Sharpening the contradictions: why jihadis attack cartoonists

Should we define all Americans by what the state does or doesn’t do? Don’t conflate all Muslims with the regimes under which they reside, forgetting that the people that live there are the ones being oppressed there, not you. It’s indefensible, but (as much as they’d like to) Saudi Arabia doesn’t define the over a billion who claim that as their faith, including the many gay and lesbian Muslims around the world.

Plus, we can think of christian countries which also brutalize their LGBT populations, even with the backing of American politicians.


Are you calling Juan Cole a conspiracy theorist? Cause yeah, no. He’s a well respected scholar of Islamic history (though I saw him speak once, and, I have to say… I was slightly mehed over his presentation) and hardly given to conspiracist notions.


But even the other form of jihad turns out to be little different at its core from nationalist glorification of soldiers who die. If you jump in front of a bullet to save someone from a hate crime, that falls under the category of “Jihad against persecution.” That’s the doctrine all Islamic radical groups fight under, based on the principle that you cannot be an aggressor. So a rationale is usually invented. But fundamentally a lot of these groups don’t get by on theological arguments. Their cultural cache comes from the veneer of Islam more than convincing people with Quranic quotes. They tend to point to extant sources of discontent in vulnerable populations. This is part of the reason why Daesh had been able to thrive in the instability of post-coalition Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Middle Eastern press, common parlance is to refer to innocent non-combatants who are collateral damage as “martyrs.” There’s nothing about that practice that seems linked to Islamic doctrine in a substantive way, it’s actually an interesting phenomenon. Yet I hear a lot of “It’s their culture!” As if an entire series of cultures can be credibly reduced to a newspaper headline. Yet, as the martyrization of non-combatants shows, there is considerably more about jihad (some of which has nothing to do with Islam) than people care to think about.

Oh, no doubt. Read the Book of Job if you want a distinctly Persian Satan. But I suspect that the Zoroastrian influence on Islam was more direct, rather than through Christianity or Judaism which provided a lot of the primary influence.


But I’d say that they don’t have to invent rationales, not really, more like justifications, or even figleafs. Given the history of the Mid East since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the constant backing of oppressive regimes by the west, they do have a ready pool combatants. Ever seen the film Paradise Now? The two dudes were clearly secular in every way, but made the obligatory “martyr” video anyway. I mean, if you look at American culture, in many ways, it’s just as flush with religious allusions, yeah. It’s just that since the Islamic world (if you can even call it that) is much more predicated on a religious foundation, that is still the primary source of legitimacy for rule.

People often can’t handle complexity of other lives. They can accept it in their own, but assume the worst in the rest of humanity. How we get over that, I’m not sure.

I’d suspect you’re correct here. But it’s hard to know, really.

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I agree. That’s really what I was getting at.

I saw it, and generally I agree. I grew up with young Muslim guys who were exactly the type you see radicalize. I was one of them, though now I’m an Atheist. Oh God. Whenever I see a young fundamentalist Christian teenager in the US, they sound so much like them it’s scary. I remember having this kid (maybe thirteen) come up to me one night in Atlanta near the Five Points MARTA station and try to proselytize. I identified so much with his peculiar mix of vulnerability, earnestness, and insecurity that I wanted to give the kid a hug.

Yet when I very innocently asked him a slightly challenging question (I went into a sort of naive teacher-mode for some reason) suddenly I was surrounded by older (seventeen to nineteen year old) guys who actually put their hands on me and asked the kid if I was giving him any trouble. It was a little scary at first but they unhanded me fairly quickly and took the kid away. You could see the question marks floating above my head.

But growing up with that, it was never like my hyper-religious friends didn’t watch western television, or porn for that matter. They weren’t what can be described as “pious.” Yet if you went to their house, they might have pictures of masked-guys playing with monkey bars on their walls. My experience with Islamic radicalism taught me that these people can be reasoned with, before a certain point. Generally the trick seems to be to appeal to the thing they’re most frequently accused of not having: Their humanity. The other trick is to make arguments from the thing most accused of being responsible for their radicalism: Their religion.

When someone is raised with a moral framework, you can’t appeal to some other moral framework that is completely foreign to that and expect it to stick. People only speak languages they understand, and when you try to impress them with ethics external to their experience, it just doesn’t work. This is why when discussions in non-Muslim circles immediately start to turn on, “The trouble is Islam!” I get frustrated. It’s not just the oversimplification that bothers me. What bothers me is that it turns into all the reasons why we continue to pursue idiotic policies predicated in some part on simplistic ideas of the phenomenon. Life is complicated, yo.


So you’re saying they rounded up the usual suspects?

Also accurate to note the Saudi’s are the US’s #2 BFF in the Middle East, and that the Saudi royal family would be happily deposed by the Saudi people, were not the West keeping the regime well supplied with armaments and surveillence gear.
By all means damn the Saudi regime, but make sure you capture the entire festering sore in the criticism.

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I’ve been following Boingboing every day for years. Why should that change?

I follow Cole because he offers a useful commentary, but he’s quite conservative in his views, and naiive in his understanding of “realpolitik”.
When Sy Hersh exposed the contradictions in the official story around Assad’s supposed use of poison gas, I challenged Cole to address Sy’s story or at least update his own endorsement of the “Assad did it” official version to reflect there was informed dissent on the subject. Not a chance…

The motivation behind most acts of terrorism over the past century has been to provoke an overreaction. Said overreaction is then intended to further provoke a broader radicalization of ‘the people’ - whichever people might be the focus of the terrorists.

The anarchists of 100 years ago had an explicit goal of provoking state repression, to further radicalize/wake up the sleeping ‘proletariats.’ The IRA had an ongoing practice of provoking repression through violence in order to further separate Irish Catholics from the Brits and Protestants. The FLQ here in Canada deliberately (and with some success) wanted to provoke the Cdn. government into oppressing the French minority - so they would subsequently rise up and separate (into a french socialist utopia, apparently). The stated intention of the various Red Brigades and Baader Meinhoff types was to do the same.

And does anyone really doubt that the WTC bombings were intended to provoke a predictably massive overreaction by the US, and to trigger dramatic change in the Islamic world? It worked and the US went into a huge, bankrupting and completely futile pair of wars which accomplished nothing more effectively than placing Al Q on the map as a global force - when before they were at worst a bunch of deranged losers hiding in caves trying and failing to mobilize support for their war on reality. Now they can point to the toppling of Hussein, Quaddafi, Mubarak and several others as being the result of their initial acts of murder (they aren’t completely right, but they definitely fired one of the starting guns).

I really hope the French have the courage and perspective to treat this as the horrific act of murder it is, and nothing more. Certainly they have a much longer experience with radicalized Islamist paramilitaries (Algeria). But I fear that the attack will be successful in provoking the backlash it so clearly wants, and the French will join everyone else in discarding everything that makes modern society so much an improvement on all that has gone before.


So many straw men on parade make it clear to me why it’s called a phobia.

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Add to that that these supposedly professional, trained executioners initially went into the wrong building The whole narrative looks utterly confused. Going into the wrong office, having to be redirected? And then on the run for two days, 90 000 members of police & military chasing two guys who went to the wrong office?

It will take decades to unravel and even remotely understand what has really happened in Paris.


If they wanted to radicalize the moderates, they should’ve tried bombing a mosque.

Absolutely. But he’s no conspiracy theorist. Far from it, which was my point to @papasan, who seemed to be implying that Cole’s rather conservative take on what’s happening was some sort of left-wing, conspiracy nonsense… when it’s quite accurate, middle of the road take on the situation.

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates


Did he give you Jack Chick tracts - because I’ve gotten those around Hurt Park on occasion!

The powers that be like to make it simple, to get their plans through. If they actually talked about the complicated nature of these problems… they’d get no where. It would quickly turn into a naked emperor situation, I’d suspect.

That needs to be a shirt, yo.

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Gah! I love Joe Sacco and I love Ta-Nehisi Coates!

Patrick Neilson Hayden is a moron or intellectually dishonest.

We know the best method for interrogation and general counter extremism is to radically challenge their ideas of themselves and their faith. It’s pretty much the only intervention that it’s generally agreed works on extremists and moving them away from those beliefs (and then we still don’t really know exactly how well and how often).

If this is the case that it’s not actually religion as so many religious apologists then why is challenging and changing their conception of religion the only thing that works?

Now he is certianly right if what he is saying say some of the Sunnis militias and ex Ba’thists are working alongside IS out of convenience or fear, probably not right about those who decide to skip borders to fight for their god. Yes some people use religion as tool but that only works if there are followers to utilise. However it is certainly not even close to most of the radical extremists, they are believers. These are not political opportunists, they are religious zealots who cross borders to train to kill people in the name of their religion. It is intellectual dishonesty to ignore what these people say and decide you know they are lying. They are doing what they are doing probably for the main reasons they say they are.

Yes there are often other motivators but that doesn’t even begin to explain things like killing people for going on suicide missions to kill for mocking a basically near fictional historical figure or a wholly fictional god. To deny the religious impulse and motivation is foolish and will fail to tackle

Yes Bin-Laden planned 9/11 in part because of American use of Saudi bases etc but all that was not because the was a Saudi nationalist but a religious fanatic who wanted westerners off of whathe perceived as holy land. The politics was inseparable from the religion and that’s what people forget.

It’s like saying Anders Brevity didn’t actually kill people because of his racist xenophobic beliefs or the Bader-Meinhoff gang were not killing bankers because they were Marxist extremists opposed to capitalism. Are the mass suicides occasionally seen in cults noting to do with their beliefs and also lies as well? Idiot.

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Yes but the army and police do that on occasion…

The brutality and brazen nature of the attack and that they seemed to (and have now been confirmed to) have trained with jihadi groups abroad is why people are calling them professional.

That they weren’t that smart is another matter.

I agree but those are the strategic aims of the general terrorist tactics including in Islamists (although no evidence for that here it does simply seem to have been a reprisal for insulting their religion) but that’s not the motivation. People don’t aik to increase division on a whim.

The motivations of the IRA was getting NI out of the UK, Baader Meinhoff e d of capitalism, of islamist extremists tends to be the eternal triumph of Islam or some such nonsense etc. To deny what their explicit aims are as the person referenced in the piece attempts to do is foolish and won’t help.