Further attempts to rehabilitate “Allahu akbar”

The phrase above, as we all know, means “God is the greatest” or “God is greater”, and is used by Muslims to express gratitude when something good has happened. For a few terrorists, that “good” involves mowing down people by trucks, beheadings, tossing gays off buildings, or other massacres of infidels. Thus, when a mass murderer shouts it, it’s a clue that the murder was inspired by Islam. I think we all know that most of the time the phrase is used just as Americans say, “Thank god”: not in a pernicious way. But the phrase is also the touchstone for a killer’s motivations.

Nevertheless, the fact that the truck terrorist in Manhattan shouted that phrase as he exited his car, having killed eight people, has got Muslims upset, for they want to reassure us that the phrase is really a perversion of Islam. These people want their “Allahu akbar back”, which means they want its use by terrorists disconnected from Islam (see here and here). As Maajid Nawaz responded to Linda Sarsour, who also wants her “Allahu akbar” back, “To make your priority right now ‘the image of Islam’ and not the 8 dead victims is—frankly—disgusting. You. Are. Not. The. Victim. Here.”

But Karim Shamsi-Basha, writing in the HuffPo (of course), gives it the old college try. (He’s identified as “Arab-American, American-Arab, Writer, Photographer, Lover of mankind.”) Click on the screenshot to go to the piece


I won’t belabor the piece as it’s the usual apologetics, to wit (my emphases):

For the majority of Muslims, to shout God’s name as you killed the innocent is an abomination. Muslims no more want innocent people killed than anyone else. So why is the phrase used by terrorists?

For the same reason ISIS and Al-Qaida exist: The misinterpretation of Islam. When you use religion as the motive for you actions, you have the power to appeal to the masses. It’s a brain washing if you will. The terrorists who flew the planes into the World Trade Center on September 11th are no different than any suicide bomber in Israel/Palestine, are no different that the one who mowed down bicyclists in New York. They are people who misunderstood and misused the religion. They are sick and twisted and evil.

The phrase is to remind Muslims that God is supreme. That’s it. It was never to be used as a battle cry during horrendous actions furthering political agendas with evil motives.

My heart sank when I heard the terrorist shouted the saying after the attack. I will never understand the link between Islam and Terrorism. The Islam I grew up amidst condemns such actions. It preaches love and peace and tranquility and feeding the hungry and clothing the poor and sheltering the homeless. One of the five main requirements of Islam in addition to prayer and fasting is to give a percentage of your money to the poor.

Let’s take his statement that “Muslims no more want innocent people killed than anyone else.” Here are the data from Pew’s 2014 survey on Islamic extremism, which questioned Muslims in various Asian and African countries. The last column (shaded) tells you the proportion of Muslims in each country who think that “suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies.”

Although we don’t have a comparison of Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians here, Shamshi-Basha is clearly wrong to imply that only very few Muslims often or sometimes approve of killing innocents to defend their faith. After all, 24% of Egyptian Muslims comes out to roughly 21 million people, and 47% of Bangladeshi Muslims is about 72 million people. The total is 93 million who can see some justification for killing innocents to bolster Islam, and that’s in only two countries!  Clearly, several hundred million Muslims are okay with suicide bombing. You can find data from Muslims in other countries at this site, and believe me, the proportion of believers who approve of terrorist acts or suicide bombings is not miniscule, even in the West.

As for terrorists misinterpreting Islam, and Shamshi-Basha seeing no link between terrorism and Islam, or “Allahu akbar” and killing, the man must be blind. The Qur’an repeatedly calls for the killing of infidels, and I strongly suspect that as Muhammad and his minions went on their killing sprees, one might hear an occasional “Allahu akbar.” Perhaps Shamshi-Basha wasn’t brought up that way, and I’m sure many Muslims aren’t, but to claim that killing infidels is a perversion of “true” Islam bespeaks either deliberate ignorance or blindness. Who, after all, gets to decide what “real” Islam is?

I believe that Shamshi-Basha is a good man and really does deplore the killing of innocent people as well as the appropriation of Islam in the cause of jihad. But to say he doesn’t understand it, that such killing doesn’t exist, or that terrorists aren’t practicing the dictates of “real Islam”—well, that’s bald-face whitewashing.

He ends his piece as follows:

I have one wish, well maybe two.

The first is for my children to thrive and go through life without any judgment based on their last name.

The second is for this world to know that Muslims mean no one any harm. The people who mean harm are as far from Islam as the KKK is far from Christianity.

“Muslims mean no one any harm?” Since when did this man become The Arbiter of What Islam Really Says? The data above contradicts his statement. As for the KKK, I suspect that many of those sheet-wearers who lynched blacks were motivated by simple racist bigotry, not by the defense of Christianity. After all, Amerian blacks are not infidels, as most are Christians. I also suspect that, contra Shamshi-Basha, the proportion of Christians who think suicide bombing is okay is far, far smaller than the proportion of Muslims who feel that way.

68 Comments

  1. BJ
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    “…for they want to reassure us that the phrase is really a perversion of Islam.”

    Just a distinction rather than a correction, but shouldn’t this read “the phrase’s use in this context is really a perversion of Islam”? The point these articles is that the phrase itself is an important part of Islam, but should not be associated with terrorism.

    Anyway, it was interesting reading the breakdown by country in that poll. No shocker that the highest percentage of people who believe in attacking civilians is in Palestine.

    • tony in san diego
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      what is surprising is the low numbers for Pakistan!

      • BJ
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        I noticed that, but I think many of us have an extreme view of what Pakistan is like. Most of the people there live in largely cosmopolitan cities. It’s the rural, tribal areas that produce extremists and terrorists. Also, I can’t imagine the poll was able to reach many people in the areas where extremists are concentrated, so the numbers could easily be skewed in favor of the urban population.

  2. Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    It is much more difficult to get to murdering blacks from the NT than it is to get jihadi attacks from the Koran.

    The best you can get from the NT about Jesus’ prejudice is his advice to the apostles only to proselytize among Jews (and not Samarians or Gentiles – contradicted in another instruction) and his calling the Syro-Phoenician woman a dog. Jesus rarely preached beyond old Judea because he doesn’t seem to think it was worth it but that is nowhere near the instruction to kill the infidel in the Koran.

    Besides how many Christians know that JC, to use an anachronistic term, was a bit of religious bigot?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Well, now, Jesus came not to destroy the law of the OT, but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) And according to Genesis, dark folk bear “the curse of Ham.”

      Then again, Jesus the Nazarene (if he existed at all) was a nappy-haired, copper-skinned son of the Levant — so choke on that, white supremacists.

      • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        I knew someone online years ago who used to troll Christians by suggesting that Jesus, if anything, looked like Yasser Arafat.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I wonder if he has read the book which provides the basis, the brain washing he speaks of. After the 9/11 attack it was discovered that a few of the guys who did the attack had taken flying lessons. One of the places mentioned that the “students” did not seem that interested in the landing part. Who has ever heard of a student taking flying instruction to not be very interested in the hardest part of flying – Landing? When some guy with a long beard wants to rent a truck it might be a good idea to ask a few questions?

    • rickflick
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      “…it might be a good idea to ask a few questions?”

      Profiling? In a democracy?

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        There is the right to refuse service. If a few good questions would have at least raised suspicion on the guy and then a call to the FBI? You really think this guy is going to sue you for not renting him a truck? He is simply going to the next truck rental on his list.

        • Jeremy
          Posted November 4, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          Don’t rent trucks to people with beards? Isn’t that like 90% of the people who drive trucks? And if you instigated such a policy, wouldn’t the terrorists just shave off their beards in order to carry out their attacks?

          The reality is that less than 0.01% of Muslims carry out or help with terrorist attacks. Any profiling you do has to be aimed at separating the 99.99% from the 0.01%, not aimed at targeting all Muslims, because targeting all Muslims is only very marginally better than targeting everybody in the case of Islamic terrorism, and because not all terrorists are Muslims, allows the non-Muslims terrorists less scrutiny, plus there is the additional problem of feelings of alienation and persecution potentially contributing to people’s desire to take up terrorism – remember because we’re only talking about a tiny percentage of a large group of people, only a very small number of people have to feel that way for it make the problem significantly worse.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

            I did not say don’t rent trucks to people with beards. Do you always make up stuff in your comments? And 90% of truck drivers have beards? You seem to make up all kinds of stuff? Also, your comments on percentages of Muslims who do or don’t do terrorism is just nonsense and has nothing to do with anything. Your comments are so lacking in any substance I’ll just say goodbye.

      • Paul S
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Profiling, when police do it, it’s bad. When actuaries do it, it’s business.

      • Craw
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Certainly. You are looking for a fleeing mugger. There is a 93 year old woman on crutches, and a fit young man each about to flag a taxi. Which do you stop, in a democracy?

  4. claudia baker
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    In Canada, both the Federal and Ontario Provincial governments are doing their best to “normalize” the hijab, by including it wherever they can in ads etc. One runs the risk of sounding like a raving alt-right-lunatic if one speaks against this brain washing. Trying to explain that it is a symbol of the subjugation of women and not something to be “normalizing” is very tricky indeed. I am a liberal, have always voted liberal or even NDP and/or Green party sometimes. But, in the words of Leon Russell, when it comes to the topic of Islam/hijab/religion these days, I feel like I’m on a tight wire, one side’s ice and one is fire.

    • Craw
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      I support Quebec’s law on face coverings.

      • claudia baker
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        Me too Craw.

        • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          Face coverings are routine in Quebec, in January …

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Like a rubberneck giraffe, Claudia.

      • claudia baker
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

        The wire seems to be the only place for me.

    • tony in san diego
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      What about Mormons’ funny underwear? Is it just because you can’t see it on the street?

      • Richard Portman
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        Well yes, in a way it is. I’ve been living in Utah these past 37 years and can usually tell if someone is LDS in seconds. This is a useful skill if you wish to avoid unnecessary offenses and keep peace in our larger community.
        Mormons wear their garments next to their skin as a private expression of their faith. I don’t think it is meant to be political statement.
        Mexican people are also part of our community. We live together. They also have dress codes.
        Back to the hijab. It makes me uncomfortable. I feel that people are wearing it as a political statement. I fear that they are just wearing a scarf so they can look cool.
        I don’t want hijab and Sharia to come to Utah.
        I don’t trust people who put on these clothes
        If you are traditional people you are welcome.
        We have had a bad experience with Christianity and Islam
        No Way repeat.

        • claudia baker
          Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

          Tony, the underwear is worn by both men and women, so it does not single out women only. Also, yes, it not used as an outward symbol of subjugation like the hijab.

  5. Jimbo
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    To every article that claims ‘this is not my Islam…religion of peace…Islamic terrorists have no right to use ‘allahu akbar…” just send them the above 2014 PEW poll results with the title “Until YOU explain this, no one believes you.”

  6. Jacob
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    What would the appropriate comparison group be here? If you asked the question, “Drone strikes can be justified [often/sometimes/rarely/never] against civilian targets in order to defend the US from its enemies.” I think you’d unfortunately get a high rate of often and sometimes from US respondents.

    After all, our president endorsed this very idea in the campaign, saying we have to target terrorists’ families. And unfortunately it seems at least a third of the US takes on whatever he says, no matter how insane.

    Of course, it should go without saying that this does not justify Shamsi-Basha’s overall arguments, or exculpate the views expressed in the Pew poll. But if my hunch about how Americans would answer the above question is correct, it may suggest the statement, “Muslims no more want innocent people killed than anyone else,” could have a grain of truth to it.

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      On your point in the first paragraph, Jacob.

      The premise may be faulty as I know of no US drone programme to target civilians. The intention is to target terrorists. Whereas the intention of terrorists’ attacks is precisely to target civilians, diplomats or other groups otherwise protected by the rules of war. The common assumption of terrorists, no matter what their political ideology, is that the rules of war don’t apply to them.

      Pew produced research in 2015 on 2 related questions here: http://www.people-press.org/2015/05/28/public-continues-to-back-u-s-drone-attacks/

      58% of USians approved drone attacks against “extremists”. 19% were not too or not at all concerned that drone strikes endanger the lives of innocent civilians. This, in the context of discussing “extremists” rather than terrorists. So one would guess that the number of Americans not too or not all concerned about drone strikes endangering the lives of terrorists’ families to be a number greater than 19%. That’s a lot of Americans.

      On the other hand I have seen figures showing high (60-70%, if memory serves) Pakistani support for US drone strikes on terrorists.

      The other difference between drones and standard terrorist attacks is that drone technology is of course an effort to make killing discriminate whereas atrocities are overwhelmingly indiscriminate.

      • Jacob
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        The premise was meant to by hypothetical. What if we did, in fact, target civilians “in order to defend the US from its enemies.” How many Americans would support that? I agree, this is not current policy, although many civilian deaths have occurred.

        Thanks for the pointer on the other Pew polls. The 19% that were either “not too” or “not at all” “concerned [that] US drone strikes endanger lives of innocent civilians,” I think would at face suggest that 19% would be an upper bound of people would would answer often and sometimes to my first question.

        But I would suspect that the wording of the poll question matters, and Trump voters would be influenced by the support Trump has expressed for attacking civilians, so the results would be different today than in the past.

        • Jacob
          Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

          *people who would*

      • LJM
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        It’s reasonable to be skeptical of what the government tells us they’re doing with anything, but especially with drones.

        https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2012-02-04/cia-tactics-in-pakistan-include-targeting-rescuers-and-funerals

        http://drones.pitchinteractive.com/

      • W.Benson
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        The U.S. has not always followed the rules of war, especially when it was sure it would win and could suppress and classify the facts. The US used white phosphorus in combat in Fallujah and very recently in Mosul. During the Vietnam War, Honeywell Corp. developed and manufactured hard-plastic cluster bombs that, when exploding, produced shrapnel undetectable by X-rays. Many bombs had delay fuses so as to injure rescuers and medical responders. In one type, the bomblets didn’t explode but had a streamer of bright red cloth attached so as to go off when picked up by curious woman or child. The following link concerns possible involvement in war crimes by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
        http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/philipje/clips/robert-s-mcnamaras-confession-of-war-crimes-in/view
        A reference to Honeywell Vietnam-era cluster bombs is: Anon. 1973. “UK built anti-personnel bombs for RAF.” New Scientist (Oct. 18), p. 184. [There are much more complete articles on the repugnant Honeywell devises in the March 1972 issues of New Scientist, vol. 53, pages 676 and 685. I have not been able to confirm the exact pages because someone seems to have taken down the issues 788 and 789 in which the reports appear.]

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

          The concept of total war was discovered years before WWII during the Civil War. However, modern technologies have perfected the crude. The bombing of cities in Europe where McNamara got his start pushing the pencil for LeMay and others was perfected in the Far East. But one must remember it came slowly in Europe as the Americans took on the daylight bombing, more dangerous than the night time the British took. They did this in attempt to more accurately hit industrial and military targets. The loss of life in crews flying bombers was more than our losses on the ground. Pick which job you would do.
          And without those fly boys the job on the ground would have been much more costly. McNamara’s conscience should be closer to understanding how stupid it was to go to war in places like Vietnam where we were for all the wrong reasons and no outcome in mind.

          • Norbert Francis
            Posted November 4, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

            Randall’s case is one good way of thinking about this problem. The question of non-combatant deaths in war is one of the most important of our time. In years past, it was hardly an issue, much less a controversy. The study that needs to done is how has it changed, if it has, over the years, going back, for example, about 100 years. Measuring it, in its different aspects, in WWII would be a good starting point. Just taking military interventions fought by the world’s democracies, what is the likelihood (comparing across time) of civilians being killed in each case. Movies and documentaries about drones have a big impact on our sensibilities about this question (this is a good thing). My favorite in this genre is Eyes in the Sky. But we need to understand the bigger picture, including understanding the history, to have a rational discussion.

        • Posted November 5, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

          The use of white phosphorus as a munition is against the rules of war: its use as a shield to obscure the enemy’s view is not. The latter is how the US described its use both in Fallujah and Mosul. It would be difficult to deploy white phosphorus in a built-up area near the 30% or so of civilians who remained, yet attempting not to kill them. Nevertheless, this is the US claim about the Fallujah battle which at its height lost fewer US soldiers than civilians Stephen Paddock managed to kill a few weeks back.

          And of course this was against the insurgents, whom Pilger said he had “no choice” but to support. That would be AQ in Iraq, who eventually became ISIS,other Islamist groups and the former regime elements. Pilger and the authoritarian left, in other words, “critically supported”, as the old, oleaginous leftist phrase goes, the existence and territorial sovereignty of a Salafist-Ba’athist regime in Iraq against the project to build a non-sectarian democratic state.

          We should not discount the fact that US CENTCOM sometimes gets its intelligence plain wrong and can be proved to have done so. I am thinking of the bombing earlier this year on what the US claimed was a meeting-place of AQ in Syria. Bellingcat disputed that and proved, to my satisfaction at least, that it was a regular mosque. I seem to remember that CENTCOM eventually agreed, although I could be wrong about that.

          On the allegations of war crimes in general and in particular the ones you mention, of course they should be investigated and where necessary prosecuted. Yet, Ben Taub wrote a brilliant piece last year on the legal obstacles to proving that Assad is a war criminal.

          First, people on the ground have to date and timeline the event, say, Khan Sheikhoun. They have to provide evidence of the chemical nature of the attack and its effects. They need proof of what plane dropped the munition as well as evidence of its flight. They then need evidence of the military order to drop the CW and, in all likelihood, written evidence of Assad’s order for the mission. That’s a high standard of proof, perhaps impossible. Although it’s certain that Assad is a war criminal on genocide alone. That’s not to mention that I imagine that Assad is not a signatory to international agreements limiting the use of weapons.

        • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

          I asked R. Arkin (a Georgia Tech) roboticist working on warbots how he was going to represent the legality of the conflict to the machines. (He’s working on ethical systems for them, so this isn’t as weird as it sounds.) He told me that the UPMJ does not allow a non-com or an enlisted to make that decision – only officers can. Well, there goes the precedent from Nuremberg …

      • chris moffatt
        Posted November 5, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

        Drone attacks are a small part of the mayhem unleashed in the effort to keep the USA safe from its enemies. After seeing the footage from Raqqa I can only say the USA sure got saved from all the poor people that used to live there!!

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      That is all very nice and I must say, I don’t like myself being compared to what Donald Trump might say or do. He is mostly say and no do. But the bottom line is…who is doing the killing of innocent people – is it Quakers? The outcome makes the argument, not the talk.

      • Jacob
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        The US has in fact, been responsible for many civilian deaths with drone strikes. So I’m not sure I understand your reply to my comment.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          Ask yourself if there would be any drone strikes if there were no murdering Islamic Terrorist. It is kind of a chicken/egg thing don’t you think. And we are not trying to kill civilians but guess what, that is all they seem to be killing. You can sing this song if you want to but my cat is not eating it.

          • Craw
            Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

            Yes. It is useful to recall Sam Harris’s perfect weapon thought experiment. If the USA had perfect weapons would there be any civilian casualties? No, none. If the terrorists had perfect weapons would there be? Yes indeed, including all of us. However many non-believer civilians there are ishow many civilian casualties there would be.

            • W.Benson
              Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

              The US had a perfect weapon in Iraq — a prison for accused terrorists . . . and the USA, in the person of the prison’s commanding officer, tortured them. I repeat the case of the Honeywell Corp which during the Vietnam war manufactured cluster bombs with hard-plastic shrapnel, designed to maim first responders, women and children with bomb fragments undetectable by x-ray. The tactical goal was to generate masses of practically untreatable civilian injuries that would overload the enemy’s healthcare system.

              • Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:21 am | Permalink

                Yes, you don’t have a monopoly on outrage, W Benson.

                The difference is this: the American torturers in Abu Ghraib were commiting illegal acts, recognised by US courts, and excoriated by the US author Philip Gourevitch in his book. The far worse torture regime under Saddam at Abu Ghraib was state policy. The genocide of the Yazidis was explict IS policy and celebrated by IS as such.

                If you can’t understand the difference then I can’t help you.

  7. Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    You are not politically correct, wich is why I like this post.

  8. Flamadiddle
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    “The people who mean harm are as far from Islam as the KKK is far from Christianity.”

    I first came across this comparison in “Issac and Ishmael”, an out-of-timeline episode of The West Wing made in response to 9/11.(I wonder if that’s where Karim came across it too). It’s superficially plausible at first but never really sat well with me for the reasons you make explicit above.

  9. W.Benson
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 65% of Americans support America’s use of airstrikes (drones) in other countries against suspected terrorists, whereas 28% oppose. The same poll has 25% of Americans supporting the use of drones against suspected terrorists within the borders of the U.S. Republicans (79%) are much more likely to support drone attacks on suspected terrorists than Democrats (55%). What constitutes a “Terrorist” is not defined in the writeup. If we leave open the possibility that “terrorist” includes armed civilian opponents to overseas allies and their families, and that it is well known that drones often hit wrong buildings and produce collateral damage by maiming and killing innocents who live in the same or neighboring structures, only technicalities separate the morality of drone attacks (as they seem to be usually carried out) and suicide bombings (which often target police, government offices and military facilities). If approximate equivalency can be accepted, U.S. Republicans turn out to be far more bloodthirsty in their acceptance of crimes against civilians than Muslims in any of the countries in the tabulated survey.
    [I am now putting on my raincoat].
    http://news.gallup.com/poll/161474/support-drone-attacks-terrorists-abroad.aspx

    • Jacob
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      The difference between “civilian targets” and “terrorist” is a big one in polling. I don’t think you can draw the conclusions you have based on these polls.

    • nicky
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Look, I think drone attacks are way more acceptable than ‘Carpet Bombing”. I’m 100% in favour if compared to other methods. Drone strikes are reasonably specifically targeted, ‘collateral damage’ is, although not negligible, reduced to a minimum.
      A vote up for drone attacks!
      .

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      W. Benson, you write, “…only technicalities separate the morality of drone attacks (as they seem to be usually carried out) and suicide bombings (which often target police, government offices and military facilities). If approximate equivalency can be accepted…”

      Yet the equivalency is precisely what you need to demonstrate. In order to do that you would have to produce data on the kill ratios of drone attacks (rules of war targets vs. innocents) against those of terrorist attacks, of which suicide bombings for a part. You did not do that. Further, you would have to show that suicide bombings are as discriminatory in effects and intention as drone attacks.

      Suicide bombings may target police, government offices and military facilities, but they also target concert-goers, mosques, shoppers and workers. They usually require a larger organisation than the mere terrorist group. The next stage in growth of a terrorist group is that of guerrilla warfare and then an insurgency (defined as a large terrorist group commanding some popular support and a measure of territorial sovereignty). It is from the latter two groups that one is more likely to expect suicide bombing and the relatively sophisticated infrastructure to bring it about.

      One can also expect suicide bombing from the top-down, as it were. One thinks of al-Qaeda and its sponsorship, or at least enabling, by Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran over the years. The same applies to AQ’s training by Iranian-funded Hizballah, Saddam’s funding of Palestinian suicide bombers and the former regime elements of Saddam’s Iraq leading what became ISIS.

      Given the organizational back-up required to create a world of suicide bombing, I’d hesitate to relativize it with the US drone killing of the guy to go to for a good guillotining Jihadi John.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        One more question to ask when attempting to determine the justification for drones against the terrorists. Are you willing to suit up and go in the old fashion way to get the job done verses using the drone. It is so easy to sit here in your easy chair and make judgement with no skin in the game.

    • Michiel
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      It’s a false equivalence I think. You have to consider what these percentages would be had there never been any islamic terrorist attacks on US citizens.
      It’s like making a moral equivalence between Hitler or Japan and the allies in WW2 because the allies also knowingly killed civilians (and even used atomic weapons to do so).
      The allies did not start a war of aggression with intent to subjugate the world though.

      And although one can’t say that the Islamic world has no legitimate grievances at all with the US/the West, surely we do not believe that the US/West ever fought a “war against Islam”, or tried to attack and occupy Islamic countries just for the sake of it. You could say that ISIS and it’s affiliates are doing exactly that.

      The goal of suicide terrorists on the other hand, is total Islamic world domination and death to all infidels. Of course it’s not a realistic goal but it still makes a difference in how we perceive both sides and their tactics morally.

  10. nicky
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Slightly off topic, due to that previous post about “Allahu Akbar”, I use the phrase every morning now. When the feces come out: “Allahu Akbar!” And looking at the produce before flushing: “Allahu Akbar!” I can’t resist it, even if I try to suppress it, the ringing spooks in my head: “Allahu Akbar”! I’m not really happy with it, but it is how it is.
    😦

  11. Craw
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    People will stand in line for a chance to lie about Islam.

  12. Norbert Francis
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the chart and the summary of the data on this important question. It reminds me of a point that Dawkins made some time ago, about how today in actual practice not all religions are the same in their penchant for violence against non-combatants, and against non-believers in general. Historically, going way back, all or most religions practiced widespread violence of mass-murder and genocidal proportions against infidels. With time, and under the effects of ADVANCING civilization (there is such thing, don’t be confused by the postmodern obfuscation on this – Pinker’s book, the thick one, explains this clearly), rule of law, ethical thinking, etc., we have seen the sharp decline in violence against infidels among almost all religious groups. Dawkins went so far as to say that Christianity, in Europe for example, today, is a kind of “bulwark” against backward ideologies of fanaticism and fundamentalism. That in this sense, not all religions have the same problem with fundamentalism. Plain as day for anyone who cares to see.

    • Craw
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      I saw a believer argue recently that it’s modern liberalism that created religious fundamentalism. This from a guy who boasts how much history he knows.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    O Lord, suffer me not the “lovers of mankind.”

    This reclaiming “Allahu akbar” stuff is nonsense, of course, but it’s no different in kind (only in current quantity) from the nonsense Christians cough up about Westboro Baptist and abortion clinic bombers being perversions of Christian doctrine and scripture.

    • Michiel
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      then again, even in the Christians case, one can argue endlessly about wether these are really “perversions” or not. Surely the bible is just as full of contradictory statements as the quran, telling people to love their neighbour on the one hand, and kill the unbeliever on the other. The Westboro people did not make that stuff up about g*d not liking the gays, or all life being sacred. I’m pretty sure it’s in the holy book.

  14. Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Allahu akbar is a horse that has bolted, yelling that in your local mall is not quite the same as HO HO HO! by a guy in a red suit.

    “The emotional arousal is associative, automatic and uncontrolled”
    Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, fast and slow.

    Good luck with trying to claim it back Shamsi-Basha, especially in the west and no doubt confuses the hell out of Iraqis in downtown Bagdad.
    I don’t fancy your chances for at least hmmm… a century or so?

  15. sang1ee
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    “Here’s where the double standard hurts: When that man killed 58 people in Las Vegas, the word terrorist was not uttered by anyone. Why is it only attached to people who claim Islamic affiliation?”

    Because as far as we know, that guy didn’t commit the mass murder in the pursuit of an ideology. In this specific case, it’s not a double standard.

    This guy is a typical Muslim apologist who thinks his interpretation of Islam is the one and true interpretation. Just like the thinking of the Muslim FBI agent who was recently featured on CBC’s Fifth Estate that helped to capture Chiheb Esseghaier and foiled the terrorist attacks planned in Toronto and NYC. It’s dangerous thinking because it’s exactly the same viewpoint of the worst terrorists and from this perspective, the outcome is only good as the text, the Quran and hadiths, and we know it’s impossible come to an agreement on a single, iron-clad interpretation of them.

  16. Filippo
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Wajahat Ali was on NPR this morning recapitulating his NYT op-ed.

    http://www.npr.org/programs/weekend-edition-saturday/

    He said he utters “Allahu akbar” when his favorite NBA team wins. Too bad the host didn’t ask him if he thought Allah gave a care which team wins.

  17. David Evans
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    “I also suspect that, contra Shamshi-Basha, the proportion of Christians who think suicide bombing is okay is far, far smaller than the proportion of Muslims who feel that way.”

    American Christians don’t need to consider suicide bombing as an option. Their government has nuclear weapons. I have no figures on how many would approve the nuclear bombing of North Korea, but I’ll bet it’s higher than some of those Muslim figures.

    • Michiel
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Pah, I think I’m willing to take that bet. Certainly if we’re talking about an unprovoked first strike. And in any case, NK actually has it’s own nuclear arsenal and is a clear and present danger, certainly to South Korea, and possibly to the US and Japan (depending on how real their missile technology is). To me it’s vastly different to the perceived “attacks on islam” that many muslims use as their justification for being ok with suicide bombings.

  18. kelskye
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    “I’m a Christian. I’ll never understand the link between Christianity and the persecution of homosexuals. It’s not the Christianity I was brought up to believe in.”

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      And that is one of the key elements of an atheist’s findings about the religion. Because it is mentioned in the bible, something written about 2000 years ago we have lots of people living by this nonsense today. It is more than outdated, it is disgusting.

  19. Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Re reclaiming “allahu akbar”: I’m fairly certain it has been used in numerous ways, not always religious; perhaps sometimes in jest or as a swear word. Christians use god’s name in vain all the time. That’s why so many alternative swear words have been created to avoid using christian religious terms inappropriately. (Dang, darn, ‘sblood, and many more.)

    Re good vs. bad Islam: Why do we continue to act as though Islam is, and always has been, as presented in the koran or the hadith? If one studies history, islam initially cooperated with jews, christians, zorastrians, etc. in the early stages of conquest. Later on, it was insisted that people of other faiths convert to islam or were killed. The koran is very much like the bible in having contradictory
    instructions. Most of the religions spreading throughout the world went through much the same process of early acceptance of different religions and subsequently a very hard line.

    None of the religions created by mankind have been all good and none have been all bad. It’s always been a mixed bag. Of course, my preference is none of the above.

  20. gscott
    Posted November 5, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Yesterday’s Morning Edition Saturday on NPR had an interview on this same subject with Wajahit Ali, a Muslim-American playwright. I was amused by this interchange:

    ALI: The last two days, we have heard allu (ph) akbar. And for your listeners, that means potatoes are the greatest.

    SIMON: (Laughter).

    ALI: And I think we agree. Indeed, allu akbar.

    At at the end of the interview, he signs off with:

    ALI: Thank you, sir. Potatoes are indeed the greatest.

    At least Mr. Ali has a sense of humor about it. Allu akbar!

    http://www.npr.org/2017/11/04/562058173/taking-back-allahu-akbar

    • Michiel
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Funny 🙂 At the same time the fact that he claims he say “allahu akbar” about 100 times a day gives you some insight in how deep this religious indoctrination has sunk into people’s minds that they have to praise god 100 times a day.
      It sounds like obsessive compulsive disorder to me.

      • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        I’ve suspected (but without good evidence – and would love it investigated) that there is a version of the “self medication” hypothesis that applies to religions some people adopt.


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