A “betrayal of Islam”?

UPDATE: For an ex-Muslim’s take on the murder, Michael Fisher (in the comments below) recommends Maryam Namazie’s post, “On Woolwich: Islamism is the problem.” A snippet:

The decapitation was an act of terror, pure and simple, and characteristic of Islamism and far-Right politics which uses terrorism as a key tool in instilling fear and for social control. The main target of this terror is usually civilians in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere (and often with the acquiescence and appeasement of western governments via funding for or close relations with Islamic organisations and states, defending Sharia law, and the curtailing of universal and citizenship rights and secularism).

Of course times are changing. The new era of revolutions and uprisings – many of them women-led – is the real challenge to the far-Right, including Islamism, and terrorism. Only a humanity speaking on its own behalf can and will bring this movement to its knees. And whilst that fight has already begun, how it ends will depend on real solidarity with Islamism’s victims and dissenters and an unequivocal defence of universal human values, freedom, equality and secularism.

Go read her piece. Namazie is the most politically committed blogger at FreeThought Blogs—someone who really wants to really make a difference in our world—but she doesn’t get near the attention she deserves.


After the horrible murder of a British soldier in London by two Muslim fanatics last week, Prime Minister David Cameron said this (from The Jerusalem Post):

Speaking after a meeting of the Cobra security committee on Thursday, Cameron said that Britain is absolutely resolute in its stand against violent extremism and terror.

“We will never give in to terror – or terrorism – in any of its forms,” he said, adding that there is nothing in Islam that justified “this truly dreadful act.”

He added: “This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life. It was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country.”

“Nothing in Islam” that justified that act? I don’t think so. Just read the Quran (Eric MacDonald quotes a few relevant verses). This kind of attack happens over and over again, and it’s nearly always Muslims. Any religious reason for that?

As for a “betrayal of Islam”, it’s no more such a thing than it’s a “betrayal of Christianity” to work against equal rights for gays. For it all depends on what you consider “Islam” and “Christianity”. Let’s just say that this violence it’s an outgrowth of sentiments naturally inspired by Islam. In other words, it’s easy to read the Quran, hadith, and other Muslim theology in a way that would incite you to commit such an act.

Opinion polls surveying British Muslims show this:

  • 20% sympathize with the 7/7 bombers, while almost 25% say those bombings were justified
  • 78% support prosecution of the publishers of the Danish cartoons that mocked Islam
  • ” Sixty-eight percent support the arrest and prosecution of those British people who ‘insult Islam.’ When asked if free speech should be protected, even if it offends religious groups, 62 percent of British Muslims say No, it should not.”
  •  “12% of young Muslims in Britain (and 12% overall) believe that suicide attacks against civilians in Britain can be justified.  1 in 4 support suicide attacks against British troops.”
  • “25% of British Muslims disagree that a Muslim has an obligation to report terrorists to police”
  • 32% of British Muslim students think that killing in the name of Islam is justified, while 40% of those students think that Muslims in the UK should be under sharia law.

It looks like a lot of Muslims, and not just a tiny minority of extremists are “betraying the principles of Islam”.

The good news is that the Muslim Council of Britain, as it should have, denounced the murder, which leaves a two-year old child without a father. Let us now hear them denounce other Muslim barbarism from now on, defend the right to criticize Islam, and decry the sentiments given in the statistics above.

Thirty percent of Muslim students in Britain don’t see anything wrong with killing in the name of Islam. That is not a “tiny minority,” and these are educated Muslims.

It’s politically expedient for Muslims to decry violence done in the name of Islam, and I applaud them for doing so. But if they had the upper hand in Britain, would they still feel the same?

Let the apologists now raise their familiar cry that murders like this are simply motivated by politics—by the horrible British occupation of Muslim lands. But if that is the case, why are civilians often the targets? I adamantly maintain that this kind of violence is almost uniquely inspired by Islam, which, at present, is much more invidious than other faiths.  Those who maintain otherwise are blinkered apologists.


  1. Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:07 am | Permalink


  2. Myron
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    It’s a historical fact that Muhammad himself, the prophet of the “religion of peace”, ordered or supported the killings of several people he considered enemies:


  3. Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    I find it amusing that the loudest extremist Islamic voices are of people who choose to live in the West, under Western civil law. Abu Qatada has fought tooth and nail to remain in the ‘land of the infidels’. Funny isn’t it?

  4. John Harshman
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Let’s try to distinguish between “at present” and “naturally inspired”. The current state of Islam isn’t the inherent nature of Islam. Christianity, at least in the developed world, is currently in a condition of relative civility, but it was only a few hundred years ago, even in England, that heretics — not just apostates — were burned at the stake, and non-Christians (effectively equalling “Jews”) were forbidden even to live there.

    Islam is presently, in much of the world, at a low point of tolerance and a high point of crazy. That condition isn’t immutable, though it’s what we have to work with now.

    • joe ramone
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      Does cristianity have anything to do with the west being civil and islam in the ME being backward?
      I believe that, as good old Richard Dawkings and others do, you are getting the casual arrows backward. Religion (any) does not lead people to this or the other extreme behaviour. It simply acts as a convenient tribal symbol. Protestants vs Catholics was pretty much to do with politics: northern europe was feedup with meddling italians. Which hunting was then used to keep the plebs scared shitless. A short of war on terror, only more graphic
      Regarding the barbarie of burning people or beheading or eating hearts for that matter, shall I remind you that the cristian Germany was involved in barbarism not long ago? Also, we do not see it, but “our” soldiers do not precisely trhow flowers with their guns.

      • lkr
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        spell much?

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          That was below the blet! 🙂

        • joe ramone
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

          not much, as anyone can see. Hardly the point, though. Any substantive reply will be wellcomed

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

          think much?

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        Deducing what causal factors led to economic and political differences between “Western” or “Christian” countries, and Muslim countries, is a difficult job.

        One thing I think we can be pretty sure of though: it wasn’t in the differences between Islam and Christianity. After all, Christianity was the conservative force that held Europe down for over a thousand years prior to the Enlightenment.

        Escaping the powerful grip of the Catholic Church in the Reformation helped create conditions that enabled the Enlightenment. The fragmented politics of Europe played a role. I’m not sure if being able to break the power of the church depended on anything inherent in Christianity. It is very hard to say why this happened in Europe when it did, but not elsewhere in the world until later.

        Christianity losing its political grip on law and power seems like one of the crucial factors leading to the growth of the science, industry and technology responsible for economic and cultural advances in Europe.

    • Boris Molotov
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      I am no expert in Islam nor Christianity (Nor do I plan to be. ) but isn’t the Hadith that extra dimension absent from Christianity that gives Islam an interpretation” hand book” that drives many of these behaviors? The Quran itself is probably more or less similar in terms or violence and other stupid religious dogma.

      • Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        Every religion has its official supplemental materials. Islam has the Hadith. Judaism has the Talmud. Catholics have the Catechism. Lutherans have the writings of Martin Luther. The “born again” crowd all have their own official annotated / interpreted reading guides to the Bible.

        It’s one of the ways that we know that the original texts aren’t actually inspired or dictated by a deity. Had they been so, they would stand on their own merits; instead, one needs the priests to properly interpret the true meaning of the texts. And, of course, no two “true meanings” actually agree with each other….



    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Have I failed to distinguish between Islam at present and Islam in the past, or done the same with Christianity. Of course I haven’t, as I did in this post. Please don’t imply that I’ve failed to do something that I’ve always done.

      • John Harshman
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        You contradict yourself a couple times in that post, but I’ll assume your second sentence was intended to say “Of course I haven’t”. But yes, you have failed to distinguish. You make the claim that the current violence of Islam is inherent in the Quran and the Hadiths.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          It’s a trivial fact that violence (but not exclusively violence) is inherent in the language of the Koran and the punishments of the Hadith.

          I think the fine point of distinction people often fail to make is that this does not make Muslims inherently violent, just as the violence in the Old Testament/Torah does not make Christians and Jews inherently violent.

          Still, it’s true that Muslims exhibit a unique level of violent fanatacism relative to other religions. I think the causes must be more complex than simply pointing to some Koranic texts. That’s a wingnut level of analysis we might see from Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck.

        • Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

          Yes, I meant “haven’t,” and I’ve corrected that.

          But give me a break. Yes, the violence is naturally inspired by the Quran, but, as I said, “this kind of violence is almost uniquely inspired by Islam, which, at present, is much more invidious than other faiths. ”

          See the “at present” there? Did you miss that? That is not a failure to distinguish between the past and present. And, if you’ve read this site, you’ll see I’ve made the distinction between past and present before.

          There is no contradiction here. The Bible also once inspired more violence than it does now, as during the Inquisition. That doesn’t mean that phrases that lead people to violence aren’t in the Bible. And the Quran is, if you read it, far more violent than the Bible, particularly if you add on to it, as I emphasized in my post, the hadith and subsequent interpretation of the Quran by Muslim theologians.

          • Alexander Hellemans
            Posted May 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            What is the legislation in the US (and the rest of the world) on the dissemination of tracts that instigate murder and violence?

            • Posted May 26, 2013 at 1:31 am | Permalink

              No lawyer here, but I’ll take a stab at it. Unless such instigation is specific (typically of an immediate nature, like recommending specific persons to be harmed), dissemination of such tracts is protected. I could, if I wanted to, disseminate Mein Kampf in our local park, provided I don’t get the shit kicked out of me in the process.

              In Canada, doing something like that could get you brought up on charges under hate speech laws. Do that in Germany, you might find yourself in prison first – largely due to laws we (USA) first instilled on them at the point of a gun after WWII – but have since become a normal part of their legal system. But that’s Mein Kampf (or the Protocols, or other similar stuff like neo-Nazi propaganda).

              You might look here for more on how things are treated around the world.

  5. Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Well, we’re basically in agreement, Jerry, you and I.

    I would note, however, that the waters are a bit muddier than you make them out to be. Not a lot, but enough worth mentioning.

    Osama bin Laden, for example, did actually have legitimate claims against the United states that he cited as justification for the 9/11 attacks — complaints that share widespread support amongst a broad (and sane) spectrum of the population, even including you and me.

    Does that mean those attacks were justified? In the sense that he had his justifications, yes. In the sense that his justifications merited his response, no.

    We also know that, in bin Laden’s case, there was more to it than just his stated justifications. He actually got a great deal of what he demanded in the days after 9/11 — especially the complete withdrawal of the US military from Saudi Arabia, and I suspect he was most pleased to see his biggest enemy destroy one of his lesser enemies. (Hussein’s Iraq was much too secular for bin Laden, representing exactly the sort of Western corruption of the purity of Islam he railed against.) Yet, despite the fact that we very spectacularly gave in to his biggest demands, he never hinted that perhaps there was an end to his demands after all; that tells us that there was more to it for him than just the demands.

    And that’s where the real problems lie.

    Muslims, to a very large extent, want the fruits of the Enlightenment (technology) but they aren’t willing to tend the orchard that produces the bounty (civil society). Islam is the barbarian that would steal the magic flying carpet rather than apprentice to the craftsman to learn how to make them.

    Even here, I would argue that the problem isn’t Islam; it’s religion. Islam just happens to be much less diluted religion than most others…but, even in Christianity, we see that fundamentalist Christians are just as insanely violent as many Muslims — witness all the abortion doctors murdered, for example.

    Why it is that Christianity in the West should have been tempered by the Enlightenment but the Islamic world remains largely stuck in the Dark Ages is something I can’t explain. But that’s what’s going on here.

    It’s certainly not a matter of first principles from sacred texts. Jesus was even more of a murderous torturing genocidal maniac than Muhammad…Muhammad fought all his wars during his lifetime; Jesus’s tenure was just the opening act for first Armageddon and then eternal hellfire and damnation — and that in copious examples in red-letter text.



    • joe ramone
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      Bollocks. Its mostly the dwindling oil. The hapless muslims happen to be sitting over OUR oil. What nerve they have

      • Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        I wouldn’t at all want to diminish the overwhelming danger to civilization posed by our oil consumption, but that’s not so much of a factor explaining the role of Islam in the mess in the Middle East.

        The United States and Russia each produce almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia. Next comes Iran, but China, Canada, and Mexico are all in the top ten. Brazil, Venezuela, and Norway are all pretty big oil producers, too.

        Oil is very important in geopolitical matters, yes. But the variable here isn’t oil; it’s Islam.



        • joe ramone
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

          Who controls the ME is vital. USA reckons it (more or less) have a handle in mexico’s oil. Certainly more control of it than rivals Europe, Russia and china do. Same applies to Brasil and Venezuela, though they are in danger of loosing control of it. Russia? Russia is a rival and armed with many nukes. That inspires respect. China? Main creditor of USA. They have each other by the bollocks. ME? SA is USA’s client, so that much is under control. But SA is a vicious autocracy, and the populace are not entirely happy with them to say the least. Then you have Rusia and China-friendly Iran. Thus, it is far from clear who will end having the control of the region. The boss will come out from there. Now, to get control of the place before Russia or China do, USA will need to seed some blood. Since USA is a democracy of sorts (still) it needs to convince the populace that the killing must be done. And the best way is to convince them that they deserve to be attacked. Hence the continuous campaign of demonization.

          No, Islam is just the necessary bogeyman. Worth keeping that in mind

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted May 26, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

            Maybe you say real politics, but I say conspirationism (“need to seed blood”). And that is the least unlikely prediction in most situations.

            I note you couldn’t respond to Ben’s point here, the difference between causation and correlation: it’s the religion that is the variable.

            Else, yes, we all seem to agree, oil is important in geopolitical matters. But religion is important too, and for other reasons. Oil is not always the “bogeyman” to look out for.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted May 26, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

              “Least likely”, obviously.

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      I wonder if the nature of the origins of the holy texts has something to do with the lack of an Islamic Enlightenment. While apparently divinely inspired, the New Testament is obviously cobbled together by various authors writing many years apart. A tenant of faith of Islam is that the Koran was the literal word of God, in Arabic, relayed to Muhammad and transcribed without alteration.

      I know apologists can be creative, but it would seem, being the unaltered word of god, there is just less wiggle room in finding ways to reconcile the Koran with modernity.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        Recall the Islamic Golden Age that occurred when Europe was slogging through the dark ages. This age of scholarship made the Arab world the centre of art, science and medicine – heck they even gave us algebra. They read the same Quran & hadith….they just picked different parts 🙂

        I think the answer to why radicals do what radicals do, isn’t found in the way their holy books are put together but how their holy books influence them and the way out of that comes from appealing to secular values and reason (as those Islamists in the 8th C did)

      • lkr
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

        Distinction without a difference. Fundamentalist Baptists in the American south DON’T accept that the Bible was
        cobbled together — rather, they believe that Moses, Paul and the others took dictation from God himself, and for that matter, that the King James scholars were inspired to write the only authoritative version.

        Similarly, fundamentalist Mormons also believe that Joseph Smith’s text was inspired and inerrant. USW…

        For these believers, it really is about what these texts prescribe, isn’t it?

        • Filippo
          Posted May 26, 2013 at 4:22 am | Permalink

          A bumper sticker frequently seen in Amuricuh some years ago:

          “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

  6. Al
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Oh yes, the anger Muslims feel is all down to what they read in the Koran.


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      Al, I’m sure you could pull up a long list of examples like the one you’ve linked to, but your list would explain NOTHING!

      For example it doesn’t explain why Muslims are the main victims of Islamism [political fascistic Islam]…

      A better reading of the situation comes from Maryam Namazie the Iranian-born activist, commentator and broadcaster who wrote this today:- On Woolwich ~ Islamism is the problem

      Partial quote [go read the rest yourself]:-

      “…Islamism is the main reason behind the murder in Woolwich and the slaughter of countless people across the world for the past several decades – not Muslims or those labelled as such who are in fact Islamism’s first victims and on the frontlines of resistance. Also, whilst Islamism sees Islam as a tool for the far-Right restructuring of power structures, the movement is not fundamentally about Islam as an ideology but about political Islam (gaining power and ruling via Sharia law). Ironically, political Islam and far-Right neo-conservatism and militarism are two sides of the same coin – both seek power and control through sheer violence, terrorism and by targeting civilians…

      Of course times are changing. The new era of revolutions and uprisings – many of them women-led – is the real challenge to the far-Right, including Islamism, and terrorism. Only a humanity speaking on its own behalf can and will bring this movement to its knees. And whilst that fight has already begun, how it ends will depend on real solidarity with Islamism’s victims and dissenters and an unequivocal defence of universal human values, freedom, equality and secularism…”

      If the list of complaints against the West shrunk to zero at some point in the future we would STILL have the problem in the democratic West of how to deal with this poisonous ideology & our own semi-accountable leaderhip. I can’t see a way forward that doesn’t involve the endless [mostly undeclared] simmering war that we are already experiencing.

      Decades of gradual education perhaps? I’m pessimistic about that ~ more likely a torrent of pain & death lies ahead I fear.

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      Well, Al, THAT certainly justifies hacking up a soldier with a cleaver on the streets of London, or any of the numerous Muslim attacks on civilians, doesn’t it?

      And are you neglecting the fact that most horrible Islamic deeds are committed not against the West, but against other Muslims?

      Do they throw acid in schoolgirls’ faces in retribution for what the west has done? Is the U.S. responsible for honor killings, the disenfranchisement of women, the endless wars between factions of Islam, and stoning?

      I don’t think so. Or are you trying to pin it all on the West?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        Indeed or that increasingly these attacks are committed by those born in Western countries or at least very well educated in those Western countries. Tarek Fatah makes a good point when he says that these radicals are exposed to violent Imams in the West who convince them that they are disenfranchised.

        For example, the Boston bombings were committed by well educated men naturalized into American society. One of the pair of radicals involved in the thwarted train bombing attempt in Toronto was a PhD student at a Quebec university.

      • Al
        Posted May 26, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        No Jerry, I agree with your thorough analysis. It’s all down to one factor: the Koran and the evil magic hold it has over Muslims.

      • Al
        Posted May 26, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        Now, here’s the thing, Jerry. You’ve continually stressed that people should take terrorists at their word when establishing their motivations. Pretty much every time there is a terrorist attack by Islamists in the West, the perpetrators cite seeking revenge for the attacks on Muslims in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as their motivation. Yet continually you insist that western foreign policy plays absolutely no role in any of it. So why do you establish the methodology – that we should take terrorists at their word – and then continually ignore your own approach?

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      As I noted in my original response, there are many very legitimate grievances that the Muslim world has against the West, and the actions of American military forces top that list.

      But the fact that the grievances are legitimate doesn’t mean that terrorism directed at civilians is justified — or even very wise. Whatever sympathy they would naturally have amongst the civilian population tends to vanish in a puff of smoke the instant a bomb blows off some kid’s legs as she’s cheering her mom across the finish line of a marathon.

      It is questionable if violence of any type is an optimal tool to achieve the stated non-religious goals of angry Muslims. Attacks on military targets might have some tactical advantage, but much beyond that is just going to make things worse.

      If they truly had the courage of their convictions, rather than take the cowardly approach of blowing themselves up and taking with them as many innocents as they can, they’d link arms by the thousands in front of the enemy military bases, children and elderly included, and force the military to choose between upping and leaving or committing horrific violence against peaceful civilians.

      I assure you, there isn’t a Western army that can withstand that type of action. Even if the soldiers did open fire, in this, the age of YouTube, the sight of American soldiers massacring protesting women and children would spark instant revolution here in the States.

      Fortunately for us, said revolution would be political and bloodless, but it would be swift.

      Remember: it wasn’t Chinese-supplied bullets fired from North Vietnamese guns that ended America’s failed invasion; it was a photo of Phan Thi Kim Phuc that did it.


      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        Good point about the ineffectiveness of violence.

        A lot of this violence seems to stem not from courage of convictions, but from frustration, helplessness, and powerlessness, which lead to nihilism and destruction.

        There has been some growth lately of non-violent resistance against the Israelis in the West Bank, rather than opting for intifada 3. It is a small promising sign.

        The deep irony of religious violence always seems to escape its perpetrators. To take action out of profound faith in God is inherently a contradiction; it means you actually believe that God is totally ineffectual. This lack of faith leads the religious to impatiently assume their God requires assistance from puny humans. The mere act of religious violence is a statement of lost faith.

        • muuh-gnu
          Posted May 26, 2013 at 5:18 am | Permalink

          > A lot of this violence seems to stem not from courage of convictions, but from frustration, helplessness, and powerlessness

          The violence commited by the meat cleaver Muslim in London is directly connected to his religion, much more than to any frustration, helplessnes or powerlessness.

          He was a Britain-born son of Nigerian _christian_ immigrants, went to a british university, and then suddenly around 2004 converted to Islam and started getting high on religion.

          In the video taken of him in Woolwich, he very calmly and articulate states that “they are forced by the Quran”, and then precisely cites the suras and ayats that he is reading that order from.

          He explicitely says that he is _forced_ by the Quran. He doesnt say motivated, justified, encouraged or whatever which would sound more political, he is _forced_ if he wants to be a faithful Muslim. He doesnt say that he wants to kill, he is basically obeying military style orders, orders derived purely from his religion and the Quran.

          He is in no way frustrated, helpless or powerless. He was a Brit living in London his whole life, what kind of frustration, helplessnes and powerlessness was he supposed to experience there?

          No, over the course of the last 5-6 years, he simply became too religious to disobey the killing orders from the Quran.

          • gbjames
            Posted May 26, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

            Absolutely on target, muuh-gnu.

            And still we are told by apologists that he did it because of oil. Because of poverty. Because of Western foreign policy.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted May 26, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

              Agreed and I think we tend to look for reasons other than Islam partly because as Westerners we just don’t really understand what it is to fanatically and wholeheartedly really believe in a religious doctrine. We think, “oh that can’t be right – must be something pathological or environmental”.

              • Posted May 26, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

                …though, to be sure, we have lots and lots and lot of such domestic examples ourselves…the Amish, Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, the Jehovah’s Witlesses, the Morons, the pastors of most churches….


              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted May 26, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

                Granted, but they are more fringe that the majority since we’re still a secular society. I hold the position (without evidence) that deep down most people who aren’t in these fringe groups have a little voice inside that says it’s all a load of crap….because they fight so hard to live when they are faced with death.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted May 26, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

            It’s possible that this guy might not have ended up murdering without Islam. But he may have also done so under Christianity, or some other cult or group, even a non-religious one perhaps.

            The important point though is that over a billion Muslims read the book and don’t commit murder, so you have to conclude that the primary causative factor in this case was the peculiar stuff brewing in this guy’s mind, not the text of the Koran itself.

            The particular mentoring he got from the disgusting cleric who apologized for his actions are more responsible than Islam in general.

            Note that I’m not defending the teachings of Islam. I think all religions are wrong. I’m just trying to parse it out in a way that seems more true than the story people seem to want to believe, which is the idea that a perfectly normal person with no social, mental, or family troubles was made into a brutal murderer by Islam.

            The fact that so many Muslims do not commit murder is the big clue that this story has the causation wrong.

  7. Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Yah, wrote about how ridiculous this comment really was the other day…


  8. Draken
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Even if the MP of the UK is aware of those problems with islam, it would be almost impossible to word them openly. The uproar would be audible this side of the North Sea and what sympathy for western society remains with muslims would evaporate.

    • Draken
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      That’s PM, of course.

      • gbjames
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        Isn’t the PM also an MP?

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

          An MP yes, but not “the MP”.

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    It is ironic that secular western values can undo a secular western society. Just as Islam is radicalized in closed minded, intolerant, violent acts, liberalism is radicalized in its over zealous desire to espouse its values of openness, tolerance and empathy for the “other”. To the same degree that radical Islam blinds acolytes to reason, radical liberalism blinds their adherents to those ideas that threaten these very values.

    Even writing the paragraph above made me feel like I was Ann Coulter (icky). As someone who strongly clings to liberal values, I too once found myself excusing Islamists. It has to be made okay for bad thinking to be criticized with nothing off limits.

    Sam Harris posted this video: http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/featured/prime-time/867432237001/meat-cleaver-madness/2405214341001 and I was at first skeptical because it was The Sun and it is a neo conservative media outlet (and the piece is titled “Cleaver Madness”) but it introduced me to Tarek Fatah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarek_Fatah, a Muslim leader who I found I totally agree with (he strongly supports the separation of church and state, gay rights, etc.). We need more like him.

    I really wish there were a disruption (that was not violent) that could eliminate religion – some big idea that just made people snap out of it.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I have been accused of “excusing Islamists”, but I’ve never done that. There is no excuse for Islamist violence.

      One can however try to understand them. I think Osama bin Laden felt as morally correct and justified in his attack on the World Trade Center as George W. Bush felt about his invasion of Iraq. That doesn’t make either of them right. Rather than simply labeling such acts as good or evil, we can try to understand what leads people to form such beliefs, each one believing they are good.

      Therefore seeking rationale or causes in such actions doesn’t amount to excusing their actions, which is a mistake people often make. It takes a special kind of blindness to not see that actions by the US during the Cold War created powerful resentments, and the pure Coulterian form of that blindness declares such analysis as “blaming America first”. It is the conservative flip-side of the stupid liberal soft-headed love-fest, to portray every action of America as morally justified no matter what.

      Trying to look at both sides of the conflict should not be dismissed as apologizing for the other side, or excusing Islamic violence, or as soft-headed liberalism gone off the rails. Yes, sometimes it does go off the rails, and practitioners of political correctness find themselves weakly unable to be critical of anyone but their own side.

      The failure represented by this soft-headedness shouldn’t be allowed to be an excuse to silence legitimate critical reviews of both sides of the conflict. The American right often uses this strategy to silence any criticism of the US, by accusing an honest critical look at both sides of a conflict as representing this kind of soft-headedness.

      There is a definite distinction between taking one side or the other and apologizing for them, and looking critically at both sides, especially when violence is being used.

    • muuh-gnu
      Posted May 26, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink

      If you liked this video, you also might find the following one interesting, an interview with a former fundamentalist now apostate German Muslim Nasim Ben Iman:

      > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u9BNpLThqA

  10. Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    “inspired by the Koran?” Yes, certainly. Only a fool would say otherwise.

    But I couldn’t help asking myself how much of this kind of barbarism is just as closely linked to a severe form of mental illness.

    The two nitwits who perpetrated this act of insanity were obviously deranged. If they were part of the US scene, they’d be standing outside of Planned Parenthood buildings with the “Operation Rescue” gang throwing grenades at young women seeking breast exams and shooting anyone approaching the building with a stethoscope.

    It’s so sad to see human being behaving like this at this point in our history. I can hardly believe what I’m witnessing anymore. It’s too ridiculous.

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Or, one might say that religious delusions sometimes make people behave as if they were mentally ill. What about all those people who wanted that teacher lashed in Egypt because she named a teddy bear Mohammed? Or the thousands of Bangladeshi protesters calling for the death of atheist bloggers. Were they all “mentally ill”.

      I’m not sure that Muslims who do stuff like this are “deranged”–unless you meant that anyone who would do something like this is deranged, in which case it becomes a tautology.

      Nobody, for example, thought that the two Boston Marathon bombers were “deranged” before they did their deed.

      • lamacher
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink


      • Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        “Were they all “mentally ill?” My response is, yes, people who could (and would) do this kind of thing (or even seriously contemplate it) to others are mentally ill.

        “Nobody, for example, thought that the two Boston Marathon bombers were “deranged” before they did their deed.” Nobody? Seriously? I did.

        Those people standing outside PP buildings….. they’re mentally gone and in so many cases we observe that it is their “religious beliefs” that ultimately drive them over the cliff to full-blown, homicidal madness. They’re Hannabel Lecters wearing a crucifix instead of a pendant of a flying horse.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          This whole discussion hinges on what one is prepared to call “mental illness”.

          I’m sympathetic to the idea that religious belief is a form of mental illness, but one can also see that such people can be declared entirely sane and rational in every other aspect of their lives. Thus they don’t necessarily have an organic illness, or a major developmental deficiency, or physical damage.

          But just like depression and alcoholism can occur in highly functioning individuals, extreme religious belief can as well. There is a sense in which it is fair to say depression, alcoholism, and religious extremism are all mental illnesses, but they don’t rise to the level we usually call “insanity”.

          What really struck me as curious about the video of this butcher, was that the person filming him, and the woman who sat near the victim and engaged the murderer in conversation, seemed to fear him so little.

          I don’t think they were heroically brave. If the man had been a bear or a tiger they probably would have fled in terror. Instead they connected to something rational and human in him, something they could speak to, something that led them to predict that he meant them personally no harm, and that his act of violence had already been spent upon a symbolic target. This aspect made the video so surreal, that a violent murderer still dripping with blood and clutching his weapons could be documented and engaged in conversation so casually.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

            Yes, that video was truly bizarre. It sent my irony meter off the scale.

            These guys, having just murdered somebody, hang around talking to bystanders and news cameras waiting for the police to arrive?

            One of them half-apologises ‘I’m sorry your women had to see that’ – how truly… English. : )

            Then this woman with a shopping trolley approaches on the footpath behind this guy who is waving a bloodstained knife and just walks right past him and they both completely ignore each other.

            And after the police finally manage to turn up and shoot the suspects, then a policeman urgently pushes the cameraman back – for what? Safety reasons? Not the Met’s most glorious hour, I think.

            Irony aside, for a pair of murderous killers their behaviour was curiously … focussed.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      No doubt saddists and sociopaths find refuge in hateful groups or radical regimes as we’ve seen in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. I’m sure Islam has its members. However, the Islamists we’ve seen orchestrating atrocities at the Boston marathon or attempting a bombing of a train in Toronto are well educated, westernized and high functioning which suggests they aren’t mentally ill. Recall that the Islamists who flew the airplanes into the towers on 9/11 were also well educated and high functioning.

      • Suri
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I think they have an education but they are not educated. They seem to lack critical thinking skills and common sense . It would be harder to indoctrinate them if they could actually think for themselves.

        Howcome they can’t see the advantages of living in a developed nation?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          Unfortunately, I don’t think critical thinking skills can always be taught….I know, I know, I push for teaching this all the time I just think it’s lost on some people because it’s clear our brains are very good at cognitive dissonance. If scientists can be religious, those who are well educated (some of these radicals well educated in the sciences) can hold irrational ideas. Heck, I have friends with science degrees who are very smart and believe in homeopathy!! Homeopathy!

          • Suri
            Posted May 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

            You are right. I guess we can say that having a Phd doesn’t neccesarily make you smart.

            But some of these folks are so stupid they don’t even realize how living in the UK or CAN can be a good thing for them.

      • Posted May 26, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        Mental illness is not confined to less educated people. Several psychiatrists, counselors and social workers that I personally know are certified nutcases. Several of them are heavy users of the very drugs that they prescribe.

        Mental illness is not an all or nothing thing either. The roots of one’s mental problems can be observed by an alert brain long before the person commits his first truly bizarro act. In most cases, these bizarro acts go unnoticed for years until something really wacko occurs. Then everyone says, “Gee, Charlie was such a nice guy. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know what snapped.”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 26, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          I wasn’t suggesting mental illness confines itself to the uneducated, I was just addressing the misconception that to be an Islamist extremist you are typically uneducated and growing up in a developing country with little opportunity.

  11. Jeff Johnson
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I don’t think there is any question that Muslims are far more often than others involved in violence that is justified, and possibly inspired, by their religion.

    We can conclude from this that something about being Muslim gives one a predeliction to this kind of awful violence.

    I won’t deny these things. But looking at the latest Pew Report on the World’s Muslims one can’t help but notice a wide range of variation of attitudes and opinions from country to country. This data alone says to me that there is more than just Islam per se involved in the objectively violent tendencies of Muslims. It is not valid to look at particularly violent passages in the Koran and conclude this must be what makes Muslims more violent. If this were true, we’d see more uniformity among Muslims from country to country.

    One can read the Torah, aka the Old Testament, and find plenty of passages that justify terrible acts of violence in the name of God. Yet among Christians and Jews, these texts are less often an inspiration to actually commit acts of horror. I think this suggests that it is possible for Muslims to reach the same state of being able to balance modern moral norms against such passionately emphatic ancient texts.

    Of course I feel it is best to abandon these ancient texts except to treat them as curious relics of history. I’m not defending religion even to the slightest degree.

    But I think that we need to look beyond the teachings of the Koran, and look at how Islam manifests politically and culturally in some interpretations of Sharia, look at the tribal traditions in the Islamic parts of the world when seeking to explain why Muslims are objectively more violent in their religious zeal.

    The distinction here is that I agree that Muslims are more violent, but I don’t agree that they must be more violent only because they are Muslims. I know from first hand experience that Muslims can be peaceful, and Muslims can be modern.

    Another aspect of Islam is that it seems to have severely retarded scientific and economic progress. The nature of politicized Islam seems to be totalitarian to a degree that actively punishes intellectual dissent and creativity. The Islamic world has yet to complete its Enlightenment period, but this may be dawning in the Islamic world. If Islamic societies could become more tolerant of heretics, blasphemers, apostates, and infidels, I think they would see more dynamic creativity and innovation, and thus more economic and political growth, and they would be able to get beyond this primitive obsession with ancient ritual purity and violent retribution for transgression.

    This is an interesting article that discusses the terribly meager scientific output of Muslim countries, and speculates on possible reasons why trends in Islamic leadership after 1000 AD crushed the early flowering of scientific and philisophical curiosity in the Islamic world. Muslim countries with the most conservative forms of political Islam seem to be still suffering this retardation today because of their religion. But as with the US and Israel, religion need not be allowed to do this. It is possible for Muslims to reach the modern standards of Christians and Jews, and like Jews and Christians, they aren’t doomed to perpetual violent barbarism because of some violent passages in their book.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      In the opening sentence, I hope it is obvious I mean the perpetrators use religion to justify their violence, not that their violence is in any way justified.

      • js
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        It actually wasn’t.
        I thought it an odd thing to say.

  12. Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink


    There is a BBC documentary that looks into the lives of these people. In fact, the people involved in Woolwich were under the wing of the same person.

    It’s a riveting watch and it amazes me how mese dup these individuals are.

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Thanks for posting this link. It is extraordinary.

      This hour-long piece demonstrates my “mentally deranged” hypothesis very well. These are some really sick bastards, their adherence to their “religion” notwithstanding.

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Great link, very disturbing documentary. Rich comes across as a controlling person for whom there could be no easy way back. I followed up the more moderate Ben and it looks like he didn’t make it back either. Once this kind of insanity gets a grip, it seems very hard to escape – note the section where Ben devalues information written in the Independent – that smacks of inoculation and you see it often in those who hold such views, whether it’s global warming denial, though homeopathy to religions.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      This film is great. These “brothers” reminded me of a lot of Jesus Freaks I’ve known in the past, right down to the very angry fanatical speaker at their conference who said you need to become the enemy of your own family (words straight out of the mouth of Jesus).

      One chilling moment was when Zachariah stated the three options for the “Kuffir”:

      1. Let Muslims teach their beliefs and spread their message (Dawa).
      2. Let Muslims rule.
      3. Fight Muslims.

      #2 is not going to happen. Literally I would die for secular freedom before submitting to Islam. So it’s either #1 or #3.

      He stated this with a smug confidence, as though it was an inevitable logic that predicted the eventual victory of Islam. A similar moment was when Richard stated tauntingly that the Taliban would be victorious over America. It reminds me of the Afghan mujahideen claiming they brought down the Soviet Union. This is religious paranoia of the delusions of grandeur variety.

      There is a sense in which the Taliban have won a protracted waiting game. America would need to be willing to kill way too many innocent Afghans and Pakistanis to entirely obliterate the Taliban with nukes, poison, and fire. We might physically be capable of it, but we wouldn’t want to do it. As Ben has argued in a couple of posts, this kind of violent offensive is doomed to fail. Even if it succeeds it becomes a recruitment tool for many new opponents.

      Our approach has to be to meet Muslim offensive violence with strong defense, while actively countering their teachings by pointing out the failings of their ideas and their way of living. They must be the ones who are allowed to undermine themselves by their violent offensive actions.

      It’s kind of like fighting polio or smallpox. A proactive killing offensive against the virus would be doomed to fail. The defensive approach of widespread inoculation causes the disease to die off naturally. Groups pledging global jihad are about as popular as smallpox. Progress, education, freedom, prosperity, and a vigilant defensive posture should be adequate inoculation to create the conditions under which this Islamist plague will eventually die off on its own.

      A point that is worth listening to: both Ben and Richard seemed to feel that their only choices were a meaningless life of partying and drinking, or else a radical religious cult of purity as the extreme alternative. We are all familiar with this narrative among the Born Again in the US. Was this because they were simply too stupid to find or appreciate the moderate alternatives, or did their families and communities actually fail them in some way? Perhaps they are of a certain personality type that needs to rebel and pursue extreme cultures in order to maximally confront the conformity to the status quo, the typical, and the main stream. Ironically they trade one form of conformity for another.

      • Posted May 26, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Just by way of clarification: Jeff refers to two different people named, “Ben.” One is me, and the other isn’t….


        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 26, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

          Oops. One is indeed Ben Goren, who posts here, and the second Ben is the bearded young man from Weymouth in the documentary under discussion.

          One of these Bens was brainwashed by a death cult. The other wasn’t. You have to decide which. 🙂

          • Posted May 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

            Let me be the first to reassure everybody: my brain is, indeed, squeaky clean.

            Er, wait….


    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      “Ironically they trade one form of conformity for another.”

      Sure but the new form of conformity isn’t the conformity of their parents and their generation, it’s about establishment in a new peer group where they can hold a higher status than they felt they could aspire to in the old conformity. They are Dick Whittingtons headed for London but, on taking a wrong turning, end up in Mecca instead.

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        That’s a good observation, that this is a form of status seeking for the frustrated. I’m reminded of the Tsarneav’s uncle who called them “losers”.

        I had to look up Dick Whittington. Good story. Instead of cats these guys have their beards. From now on I will enjoy shaving much more than usual, with each stroke of the razor a deliciously impious act of freedom and resistance. Perhaps I exaggerate a little.

        Another thought that occurred to me when watching the film: these guys reminded me of addicts whose drug of choice is moral superiority and moral indignation. They delighted in trash talking about the terrible kuffars at every opportunity. There is some cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters flooding their brains every time they look down on the inferior infidels, and these guys are getting high on it. They are morality crazed narcissists looking at their reflections and asking “mirror mirror on the wall, who is the purest and moralest of all?”

        And the butcher we saw who took away the life of Drummer Rigby took it to the next level of paranoia; he became a member of the Manson family.

  13. Myron
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Islam is a seed of violence because it is an inherently intolerant totalitarian ideology. There are tolerant and liberal Muslims, but there is no tolerant and liberal Islam.

    Quran 2:256: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

    This oft-quoted verse is to be read as “People cannot in their hearts and minds be compelled to become or remain Muslims”, and not as “People who refuse to become or remain Muslims have a right to do so and mustn’t be discriminated against or otherwise punished”.

    2:161. “As for those who disbelieve and die as disbelievers, God rejects them, as do the angels and all people.”

    3:56. “I [God] will make the disbelievers suffer severely in this world and the next; no one will help them.”

    3:85-88. “If anyone seeks a religion other than [islam] complete devotion to God, it will not be accepted from him: he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter.”

    3:189. “Control of the heavens and earth belongs to God; God has power over everything.”

    8:55. “The worst creatures in the sight of God are those who reject Him and will not believe.”

    9:123. “You who believe, fight the disbelievers near you and let them find you standing firm: be aware that God is with those who are mindful of Him.”

    33:64-65. “God has rejected the disbelievers and prepared a blazing fire for them. There they will stay permanently, with no one to befriend or support them.”

    (Translated by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford UP.)

    • js
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      Why is hell always fire and heat?
      I don’t like the cold (living in the north of Australia) so for me hell would be all ice and cold.
      Do all the heathens go to the same hell or their own separate one because if I turned up there with everyone else I’d be saying g’day cobber, let’s be mates, hey? 🙂

  14. Myron
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    By the way, an interesting new release:

    * Juergensmeyer, Mark, Margo Kitts, and Michael Jerryson, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    See: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199759996.do

    Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I think we need to start differentiating between Muslems and Fascist Muslems – in the same way we separated Christian Nazis from Christians. The Gestapo had buttons on their black uniforms which read “Gott mit uns”, God with us. The two groups of fascists have a lot in common with each other. The Muslem fascists also wear black. They also have a sense of superiority over other groups. They are equally thuggish and violent as the Nazis were and equally intent on taking control of neighbouring territories. The fact that these territories are already Muslem betrays their intentions. They are working their way towards a totalitarian super state which extends through the Middle-East and North Africa on one side and to Pakistan on the other. Many of these states are rich in oil and natural gas. When newly formed Khalifa States ally with the Russians, they will control most of the World’s energy.

    • pacopicopiedra
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I expect the Khalifa States to form up like Voltron any day now.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        This really made me LOL. Thanks for that.

        • pacopicopiedra
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

          I was hoping someone would appreciate it. So thank you.

    • muuh-gnu
      Posted May 26, 2013 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      > I think we need to start differentiating between Muslems and Fascist Muslems

      We already make that differentiation in theory, but how can we distinguish the extremists from the moderates in practice if the moderates sympathize with the extremists and collectively refuse to help us exterminating the extremists?

      During wartime, passive civilians and active combatants were distinguished by having the combatants wear uniforms in order to minimize civilian casualties. Uniforms were not invented just because they look pretty but to make certain targets legitimate and everything else illegitimate. There were certain agreed upon rules of war.

      In the hypothetical “war” against fascist Islam, you can, fully as intended, find out who the actual combatants are _only after_ they successfully commited an attack. Before that, they pretend to be civilians and moderates and hide amongst the moderates, and the moderates sympathize with them and wont rat them out. Then suddenly any random of the moderates gets upgraded to an combatant so that he can surprise the enemy and unexpectedly strike.

      The moderates fully voluntarily build a human shield around the extremists because ideologically, they are on the same side. Of course that tactic will be of limited use in the long run, because after a certain tipping point, the other side simply have lose patience and all of the moderates will be declared legitimate targets.

      • Andrew Mackay
        Posted May 27, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        We are going through a latent period now in which the extremists are eliminating the moderates – either by frightening them out of the country or actually killing them. This is what the Germans and Russians did in Poland before they divided the country between themselves in 1939. Most of the population will be intimidated into toe-ing the new line; having to accept extreme shia law and the loss of all rights for women. An established security service will, from then on, maintain an eye on each citizen’s level of obedience. Only the most obedient will receive opportunities and benefits from the new regime.

  16. Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    ““Nothing in Islam” that justified that act? I don’t think so. Just read the Quran (Eric MacDonald quotes a few relevant verses).”

    There’s a problem here, though. You have to read it in Arabic, or you are unqualified to appreciate the subtle nuances and proper context of the anti-semitic and apical passages.

    …I’ll get my hat.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Just as one must read the Torah in Hebrew to truly grasp the reasons for slaughtering villages and disembowling pregnant women with your sword, while saving the virgins for your own pleasure and breeding.

      A brief look at the Torah/Old Testament debunks the notion that the Koran stands alone in violent barbarism.

      Yes, Muslims engage in a unique level of violence, but the explanation can’t be as simple as blaming the Koran.

      • Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Of course. It didn’t stop me from satirizing this oft-repeated and rather silly objection, though.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          Yes, the claim that one can only understand in Arabic is silly. To claim that the Koran is the only violent holy book, or that Islam’s unique brand of violent religion is wholly attributable to what is written in the Koran is equally silly. With 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, the world would know nothing but bloody war if it were true. The typical overreaction to these remarks would be to claim I’m apologizing for Islamist violence, or claiming that Islam is not objectively more violent than other religions. I’m not saying that. It seems people have a hard time engaging in this topic without swinging to one extreme or the other.

          The excellent documentary linked to by danmeman at #12 above had a scene where these British guys, who obviously know almost no Arabic at all, are stating that the Koran can’t be criticized unless you read it and criticize it in Arabic.

          This is complete bullshit, though of course there is plenty of room for quibbles in the translation. Certainly the arguments and possible ambiguities of translation could be explained in an English language exegesis by a knowledgable Arabic scholar. Only a fool could believe that Arabic is some kind of magic language of god.

          • Posted May 25, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            That was a fascinating documentary, BTW — and though I’m no psychologist, I could see some really interesting network effects coming into play. These are the same kinds of effects that give each of us a false illusion that “we’re all the same under the skin” — at least those of us who don’t get out much (which is, actually, most of us – me included).

            One could see this especially in the radicals’ behavior in their chummy social setting with a kafir in their midst with a camera, followed by the new convert’s behavior the next day (a combination of guilt and embarrassment at associating with the kafir in front of his new friends) before their little rah-rah rally. It would’ve been REALLY interesting to see the extremists personal interactions in their little circles the second the kafir left the room.

  17. Nom de Plume
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I agree with your overall point, but it should be noted that any result of around 25% or less in any opinion poll about anything is not a big deal. 25% of any population (think the notorious 27% in U.S.) is certifiably insane.

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      It sort of matters what form their insanity takes.

      • Nom de Plume
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        True, but if 12% of British Muslims were to act on their apparent belief that suicide bombings are justified, Great Britain would be a never-ending bloodbath of suicide bombings.

        As I said, I have no objections to Jerry’s overall point, but citing public opinion polls about this sort of thing is of questionable value.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted May 26, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

          How do we “certify” insanity? OTOH then religion is certifiably insane.

          More to the point, I don’t think these polls value can be questioned. There should be a statistical correlation between them and the observed violence, as there are correlations found between the polls and islam, and between islam and violence.

          They are then informative and to the point.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted May 26, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

            I meant that people holding to religion is certifiably insane.

            I’m also fuzzy in the last part. I would be surprised if the correlation I think likely wouldn’t show up, but I’m not aware of any such studies as of yet.

    • Nick Evans
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Perhaps the appropriate comparison is with the 15% of Americans who approve of drone strikes, and are not concerned about whether they endanger civilians’ lives?

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        In the Pew data there were 8% “not too” concerned about civilian casualties, and 7% “not at all” concerned.

        What this doesn’t tell us is if they aren’t concerned because they are totally indifferent to those lives, or if they are making a situational moral calculation, similar to pulling the switch on the trolly, killing one to save five others for a net saving of four lives. You can disagree about the correctness of the calculation of the ratio of lives saved to lives lost, but its harder to conclude that these people are totally immoral or unfeeling.

        For British Muslims, many factors could go into what seems an insane poll response. For example, sometimes in polls people vent their anger, knowing that the results have no real direct consequence, so they respond more extremely than they really believe or would act in real life. Or they are making a kind of trolly calculation. Their idea of how the tracks are laid out, how many and who is in jeopardy, and what possible actions do the least harm is different.

  18. Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    A few comments:
    1. Ethnic cleansing (e. g. Kosovo) was relatively recent and directed AT Muslims.

    2. There are religious riots and violence involving both Hindus and Buddhists.

    3. Some of the relatively recent violence in Ireland was between different sects of Christianity.

    So while I’d say that violence is a greater problem with Muslims than other faiths, I’d caution that we are seeing things through a western lens and not seeing the world as a whole.

    • muuh-gnu
      Posted May 26, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      Correction for point 1:

      > Ethnic cleansing (e. g. Kosovo) …
      > directed AT Muslims.

      Sorry, this is wrong.

      Ethnical cleansing in Kosovo was commited _by_ Muslim Albanians and directed against non-Muslims, especially serbian orthodox Christians. Kosovo and Albania also are today the only two countries in Europe almost free of Jews.

  19. Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    This kind of attack happens over and over again, and it’s nearly always Muslims. Any religious reason for that?

    “Nearly always Muslims”? I think “nearly always religious/political extremists” would be more accurate. The big acts of terror in the US I can remember off he top of my hand are the Boston attacks, the Wisconsin Sikh temple attack and the Aurora shootings; exactly one of which had anything whatsoever to do with Muslims.

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      “big acts of terror” -> “big acts of terror over the last year”.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 26, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Cherry-picking much? If we look for this kind of attack, small scale and, yes, why not include “big acts” too, all over the worlds, NCTC statistics of 2011 shows that ~ 70 % of the murders caused by world terrorists are islamic. Out of ~ 13 000 deaths, ~ 9000 were directly tied to islamism.

      In other words, if we naively (as I’m certain the definition is more involved than that) use the “more than 1000 killings” as definition for war, islamism (aka muslimism, muslim religion) is at war with the world.

      Indeed, according to the the list of organizations currently designated terrorist seems to be ~ 80-90 % islamist. (I haven’t classified them yet, just browsed their names).

      Whether the religion at large is responsible for their extremist’s activities is the topic of the article.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 26, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        [To avoid confusions here, I should add that I have a non-standard use of islamism.

        I don’t call the religion “islam” or their adherents “muslim” (albeit I mistakenly did so above) for the same reason I don’t call religions “christian” or “catholic”. It defers a respect they haven’t earned.

        They are all “-isms”, ideological movements.]

      • Posted May 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        What part of the phrase “in the US” do you not understand?

        I was just pointing out, as President Obama also seems to have said in one of his recent speeches, that in the current context of the US, other sources of terrorism are just as “invidious” and deadly, if not more, than those carried out by “Muslims”. Given that, it seems amply clear to me that making statements like “This kind of attack happens over and over again, and it’s nearly always Muslims.” only serves to ignore these other potentially much more severe threats to security.

  20. Posted May 25, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    From the Independent:

    One of the suspected killers who attempted to behead and disembowel a young soldier in the horrific Woolwich attack had listened to the preachings of a radical Muslim cleric banned from Britain over extremist activities, including alleged links to al-Qa’ida, The Independent has learnt.

    The cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed has been secretly filmed stating that decapitation of the enemies of Islam was permitted. Today, in comments met with outrage, he told The Independent that he could understand the feeling of rage that had motivated the attackers and that what they had done could be justified under certain interpretations of Islam.

    . . . Mr Bakri Muhammed, who now lives in Lebanon, told The Independent: “I saw the film and we could see that he [the suspect] was being very courageous.

    “Under Islam this can be justified, he was not targeting civilians, he was taking on a military man in an operation. To people around here [in the Middle East] he is a hero for what he has done.”

    Mr Bakri Muhammed said of the suspect: “I knew him as Michael when he came to the meetings and then he converted and he became known as Abdullah; I hear he then started calling himself Mujahid. He asked questions about religion, he was curious. He had first started coming when there was a lot of anger about the Iraq war and the war on terror. Whether I influenced him or not, I do not know. But he was a quiet boy, so something must have happened.”

    . . . In 2007, following the conviction of a group British Pakistanis who had plotted to kidnap and behead a British soldier, a secret recording emerged of Mr Bakri Muhammed saying: “When you meet [Westerners], slice their own necks. And when you make the blood spill all over, and the enemy becomes so tired, now start to take from them prisoners. Then free them or exchange them until the war is finished.

    “Verily they remind the sunnah of removing the head of the enemy. They remind the sunnah of slaughtering the enemy. They remind the sunnah of how to strike the neck of the enemy. They removed the head of the enemy. Use the sword and remove the head of the enemy.”

    In another message, Mr Bakri Muhammed had said he hoped that “British Muslims who are in the Army over there” (Afghanistan) can be captured.

    Yep, nothing to do with religion.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Saying it has nothing to do with religion is pretty silly, and I think Cameron chose his words badly.

      It is something else again to say that religion alone caused this, and as the leader of the UK, responsible for all citizens, Cameron needs to make the case that the British public should not randomly or violently lash out at Muslims in retaliation. He certainly botched it with illogical statements like “there is nothing in Islam that justifies this”. But it would be a true statement if he said that most Muslims would not justify such an act using Islam. Sadly, it’s probably true that too many Muslims can justify it. But many Americans argued to justify the killing teams of FOB Ramrod in Afghanistan, or the urinating on dead Taliban by US soldiers, even though we might leap to say “there is nothing in American values, or Judeo-Christian values, that could justify these actions”. Someone could easily pull out a Bible or cite countless examples of American killing to easily refute such a claim.

      It is a confluence of sick minds and religion that causes this. Sick minds could also be channeled into similar violence by many other types of belief system.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        “there is nothing in Islam that justifies this”. Well, technically he’s right. There’s nothing in any other religion that could _justify_ such actions either.

        But of course that’s not what he meant, which was something like “There’s nothing in Islamic teaching that would sanction such actions” – in which he is of course incorrect. But as PM he’s required to be inclusive so I’ll give him a pass on that.

        In fact telling Muslims they’re civilised is probably a good idea, it encourages the majority that are, and for some borderline cases it may persuade them that being civilised is a Good Thing to be, so maybe they should act civilised to justify the claim.

        Cameron may also have been only too aware of the nasty witch-hunt mentality that afflicts too many people (muslim and non-muslim alike) and not want to see some mob of idiot thugs trying to vandalise a mosque or worse.

  21. Posted May 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    People who have been indoctrinated with Islamic myths need to get a handle on reality by accepting that evolution is a fact. They would also do well to investigate the roots of their myths. Wikipedia might be a good place to start, ” Arabian mythology ”
    Arabian mythology is the ancient, pre-Islamic beliefs of the Arab people. Prior to Islam the Kaaba of Mecca was covered in symbols representing the myriad demons, djinn, demigods, or simply tribal gods and other assorted deities which represented the polytheistic culture of pre-Islamic Arabia. It has been inferred from this plurality an exceptionally broad context in which mythology could flourish. Many of the physical descriptions of the pre-Islamic gods are traced to idols, especially near the Kabba, which is asserted to have contained up to 360.

    The main god in the Arabian peninsula was Hubal (Arabic: هبل‎), who is regarded as the most notable and chief of the gods. The Kaaba may have been dedicated to Hubal. An idol of Hubal said to have been near the Kaaba is described as shaped like a human with the right hand severed and replaced with a golden hand.
    The three daughters of Hubal, and chief goddesses of Meccan Arabian mythology, were Al-lāt, Al-‘Uzzá, and Manāt. Each is associated with certain domains and had shrines with idols located near Taif[ which have been destroyed. Allāt (Arabic: اللات‎) or Al-lāt is the goddess associated with the underworld. Al-‘Uzzá (Arabic: العزى‎) “The Mightiest One” or “The Strong” was an Arabian fertility goddess. She was called upon for protection and victory before war. Manāt (Arabic: مناة‎) was the goddess of fate, the Book of Idols describes her as the most ancient of all these idols. An idol of Manāt was erected on the seashore in the vicinity of al-Mushallal in Qudayd, between Medina and Mecca. The Aws and the Khazraj, as well as the inhabitants of Medina and Mecca and their vicinities, venerated Manāt and performed sacrifices before her idol, including offering their children. Pilgrimages of some Arabs, including the Aws, Khazraj, Yathrib and others, were not considered completed until they visited Manāt and shaved their heads.

  22. Jeremy Rodell
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting that you quote Maryam Namazie’s piece as she rightly directs her anger towards IslamISM, not Islam. One bit you didn’t quote was: “Islamism is the main reason behind the murder in Woolwich and the slaughter of countless people across the world for the past several decades – not Muslims or those labelled as such who are in fact Islamism’s first victims and on the frontlines of resistance. Also, whilst Islamism sees Islam as a tool for the far-Right restructuring of power structures, the movement is not fundamentally about Islam as an ideology but about political Islam (gaining power and ruling via Sharia law). Ironically, political Islam and far-Right neo-conservatism and militarism are two sides of the same coin – both seek power and control through sheer violence, terrorism and by targeting civilians…”

    But sadly, once again, the original post peddles the blinkered black-and-white “Islam is evil” argument that is the basis for far-right attacks on mosques and Muslims here in England right now.

    And sadly, this “fight against Islam” narrative is exactly what the Islamists are saying too. In fact the main attacker in Woolwich said exactly that to the woman who spoke to him. It’s what they want.

    What good does it do in the current situation to proclaim that “this kind of violence is almost uniquely inspired by Islam, which, at present, is much more invidious than other faiths. Those who maintain otherwise are blinkered apologists.” How exactly does that help?

    Meanwhile a letter from 94 British imams published today says: “We condemn this heinous atrocity in the strongest possible terms…It is a senseless act of pure depravity worthy of nothing but contempt. There can be no justification for murder.” Sure, it’s expedient for them to say so. But that’s pretty strong, so maybe they think it too.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 26, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      It helps in the same way that non-accommodationism always have helped, and accommodationism never have helped, in making the facts clear and helping formed strategies and tactics that helps.

      The frequency of religiosity is down in US and the frequency of people accepting evolution is up. It isn’t strongly correlated with atheism, but it sure isn’t correlated at all with accommodationism.

      I am not sure if this is a genuine question or concern trolling (“it’s what they want”). But this has been a very active and productive topic, on and off, on WEIT. The consensus seems to be above, there isn’t any evidence that accommodationism works that we are aware of but plenty of evidence that being open and clear works. Likely then it would help now, though there are no guarantees of course.

      Why don’t you grab some of those posts and study them for potential answers?

      • Jeremy Rodell
        Posted May 26, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        I’m well aware of the prevailing view about this topic on this site. But I still don’t understand the answer to my question, and don’t see what the claimed correlation between declining religiosity in the US and strident atheism has got to do with the question of how to deal with the problem of Islamist fanatics.
        The US is extraordinary in the western world for its high levels of religiosity and the influence of religion on politics. The fact that it may be starting to regress towards the mean tell us nothing at all about the topic here.

        So here’s the question again. 10% of the population of London is Muslim, 5% in the UK as a whole. All the evidence suggests that the views of my fellow Londoners who are Muslims range from those who are peace-loving and utterly reject the Islamist narrative, to the far smaller number who accept it. The reaction of every leader in the Muslim communities, except one (Anjem Choudary) has been unqualified condemnation of the Woolwich attack. At the same time the English Defence League – a set of right wing thugs – have ramped up their attacks on Muslims and mosques. Innocent Muslims are terrified.

        Given that, is it best:
        a) To encourage those Muslims who are at the moderate end of the spectrum to work with the authorities to neutralise the extremists in their midst by making clear that an attack on Islamism is not an attack on Islam.
        b) To support the Islamist narrative of a war on Muslims – and hence the EDL thugs looking for excuses – by making undifferentiated attacks on Islam?

        I’d say (a). And it looks like David Cameron thinks so too. This is not just about this specific incident. It’s about how to make a plural society work in one of the most successful and cosmopolitan cities in the world. Mutual understanding and tolerance but within clear “red lines”, and personal relationships, may help. Telling people their most fundamental beliefs are evil probably won’t.

        • gbjames
          Posted May 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          I’d go with (c).

          Oh. You left that one out.

          c) Speak honestly and directly about religiously-motivated violence and intimidation. Decline to offer excuses for religion when it interferes with the civil liberties of non-believers.

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

            If we’re talking in general terms, as opposed to the topic of reactions to the Woolwich murder, which is what this was originally about, I agree with that, and have personally been active in fighting religious privilege (especially faith-based discrimination in admissions to state-funded schools).

            But if c means blame the whole of Islam for Islamism, then we’re back to b again. And that’s entirely destructive.

            • gbjames
              Posted May 27, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

              Yeah. You wouldn’t want to blame Islam for Islamism. No relationship there at all.

              (Sometimes I feel like I’ve walked into Lewis Carroll’s fiction.)

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted May 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          The question can be answered differently for a government and a Prime Minister, and for an individual. Gbjames answer, ‘c’, is fine for an individual. There is value in pointing out and exposing the privileged treatment religion receives, a religious presumption that is nearly invisible to most people because it is so deeply embedded in our culture.

          For a government that has an interest in keeping the peace and defending the rights of minorities, ‘a’ is clearly the best choice. Also for a public figure, we should prefer them to keep their personal religious beliefs personal, and to equally defend every person’s rights to their beliefs. He needs to do this even if the people he defends hold beliefs in stark contrast with his own.

          • gbjames
            Posted May 27, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            Actually, answers “a” and “c” are not mutually exclusive. There is nothing incompatible between encouraging people to neutralize extremists in their midsts while declining to mouth nonsense like “Islam is a religion of peace.”.

            Government leaders do not serve their people by pandering to religion. They only contribute to the continuation of the belief systems that nurture this insanity.

        • exsumper
          Posted May 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          The problem is how do you get rid of the millions of extremists who

          Cheered after 9/11 7/7

          a)believed that Salman Rushdie should be murdered for writing a book?
          b)That non believers should be killed
          c) that western women who dress perfectly normally are whores.
          That unmarried people like me who live with their partner,drink alcohol, deny the existence of allah are moral degenerates worthy of punishment.

          I’d like to know if there are any followers of Islam who don’t believe this??

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            I suggest you try to meet and talk to a few Muslims living in the US or the UK. My guess is that you won’t find anyone who agrees with all those things, and probably no-one who agrees with any of them.

            Looks like it isn’t only Islamists who have fallen for extremist propaganda.

            • Posted May 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

              Look Mr. Rodeell, you could have made your point perfectly well without insulting the person you’re responding to. I suggest you apologize for saying that someone has “fallen for extremist propaganda.” That’s just a snarky statement that doesn’t add anything to what you said.

              • Posted May 26, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

                I am sorry of I am missing something here, but didn’t the original post basically term anyone who dared disagree with it (and I quote) a “blinkered apologist(s)”. I am having trouble figuring out how labeling a whole group “blinkered apologists” any less insulting than saying that some people on the other side may have “fallen for extremist propaganda”.

  23. barael
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    We’re only slowly witnessing the results of dragging Christianity (by the hair, figuratively) to modernity. Let us hope doing the same for Islam isn’t a Sisyphean but merely a Herculean task?

  24. js
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    One thought I had while reading this was, is religion a part of natural selection or have humans become so good at surviving that natural selection no longer plays a part.
    I recall reading many years ago about the various reasons why we have never seen evidence of alien civilizations considering that there is a high probability of them existing and the one reason that really stood out was that once life becomes as technically advanced enough to destroy itself, it will do so within a hundred years or so of discovering radio transmissions and so the likelihood of our hundred years overlapping with another’s is of very low probability.

    • js
      Posted May 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Oops, sub.

    • Posted May 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      One thing to remember is that natural selection operates over millions of years and so any evolution that may have lead to religions would likely have happened when life was nasty, brutal and short and that’s an environment where natural selection would be rife.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted May 26, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        As I understand it the reverse is what is seen, today’s population is much larger and there are more and more effective selective sweeps. (See John Hawks et al works.) I’m not sure how it affects the question about eventual evolutionary roots of religion though.

        As I’m astrobiology interested, I want to respond to js’s last question too.

        The question alludes to Fermi’s question (“where are they”), which unfortunately isn’t sufficiently constrained to allow a testable model as there are always silent pathways. (Eg the most natural pathway of Oort cloud migrations tend to be radio dark as they disperse widely yet use local resources. And of course evolution will see to it that there isn’t “a” species/civilization for long, in the absence of cross breeding and cultural bridging.)

        Too many false negatives means that you can be lucky but you can’t exclude, as I see it.

        Also, the constraint that technically advanced civilizations “destroy themselves” doesn’t seem realistic. As technology increases the potential to prolong their originating culture increases, which we can see today.

        The local droughts that seem to have been important civilization killers earlier wouldn’t destroy our global civilization. Goes towards natural threats.

        We have both detected and started to act against the greenhouse gas increase (carbon dioxide, methane) that pre-industrial society started. Goes towards pre-industrial threats.

        Finally we have both detected and removed the ozone hole threat of PFCs that industrial society started. Goes towards post-industrial threats.

        I don’t know if anyone has integrated all of this. But naively I would think technological civilizations are more robust (more population, more resources, more technology and above all more observations).

        • Posted May 26, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          My point was more that society has changed very rapidly over the past few millenia and that’s it’s likely that the evolutionary roots of religious belief stem back much further into the past, when humans had very different lifestyles, most likely based on much smaller social groups.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted May 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

            Ah, I see; my mistake.

            Seems like a viable idea.

  25. Posted May 26, 2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran is a good place to compare the bible & quran. It looks to me like the quran contains more references to dire threats than the bible. The quran was written about 700 CE, 500 years after N.T. The quran is synthesis of Septuagint, N.T. and pre islamic arabic myth. The quran has taken the name of a lead god figure, Allah, from arabian polytheism and used it in place of Yahweh. The quran could be described as a jumbled summary of the Bible.
    It admits to this itself, 10:74 we decreed scripture for the children of Israel, 23:49 we gave Moses the scripture.
    However some how it claims mankind and jinn together couldn’t have produced the quran. I think it would take very little imagination to make variations on either bible or quran.
    It is necessary to take a skeptical view toward the quran and give the reasons to recognize which bits are false. Criticism of the bible really applies to the quran as well, since it’s stories are based on bible stories.
    The quran has subconscious recognition of it’s failings, 21:5 these are but muddled dreams, he has just invented them, he is only a poet

    21:30 the sun stars & earth were joined together until Allah separated them 6000 years ago. Living things were made from water
    24:45 allah created every animal of water
    92:2 Mankind was created from a clot

    There is no evidence for a large Hebrew slave presence in Egypt or an Exodus , yet Ta Ha repeats the stories about Moses. It also places the idea of Hell back into Moses time ( 20:74 ) where as the Septuagint doesn’t know of hades or hell. This is the same trick as re writing the lead characters as being muslim. [ It would be fun to re write the Bible & Koran with the lead figures being atheist ]

    quran 5:60 could have been improved if it made allah threaten to reverse evolve the unbeliever into a chimpanzee but maybe it is the believers who are more in danger of that.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 26, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Illuminating comparison.

      A nitpick though: The archaeological evidence is stronger than that re “exodus” I think.

      I have seen claims [no references handy unfortunately] that there are evidence against in the form of a continuous culture in the presumed sink (immigration) area which is impossible to square with a presumed massive influx of outside culture.

      The exclusion of immigration routes by lack of expected finds that one also hears about is weaker.

  26. Posted May 26, 2013 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    The term “Islamism” is useful, though it needs a clear definition, and it is too confusingly similar to “Islam” itself.

    My working definition would be:
    Islamism: The belief that the world should be ruled on strict Islamic principles, and all people should be required to convert to Islam

    – but I welcome correction/refinement and/or better terminology.

    It has a parallel with Christian Dominionism / Christian Reconstructionism / Theonomy and the wish for Christian Theocracy, but fortunately that/those is/are a/ very small movement/s. Your bullet points indicate that the movement within Islam is much stronger.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted May 26, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      I think the definition should include the notion that Islamists support the use of direct coercion and violence as a means to achieve this end.

      There are many Christians and Muslims who believe they need to spread the word, but that the power of God will effect the desired transformation of the world.

      It seems Islamists cross a line where those who disagree with or oppose them are not people to debate with, but people to be killed or intimidated by threat of violence into conversion.

  27. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 26, 2013 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Thank you (and Eric MacDonald) for being so on top of this! I too read the blinkered statement from Cameron, and was aghast. And of course the same turning-away-faces, knee-bending accommodationism surfaced in the local newspapers a few days after.

    Isn’t it funny how those who can find nothing wrong in catholicism can find nothing wrong in islamism? Makes you wonder where they draw a line and say “enough”, if ever.

    What I didn’t know was that for the first time I’m aware, islamists have stepped up to the plate and denounced the very violence their religious texts demand and observably lead to. I’m encouraged by this, and I dearly hope it will lead to a new trend of belief enlightened by basic morals.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 26, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      The more support Muslims have in speaking out against this sort of thing, the more it will happen. I’m hoping this can turn the tide.

    • aljones909
      Posted May 30, 2013 at 12:30 am | Permalink

      I remember hearing similar wishful thinking every time the IRA committed an atrocity. It never harmed their popularity within their community.

  28. Posted May 26, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I wonder if Islam operates a bit like a union. Most people just go with the flow, they maybe sympathize with some points but mostly they don’t want to suffer the wrath of the zealous ones and also they sorta hope some advantage will come to them from going with the flow.
    Maybe there are scholars of islam who realize that islam is mostly myth because they have studied the competing ideas but they have invested time & money into becoming scholars so they sensibly don’t want to lose their job or to be ostricised, or to be attacked by the under educated zealots. What to do ? Speak in ambiguous, highly nuanced terms? Try to encourage people to study comparative religion & history of religion, science, literature. Tackle the problem indirectly.
    Less hazardous to say, ” And now let’s laugh at the Papyrus of Ani & it’s primitive ideas, or let’s look at Higher criticism of the Bible or let’s look at the historical fiction of Shakespeare [ in the hope that people will twig not to take quaranic text too seriously ]
    Unfortunately you have folk in the system who have trusted the words of the radical clerics and take a very literal interpretation of the quran, as if it was true. These people who haven’t been informed of other points of view are likely to be the ones who don’t have the skills to think through their wild fantasies to see that random violence isn’t going to improve the world.
    It would be handy if the scholars would slip a few extra lines in the quran, such as, ” Thou shalt not take part in suicide bombing or other forms of terrorism “. They could just say that those verses had been found in Mohammads newly discovered secret cave. Obviously these original teaching abrogate all verses condoning violence

  29. shazam
    Posted May 26, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Is David Cameron ever going to read a post like this and admit his error or is he just another lying, asshole politician?

    My guess is the latter.

    P.S. JAC! this blog is not available in China

  30. Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    One day Mohammad was sitting in his cave doing the really smart thing of studying the Septuagint, New Testament and the writings of Greek philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Epicurus, Anaximander and a whole lot of other stuff by Arabic astronomers when an angelically brilliant idea came to him and said, ” Know what “,
    ” What ? “, replied Mohammad.
    And angelic idea said, ” The stories of the Septuagint and N.T. are mostly fiction. What actually happened was they copied and revised stories of the surrounding cultures, Egypt, Babylon, Greek, Buddhist. It was Plato who developed the Greek idea of Hades and made it sound worse then called it Tartarus which later developed into the nightmare of Hell.”
    ” Oh how interesting ” said Mohammad intelligently.
    Then the brilliant idea said to him, ” You know the Genesis creation story is just a myth, life didn’t come about by magic but by evolution which is a very gradual process where primitive animals can become more complex. So human’s ancestor was like a bonobo ape, and the apes ancestor was like a rat and the rats ancestor was like a fish, Something like that, quite complex to explain especially without a properly developed taxonomy.
    And Mohammad said something very smart, ” You know what, I think that could be true “.
    Then the brilliant idea revealed to Mohammad that 200 million years ago the continents of Africa, Americas, Australia, India and Antartica used to be joined together in one huge land mass which is to be known as Pangea. You will find similar flora & fauna fossils spread over the Pangea .
    And Mohammad said, ” Wow that is amazing to find that out, I am going to be able to impress everyone by knowing that, now i am really one up on them, what else have you got to reveal ” .
    And the angelic idea said, ” Well you know how lots of people think the sun revolves round the Earth, well in fact the Earth beneath your feet is a planet shaped, spherical, like an orange that is orbiting the Sun “,
    ” Wow said Mohammad. I’m going to lead my neighbours into these great truths ” .
    Finally the brilliant light said, ” That is great, I hope you will make up a code for living by, which minimizes human suffering and maximises their health and happiness, women have the potential to do anything as well as a man can, slavery is forbidden, set a living wage, health & safety at work needs to be a priority & if you study everything really closely using the scientific method then you will find ways to prevent illness & disease and cure people from what causes grief ”
    And Mohammad said, ” What joy i have with this great news, i will go and share it with the whole world and help them to understand it ” And so it was that the Arabs became a great advanced civilization renown for their
    kindly treatment of their fellow humans.

  31. aljones909
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. ”Voltaire:

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