ISIS is What it Says it Is

The Atlantic has a fascinating cover story by Graeme Wood titled "What ISIS Really Wants."

ISIS-What-ISIS-Really-Wants

The March issue of The Atlantic has a fascinating cover story by Graeme Wood titled “What ISIS Really Wants.” It’s a long read but I commend it to you in its entirety. My excerpts below are only a glimpse of the complex argument.

The thesis:

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

A key running theme is that ISIS is not, as President Obama would have it, a “jayvee al Qaeda.”

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

Additionally, ISIS is very much a religious movement:

Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent.

According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.

Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”

The proclamation of a caliphate has some very big advantages:

To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ‘amr, or authority. This last criterion, Cerantonio said, is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law. Baghdadi’s Islamic State achieved that long before June 29, Cerantonio said, and as soon as it did, a Western convert within the group’s ranks—Cerantonio described him as “something of a leader”—began murmuring about the religious obligation to declare a caliphate. He and others spoke quietly to those in power and told them that further delay would be sinful.

[…]

Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives,” Choudary told me. “These laws are in abeyance until we havekhilafa“—a caliphate—“and now we have one.” Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens. In theory, all Muslims are obliged to immigrate to the territory where the caliph is applying these laws.

[…]

The caliph is required to implement Sharia. Any deviation will compel those who have pledged allegiance to inform the caliph in private of his error and, in extreme cases, to excommunicate and replace him if he persists. (“I have been plagued with this great matter, plagued with this responsibility, and it is a heavy responsibility,” Baghdadi said in his sermon.) In return, the caliph commands obedience—and those who persist in supporting non-Muslim governments, after being duly warned and educated about their sin, are considered apostates.

[…]

The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character. It is in this casting that the Islamic State is most boldly distinctive from its predecessors, and clearest in the religious nature of its mission.

That mission, alas, is apocalyptic:

In broad strokes, al-Qaeda acts like an underground political movement, with worldly goals in sight at all times—the expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian peninsula, the abolishment of the state of Israel, the end of support for dictatorships in Muslim lands. The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif of its propaganda. Bin Laden rarely mentioned the apocalypse, and when he did, he seemed to presume that he would be long dead when the glorious moment of divine comeuppance finally arrived. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri are from elite Sunni families who look down on this kind of speculation and think it’s something the masses engage in,” says Will McCants of the Brookings Institution, who is writing a book about the Islamic State’s apocalyptic thought.

[…]

The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town, and celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam.

“Dabiq is basically all farmland,” one Islamic State supporter recently tweeted. “You could imagine large battles taking place there.” The Islamic State’s propagandists drool with anticipation of this event, and constantly imply that it will come soon. The state’s magazine quotes Zarqawi as saying, “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify … until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.” A recent propaganda video shows clips from Hollywood war movies set in medieval times—perhaps because many of the prophecies specify that the armies will be on horseback or carrying ancient weapons.

Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheading. “Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” said a masked executioner in a November video, showing the severed head of Peter (Abdul Rahman) Kassig, the aid worker who’d been held captive for more than a year. During fighting in Iraq in December, after mujahideen (perhaps inaccurately) reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure, like overenthusiastic hosts or hostesses upon the arrival of the first guests at a party.

In important ways, this all makes ISIS much harder to defeat than al Qaeda:

Choudary’s colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.

One comparison to the Islamic State is the Khmer Rouge, which killed about a third of the population of Cambodia. But the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations. “This is not permitted,” Abu Baraa said. “To send an ambassador to the UN is to recognize an authority other than God’s.” This form of diplomacy is shirk, or polytheism, he argued, and would be immediate cause to hereticize and replace Baghdadi. Even to hasten the arrival of a caliphate by democratic means—for example by voting for political candidates who favor a caliphate—is shirk.

It’s hard to overstate how hamstrung the Islamic State will be by its radicalism. The modern international system, born of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, relies on each state’s willingness to recognize borders, however grudgingly. For the Islamic State, that recognition is ideological suicide. Other Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, have succumbed to the blandishments of democracy and the potential for an invitation to the community of nations, complete with a UN seat. Negotiation and accommodation have worked, at times, for the Taliban as well. (Under Taliban rule, Afghanistan exchanged ambassadors with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates, an act that invalidated the Taliban’s authority in the Islamic State’s eyes.) To the Islamic State these are not options, but acts of apostasy.

[…]

Our failure to appreciate the split between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and the essential differences between the two, has led to dangerous decisions. Last fall, to take one example, the U.S. government consented to a desperate plan to save Peter Kassig’s life. The plan facilitated—indeed, required—the interaction of some of the founding figures of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and could hardly have looked more hastily improvised.

[…]

Kassig’s death was a tragedy, but the plan’s success would have been a bigger one. A reconciliation between Maqdisi and Binali would have begun to heal the main rift between the world’s two largest jihadist organizations. It’s possible that the government wanted only to draw out Binali for intelligence purposes or assassination. (Multiple attempts to elicit comment from the FBI were unsuccessful.) Regardless, the decision to play matchmaker for America’s two main terrorist antagonists reveals astonishingly poor judgment.

So, what, then, should we do instead?

Some observers have called for escalation, including several predictable voices from the interventionist right (Max Boot, Frederick Kagan), who have urged the deployment of tens of thousands of American soldiers. These calls should not be dismissed too quickly: an avowedly genocidal organization is on its potential victims’ front lawn, and it is committing daily atrocities in the territory it already controls.

One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding. Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers. But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.

And yet the risks of escalation are enormous. The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have givenbaya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. The rise of ISIS, after all, happened only because our previous occupation created space for Zarqawi and his followers. Who knows the consequences of another botched job?

But this actually all leads back to where I’ve been on this for months: That President Obama’s policy, while awful in many ways, is probably the best available course of action:

Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options. Neither the Kurds nor the Shia will ever subdue and control the whole Sunni heartland of Syria and Iraq—they are hated there, and have no appetite for such an adventure anyway. But they can keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand. And with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people.

The humanitarian cost of the Islamic State’s existence is high. But its threat to the United States is smaller than its all too frequent conflation with al-Qaeda would suggest. Al-Qaeda’s core is rare among jihadist groups for its focus on the “far enemy” (the West); most jihadist groups’ main concerns lie closer to home. That’s especially true of the Islamic State, precisely because of its ideology. It sees enemies everywhere around it, and while its leadership wishes ill on the United States, the application of Sharia in the caliphate and the expansion to contiguous lands are paramount. Baghdadi has said as much directly: in November he told his Saudi agents to “deal with the rafida [Shia] first … then al-Sulul [Sunni supporters of the Saudi monarchy] … before the crusaders and their bases.”

[…]

Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.

Even so, the death of the Islamic State is unlikely to be quick, and things could still go badly wrong: if the Islamic State obtained the allegiance of al‑Qaeda—increasing, in one swoop, the unity of its base—it could wax into a worse foe than we’ve yet seen. The rift between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda has, if anything, grown in the past few months; the December issue of Dabiq featured a long account of an al‑Qaeda defector who described his old group as corrupt and ineffectual, and Zawahiri as a distant and unfit leader. But we should watch carefully for a rapprochement.

Without a catastrophe such as this, however, or perhaps the threat of the Islamic State’s storming Erbil, a vast ground invasion would certainly make the situation worse.

We’re almost certainly not going to be able to defeat these guys in the classic Western sense. Unlike al Qaeda or even the Soviet Union, whose leadership mostly manipulated religious or secular ideology to gain support for secular, political goals, Bagdadi and company are true believers. They literally can’t compromise. So, short of killing every last one of them—which is perhaps a futile exercise, given the nature of martyrdom, the best we can hope for is to help them fail at their own game while keeping the lightest footprint possible.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Islam, National Security, Religion, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Barry says:

    “In important ways, this all makes ISIS much harder to defeat than al Qaeda:”

    No, it makes them easier to defeat, because they’re trying to claim and defend territory.

    That’s really bad when a large number of rich nations with conventional forces fight them.[1]

    Please note that 90% or more of the difficulty in defeating Al Qaeda was due to the colossal blunders of the Bush/Cheney regime.

    “We’re almost certainly not going to be able to defeat these guys in the classic Western sense. Unlike al Qaeda or even the Soviet Union, whose leadership mostly manipulated religious or secular ideology to gain support for secular, political goals, Bagdadi and company are true believers. They literally can’t compromise. So, short of killing every last one of them—which is perhaps a futile exercise, given the nature of martyrdom, the best we can hope for is to help them fail at their own game while keeping the lightest footprint possible.”

    Let’s see:

    1) Kill a large number of them.
    2) Make their lives a living h*ll.
    3) Make it clear that the only thing that one achieves by going there and joining them is martyrdom, and stupid martyrdom at that.
    4) Clean-up – the longest stage, which involves finding and killing them as they scatter.




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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Barry:

    No, it makes them easier to defeat, because they’re trying to claim and defend territory.

    I (via Wood) get there later in the piece. But it’s both: the fanaticism and religious mandate make it much harder to reach a compromise solution, which potentially makes the conflict much more deadly. But, yes, the need to actually run a caliphate make their job much harder, which in turn makes ours easier.




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  3. C. Clavin says:

    Nice piece. Very informative.

    the best we can hope for is to help them fail at their own game while keeping the lightest footprint possible.

    Yup.
    Nonetheless…the diaper brigade should be here any minute now…screaming in abject fear, and blaming Obama for

    traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years.




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  4. lounsbury says:

    @James Joyner:
    Rubbish. The sheer messianic lunacy of DAESH is widely alienating.

    It is worth noting that Haykel is very much taking a Maronite view of Islamic theology – in a short he’s not agendaless in his characterization of the theology and in content many ways wrong, DAESH’s application and “good old ultra violence” goes well beyond the traditional bounds and rips practices (as Haykel does) out of the usual bounds and rule making by respected scholars, into chaotic unbounded violence, faouda. Horror of fitna and faouda runs very, very deep in that same medieval theology Haykel makes glancing reference to. That’s what is getting even conservative – reactionary even – scholars to condemn DAESH, not cotton candy views contra Haykel.




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  5. michael reynolds says:

    It’s an excellent piece, and not just because it agrees with what I’ve said, and with what Mr. Obama cleverly deduced: that this is a containment job. We don’t need to exterminate ISIS. Wipe them out and you stop the experiment – the experiment that is going very badly for them and will get worse.

    This is an opportunity to show the world what raw sharia would look like. And an opportunity to finally see whether the Arabs can grow some balls and take on the job of their own defense.

    I think there is an obvious parallel to the Cold War. We never destroyed the Soviet Union, we contained the Soviet Union and let it destroy itself. We could do that with some confidence because we believed their ideology was self-destructive, as it turned out to be.

    Imagine the effect if the Arabs themselves with American air power, can contain and isolate the “Caliphate” and it then withers and dies from its own internal contradictions. This could be the lancing of the boil.




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  6. michael reynolds says:

    Here’s for when Jenos and the rest show up to tell us how savage Islam is as contrasted with Christianity:

    Numbers 31:15-18Revised Standard Version (RSV)

    15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? 16 Behold, these caused the people of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, to act treacherously against the Lord in the matter of Pe′or, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. 18 But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

    That would be God ordering children to be killed, women to be killed, and virgins to be turned into sex slaves. And there are dozens of similar verses.




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  7. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: And one may hope that on their way out ISIS will put enough of a scare into Saudi Arabia that they’ll rethink the wisdom of putting fundamentalist madrasas everywhere.




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  8. James Joyner says:

    @lounsbury: The point isn’t whether IS is the correct interpretation of Islam but whether it’s a legitimate one. It is. It’s scrupulously grounded in the words, actions, and deeds of Muhammad–who was an absolutely ruthless character.

    @michael reynolds: Well, in fairness, Numbers is from the Old Testament and thus pre-Christian. Certainly, the God of the Old Testament—which Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike see as holy—was absolutely butal and ruthless. I mean, he wiped out all of humanity except Noah and his family in one accounting that remains popular even as a children’s story. But Christianity was very much a modernization of that paradigm and a gentler one. It was still brutal to modern sensibilities because, of course, it evolves well before modernity.




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  9. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    Christians accept the OT, some treating it as literal, some as a sort of prequel to the NT. I think the Koresh analogy is pretty apt. You have here people who think going back to the literal text is some sort of act of purity which will make them invincible. The literal texts in all three of the monotheisms are pretty savage and utterly unsuited for modern reality.

    The difficulty in Islam comes I think from the fact that Mohamed saw himself as perfecting both the OT and NT which are seen as important but imperfect. In Mohamed’s formulation the Koran wasn’t just inspired, but dictated word for inerrant word. He made interpretation and reform even more difficult than it is for Jews and Christians.

    But there’s doctrine and then there’s reality. Jews and Christians have become geniuses at ignoring the Bible while claiming to be obeying it. Their faith is wonderfully “flexible” in the face of reality. I poke fun at their hypocrisy, but that hypocrisy is what makes them adaptable and survivable. Islam is a bit more brittle and seems to have a harder time adapting. The failure of this sad little “Caliphate” won’t kill Islam. It won’t even kill this extreme iteration of Islam. But it will strengthen the more modern view of Islam and at least set back this absurd medievalism.




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  10. Steve Hynd says:

    America’s Most Prominent Muslim Says The Atlantic Is Doing PR For ISIS Nihad Awad of CAIR told Raw Story:

    “This piece is misleading because it’s full of factual mistakes,” Awad said. “Mistakes are all over it.”

    He blamed Graeme Wood for trying to grasp things he wasn’t qualified to understand.

    “Scholars who study Islam, authorities of Islamic jurisprudence, are telling ISIS that they are wrong, and Mr. Wood knows more than what they do, and he’s saying that ISIS is Islamic? I don’t think Mr. Wood has the background or the scholarship to make that dangerous statement, that historically inaccurate statement,” he said. “In a way, I think, he is unintentionally promoting ISIS and doing public relations for ISIS.”




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  11. Modulo Myself says:

    What’s the big point of determining whether ISIS is consistent or not with Islamic theology. If it is, so what? Islamic theology birthed an empire. ISIS wants to create an endless image of ruthlessness. That’s all. Their end goal is a joke. Only an expert academic might take it seriously. Everything they do is completely inconsistent with the appeal that an empire or state would have to its appeal. They seem actually to think that appealing to a population is a form of subjection to secular ideology.

    This insane variant of the fundamentalism is everywhere. It’s not just in Islam. There are enough Christians in this country (e.g. Rod Dreher) who think that secular society is a plague and being equal to secular people an offense against God.

    The bottom line is that the civil war in Syria plus the invasion of Iraq were very violent. That one of these violent acts was launched by a country that finds further violence appalling is part of the reason that ISIS exists. You can’t have an audience for beheadings without there being an audience who cared nothing about the carnage and dead in Iraq. The fact that a war could be ‘rolled-out’ and presented to a population like it was a commercial product is as obscene as a man in a cage being set on fire.




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  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Steve Hynd: Nihad Awad wants, understandably, to distance himself and Islam from ISIS. James is concerned with, “The point isn’t whether IS is the correct interpretation of Islam but whether it’s a legitimate one. ” Jenos will want to believe ISIS is inherent in Islam so he can hate on Muslims.

    Awad’s opinions may be useful in delegitimizing ISIS and discouraging recruitment. Apparently Baghdadi believes this stuff and has gotten X,000 others to believe it. What difference does it make if it’s legitimate? It still drives their actions. And to the extent their beliefs constrain their actions and make them more predictable, it’s a weapon in our hands.




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  13. lounsbury says:

    @James Joyner:
    No James, they bloody well are NOT scrupulously grounded in the Prophet’s words, actions. Quite the contrary, they are more like a semi-literate rural bumpkin’s half reading of the same.

    That is what is provoking even the more reactionary of the properly learned Islamic scholars to go off on DAESH. There is quite – even in medieval jurisprudence – a lot of rules around proper conduct, who gets to make calls and the like. DAESH is most clearly not following even proper medieval tradition.

    The Big M was quite the ruthless bastard at times, yes, but also particularly in the context of the age, not anything like the unbounded violence for violence sake of the DAESH (illustratively execution of third party hostages, quite not the done thing).

    It does not take much in the way of learning on things Islamic to see the Journo got things badly wrong and a certain POV came through.

    So, no DAESH is not “scrupulously grounded” in its approach; it is rather a chaotic half-learned and ad-hoc call back to points that they want to use to justify an approach to application of the Good Old Ultra Violence.

    Of course their approach looks well-grounded to alienated, ill-learned or mentally ill young cretins seeking some of that Good Old Ultra Violence….




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  14. lounsbury says:

    @Steve Hynd:
    Awad is being a bit precious there – and unfortunately he’s not really making the right point re our Atlantic Journo – that the idea presented and regurgitated by James that DAESH is actually “scrupulously” basing their actions on the Big M and the various traditions (which are legion and oft internally contradictory) behaviour is massively off based. He hits obliquely on it re the scholars letter.

    While one can quibble about numerous given actions, the general thrust of DAESH chaotic unbounded violence runs massively against deep-seated Islamic governance traditions. Their approach is fairly that of the theology of your backwoods snakehandlers, not something scrupulously grounded.

    Which on one hand is attractive to the psychopathic fringe and the various alienated thrill seeking youth without proper education – but also massively alienating even to most Salafist theologians.




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  15. michael reynolds says:

    @lounsbury:
    I don’t think there’s any more point in trying to define the “correct” interpretation of the Koran than there is in trying to find the correct interpretation of the Bible. These are both relics of a bygone age, full of utter nonsense. If you’re insisting on the divine nature of medieval texts, you’re going to get a few psychopaths attracted to whatever they see as justifying their own evil intent.

    I think frankly it’s a very useful notion to create a parallel between someone like David Koresh and Al-Baghdadi and his crew. Both represent ideological viruses within a religious system. Both are seen as separate and distinct from the mainstream of their respective religions. This is a good approach. Americans can grasp it.




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  16. Guarneri says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Good point. Just the other day, right after the news of 21 beheadings hit the news, I drove by a local Protestant church where they were carting off the dead and leading the young girls to the sex slave camps.

    It created quite a stir here in the green, leafy suburb of Naperville.




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  17. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:

    he wiped out all of humanity except Noah and his family in one accounting

    Well, not really. It’s a parable.
    The critical first step in stopping mass murder in the name of religion…is to stop taking religious mythology as fact. And that goes for all religions…none of which is innocent when it comes to murdering in the name of their God(s). The world wasn’t created in seven days, it wasn’t engulfed in a flood, no one made wine from water, nor did anyone rise up from the dead.
    Maybe that’s the silver-lining to ISIS…that strict fundamentalism, in any religion, will finally be seen for the radical theology that it is.




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  18. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “I (via Wood) get there later in the piece. But it’s both: the fanaticism and religious mandate make it much harder to reach a compromise solution, which potentially makes the conflict much more deadly.

    Except for the fact that they’re short on the stuff of modern warfare, or even semi-modern warfare.

    When you are fanatically and infamously brutal, and unwilling to compromise, and publicize the fact that the only question for prisoners is rape, throat-slitting or burning alive, you’d better have the firepower to back that up.




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  19. Modulo Myself says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You must be talking about the Americans who think that Revelations isn’t true. That’s like–what–50 or percent of us? You can’t talk about craziness in religion without implicating a huge swath of this country. And given that these people cheerfully supports wars abroad, it’s hard to classify them as peace-loving. That they aren’t beheading moderate Lutherans in this country is a notable achievement, I guess.




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  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Guarneri: Misquoting John Stuart Mill, I don’t believe that all conservatives have poor reading comprehension, but apparently people with poor reading comprehension are invariably conservative. I have no problem with you arguing with Reynolds. If NSA spying comes up again, I may myself. And he’s well able to defend himself. But could you please make some effort to understand what he said before you write off-target failed snark?




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  21. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Christians accept the OT, some treating it as literal, some as a sort of prequel to the NT.

    Catholics do not teach that the Old Testament is to be taken literally. The Old Testament is the history of the Jewish people. Jesus was the fulfillment of what had been prophesized in the Old Testament. Christians are those who believe in Jesus as the son of God and who try to lead a life in keeping with his teachings.

    Muslims reject the Trinity and that Jesus was the son of God. Muslims reject that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.

    I do not claim any more that the typical amount of knowledge of Christianity and Islam. The things I mention are pretty basic.

    It is important to separate what believers do in the name of their faith and what their faith tells them to do. Islam tells its believers to do things which today can only be seen as crimes against humanity. Of course, the idea of crimes against humanity is a Western concept based upon Judeo-Christian teaching.




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  22. lounsbury says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I do not believe I used the word Correct, now did I?

    I pointed out that as per dominant and long-standing traditions, they’re far off in left field as your expression goes, and not actually well grounded even in conservative traditions. Correct is not the point.

    @Another Mike:
    Your navel gazing bigotry as argument is quite amusing. Ill-learned idiocy, but amusing.




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  23. Slugger says:

    You can’t get something for nothing. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein cost 4000 American lives, more than 100 000 Iraqi lives, probably more than 20 000 American amputations, 2 trillion dollars, and lots of stuff I haven’t counted. I am interested in the price hawkish people are willing to pay. Fighting to the last drop of Kurdish blood is not an acceptable response.
    Needless to say, I am in favor of containment.




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  24. Another Mike says:

    @lounsbury:

    Your navel gazing bigotry as argument is quite amusing. Ill-learned idiocy, but amusing.

    Glad you liked it so much. Makes my day.




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  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:

    Nice try. No, the Roman Catholic Church does not go with inerrancy, and yet they’ve managed quite a bit of slaughter in Jesus’ name, eh? Shall I make you a list? I’d rather not, it’s a very long list and I have work to do.

    And of course the RC is just one denomination among many, some of which do treat the Bible – front and back – as the literal word of God. Which of course makes the point that all holy books can be and are regularly used to justify all sorts of heinous behavior. Christians interested in slavery, slaughter, the subjugation of women, always find what they need in the Bible, just as Muslims with similar predilections find what they want in the Koran.

    This effort to somehow differentiate categorically between abusers of Christ and abusers of Mohamed is doomed to fail. You people left waaaaaay too long a blood trail behind you to pretend you’re fundamentally different.

    And let me add that we atheists have our own trail in the former USSR and in other places. This attempt to gain some moral supremacy for Christians over Muslims is simply ignorance. It’s as ignorant as me trying to claim atheist moral supremacy.

    All rigid ideologies tend to follow the same process: 1) Take the set of all we see and know. 2) Formulate a theory that by its nature requires jettisoning a great deal of that first set. 3) Demand that others accept and even applaud your intellectual self-mutilation, and, if they don’t, 4) Kill the skeptics.

    Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Jacobin, Communist, Nazi, Juche, it doesn’t matter, rigid ideology cripples the mind. I hate systems of thought. Here’s my system of thought, neatly summarized in song:

    I’m Against It.




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  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    The point isn’t whether IS is the correct interpretation of Islam but whether it’s a legitimate one. It is. It’s scrupulously grounded in the words, actions, and deeds of Muhammad–who was an absolutely ruthless character.

    This is another case, James, where you literally don’t know enough to know you don’t know enough. ISIS’s interpreation of the Koran is as much “scrupulously grounded in the words, actions, and deeds of Muhammad” as the Ku Klux Klan’s actions were scrupulously grounded in the words, actions, and deeds of Jesus.

    Just because the Devil can quote Scripture to his own advantage doesn’t mean we need to take the Devils’ reading as the correct or most plausible one.




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  27. Rafer Janders says:

    @Guarneri:

    Good point. Just the other day, right after the news of 21 beheadings hit the news, I drove by a local Protestant church where they were carting off the dead and leading the young girls to the sex slave camps.

    You’re aware, right, that ibn 1990s the very Christian Serbs were massacring Muslims left and right and running actual sex slave camps holding captive Muslim women, all in the name of God?

    I mean, c’mon, let’s not pretend that mass murder and mass rape are something Christians just don’t do….




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  28. lounsbury says:

    @Another Mike: I am sure, ignoramus provincials with absolutely no learning blithering on about how their particular incoherent philosophy is at the origins of a given idea is always amusing.

    Wrong, utterly ill-learned and laughable, but most definitely amusing. Rather like seeing some filthy Appalachian klansman declaiming the superiority of the white race.




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  29. KM says:

    @Guarneri:

    I drove by a local Protestant church where they were carting off the dead and leading the young girls to the sex slave camps

    If it was “socially acceptable” in America (ie they could get away with it), you’d bet your ass there’d be people in that same Church lining up join in on the “fun” and you know it. There are evil people everywhere, some lurking in pews right next to you. Don’t forgot just a few short decades ago, the South saw lynchings done by good Christian men thinking they were doing God’s work. There are many Jebus-freaks who would gladly pitch in to help the End Times go down and spill blood in the name of the Lord.

    The difference is the psychopaths are in charge over there right now, not sidelined like they are here. Don’t lie to yourself it would be any different if nut cases took over here. Isn’t that what the Tribulation is supposed to be about anyways?




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  30. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    ISIS’s interpreation of the Koran is as much “scrupulously grounded in the words, actions, and deeds of Muhammad” as the Ku Klux Klan’s actions were scrupulously grounded in the words, actions, and deeds of Jesus.

    That’s just not true. While the overwhelming percentage of modern Muslims, like modern Christians, have adopted the peaceful, useful parts of their religious canon, Jesus and Mohammad are vastly different people who had vastly different ideologies and practices. Jesus taught obedience of secular authority, alms for the poor, turning the other cheek, and his whole existence was about eventual martydom. Muhammed was a warrior whose existence was about conquering enemies and building a religious empire through any means necessary—at which he was inordinately successful.




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  31. KM says:

    @michael reynolds :

    Christians interested in slavery, slaughter, the subjugation of women, always find what they need in the Bible, just as Muslims with similar predilections find what they want in the Koran.

    Self-affirmation for A-holes. Now with Divine Approval !!! (TM)




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  32. Ben Wolf says:

    The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.

    This is bullshit. The passage in question states: Fight those who do not acknowledge God nor the Last Day among people who received the book; they do not forbid what God and His messenger have forbidden, and they do not uphold the system of truth; until they pay the reparation, in humility.

    This means that those who make war against the faithful are to be fought until they are defeated and pay reparations to those they have harmed. The Qur’an explicitly prohibits forcible conversion, or harming any christian or jew for any reason other than self-defense.




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  33. Mikey says:

    I wonder if it’s possible to engage in any discussion like this without numerous occurrences of the No true Scotsman fallacy.

    Religious texts, and the nature of religion itself, mean there will be interpretations of those texts nearly as numerous as the adherents themselves. Who determines which is “legitimate” and which is not? Even those arbiters are just as human as those asking the questions.

    As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t make a bit of difference if ISIS is “accurately” or “legitimately” interpreting the Koran, or how closely they are emulating Mohammed. It’s their actions that are monstrous, and it doesn’t matter if they are inspired in those actions by the Koran or by the little comics you get with Bazooka bubble gum.

    The only advantage I see in considering their adherence to Koranic dictates is in how it can help us figure out what they’ll do next.




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  34. JohnMcC says:

    My first reaction was the old YAF slogan ‘Don’t Let Them Immanentize the Eschatron”.

    My second is some skepticism. Based entirely on media references, which I do not know how to confirm, it seems that a large part of DAESH’s upper echelon is former Baathist, Saddam Hussein era military and intelligence officers. In other words, men who were trained in Red Army academies. I doubt they’d find religion equally as compelling.

    Another reaction is that if Mr Wood is correct, we are significantly safer here in the “homeland” than when AlQaida was the leading recruiter of jihadis.




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  35. Ben Wolf says:

    @Mikey: ISIS doesn’t rely on the Qur’an, it draws its ideological and methodological justifications from hadith, the anecdotal stories of Muhammed’s life. But there are hundreds of thousands of hadith, nearly all made-up after his death to suit the agenda of the originator.




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  36. Mikey says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    But there are hundreds of thousands of hadith, nearly all made-up after his death to suit the agenda of the originator.

    I’m aware of the concept, although not the content.

    it seems Islam has a lot more of this apocryphal stuff than the other major monotheistic religions. Do you have any insight as to why? (Assuming I’m not already off-base…)




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  37. Modulo Myself says:

    @Mikey:

    The four Gospels are basically stories about Jesus’ life told after his death. That’s all Christianity really is.




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  38. Mikey says:

    @Modulo Myself: Yes, I know that, but there are only four Gospels and a few other apocryphal books (which aren’t accepted as “inspired by God” by all Christians). Ben said there are “hundreds of thousands of hadith.”

    I expect any religion to produce some amount of stuff like this, but (to my knowledge at this point) Islam seems to have produced much more than the others.




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  39. Another Mike says:

    @lounsbury:

    Wrong, utterly ill-learned and laughable, but most definitely amusing.

    Still treading water, I see.




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  40. KM says:

    @Mikey:

    I expect any religion to produce some amount of stuff like this, but (to my knowledge at this point) Islam seems to have produced much more than the others.

    Not really. That’s like saying there are dozens of stories and hundreds of saying of Jesus. They just got conveniently packaged up in books we call the Gospels and thus think of in units, not individual sayings. We break out certain sections (Beatitudes, Sermon on the Mount) but we don’t talk about “the Sayings”- we treat it as a complete unit due to perception. Fun fact: there are dozens of Gospels. Most were examined and declared unfit by authorities in antiquity so the majority have no idea they exist; if they do, they are vaguely aware of “apocrypha”. Banned from the Bible on the History Channel is a good start for anyone interested.

    Hadiths are ranked actually by suspected authenticity. Who said what and when they were said it comes into play. Someone who was supposed to be there in person when it happened ranks over someone retelling what they overheard someone say someone else said. Reading them can remind you of a bad case of Telephone so its no surprise a detailed oriented faith would examine and rank them. This is one reason why they are referred to separately and not clustered into groups like the Gospels. They are supposed to clarify and explain core concepts from the Koran. See Midrash in Judaism for a similar concept.




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  41. Dave Schuler says:

    @Mikey:

    I doubt it. There’s a significant body of non-canonical (apocryphal) Jewish and Christian literature. Indeed, recently a new “gospel” was discovered: “The Gospel of the Lots of Mary”. It’s easy to see why it’s non-canonical. It’s a book used in fortune-telling.




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  42. Pinky says:

    I don’t understand the point of the “Christians would do this too” argument. What we should be after is understanding. Comparing ISIS to Christianity, or to other centuries, or to communism, or anything else, is only valuable if it helps us understand them. This article in The Atlantic can help us to understand them better. These guys have quirks. Some of them come from the 6th or 13th centuries, some of them from the 20th and 21st, but again, we limit our understanding of them if we seek to classify them as things we’re familiar with. ISIS’s quirks make them easier to fight, or harder to fight, or whatever; but knowing their quirks makes them easier to fight.




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  43. Anonymouse says:

    @Mikey: The talmud, certainly–it comprises law not written into the torah plus lots of elaborations in the gemara.




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  44. Tillman says:

    @Mikey: @Anonymouse: You could also throw Christian apocrypha, like the Gospels of Thomas and Judas, into that same category. Along with commentary by plenty of theologians.

    Oh nevermind, KM beat the crap out of me to this.




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  45. Mikey says:

    @KM: @Dave Schuler: @Tillman: @Anonymouse: All interesting insights, thanks.

    I grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist church, which has as its holy books the Bible and the extensive collected writings of a woman named Ellen G. White, who they believe became a “prophet” after getting conked on the head with a rock. That most of the “prophetic” behaviors and insights were consistent with what we today call “the symptoms of a closed-head injury” has dissuaded no Adventist from accepting her writings as directly inspired by God.




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  46. Modulo Myself says:

    @KM:

    One of the Gospels of St. Thomas has a young Jesus behaving basically like a wizard. Not surprising that one was quashed.




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  47. Mikey says:

    @Modulo Myself: What, D & D wizard or Gandalf wizard?




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  48. Modulo Myself says:

    @Pinky:

    That’s the thing, PInky. They don’t come from the 6th or 13th centuries (Islam in the 13th century, along with the Byzantine Empire, was actually far more civilized than anywhere in Western Europe). Needing to go back to the source is a remarkably modern idea. It’s very familiar to wish to simplify and follow in the name of authenticity. The Nazis felt they were doing it, along with Heidegger, for example. If we don’t understand the Nazis it’s because they were the Nazis, but you don’t need to read Germanic myths to find your way into Hitler’s brain.

    What hasn’t happened before ISIS is the utter lack of interest in any permanence. The Algerian civil war was horrifying, but both sides–the Islamists and the military who overthrew them–began to fight because they had an idea of a society or they wanted the status quo. ISIS–if we are to believe what they profess–seems to be setting the stage for God’s hand. No Islamic movement, not even Al Qaeda, has been this detached from the idea of revolution.




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  49. Grumpy Realist says:

    @michael reynolds: one of my friends, who was from that part of the world, said that Islam developed and refined a lot of different advances until around the time the Arabs got kicked out of Spain, after which the whole shebang just sort of froze up and now you’ve got a fossilized medieval belief system trying to deal with the modern world. Everything is so encompassed by rules that there’s no place to experiment.

    Christianity and the leftovers of Roman culture had a chance to explore because we had two poles of power, the Church and the Holy Roman Emperor. Which allowed the West the freedom to experiment.




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  50. Rafer Janders says:

    @Grumpy Realist:

    one of my friends, who was from that part of the world, said that Islam developed and refined a lot of different advances until around the time the Arabs got kicked out of Spain, after which the whole shebang just sort of froze up and now you’ve got a fossilized medieval belief system trying to deal with the modern world.

    Partly, but not quite true — the traumatic event for the Muslim world was not the Reconquista (which was a very slow-motion process that took centuries and happened in the most westerly and remote corner of the Muslim world) but rather the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, which utterly devastated Persia, Baghdad and its ruling Abbasid dynasty, the Abbayid dynasty in Syria and the Levant, and many smaller states. It was a virtual holocaust which destroyed hundreds of cities and towns, killed millons and left much of the region depopulated and arid for hundreds of years.

    For the Muslim world, the Mongol invasion was what the 4th and 5th century invasions were to the Roman world (and consider that it took Europe nearly a thousand years to recover from that). Europe would, in fact, similary have fallen victim to the Mongol scythe had not Subutai’s and Batu Khan’s army been forced to turn back after the death of the Great Khan.




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  51. fredw says:

    You left out the best part of ISIS apocalyptic vision – from the article:

    “After its battle in Dabiq, Cerantonio said, the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth, but Cerantonio suggested its tide may never reach beyond the Bosporus. An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.”

    So, ISIS is working to the same ends as Christian Zionists; the second coming of Jesus!




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  52. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    The point isn’t whether IS is the correct interpretation of Islam but whether it’s a legitimate one. It is. It’s scrupulously grounded in the words, actions, and deeds of Muhammad–who was an absolutely ruthless character.

    Prof. Juan Cole, who unlike James is actually an expert on the Muslim world, provides the refutation:

    The self-styled ‘Islamic State’ Group (ISIS or ISIL), the Arabic acronym for which is Daesh, is increasingly haunting the nightmares of Western journalists and security analysts. I keep seeing some assertions about it that strike me as exaggerated or as just incorrect.

    1. It isn’t possible to determine whether Daesh a mainstream Muslim organization, since Muslim practice varies by time and place. I disagree. There is a center of gravity to any religion such that observers can tell when something is deviant. Aum Shinrikyo isn’t your run of the mill Buddhism, though it probably is on the fringes of the Buddhist tradition (it released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995). Like Aum Shinrikyo, Daesh is a fringe cult. There is nothing in formal Islam that would authorize summarily executing 21 Christians. The Qur’an says that Christians are closest in love to the Muslims, and that if they have faith and do good works, Christians need have no fear in the afterlife. Christians are people of the book and allowed religious freedom by Islamic law from the earliest times. Muslims haven’t always lived up to this ideal, but Christians were a big part of most Muslim states in the Middle East (in the early Abbasid Empire the Egyptian and Iraqi Christians were the majority). They obviously weren’t being taken out and beheaded on a regular basis. They did gradually largely convert to Islam, but we historians don’t find good evidence that they were coerced into it. Because they paid an extra poll tax, Christians had economic reasons to declare themselves Muslims. We all know that Kentucky snake handlers are a Christian cult and that snake handling isn’t typical of the Christian tradition. Why pretend that we can’t judge when modern Muslim movements depart so far from the modern mainstream as to be a cult?

    http://www.juancole.com/2015/02/todays-about-daesh.html




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  53. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: Cole is making an entirely different argument: That ISIL isn’t “mainstream” or part of “the modern mainstream.” I agree entirely! They’re absolutely a fundamentalist cult completely divorced from the mainstream. That doesn’t mean they’re not literally interpreting the words and actions of Muhammad, who was a ruthless conqueror from several centuries before modernity.




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  54. Tyrell says:

    The instability of the middle east is what makes it possible for groups like ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood, and other radical extremists to get started in the first place. If the British hadn’t left, things would be different. General Allenby and Colonel Lawrence had things under control, for a while.




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  55. DrDaveT says:

    @Mikey:

    I expect any religion to produce some amount of stuff like this, but (to my knowledge at this point) Islam seems to have produced much more than the others.

    I’m guessing you were raised Protestant or non-Christian, then.

    Catholics have long been informed by “Traditions”, which have often been held co-equal with Dogma. All of the “Lives of the Saints” material, for example. The idea that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute. The notion of Limbo. The notion of the Immaculate Conception. Etc. etc. None of that is scriptural in the sense that you could find some reference to it in one of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, or one of the 14 books of the Apocrypha that Catholics accept as scripture but Protestants do not.




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  56. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:
    I think the point is pretty simple. We have a bunch of people on the right who are looking for a religious war. And most of the people in the center and on the left think that’s a pretty stupid and dangerous idea.

    I don’t think the religious warmongers understand that what they are calling for is in effect the genocide of over a billion people, because those people on the right are f–king idiots. But unfortunately those idiots control one of our two political parties. And this kind of lunatic hate-mongering has a tendency to get out of control. So, the sane people are trying to head them off by pointing out in explain-to-me-like-I’m-five terms that a war with 1.6 billion people would be kinda a bad idea. See how crazy some Christians are? Same thing with Muslims. See? Get it, you cretins?

    Even short of the apocalypse these clowns evidently crave, casting this as a Christian vs. Muslim war does nothing but feed ISIS propaganda. There are adults – thankfully like Mr. Obama – trying to manage this difficult but hardly existential problem, and a chorus of hate-mongering loons makes it harder for us to prevail without committing the kind of mass slaughter that would make a Mongol blush.

    What we should be talking about, and would be talking about if these idiots would shut up, is the strategic picture, what tactics are available, how to define our national interests, etc. Instead, we’re having to explain basic reality to Republicans. Like we have to on so many issues.




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  57. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: And, of course, the results of the Treaty of Versailles, where England and France, among others, divided the region into cobbled-together pseudo-national entities (so that Allensby and Colonel Lawrence would have jobs, to some degree) didn’t help the situation any either.




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  58. Mikey says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I’m guessing you were raised Protestant or non-Christian, then.

    Seventh-day Adventist…it doesn’t get much more Protestant than that.




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  59. lounsbury says:

    @James Joyner:
    No again James I’m afraid you understand f-all of this and you have entirely 100% misunderstood Cole. He is making the point that in fact right back to early Islamic practice including the Big M that these guys are way outside of mainstream and NOT literally apply Big M practices. So, actually it does mean they’re not literally interpreting as the Big M was rather the pragmatic “do a deal” type – not that much of the ruthless slaughter the hostages type. Your knowledge of Big M best documented actual practices seems to be rather …. limited.

    The general conquest / war template laid out by the Big M, followed pretty much to the letter by the early Islamic empire was long on pragmatism, very short on slaughter. It was part of their successful package and explained a lot of the rapidity of the conquest over the Byzantine territories in particular (that and advantageous tax rates).

    As it happens besides being a finance guy, I also have a degree in Islamic studies – bit of a side hobby as it were – and I can say with great confidence that even in the context of medieval and early Islamic traditions, never mind modern, these guys are not “halal” – they’re interpreting literally only a psychopathic sub-selection of the Big M traditions (which as a body are pretty coherently pragmatic and focused on deal making, given his merchant origins, not that surprising).

    In short, they’re like a fun house mirror of even early Islamic tradition – highly selectively biased to the Good Old Ultra Violence and actively ignoring the large body of the same period abhorring chaotic violence, 3rd party hostage killing, etc. – indeed their chaotic ultra violence runs right into one of the over-riding themes in Islamic jurisprudence, better to tolerate bad governence (i.e. theologically bad) than open the door to chaos and unbounded violence.

    I should add I don’t attribute particular morality to early Islamic / Big M tradition – it seems to have been long on “what works best” with iterations. But again, Big M was for the first half of his life a pragmatic long-trading merchant.




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  60. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Tyrell: Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, thought that the Ottoman Empire needed to be destroyed because it held the Turks down under the thumb of Islam. He is reported to have said, “The Ottoman Empire was a place where the joys of Heaven were reserved to non-Moslems, whil Moslems were condemned to endure the shades of Hell.” In truth, the house of al-Saud which came out on top in the power struggle for control of Arabia was even more backward in its religious ideas than the Ottomans. I’m not sure Lawrence and Allenby did anyone a favor.




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  61. lounsbury says:

    BTW James you keep repeating as a truism the statement “Muhammad, who was a ruthless conqueror from several centuries before modernity. ” Except in the most superficial reading this is just silly.

    Now in my book Tamerlane, any given Mongol Khan fits that phrase, but the Big M? No. Successful conqueror, yes. Ruthless – not by any pre-modern standard. Of course most of the Islamic conquests happened after he died, but in the context of where he was operating he was quite the pragmatic compromiser and not terribly ‘ruthless’ (no pyramids of skulls or anything neat like that, as say Tamerlane liked to indulge in).




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  62. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    Seventh-day Adventist…it doesn’t get much more Protestant than that.

    Well, by definition you can’t get more Protestant than Lutheranism….




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  63. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: Adventists believe the Pope is the Antichrist. Does that make them “more Protestant” than the Lutherans…or just nuttier…?




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  64. Pinky says:

    @lounsbury: You and Cole are making the point of ISIS’s actions being outside the mainstream of Islam. Joyner and Wood are making the point of ISIS’s actions being within a consistent reading of Islam. Both can be correct.




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  65. Rafer Janders says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, thought that the Ottoman Empire needed to be destroyed because it held the Turks down under the thumb of Islam. He is reported to have said, “The Ottoman Empire was a place where the joys of Heaven were reserved to non-Moslems, whil Moslems were condemned to endure the shades of Hell.” In truth, the house of al-Saud which came out on top in the power struggle for control of Arabia was even more backward in its religious ideas than the Ottomans.

    Not quite. The Ottoman Empire, while Muslim, was not especially religious and certainly not fundamentalist — in fact in its last few centuries much of of its effort was devoted, in a haphazard and inefficient way, to modernizing. The empire was also a multi-ethnic and multi-religious affair, where Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Greeks, Armenians, Serbs, Bosnians, Croatians, Bulgarians and Muslims, and Jews, Orthodox Christians, Coptic Christians, Catholics, etc. etc. lived side by side.

    That was, in fact, one of Ataturk’s problems with the Ottomans — they were too tolerant of other ethnicities and nationalities. Ataturk was a nationalist, and he wanted a Turkish state only for the Turks.




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  66. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: That’s been my fear for a long time, that we’ll make the clash of civilizations a self fulfilling prophecy. Obama has, as you say, been adult about this. But he only gets two more years. I worry about Hillary. The thought of a naif like Jeb and a bunch of neocons managing Middle East policy absolutely terrifies me.




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  67. Just Me says:

    I view ISIS and the Islamic religion as experiencing a sort of reformation.

    I don’t think the right question is whether ISIS is Islamic-if you ask them they will say they are and have persecuted those they view as “not Islamic” which includes Christians, Jews and other Muslims. Much like Christians did during their reformation (one faction believed it was the one true Christianity and jailed and I some cases executed those hey saw as apostates).

    Islam is having its own reformation where one group persecuted other groups for being the wrong kind of Muslim. In some cases the persecution is mostly economic but in others it leads to abuse and death (it isn’t just ISIS-the Talibam, Sunnis, Shiite and various branches of these groups all believe they are the true followers).

    So the question isnt Are the Islamic? But How should we involve our country in the fight and what steps should we take to protect groups caught in the cross fire and those that are being persecuted.

    Personally I think it’s okay to take sides to some degree but in a religious war there really isn’t going to be a right side that’s easily discernible and easily protected and protecting one group can come back to bite you later.

    I don’t think there are easy choices, and I think all the choices are pretty much bad ones-it’s just a matter of choosing the least bad and it would be nice if we had a crystal ball but we don’t.

    I would like to see more being done to protect some of the targeted groups. It’s one thing to say “let them sort it out” when the persecution is more economic, but watching Christians beheaded on a beach, aid workers and journalists murdered or young girls sold into sexual slavery because they weren’t the “right” kind of Muslim needs something more than a few words between golf games and selfies.




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  68. Pinky says:

    @Just Me: The Reformation is probably the wrong analogy – in fact, as I said above, even the best analogy will only get you so far in understanding a different ideology. During the Reformation, there was a centralized religion, and an international system moving from feudalism to monarchy. State borders weren’t in flux any more than usual. What we’re seeing in the Muslim world is in some ways the opposite of a Reformation.




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  69. lounsbury says:

    @Pinky:
    No, Cole or someone quotes made the point that DAESH reading of Islam is about as consistent with Islamic principles as Appalachian snake handlers. That is about right

    James keeps stating this is somehow DAESH behaviour is related to a close reading and well-anchored in early Islamic practice. It’s not. Even in medieval or early empire context their behaviour is fringy.

    @Pinky: Re Reformation, quite correct -the analogy to Xian history utterly fails here, the structures being too different. Perhaps there is an analogy to the USA and extreme unlearned Protestant reformism movements – your evangelical snake-handling weirdo cults that you seem to generate so very regularly.

    @Rafer Janders: Quite right re Attaturk – although one should say that he was looking at the Austro-Hungarian experience as well as the last century or two of Ottoman decadence. Regardless, the Ottoman empire was not for centuries terribly overtly orthodox in the modern Salafist sense (one must keep in mind several of their celebrated Sultans died of alcoholism).




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  70. anjin-san says:

    @Just Me:

    golf games

    Eisenhower played golf while the world faced nuclear desolation during the cold war. And he was a guy who had some experience as a military leader to go along with his political credentials.

    Exactly what kind of mythical, untroubled state do you think the world needs be in before this President can relax and unwind a bit? There has been barbarity in the world since the first time a caveman conked another caveman on the head with a rock. Do you think that is going to change sometime soon?

    Or is is just that Obama is being a bit uppity in your eyes?




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  71. Barry says:

    @KM: “There are many Jebus-freaks who would gladly pitch in to help the End Times go down and spill blood in the name of the Lord.”

    And there were many of them who saw (and see) wars by the USA as ‘The Lord’s Work’.




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  72. Pinky says:

    @lounsbury:

    “No, Cole or someone quotes made the point that DAESH reading of Islam is about as consistent with Islamic principles as Appalachian snake handlers. That is about right.”

    No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t address the question of whether ISIS is consistent with Islamic principles. He says:

    We all know that Kentucky snake handlers are a Christian cult and that snake handling isn’t typical of the Christian tradition. Why pretend that we can’t judge when modern Muslim movements depart so far from the modern mainstream as to be a cult?

    He is addressing the question of whether ISIS is mainstream, not whether ISIS represents Islamic principles. He wrote the above quote in an article about ISIS myths; the specific myth he was addressing was, “It isn’t possible to determine whether Daesh a mainstream Muslim organization, since Muslim practice varies by time and place.”




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  73. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: I think I’ve heard of one person on the right calling for a religious war: Ann Coulter.

    There is a war. We are currently engaged in it, as we have been through recent Democratic and Republican administrations. The war is being waged against an enemy that isn’t defined by territory but by belief. They see it as a clash of cultures. No one on the right is calling for a religious war; they’re calling for recognition of the religious element within this war. They’re not calling for any change in the way we operate in this war, except insofar as recognition of the religious element in it would allow us to conduct the war more effectively.




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  74. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    @lounsbury:
    @Just Me:
    C’mon kids.
    The Reformation is a term historians have given to a schism that affected much of Western Christianity and that lasted for over a century.
    ISIS is a phenomenon that has risen from the chaos unleashed by the Bush/Cheney cabal, and the failure of the Shia Government that they installed to deal with the Sunni population in anything approaching a reasonable manner.
    To pretend there is any analogy between the two is just mind-numbingly…well, I’m sorry…naive.
    The split between Sunni and Shia goes back to the 7th century…which Republicans were blithely unaware of when they decided that invading and occupying Iraq was the best idea they ever had.




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  75. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    Bill O’Really called this a Holy War just last night.
    You right-wingers are nuts.




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  76. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Bill O’Really called this a Holy War just last night.

    If he was saying that one side is fighting this as a holy war, then he’s right. If he was saying that both sides are, then he’s wrong. Context?




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  77. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    Well, he’s a Republican…so by definition he is wrong most of the time.
    He is, however, a very important person in the Republican Entertainment Complex.
    Just the other day someone here was saying that they are a news outlet, and not just propaganda.
    So obviously y’all pay close attention to every word.
    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/oreilly-we-are-in-a-holy-war-with-isis/




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  78. Pinky says:

    I couldn’t get the video to run. From what I see online, O’Reilly was talking about what I described above as the first case, that one side is fighting this as a holy war. He made his comments in response to the murder of 21 Coptic Christians for their faith – it’s clear that the people who did it considered themselves in a holy war. O’Reilly referred to it as a “so-called holy war”. Now, I’ve never declared war on anyone, but if I did, I wouldn’t declare “so-called war”. His statement only makes sense if he’s referring to the other side as declaring holy war. His other use of the term that I could find was “The holy war is here. And unfortunately it seems the President of United States will be the last one to acknowledge it.” Again, if you declare war, you’re acknowledging it. O’Reilly doesn’t see the President as acknowledging this as a holy war, so it’s hard to make the case that we’re fighting this as a holy war.




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  79. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    I wouldn’t expect you to admit you were wrong.
    He said the Holy war is here and we have to fight it.
    You Republicans are crusaders. You see everything as apocalyptic. Black and White. Good and Evil.
    Milton Friedman said Kennedy was going to lead us to Fascism.
    Reagan said Medicare would force doctors to live in cities where they did not want to, and future generations would no longer know

    “what it once was like in America when men were free.”

    The Bush and Clinton Tax Hikes were going to destroy the economy.
    Sddam Hussein was going to set off nukes and we would have mushroom clouds over our cities.
    Obamacare would be the end of civilization.
    Ted Cruz…

    “You know we can’t keep going down this road much longer. We’re nearing the edge of the cliff . . . We have only a couple of years to turn this country around or we go off the cliff to oblivion!”

    F’ing oblivion, man!!!
    And now we need to fight a Holy War against ISIS. Seriously? ISIS?
    Y’all need to grow a collective pair. Seriously.
    And get a whole fvck lot better at predictions while you are at it.




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  80. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: I was going by this: http://www.billoreilly.com/b/The-Holy-War-Begins/-147885658997864551.html

    I don’t see it calling for a religious war.




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  81. Tyrell says:

    @Mikey: I knew some Seventh Day Adventists. Other then the Sabbath issue, things were not much out of mainstream Christian churches. They did follow some very strict dietary and health rules: no smoking, caffeine, and little sweets.




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  82. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    He said…the Holy War is here…and he said we have to lead the fight because no one else will.
    What don’t you understand? If that isn’t fighting a Holy War…what is?

    I’m not going to argue over what that fvcking idiot said or didn’t say anymore…

    The fact is that we spent 8-1/2 years, lost 4000 troops, and spent over $2T just to create what is now called ISIS…and now you want to go back and fight them some more? And you think that is going to achieve, what exactly?
    You don’t have to be stupid to be a Republican, but if you are stupid chances are very good that you are a Republican.




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  83. Steve V says:

    @Pinky: If I read him correctly, he’s saying that a holy war is underway and he wants President Obama to acknowledge it. That’s his last sentence. That is, he’d like to hear Obama say, apparently, “we’re in a holy war” or something similar. (Given the tone of the rest of the segment he apparently thinks anything less would be squishy political correctness.) Do you agree with him?




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  84. Mikey says:

    @Tyrell: It seems like that from the outside, but it’s really fundamentalist and literalist. For example, many of the dietary restrictions are straight out of the Old Testament: no pork, no shellfish, they basically keep kosher without calling it that. I didn’t have bacon until after I graduated from high school.

    And Adventism is insular to a fault. If you grow up SDA, it’s your whole life–they have an Adventist parallel to just about everything. On example: SDA’s can’t do Boy Scouts because they camp on Saturday? That’s OK, they have Pathfinders, which has uniforms and merit badges and camping, even on Saturday but it’s HOLY camping so it’s OK.

    Anyway. I left Adventism 30 years ago, but try as I might, a good bit of it still hasn’t left me…




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  85. Pinky says:

    @Steve V: We are not fighting a war motivated by our reading of Christianity. ISIS and other militant Islamic groups are fighting a war motivated by their reading of Islam. I support any realistic acknowledgement of those facts, in policy as well as in statements.




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  86. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    C’mon…we’re a Christian Nation. We put the Ten Commandments on our court-house steps.
    We must recognize that our laws are Gods laws.
    You can’t spout Christian nonsense all day long and then claim you aren’t acing as Christians.




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  87. gVOR08 says:

    @Pinky: In the notorious Prayer Breakfast speech (notorious as an example of conservative reading comprehension), Obama said, “We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.”

    This isn’t enough? I’ll ask you the same question Jenos didn’t answer a couple days ago – What is it you want? Do you want the US to launch a war against all Islam? Do you want us to bomb ISIS, along with anyone else who happens to be in the area, into a glassy plain? Would it be sufficient if Obama put large numbers of troops on the ground in the ME for a fight the U.S. populace won’t back? Do you want us to reopen Manzanar for U.S. Muslims? Or would it be enough if the rest of us just joined your two minute online hates on Islam? Obviously you don’t feel it’s enough that we and our allies have killed, and continue to kill, thousands of ISIS.




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  88. Pinky says:

    @gVOR08: You’re not stupid like Cliffy. You’ve probably noticed that I don’t go on two-minutes hates against Islam. I’ve never said or implied that we should declare war on all Islam. There’s no reason for you to think I would.




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  89. Steve V says:

    @Pinky: As gVOR08 says, I think Obama has done this, repeatedly.




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  90. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    You keep claiming not to do what you do.

    recognition of the religious element in it would allow us to conduct the war more effectively.

    You are calling for a Holy War…but want to pretend that’s not what you are calling for. O’Really calls for a Holy War but you pretend that’s not what he said,. If it walks like a duck…
    And when you are called on your BS you resort to ad hominem attacks.




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  91. Xenos says:

    @lounsbury:

    No James, they bloody well are NOT scrupulously grounded in the Prophet’s words, actions. Quite the contrary, they are more like a semi-literate rural bumpkin’s half reading of the same.

    Exactly. Like a bunch of shitheel “Southern” baptists who think they understand the bible. A pathetic display of scholarship by a self-selected group of cretins.




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  92. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: Cliffy, as I’ve said many times before, I reserve the right to call you dumb, because of the way you’re irrationally abusive to people all the time, usually by calling them stupid. I don’t ever want to be seen as going along with that.




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  93. Modulo Myself says:

    @Pinky:

    Here’s a nice story for you:

    In the winter of 2003, when George Bush and Tony Blair were frantically gathering support for their planned invasion, Professor Thomas Römer, an Old Testament expert at the university of Lausanne, was rung up by the Protestant Federation of France. They asked him to supply them with a summary of the legends surrounding Gog and Magog and as the conversation progressed, he realised that this had originally come, from the highest reaches of the French government.

    President Jacques Chirac wanted to know what the hell President Bush had been on about in their last conversation. Bush had then said that when he looked at the Middle East, he saw “Gog and Magog at work” and the biblical prophecies unfolding.

    Apply the same orthogonal approach showing that ISIS in being consistent with Islam exists because of Islam rather than the violence unleashed by the American invasion and the Syrian civil war and what do you get with Bush and America? How many evangelicals supported the invasion of another country that had not attacked us?




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  94. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:

    I don’t ever want to be seen as going along with that.

    Which you achieve by calling me stupid???
    No wonder you don’t understand what it is you are saying.




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  95. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: You do see that you’ve been abusive this whole thread, right? You’re aware of that?




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  96. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: Ever been somewhere with a female friend, and then something happens, maybe she doesn’t reach for the check, or whatever, and you realize: she thinks this is a date? Now, you don’t want it to be a date. You didn’t think it was a date when you started. You don’t want to go along with it and treat it as a date. But you have to admit, one of the people involved in it is thinking of this as a date, and the best way for you to understand it and know how to react to it is to realize that she’s thinking of it as a date.




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  97. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:

    You’re not stupid like Cliffy.

    Whatever you say.
    Point to an ad hominem attack I made.




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  98. Pinky says:

    the diaper brigade should be here any minute now

    kids

    mind-numbingly

    nuts

    by definition he is wrong most of the time

    Y’all need to grow a collective pair. Seriously.
    And get a whole fvck lot better at predictions while you are at it.

    fvcking idiot

    if you are stupid chances are very good that you are a Republican

    I don’t think I accused you of ad hominem attacks, just a steady stream of obnoxious abuse. I guess the first one was ad hominem, though.




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  99. anjin-san says:

    I think Obama himself has explained his position rather nicely. At this point I think its safe to say that anyone who wants to further discuss semantics is simply looking for a “gotcha”, and in the process of doing that, trivializing what is, after all, a very serious issue:

    President Obama detailed his refusal to connect the terrorist Islamic State group with the term “Islamic” on Wednesday during a speech about the efforts to combat violent extremism.

    In discussing his stance, Obama gave a nod to the ongoing debate and dissection within the media about whether to link ISIL and Islam.

    “Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge, so I want to be very clear about how I see it,” Obama said. “Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the ‘Islamic State.'”

    He also noted that “we are not at war with Islam” but rather are at war with the “people who have perverted Islam.”

    The President said both non-Muslims and Muslims must remember they have a responsibility in the struggle against extremism.

    “Just as those of us outside Muslim communities need to reject the terrorist narrative that the West and Islam are in conflict or modern life and Islam are in conflict, I also believe that Muslim communities have a responsibility as well,” he said.

    Finally, he reiterated that religions themselves aren’t the issue at play.

    “The terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology,” Obama said. “No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/obama-calling-islamic-state-legitimacy




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  100. anjin-san says:

    @Pinky:

    Cliffy

    This is not the name C. Clavin identifies himself by. If you want to play at being the adult in the room, act like one. Otherwise, go hang out with Jenos. You can tell each other how mature you are.

    That being said, C. Clavin, I think you are a little over the top today. And I am saying that as someone who has been there himself once or twice.




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  101. gVOR0 says:

    @Pinky:

    You’re not stupid like Cliffy.

    Oh I don’t know. By your standards, I probably am.

    That aside, I give up. You don’t want war with Islam. You don’t want to hate Muslims. Obama has said ISIL are religious fruitcakes. He’s killing them wholesale. But you’re unhappy. WTF do you want?

    A few years ago I read David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. One of the recurring ironies is that Truman’s, and then Eisenhower’s, people were doing everything they could to beat Communists in Korea, then they had to listen to McCarthy and other GOPs charge them with being soft on Communism. Sounds like what’s going on here.




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  102. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    Dude…that’s abuse???
    Not a single one of those is personal…you know…like..

    You’re not stupid like Cliffy.

    Here…this is personal…try pulling on a pair of man-pants, Pinky.




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  103. An Interested Party says:

    They’re not calling for any change in the way we operate in this war, except insofar as recognition of the religious element in it would allow us to conduct the war more effectively.

    More effectively? How so?




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  104. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Rafer Janders: True. Ataturk was hardly an unbiased witness. My basic point remains, i.e., breaking up the Ottoman Empire was hardly an unmixed blessing, especially when coupled with British and French rapaciousness.




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  105. Pinky says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: Don’t discount the internal reasons for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The early 20th-century diplomats get a lot of heat for the lines they drew, but it was an impossible situation they were faced with.




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  106. C. Clavin says:

    O’Really was back at it last night, calling for US engagement in a Holy War and asking “Judeo-Christian” clergy to come together and “eliminate the threat from the Earth.”
    These friggin’ idiots are incapable of understanding that this is exactly what ISIS wants. They would like nothing better than to frame this as Christians against Islam. That would suddenly give them legitimacy as a representative of Islam…instead of the fundamentalist thugs that they are. It would give credibility to what is actually only a fringe Sunni militia group.
    We over-reacted after 9.11 and did exactly what OBL wanted us to do…and look what that foolishness cost us.
    Now the nut-jobs are at it again. Some people are too stupid to learn.




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  107. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner

    Islam is submission to God, while the Qur’an is God’s word as revealed to Muhammed. When ISIS acts in a way contradictory to that word, they are by definition behaving in an un-Islamic manner.

    In chapter 2 the Qur’an reveals that salvation is not reserved to a particular religion, race or sect:

    They said, “None shall enter paradise except thise who are Jewish or [Christian];” this is what they wish!. . .

    No, whosoever peacefully surrenders himself to God, while being a good-doer; he will have his reward with his Lord. There will be no fear over them, nor will they grieve.

    How can it be possible to know this and then argue that ISIS behaves in a manner consistent with Islam? Doing so would mean claiming these terrorists are more Muslim than the prophet himself.




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  108. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: You said you were going to stop arguing about what Bill O’Reilly said. Then you should stop quoting him. I found this:

    http://www.billoreilly.com/b/Judeo-Christian-Philosophy-Versus-the-Jihad/797744823512485398.html

    He used the phrase “Judeo-Christian” once, saying

    In our Judeo-Christian nation, murder is the worst crime … taking a human life is unacceptable unless in self-defense.

    He later said,

    The civilized world needs to band together to eliminate this threat from the earth. And if the politicians won’t do it, the clergy must lead the way. Once again, I ask all religious leaders, including Muslim imams, to address the issue with their congregations this week.

    So, if this site accurately reflects what he said last night, he did not call for “Judeo-Christian” clergy to come together and “eliminate the threat from the Earth.” But did he call for a holy war? This is what he said:

    [Obama quote] “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

    That’s true, the Holy War has been launched by those who misuse the Islamic faith.

    But again, there are millions of them and they are acting in the name of a deity, they are motivated to impose a barbaric religion.

    The Japanese worshipped their emperor during World War II, but we did not diminish the danger from that country by saying their insane view of religion was not a threat. It was.

    President Obama is flat out wrong in not describing the terrorist threat accurately. Muslim fanatics want to kill us and there are millions of them.

    Period.

    Summing up, Talking Points believes that Americans of faith and good will must demand that our federal government begin to take the Holy War seriously.

    So again, you’re misrepresenting O’Reilly.




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  109. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:

    Talking Points believes that Americans of faith and good will must demand that our federal government begin to take the Holy War seriously.

    Yeah…I’m mis-representing that. Not.
    I understand O’Really is an important person in your cult and you are loathe to question him.
    You should try to understand that O’Really is an important person in your cult and you are loathe to question him..




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  110. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: I’ve never watched his show…seen a couple of clips, generally don’t agree with him. Stop misrepresenting him.




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  111. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:

    Stop misrepresenting him.

    A graphic over his shoulder:
    “The Holy War Begins: The holy war is here, and unfortunately it seems the President of the United States will be the last one to acknowledge it.”
    Are you aware of your comprehension problems?




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  112. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    You make me laugh…but let me summarize O’Really in the hopes that you will someday learn to question your leadership.
    1. ISIS has stated that it is fighting a holy war.
    2. O’Really agrees; he thinks (and thus you think) that the US should engage ISIS on their own religious terms. To what ends he (nor you) are able to say.
    3. O’Really wants Christian Leaders to pressure Obama into this war based on Judeo-Christian philosophy.
    4. ISIS would like nothing more than to sucker the US into their Holy war.
    5. O’Really is saying that we should grant them their wish.
    There is no mis-representation here.




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  113. Tillman says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    No, whosoever peacefully surrenders himself to God, while being a good-doer; he will have his reward with his Lord. There will be no fear over them, nor will they grieve.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the word “Islam” connote surrendering to God? Couldn’t I use this verse to justify converting others to Islam as the only way to save them?

    Having not read the Qu’ran, not aware of context here.




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  114. Tyrell says:

    @Mikey: Thanks for the information. I always found 7 Day to be nice, friendly, and helpful people.I have never seen or heard them on tv or radio.




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  115. lounsbury says:

    @Tillman:
    Islam as a word is the gerund of the Arabic active doing verbal form (form IV in western analysis). This means an active action to make peace (SLM), having obtained the sense of “submitting”.

    Taking away from the religious context, eg the root KTB (root meaning, to write) takes in form IV the sense “to dictate.” (to be dictated to is another form). It’s a proactive action on your part.

    This is all pretty standard Semitic trilateral grammar btw. Classical Hebrew is basically identical.

    The short version then is in its root meaning there is no necessary sense of compulsion, rather it is a proactive action.

    That fits reasonably well with the overall Quranic text, which for example outright states outright in the Quranic verse (al Baqara) “there is no compulsion in religion.”

    An ordinary reading of either the word or the actual religious text does not imply a duty to force or obligate conversion and the overall body or thrust rather supports that such must be voluntary, an active act on one’s own accord without ‘compulsion’.

    It is also the case that the Quran, contra the Bible, rejects the naked concept that conversion is the only route to God’s grace (salvation in Xian terms, a sense that does not exist in Islam, being rather closer to the Jewish PoV). The ‘Best’ route, rather clearly, but most of the body of the text and tradition allow that the People of the Book (generally held as applying to anyone reasonably passing the monotheist muster, but without doubt, the Abrahamic monotheistic religions) are not condemned ipso facto.

    This is not merely theoretical one should note, there is a a reason why folks like the Yazidis still exist in the Islamic world (and why up to the past 75 years Xians were also numerous , whereas no such group survived in Xian Europe – the Islamic state up to modern times was pretty damned pragmatic. Basically the attitude was ‘don’t rock the boat, don’t openly engage in undeniably pagan idol worship and pay your taxes and we’re cool.” In India even the 2nd point got a pass if the third was on board.

    Compare with the Xian European behaviour up to about 1600 or so (or if you were an Amerind, and not a Xian, up to 19c), and doesn’t look bad – anyway, no the word doesn’t imply forced conversion as such.

    Not idealic




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  116. stonetools says:

    The way I see it, Islam is in crisis because of its encounter with the modern, science based world. All major religions have had to come to terms with the modern world, but in Islam, the crisis has been particularly severe, for various reasons that I frankly am not aware of. The reasons could be historical, theological , cultural-whatever.
    Now one reaction to a religious crisis is violent extremism-the attempt to overthrow the modern world by force and revert society back to some golden age. All religions have their violent extremists, but in Islam this seems to be a much stronger current than in say, Hinduism.
    Indeed, if you look at the modern world, you see jihadism as a problem whatever Islam brushes up against any other culture or religion- the Catholic culture and secular government in the Philippines, Buddhism in Thailand, Hinduism in India and all along the Tenth Parallel in Africa, where a Muslim north confronts a Christian and animist South, most bloodily in Nigeria.ISIS, like Boko Haram, is just a particularly nasty and well organized example of jihadism.
    Unlike Doug, I don’t think we can just ignore jihadism. Like it or not, many jihadists do think of the USA as being the champion and exemplar of the modern world that they are pledged to overthrow and thus they see conflict with the USA-the far enemy-as being inevitable. They are never going to see the USA as being benign or neutral. Moreover, jihadists all seem to want to establish control over the Islamic holy places of Mecca and Medina-which are in Saudi Arabia. The USA can’t allow jihadist rule in Saudi Arabia for obvious geopolitical reasons.
    What to do about jihadism? The first thing is to understand its an internal problem within Islam that Muslims have to resolve. Only Muslims can resolve how they can come to terms with the modern world. We can smooth the way, though, by not overreacting to an internal conflict within Islam by attacking all Islam. Fortunately, the Obama administration sees that. We have to make sure that our extremists like Ted Cruz and their ilk doesn’t take over and further screw things up with some sort of an attempt to “roll back militant Islam.”
    The best approach is a containment strategy, similar to the Cold War. Now containment worked and can work again. However, it will take time , patience, and a considered and careful application of force-which is not the same as non-interventionism. It won’t be easy and we’ll need a fairly sophisticated leader with considerable FP experience to take over in 2016. The best person for the job is IMO Hillary Clinton. [ ducks and puts up flame resistant shield :-)].
    In any case, we need a leader who thinks beyond such simple dichotomies as Christianity=good Islam =bad or non-intervention=good intervention =bad.




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  117. Pinky says:

    @stonetools: One reason for the Islamic world’s difficulty with the modern world is a philosophical concept called occasionalism. A lot of people say that Islamic science was on the cutting edge before the 1200’s – it’s more accurate to say that the Islamic world had greater access to the writings of the ancient Greeks, though. But they definitely had some good trends going on. But a new philosophical movement arose which said that science was heretical because it took credit away from God. They said that, according to science, a lit match applied to a piece of paper caused it to burn. But that denied God as the cause of everything. It was more accurate, they held, to say that a lit match touches a piece of paper then God causes the paper to burn. The matter simply provides an occasion during which God happens to choose to act.

    It’s tough to overstate how strongly that thinking undercuts the principles of science. Around the same time that occasionalism was surging through the Islamic world, Thomism was spreading throughout Catholic Europe. Thomas Aquinas held that there is no conflict between scientific truth and religious truth. Aquinas was influenced by the return of Greek thought and texts to Europe. The standard line is that Aquinas “baptized” Aristotle; that is, made the philosophy of Aristotle compatible with Christian theology.




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  118. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: Hillary hasn’t struck me as subtle, but she was exposed to how Obama’s been doing this and probably is the best available person to deal with it. The thought of a Jeb Bush or a Scott Walker dealing with the Middle East absolutely terrifies me, much less a Ted Cruz or Rick Perry.




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  119. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:

    It’s tough to overstate how strongly that thinking undercuts the principles of science.

    Are you talking about Islam, Republicanism, or the startling similarities between the two?




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  120. stonetools says:

    @Pinky:

    It’s tough to overstate how strongly that thinking undercuts the principles of science. Around the same time that occasionalism was surging through the Islamic world, Thomism was spreading throughout Catholic Europe

    I’m not sure about this. Aristotle came to medieval Europe largely through Greek texts preserved by Arab Scholars. Aristotle is held in high regard in Islamic philosophy .
    I think the big reason Islamic science and philosophy declined after medieval times is the impact of the Mongol onslaughts that laid waste to much of the Islamic heartland. But I’d defer to someone like Lounsbury on that.




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  121. Pinky says:

    @stonetools:

    Aristotle came to medieval Europe largely through Greek texts preserved by Arab Scholars.

    Yes. As I said, the Arab scholars had access to Greek works, and relied on them a lot until the 1200’s (roughly). The Christian scholars picked up on them around the same time, and largely through Aquinas was Aristotle reintroduced to Europe.




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  122. Pinky says:

    @stonetools: I just checked the link you provided. It says the same thing I said:

    Al-Ghazali studied philosophy to be able to rebut it; he suggested that knowledge is inferior to faith, as knowledge could not overcome doubts. His Tahafut al-falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers) had a lasting influence. Here al-Ghazali attacked Aristotle and his followers, al-Farabi and Ibn Sina, particularly objecting to the Aristotelian notion of the eternity of the world, which he found irreconcilable with the Qur’anic description of God’s creation of the world from nothing. Al-Ghazali also saw this as an idea which limited God in a totally unacceptable manner. Two centuries later, Ibn Taymiyya wrote al-Radd ‘ala al-mantiqiyyin (Against the Logicians) as an attack on the method of definition and demonstration used by the philosophers who were influenced by Aristotle. He argued that logic is based on the faculty of human reason, which is necessarily inferior to divine revelation.

    Despite the efforts of Ibn Rushd to rehabilitate philosophy, many scholars believe that Islamic philosophy never completely recovered from al-Ghazali’s massive and brutal assault on it. In the Latin West, Islamic Aristotelianism was reincarnated as Averroism, that is, Aristotle’s works as taught by Ibn Rushd and translated into Latin (see Aristotelianism, medieval §4; Averroism §1). His works also came to have great influence in Jewish philosophy, and for many years led to a strong strain of Aristotelianism among Jewish philosophers (see Averroism, Jewish). Aristotelianism continued to have an effect on Islamic philosophy through opposition to it from Illuminationist philosophy (see Illuminationist philosophy), and in particular thinkers such as al-Suhrawardi, al-Shahrazuri, Ibn Kammuna and others, often based in Persia. The latter sought to attack what they took to be the principles of Aristotelianism, especially its logical and ontological axioms, and produced critiques of Aristotelian essentialism which are sometimes quite similar to that of William of Ockham. It is accurate to say, however, that Aristotelianism as a school of philosophy in the Islamic world found no Muslim successors after the death of Ibn Rushd.




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  123. Ben Wolf says:

    @Pinky:

    One reason for the Islamic world’s difficulty with the modern world is a philosophical concept called occasionalism.

    Americans have accused every enemy of having difficulty with the modern world. It’s ubiquitous in our war propaganda.




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  124. Pinky says:

    @Ben Wolf: Are you implying that in this case it’s incorrect? I’ve said above that I think there’s danger in using analogies to understand one’s opponents, and a medieval/modern paradigm isn’t 100% accurate, but there’s some merit in stonetools’s position that “Islam is in crisis because of its encounter with the modern, science based world”.




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  125. Ben Wolf says:

    @Pinky: ISIS’s ideology is pieced together from a combination of Islam, fascism and marxist-leninist thinking and strategy. It isn’t medieval in its outlook but a product of the modern world.




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  126. lounsbury says:

    @Pinky:
    Frankly, as both an Arabist speaking multiple versions of Arabic and a long-term operator in the Arab-Islamist world I find this to be complete bollocks.

    The Arab world is in crisis (not the Islamic world, the Arab world) not because of philosophical theory but because of state failure and severe ecological stress.

    Maundering on about late medieval Arabo-Islamic philosophical reading is all well and fine for academics, but to understand the present Arab region’s issue it really tells you pretty much f*ck all of utility.

    What does tell you something of utility is looking rather at the late 19th century through 20th century trajectory and the generally complete failure of the ‘secular’ states to deliver on economic progress after an initial state-mediated growth c. 1950-1970, particularly framed by outside powers intervention (inevitable really) around oil and that wee Palestinian problem.

    Islamic philosophical engagement with modern science really has nothing at all to do with the failure points, I frankly find it academic whankery by people who haven’t done real work or business in the region.

    Rather more to do with the actual failure points of the ‘secular’ model in the Arab world are the sad adoption of a German model of nationalism for the Arab nationalist model, the adoption of the statist and authoritarian model overall (informed as much by the past combined with the ‘modern state’ method of colonial rule by any of the colonial powers as by political theory) and sheer population explosion in the face of environments with very limited economic productive potential if based off of traditional, non-capital-intensive agribusiness. And a structural dis-investment in agribusiness (primary ag production or secondary processing) in favour of unrealistic Sov inspired state industrial boostrapping ventures. Add to this mass education models that are based on a Franco-Soviet state development service model (or colonial service model) and you have quite the recipe for dead-ending.

    What one does not find outside of the Salafist circles (who are both fairly recent in terms of a movement with numbers and still remain a small minority) any great problem with modern science. In fact one generally finds rather less than in certain vocal circles in USA.

    DAESH is not explained by Islam’s encounter with European science, that is sheer nonsense as any kind of direct explanation.

    If one wishes to be very academic I can credit looking at contributory factors to the failure of the Arab region in the 20th century in some factors arising from the late medieval dead-ending of Islamic scientific thought and the long period of decadence following – but nothing necessary any more than one would condemn Chinese thought for a similar error in dead-ending in a roughly similar time frame.

    However, understanding DAESH one pretty much gets nothing of utility from a pretension of learning from “roots” but one learns much of utility if one looks at the ways and forms that ‘secularism’ (or things presented as secular government) in the 20th century failed badly in political and economic development terms, the ways in which naive Western support to supposedly secular forms of government (perhaps no other real choice, but nevertheless naive) has helped contribute to an ongoing discredit to secularism among Arabs frustrated with a long series of political failures, and the ferment of totalitarian secularist ideas with idealized calls back to a glorious period in their history. And of course let us not forget looking at how state driven, authoritarian Left informed economic development – strongly associated with the supposed secular governments – dead ended, ended up forming corrupt state-oriented oligarchies….

    All this gets you to an understanding of DAESH.

    Trying to follow that article’s path merely – if one is well read in Islamic history – tells you that they’re not very good about following even classical models and are basically superficially dressing up their movement on an ad hoc basis in Islamic pageantry, and are not terribly good at it either (relative to scholarship – now relative to very modern forms of AgitProp worthy of the Sovs, well that they are quite good at.).

    Of course if one is not well-read or one is more informed by one’s own religious prejudices, it gets one into a mind-set to see DAESH as a well-rooted religious movement and is rather likely to introduce serious tactical errors.




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