combat groups like this is to address their sources of funding, and to stop play-acting in their propaganda by taking our own extremist stances.

Your reasoning here is sound - just because their move was calculated to create a certain reaction doesn’t mean that reaction isn’t the right one. I think we’ve done a lot of bombing and we haven’t seen a lot of positive results from it. I think we ought to stop telling ourselves that if we just kill a few more people then that’ll be okay. But that’s just a hunch. I think we have a lot of evidence that our policies towards the middle east haven’t been working but not a lot of evidence to tell us what a more effective way forward would be.

One thing I definitely agree with Nawaz about is that this is, to a great extent, a PR war:

This did not happened overnight and could not have emerged from a vacuum. ISIS propaganda is good, but not that good. No, decades of Islamist propaganda in communities had already primed these young Muslims to yearn for a theocratic caliphate.

I still don’t understand what route Nawaz is suggesting. There is this, “We have to understand what we are arguing against so we can argue against it,” line going on, but he seems to think he understands what he is arguing against and doesn’t provide the counter-arguments that would be used. PR is very rarely about having a good argument, and you generally don’t have to even understand your opponent’s argument to win a debate in the minds of the audience. Our best argument that we are not an enemy worth fighting would be to actually be not an enemy worth fighting. That has nothing to do with countering ideology and everything to do with reducing discrimination, reducing incoming inequality, and putting an end to missile strikes on weddings and funerals.


#15

Edit: Got tripped up by “think I think”, sorry. Thought it seemed a bit weird.

I don’t think that. That’s sort of my point, if they weren’t islamic they’d still be terrorists, so why call it islamic terrorism?

That’s a rhetorical question though,

So if I understand you correctly you want to call it islamic because the terrorism is islamic in nature, not islamic in cause. Correct?

Still disagree. Here are some reasons why they’d still hit civilian targets even if they weren’t muslim:

  • We hit civilian targets on a near-daily basis.
  • They have limited capabilities to strike back on our soil, cannot possibly win any direct military confrontation, and therefore are better served by choosing political targets rather than military.
  • We are democratic. Therefore their best bet is to sap the public of their willingness to engage in the war, by targeting civilians. Targeting government buildings or political institutions would create public sympathy and would hence be counterproductive.

In fact, I wonder if you could put on your cynical-thinking cap for a second and explain to me how you’d go about winning this war, if you were them except that you were entirely secular?

You can take it back an arbitrary number of stages, back before colonialism, when slave-raids across the Mediterranean were common in both directions. I don’t think we’ll find any answers down that road.

We’ve already discussed the distinction between justifications and reasons.


#16

if I understand you correctly you want to call it that because the terrorism is islamic in nature, not islamic in cause. Correct?

No, it’s both Islamic in nature (to a degree) and in cause (to a degree).

We hit civilian targets on a near-daily basis.

There’s a big difference between collateral damage and deliberately targeting civilians, this is an accepted fact in moral philosophy and international law. There’s also a big difference in terms of actual casualty numbers, you also have to factor in the fact that a certain number of civilian casualties may be an unfortunate necessity to prevent even greater casualties in the long run.

The current US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria for example have resulted in around 23,000 ISIS casualties, and around 450 civilian casualties. The British airstrikes to date have been even more precise (they’ve almost entirely focused on front-line targets, staging areas, transport, and training camps - they’ve got ordinance accurate down to a sub-metre level). This is in contrast to the activities of the Syrian, Iraqi and Russian Air Forces (the Russians have already killed more civilians than the US have in several years), who have been engaged in area bombing, and the activities of various sectarian groups, who have been shelling residential areas.

None of this excuses collateral damage, but to suggest it’s the moral equivalent of terrorists gunning people down at a music show is obscene.

They have limited capabilities to strike back on our soil, cannot possibly win any direct military confrontation, and therefore are better served by choosing political targets rather than military.

This isn’t true, the IRA almost entirely targeted police and military targets for example (the same can be said for most non-religious terrorism), and they had far weaker capabilities than ISIS do.

We are democratic. Therefore their best bet is to sap the public of their willingness to engage in the war, by targeting civilians. Targeting government buildings or political institutions would create public sympathy and would hence be counterproductive.

A minute ago you were saying they indiscriminately attack civilians to force us into fighting them, now you’re saying it’s the opposite? Make up your mind. And how the fuck would targeting politicians instead of the public create more public sympathy?!?

In fact, I wonder if you could put on your cynical-thinking cap for a second and explain to me how you’d go about winning this war, if you were them except that you were entirely secular?

If they were entirely secular we wouldn’t be fighting them.

You can take it back an arbitrary number of stages, back before colonialism, when slave-raids across the Mediterranean were common in both directions. I don’t think we’ll find any answers down that road.

You don’t have to go that far back, I’m talking about the last 10 years. And slave raids were not common in both directions. 1-2 million europeans were taken as slaves by the Caliphate over a hundred years or something, European’s weren’t really involved in slaves until the African slave trade (which had nothing to do with Islam).

We’ve already discussed the distinction between justifications and reasons.

We have? What did we conclude?


#17

I was nearly blown up twice in one day by IRA bombs. Your comment is entirely wrong. One tactic, for example, was to create one more bomb than there were bomb squads in the area. All would be made identically, but only one would actually work. You’d have to take it apart to figure that out, though. They’d place all the bombs in various places then call them all in. One would be real, so the bomb squads would just have to hope that they found and dismantled the right one before time ran out. The locations of these bombs would be public places with lots of civilians, including children.


#18

Okay, let’s talk about what sort of person is really a terrorist then.

Simple enough… and this approach matches the pattern statistically and scientifically (unlike ‘Follower of Islam’, ‘has black hair’, ‘is male’, or any of these other statistically stupid approaches)

Let’s stop with the red herrings, okay? The problem is assholes who think it’s okay to hurt other people.

Every terrorist is a ten. Every person who is creating the problem is a 9 or 8. Everyone who isn’t helping is a 7-5. The people we need to listen to are 4 and under.


#19

I think we already have a solid source code off which to iterate.


#20

I think you’ve correctly identified the crux of the disagreement here. The particulars of ideological beliefs mostly don’t matter. Japan is increasing military strength under a rhetoric of pacifism. The same people who say they would be willing to help the police round up Muslims if the government asked for their help also mostly say they would be willing to help round up “authoritarian followers” (who are defined as people who are dangerous because of their willingness to be aggressive in defense of authority). If you prove one conspiracy wrong, the conspiracy theorist just gives you another because they simultaneously believe many conflicting theories anyway.

People mostly are not self aware enough to understand why they behave the way they behave, and most of the reasons you will hear people give for their behaviour are after-the-fact rationalizations that, if shown to be untrue, would be rapidly replaced by other rationalizations without changing the actions of the person at all. If you want to know why a group of people really does something you look at whether their needs are being met and at the emotions, not at what they say.

Sure, if the justification for killing was Communism instead of Islam you might have some different people involved. You might have a few more or a few fewer people involved. But you take a situation where lots of people don’t have any security - physical, emotional or even food security - and you introduce any kind of rhetoric that says they can get some power back by attacking someone else, and the people will buy it. To the extent that it is believable more people will buy it.

I don’t know if your experience of the world is that most people behave rationally, behave in a manner that reflects their expressed values, and behave in a manner that is consistent rather than hypocritical and contradictory. My experience is that people very rarely do any of those things. I feel like saying that the professed ideology of ISIS is very important to the reasons why they do what they do is putting a level of trust in their word that far exceeds the trust I have in the word of anyone else. I’m not going to assume that terrorists killing people in the name of Islam are rational, reasonable, consistent, or that their expressed reasons are meaningful, since it seems unlikely to me that anyone who is rational or reasonable would be advocating killing, let alone strapping on a suicide vest themselves.


#21

So you’re only advocating total pacifism? Defending against an invading army would also be wrong by your criteria.