Tropes about Islam
Trope: “A significant or recurrent theme; a motif.” (OED).
“A common or overused theme or device.” (Mirriam-Webster).
In the west there are a number of such tropes about Islam that are widely used. What unites all of them is that they are false. Some are bare-faced lies, others are more subtle and contain various grains of truth within the myths and falsehoods. What follows is a discussion and a few examples of some of these.
The “Islam is the religion of peace” trope.
This is the Daddy of them all and so widely used that it has become a mantra.
It is a sub-trope of the “It’s nothing to do with Islam!” trope (below), but I could not avoid treating it separately given it’s prominence.
It is regularly and reliably trotted out as the first, almost Pavlovian, response to an Islamic terror attack which kills westerners.
This trope is starting to wear a little thin in that polls show that ever fewer non-Muslims believe this about Islam. Given over 31,500 terror attacks since 9/11 which have resulted in over 200,000 deaths and better than a quarter million maimed not to mention all the dead and injured in Islam’s modern internecine wars, it’s current threadbare nature should not be too surprising given the ever mounting dissonance between the trope and reality.
However it does contain an grain of truth in that there are Muslim sects that are truly committed to peace, of which the Ahmadhi are the leading proponents. In their interpretation of Islam, as seen through the prism of Ahmed’s teaching, Islam is a religion of peace. Both Sunni and Shia have declared Ahmadhis heretics and/or apostates and, with a grand and cruel irony, both violently persecute them.
Writer Louis Palme tracked the trope’s origin to a book titled “The Religion of Peace” published in 1930 (and reprinted in 1998) by one Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi of India and later Pakistan. Palme’s article is well worth a read.
In the west it first came to prominence after 9/11 when it was uttered by (then) Pres. G.W. Bush and was enthusiastically taken up by all western political and religious leaders.
More recently, Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”: “…authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.” which is almost jaw-droppingly out of key with the final revelations of the Koranic text, not to mention the practice of Mohammed and the Sahaba (his companions) or much of history as it relates to Islam.
Unsurprisingly this has been jumped on by Catholic and other voices, including some Muslim ones to kick-start this trope once more and in an attempt to gain it some further traction I’ve recently seen it expressed as “Islam is the religion of peace and …” where tolerance or love have been appended.
Despite this, I don’t really think it will work. There is just too much evidence to rebut – nay, refute – the “Islam is a religion of peace” trope for its long term success to work.
Indeed a recent poll reported here now suggests that a majority of Britons (53%) correctly identify Islam as a threat, up from 34% in 2001; this indicates that real-world experience is trumping this politically correct multi-kulti trope (as indeed are all the others).
The “You mustn’t upset the Muslims!” trope.
By which any action, including speech, against any Islamic practice or belief is deemed “upsetting/offensive” to Muslims and likely to spark anger or resentment or violence or harm “community relations”. This is closely related to the “You can’t say or write that, it’s Islamophobic!” trope (see below).
In this article an Italian minister is reported as having said that banning the “burkini” could “incite attacks from Islamic terrorists”.
Furthermore, it is this trope that saw wide-spread child-sex grooming of Kuffar girls by gangs of “Asian”, no-one could even bring themselves to utter the truthful “Muslim”, men in the U.K. who perpetrated their horrors on a massive scale for decades with impunity. This impunity resulted from the fear within government agencies of being labelled “racist” or “Islamophobic” by upset Muslims and/or their apologists. Those that tried to raise the “issue” were demonised, sidelined, ignored, demoted or even sacked thus demonstrating particularly hideous examples of the “You can’t say/write that, it’s Islamophobic!” trope.
Increasingly today we see self-censorship taking place.
This too is an application of the “You mustn’t upset the Muslims” trope.
Jake Neumann and I co-wrote an article about free speech in the U.K., the U.S. and the Muslim world in 2013.
Our conclusions at the time were, frankly, obvious: free-speech is largely non-existent within the Islamic world, especially for non-Muslims, and is under attack in the West, both directly by the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) via resolution 16/18 and the “Istanbul process” and indirectly via hate-speech legislation, self-censorship and social pressure.
Since then the situation has certainly not improved, if anything it has got worse, largely as a result of the increasing use of social media to attack those with views other than those deemed “acceptable” to the self-styled media warriors – who bear a worryingly similarity to the Thought Police of the book “1984”, or is that the Mutaween of several Islamic countries?
Further, Muslim groups such as CAIR in the US are increasingly turning to “lawfare” to silence critics, cynically using the cost of defending oneself against a (specious) lawsuit to silence critics and warn off others.
This example is particularly ironic and thus has an amusing element overlaying the seriousness of the censorship faced.
It is becoming ever more widespread that western news-agencies self-sensor when it come to Islam or else distort material to benefit Islam.
Such self-censorship may be action by publishers refusing to publish either entire books or part of their content, or newspapers preventing comment on articles about or relating to Islam – either by not having a comment section (recently several have removed comment sections to prevent “Islamophobia”) or else by claiming that anything expressing a negative opinion about Islam is “Islamophobic” and hence outside the range of “permitted free speech”, yet another oxymoron. This article offers something of a tour-de-force of self-censorship in the West.
Muslim preachers in the West are largely free to defame and incite violence against non-Muslims of all sorts (gays and Jews being favourite targets) without (much) fear of arrest and less of prosecution (although in the U.K. it does happen sometimes when they do so in English or they persist for a very long time – it took 20+ years to arrest Anjem Choudary), whereas non-Muslims are increasingly prosecuted for “one-off” ‘Islamophobic’ statements, see here, here & here for examples and here for an amusing take.
Thus hate-speech legislation has been partially perverted into a system that protects Muslims from “offence” despite their hyper-sensitivity to speech they don’t like – which has even led to murder in the U.K., (see here).
The “Be respectful to ‘Prophet’ Mohammed.” trope.
Many non-Muslim writers refer to the “prophet Mohammed” as a matter of course and I’ve no doubt that if questioned they would say that they did so out of “respect” or “consideration” or something similar for Muslim beliefs. They do this even though, personally, they do not believe that Mohammed is a prophet – or at least do not hold him so in a personal sense.
To speak or write in such a manner is to implicitly “buy in” to the belief or at least it’s assertions.
Thus immediately we see that speaking and writing about “prophet Mohammed” is an affirmation of the Muslim viewpoint, just as referring to Jesus Christ as “the Saviour of the world” or “the Son of God” would be an affirmation of the Christian view, not that I’ve ever heard any (U.K.) reporter ever use such a phrase.
Setting aside the point that this means that non-Muslims often accord Islam and Muslims far more affirmation than they would any other religion, there is a far more important problem.
In Arabic the most common word for a non-Muslim in the Koran is “kafir” (aka kaffir), the plural of which is “kuffar”.
This word is closely related to “kufr” (aka khufr) which is the act of refusing to believe in Islam. I can’t stress this enough: “kufr” is not passive, it is the active rejection of Islam/Allah/Mohammed and as such it is a sin-and-crime in Islam.
The word kafir is the active participle of the root K-F-R “to cover”. As a pre-Islamic term it described farmers burying seeds in the ground, covering them with soil while planting. Koran 57:20 uses the word in this way: “...thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller [al-kafara] …”.
Thus the words kafir & kuffar carry a sub-text of “covering up” and according to Islamic teaching what the Kuffar “cover up” is that they know the ‘truth of Islam’ “in their hearts”.
In turn this means that many Muslims think that non-Muslims ‘really’ know that Islam is “the true faith”.
So when a non-Muslim speaks of “prophet Mohammed” this will be seen by such as a “Freudian slip” revealing this ‘fact’.
Thus every time a non-Muslim speaks or writes of “prophet Mohammed” they are seen as admitting to the rectitude of Islamic belief and the wrongfulness and sinfulness of every other (which here includes agnosticism and atheism).
Furthermore, persistence in kufr by not accepting the ‘known truth’ of Islam makes you a “criminal-sinner” and a liar both to yourself and “against Allah” and is to place oneself in defiant rebellion to Allah & Mohammed. Such a deliberately defiant rebel cannot be termed “an innocent” in any form of conflict with Muslims or Islam.
So stop saying it.
The “Muslims are the real victims!” trope.
Quite sickeningly, this is often trotted out when an Islamic terror attack in the West causes Muslim casualties as the first step towards shifting the focus to “Islamophobia”.
From the point of view of the Islamic terrorists the Muslims killed in such attacks are either “shahids” (lit. witnesses, otherwise martyrs) themselves or if they happen to be either “the wrong sort of Muslim” or “not Muslim enough” they are hell-fodder and got what they deserved anyway.
Some Muslims are very keen to lay claim to victimhood. One explanation for this is that Islam defines “oppression” as anything that prevents or impedes a fully Sharia-compliant lifestyle. Thus for some orthodox Muslims the West is a priori “oppressive” because it is not governed by Sharia. Hence, in this view, the Muslim communities in the west have been, are and always will be “oppressed” until the West is fully Islamic. Much the same thing can be said of most if not all Muslim-majority Countries, which is how internecine Muslim wars are “justified”.
As an example, Breibart London reports that “Top Muslim Brotherhood Islamists CAN Get Asylum In Britain” on the basis that they are now “persecuted in opposition” in Egypt.
It should not be necessary to remind anyone that it was this same Muslim Brotherhood which, through its activists, promoted the wave of anti-Christian attacks that followed Morsi’s election. Thus the U.K. Government seems to be putting itself in the position of protecting those who promoted the persecution of Coptic Christians (for whom the government would not raise a finger) on the basis that the persecutors are now “the real victims”.
This trope has two very common sub-tropes, the “The real problem is Islamophobia!” sub-trope, it’s linked sub-trope the “Fear of an Islamophobic backlash” and the “You can’t say or write that, it’s Islamophobic!” sub-trope. These are important enough that I treat them separately below.
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I want to draw a clear distinction between those who are called “Islamophobes” for criticising, insulting, ridiculing, mocking or otherwise being just “plain nasty” about Islam and those who abuse Muslims in any way simply for being Muslim and who also get called “Islamophobes”.
The latter are more correctly called “Muslim-haters” or “anti-Muslim bigots” and are detestable and despicable individuals.
The former are simply exercising free-speech to criticise, mock etc. an ideology and have every right to do so in the West (at least in theory).
That the two, critics of Islam and (sometimes violent) anti-Muslim bigots, are conflated is a certain sign that the label “Islamophobe” is intended to shut-down critique of the unsavoury elements of Islamic belief and practice.
This article promotes the use of “Islamophobe” for “anti-Muslim bigot” which would be fine were it not also used as the article itself states for critics of Islam. Thus the writer is endorsing the conflation of critics with violent bigots.
The recent (U.K.) murders of Assad Shah and Imam Jalal Uddin by Muslims who killed because Shah wasn’t “the right type” of Muslim and Uddin wasn’t “orthodox enough” was truly tragic. Both killers were religiously motivated bigots who hated the type of Muslim their victims represented and were thus – and the irony is awful – “Islamophobes” in terms of the definition(s) linked above.
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The “The real problem is Islamophobia!” sub-trope.
In which Muslims living in the west are cast as the victims of bigotry, discrimination, oppression, repression and racism by the citizens of the west.
This trope is regularly trotted out in response to Islamic terror attacks in the West, often linked to a largely specious “fear of an Islamophobic backlash”, which is a sub-trope of the above – a “sub-sub-trope”?
The ironies of this trope come thick and fast.
Islam is not a race – any more than Catholicism or atheism – so the racist label is comic, although it ironically mirrors Islam’s tribalism and its splitting of the world into the darul Islam and darul Harb (the “house of Islam” and the “house of war” which is the rest of the world).
A survey of articles on Islamophobia will often betray more than a whiff of real racism in that it is frequently only Caucasians who are deemed to be “Islamophobes”. It is also correct to note that a number of ex-Muslims have also been demonised in this manner by groups such as Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the US.
Another irony is that if a Muslim community comes from a minority sect in their country of origin they are often far more free to practice their version of Islam in the West than in that Country.
A case in point are the Ahmadhi communities who are violently persecuted by both Sunni and Shia and have the dubious accolade of being the most persecuted minority in Pakistan, yet who have lived in peace and freedom in the West, though with the growing orthodoxy of Western Muslims this may now be changing.
Perhaps the crowning irony is that many non-Muslim communities are far less free to practice their religions and far more subject to bigotry, discrimination, oppression and repression in many Muslim-majority Countries than are Muslims in the west. Thus the charge of “Islamophobia” also strongly smacks of projection.
This article spends two sentences “mourning” those murdered by Islamic terrorists in France and four paragraphs objecting to Islamophobia.
This article also spends many more column inches on Islamophobia than it does on mass-murder post the France attacks. It also pulls in several other tropes as well.
The title of this article “The Bigger Terror: the Islamophobic Backlash” written by a British writer really says it all. How anyone can say that when Islamic terror has murdered at least ten times as many in Britain than “Islamophobic” – i.e. anti-Muslim – murders have since the turn of the century escapes me (and that’s stretching the definition of what is a murder based on anti-Muslim bigotry to it’s limit if not beyond and ignoring Britons killed by Islamic terror overseas).
So pervasive is this that even the families of some Western victims of Islamic terror feel the need to issue statements dissociating Islam, either implicitly or explicitly, from the terror that killed their loved ones, despite the facts being otherwise. (Given the personal grief involved I am not giving links to examples, I have no wish to single out any persons who have done so, but if you read the articles around recent Islamic terror attacks in Australia and the west you will find examples to validate the point.)
Closely related to the above is the “You can’t say or write that, it’s Islamophobic!” trope.
In which any critique or challenge of, or verbal resistance to, Islam is deemed the product of irrational fears and hatreds. Worse it (again) conflates critique of Islam with abuse of Muslims.
The purpose is to shutdown debate and discussion by conflating critique of Islam with “hate”, so de-legitimising the person. Thus it’s mostly a form of ad hominem attack.
In this item a BBC reporter labels a man an “Islamophobe” for saying “There’s no Sharia law here” in the U.K. and that “political correctness is stifling free-speech”.
This article relates how “anti-extremist activist…Nick Lowles …” was de-platformed (i.e. prevented from speaking) because “it seems that some activists believe I’m Islamophobic because I have repeatedly spoken out against grooming and dared condemn Islamist extremism.” (Oh, you total Islamophobe Nick!) The irony is the Lowles is the Director of the pro-Islam leaning U.K. organisation “Hope not Hate” the members of which, or at least some of whom, show little hope but a lot of hate – sometimes violent – towards those it deems … Islamophobes.
The “It’s nothing to do with Islam!” trope.
By which people disassociate terrorism carried out by Muslims in the name of Allah, the god of Islam, from Islam. (Does that read as ridiculous to you? It did to me when I wrote it. But it’s not the sentence that is ridiculous.)
The BBC article “Iraq Sinjar Yazidis : Bringing IS slavers to justice” speaks of the efforts of the “Commission for International Justice and Accountability” and in particular Bill Wiley, the chief investigator. (I do recommend a read of the article.)
The Commission has carried out a detailed investigation of IS’s slaving of the Yazidis in particular and have led to the identification of “49 slave-owners and a further 34 men holding senior positions in the IS infrastructure.” That is hardly more than the tip of the IS slave-owner iceberg.
It is the commission’s aim to (eventually) prosecute these men “not as terrorists, but as common criminals.”
All well and good, but Wiley goes on to say: “They’re not soldiers of the caliphate or soldiers of Mohammed. They are not fighting for Islam, they’re criminals. And we need to disassociate them in Western, but more importantly in Arab minds, from mainstream Islam”.
Yet Sharia law enshrines slavery and Wiley can hardly be unaware of this (or if he is then his ignorance amounts to gross negligence) so he is saying that he wishes to “disassociate” elements of Sharia law from “mainstream Islam” – which is clearly a nonsense – and though he may succeed in doing so in “Western … minds” he certainly won’t in “Arab minds” which understand Sharia far better than most westerners – Wiley almost certainly included.
This also reflects back on his attempt to characterise these slavers as “common criminals”. They are only such in the view of Western “man-made” law which is held in contempt by many, perhaps most, Muslims.
Whilst I have no doubt that most governments in the M.East would be entirely happy to have these men imprisoned for slavery I also have no doubt they will be even happier that this will ultimately be done by the “kuffar” because it will mean that the Muslim states of the M.E. are absolved from the need to prosecute Muslims for following Sharia – hardly a position likely to burnish such governments’ “Islamic” credentials.
The point is that the Commission’s view (whilst laudable in one sense) actually works to do very negative things:
It gives Islam a “free pass” when it comes to the enaction of Sharia-mandated slavery and is thus a form of the “It’s nothing to do with Islam” trope.
it absolves Muslim governments from actually prosecuting Islamic slavery themselves.
It also, in all probability, stokes further the general Muslim resentment of the Kuffar since we are “attacking Sharia/Islam” through such prosecutions.
Frankly I could not care less about #3. Sharia’s excesses and injustices need to be attacked, but #1-2 are another matter.
The “It’s an isolated incident.” sub-trope.
This one is more subtle in that, despite the ever increasing frequency of Islamic terror each event is, by definition, discrete. This is not the same as “isolated” of course, but by the insistence on focussing on the latest event alone then the bigger picture can be ignored or even denied in that Islam is seldom the sole motive for an attack in that if one “digs” deep enough something else – often another trope – can be unearthed and put forward as the motive.
The “It’s mental illness, not Islam!” sub-trope.
This sub-trope has been widely used of late and it has to be said that it is not unreasonable to take the view that any murder (not killing) is the result of some form of “mental health issue”. Is it ever truly sane to commit murder? Thus this trope has the element of truth that makes it harder to fully disprove.
One point in response is that Islam and mental illness are not mutually exclusive possibilities. As I wrote in a previous article this trope implies that there are a lot of mentally ill Muslims, so many in fact that one wonders about a causal link.
Most recently (Aug. 2016) A British backpacker was murdered in Australia in a ferocious knife-attack by a French national screaming “Allahu Akbar!”. The Australian Police spokesman “…Steve Gollschewski said the investigation was in its early stages and all motivations were being considered, including criminal and political, as well as the impact of drugs and mental health problems.” But not Islamic terrorism it seems, after all claiming you’re killing someone because “Allah is greater” than your victim’s god (if any) must not be taken as a signal of Islamic terror, to say so or write it would be “Islamophobic”.
Some reports indicated that mental health “issues” were considered most likely but the perpetrator’s name was not known (at that time). As one cynic (not me, please note) said “It’s amazing! The Police have full access to this man’s health records but don’t yet know his name.” Later the investigation was extended to “extremism”. Even then the “I” word was not included.
In the UK this trope seems to have been short lived (yes, I realise the oxymoron, but it certainly seemed that the “mental illness” excuse was to become the latest “right-on” phrase here for a time) – it was not mentioned in relation to the most recent attacks (Westminster Bridge etc.) in Britain. On the other hand it is still current in the US and much of Europe (c.f. Recent attacks there). It was widely ridiculed by many and perhaps Islam’s apologists realised that they were actually handing the “Islamophobes” ammunition to link Islam with mental illness. As Daniel Greenfield wrote: “Since a homicidal maniac hearing voices is how Islam was founded, that’s not much of a defense against accusations of Islamic terrorism.”
The “It’s not Islam, it’s culture innit!” sub-trope.
This is used to excuse practices like FGM, so-called ‘Honour Based’ killings and Violence (HBV) polygamy and even sex-slavery.
It’s a seductive half-truth because it’s true that culture shapes religious practice and sometimes, through syncretism, it even modifies belief.
But it’s also true that religion shapes culture. You can’t fully disentangle the two.
The Islamic canon specifically permits FGM, HBV, polygamy and sex-slavery, thus it’s not just culture, it’s Islam too. It’s worth noting that, for instance, the book of Sharia law “Reliance of the Traveller” specifically permits HBV: “The following are not subject to retaliation [i.e. face no punishment under Sharia law]: a father or mother for killing their offspring, or offspring’s offspring.” (Section o1.2(4), emphasis mine). Thus it’s mostly Islam and not culture.
Put another way: If Islam had strictly forbidden FGM etc., as it does Pork & alcohol for example, then it’s highly likely that these would be no more widely practised than pork-eating and drinking in Muslim communities.
Pointing to other cultures that do the same (and which have often had centuries of Islamic influence) is simply the tu toque and/or “red herring” fallacies.
The “They’ve hijacked Islam!” trope and it’s close equivalent “They misunderstand Islam!”
Which is linked to both the “It’s nothing to do with Islam!” and the “Islam is the religion of peace!” tropes.
In which we’re told that the “extremists” (i.e. orthodox Muslims) have “stolen” Islam from the Muslims (or misunderstood it) and “perverted” it to their own wrongful ends, thus the actions of the Islamic terrorists are “nothing to do with Islam” because “Islam is the religion of peace”.
This is quite a subtle trope in that if the premise is allowed then it more or less has to be true.
This is another trope beloved of Western leaders both political and religious.
However, as Islamic terror increases and as the West becomes increasingly familiar with the stated reasons of the terrorists – by which I mean what they say, not what others ascribe to them – this trope is beginning to wear a little thin. ISIL and others make extensive use of the Islamic canon of scripture (Koran, Sunnah & Sharia) to provide precedent (and thus justification) for everything that they do, thus saying that they have “hijacked” Islam is increasingly seen as false.
That is not to say that, for example, ISIL’s version of Islam is the only true or legitimate interpretation of Islam, but it is to say that ISIL’s versions is a true and legitimate interpretation of Islam – and one that Al-Azhar has refused to declare illegitimate. Thus if the leading authority on Sunni Theology can’t declare ISIL’s Theology as illegitimate, then clearly ISIL et al have not “hijacked Islam”.
This article by Raymond Ibrahim gives a “classic” example of the difference between Muslim leaders when “facing West” (i.e. speaking to Westerners) and “facing East” (speaking to fellow Muslims). Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, president of Al-Azhar University and a world-renowned “moderate” spoke of peace and tolerance when with Pope Francis in the Vatican yet (and in context) insisted that the aim of Islam is a Caliphate by his use of the phrase “al-din wa’l-dawla” to describe Islam as both a religion (din aka deen, “faith”) and dawla (polity – here meaning comprehensive political system, thus meaning Sharia law.). Al-Tayeb is thus saying that Islam is not fully “operating” until and unless Sharia is fully implemented. He is also on record confirming the death penalty for apostasy from Islam. ISIL would entirely concur with both statements.
The “It’s all the fault of the West!” trope.
The world’s problems with Islam, from alienation through child-sex grooming and slavery to terrorism, are the fault of the West – or at least everybody else’s except the Muslims.
In response to the terror attacks in France several American academics blamed the French for them saying they were the result of colonialism, Xenophobia and Islamophobia [Source]. Similarly America has been blamed for 9/11 (and all the rest of the world’s terrorism) as has Britain for 7/7 and so on.
There are many variations on this theme, too many to enumerate here, but they are all, either directly or at one remove, blaming the West for Islamic terror.
The“Poverty is the cause of terrorism, not Islam!” sub-trope.
This fairly common example of an at-a-remove sub-trope seeks to deflect attention onto various forms of Muslim “victimhood” at the hands of the West. Often closely related to the “Muslims are the real victims!” trope.
Thus if we give yet more aid or social benefits to Muslims (as the 2015 Muslim Manifesto for the U.K. said should be done in point 11) then Islamic terrorism will stop. For example, this article in the U.K. Times blames Islamic terror on poverty. Obama released a statement post 9/11 in which he blamed attacks on “poverty” despite the fact the most of the attackers were rather well-heeled if not outright wealthy.
The problem here is that there are plenty of non-Muslims living in equal (or worse) poverty than the “Muslims-who-are-driven-to-terror-by-poverty” but who don’t carry out mass-murder by way of “protest”, hence this sub-trope is provably false as are many of the others such as oft cited “lack of education breeds terrorists” sub-trope and on exactly the same grounds.
For example, this article provides evidence that shows that ISIL’s recruits have had, overall, an “above average” education and shows that “poverty is not a driver of radicalisation”.
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Some further examples of the use of these tropes.
I came across this article by Matthew Shadle which contains a number of gems covering several of the tropes listed above as well as several examples of plain wrong-headedness. I’m taking a quite detailed look at it since it provides something of a tour-de-force of what I’ve outlined above and all packed into a single, short, piece.
Amongst the “gems” are the following; “ISIS radicalises disaffected youth and encourages them to carry out seemingly random acts of violence of their own devising.” and that they “…have been exposed to radical Islamic ideology through websites and online videos, and in some cases have been in contact with members of terrorist groups like ISIS through Facebook, Twitter or various chat apps. Social media acts as a new kind of terrorist network, in which ideas, tactics and propaganda videos are shared worldwide.”
The main error in this passage is that it conflates two processes: “radicalisation” – i.e. the adoption of orthodox Islam and “Jihadisation” the last step in the pathway that turns an orthodox Muslim into an active, often violent, Jihadist.
At this point I should note that violent Jihad aka “jihad bis saif” or “sword-Jihad” is but one form of Jihad (Jihad literally means “struggle”) and so I am using the word “jihadist” in a specific sense. I am using the term “Jihadist” as a shorthand for a Muslim who either undertakes sword-Jihad personally or else is an active enabler of the same.
It is only once a person is already “radicalised”, or at least on that path, that they will seek out Jihadist media. For all ISIS’s media savvy, it is a passive method of communication – ISIS don’t send “Dabiq” to everyone’s inbox for example. Thus the “youth” have to seek it out for themselves one way or another.
The argument is often made that the “vulnerable youth” just “stumble” across links to extremist material – often on the pages of “moderate” Muslim organisations.
There are two points to be made here:
Why are the ‘moderate’ Muslim websites hosting or linking to “extremist” material? Even if we allow that such hosting is somehow inadvertent then why are the site owners not noticing the presence of such hosted/linked material and deleting it?
You still have to click the link to go to the extremist material and surely, if it is such a “perversion” of Islam as we are led to believe, any rational actor who is an inadvertent visitor would leave as soon as s/he became aware of the nature of the content (beheading vidoes are something of a give-away for example).
The more general point I am making is that I am far less prepared than some to absolve Muslims of responsibility for their actions since I believe that they are capable of making moral decisions and are not merely passive “acceptors” of Jihadist propaganda.
As I’ve written (and shown) elsewhere, “radicalisation” takes place before ISIS et al become aware of the proto-Jihadists. In other words the proto-Jihadists expose themselves to ISIS recruiters, not the other way around and especially so when social media is used.
Shardle then takes up the “Its ALL the fault of the West!” trope, which he employs no less than three times.
One is a fairly common sub-trope of “alienation”. He writes: “…the alienation experienced by so many young European Muslims, the native born children of migrants, is not caused by their religion, but rather by the fact that European societies have kept their Muslim communities at a distance, failing to integrate them in a way that respects their distinct religious identity.”
This is a reality-inverted view. It is Islam that teaches and preaches segregation from the Kuffar and the “Fitnah” that they cause in order to preserve the Muslims’ “fitrah” (predisposition of the Umma towards Islam in this context). Highly orthodox Muslims will also hate non-Muslims (and their societies) on the basis of the Islamic doctrine of “al-wara wal-bara”.
Thus Muslims may well view themselves as a distinct community who must not integrate into an “un-Islamic” society that they perceive as sinful, immoral, lawless and inherently inferior to Islamic society (which is another irony) – thus an “anti-Islamic” society in fact.
The error here is twofold:
Shardle (and many others) fail to understand that Islam rejects integration and thus “auto-alienates” itself from “un-Islamic” societies and,
expecting western Countries to “integrate [Muslims] in a way that respects their distinct religious identity” is an impossibility (consideration of the phrase shows it also to be an oxymoron given the separatist nature of that religious identity) unless the intent is that Western society itself becomes Islamised or, as several western politicians have put it, “adapts itself to Islam”.
A more subtle form of this trope is Shardle’s assertion is that young Muslims are uniquely at risk due to “…the tensions of being Muslim in a largely non-Muslim society.”
What about young Hindus, or Sikhs, or Jews, or Bahais or any of the other minority groups and religions?
There are many minority ethnic and religious groups in western countries, why is it that Muslim youth are uniquely under “tension”? The answer of course is that the tension arises from the supremacist and supercessionist nature of Islamic teaching and its commands to impose Islamic rule on everybody else.
His final use of this trope is “ISIS feeds on Muslims’ feeling that they don’t belong in Western societies”. This is true (for reasons discussed above) and yet another version of the “alienation” sub-trope.
The next trope he uses is “It’s nothing to do with Islam” which he employs in two variants.
“Young people inspired by ISIS almost never come from stable, religiously conservative households, but rather are experiencing an identity crisis stemming from unstable personal relationships ..” thus implying that “real” Muslims don’t become “radicalised”.
This statement veers close to the counter-factual. Whilst it is true that some of the youth “inspired” by ISIS come from fractured backgrounds it is also true that many ISIS recruits come from distinctly orthodox families and the evidence is that most become more pious and faithful some time before flying off to Turkey with one-way tickets the as report referenced here shows. Whilst it is certainly true that some are religious illiterates (the stories of Western Jihadists taking along copies of “Islam for Dummies” are not all hearsay), these are actually a minority (how small I can’t say for the simple reason no-one really knows how many western Muslims have been “radicalised”. The latest figure is >35,000 in the UK alone.).
Another “It’s nothing to do with Islam” tack used in this article is: “Muslim communities are not the problem, but must be part of the solution.”
How on earth anyone not completely divorced from reality can suggest that Muslim communities are not at least part of the problem when it comes to Islamic terror as committed by orthodox Muslims is quite mind-boggling.
Unfashionable as it may be to suggest it, I suspect that a Country without any Muslims in it would prove to be free of Islamic terror, or at least the “home-grown” variety.
That said, Muslim communities may eventually become a large part of the solution, but they will not be so until and unless a truly canon-based, coherent and powerful anti-Jihad theology is developed and widely accepted by Muslims. To date there are no signs one is in the offing – or even possible. On the contrary, the theology that taught that Jihad was only a struggle against one’s inner demons (to put it simply) is losing ground throughout the Muslim world.
Worse, thus far those attempts at countering ISIS Theology that have emerged are so riddled with internal contradictions as to invalidate themselves. (See for example the “open letter to Baghdadi” and it’s various commentaries.) All too often “moderate” Muslims (i.e. non-orthodox, heretical or nominal/cultural Muslims) find themselves pressured and threatened by the orthodox. Within the last twelve months (as of summer 2016) the U.K. has seen two murders (the Rochdale Imam and the Glasgow shopkeeper) carried out by orthodox Muslims on a “heretic” and someone deemed “not orthodox enough”.
Shadle’s next trope is “You mustn’t upset the Muslims!”: “...this is why calls for greater surveillance of Muslim communities … will ultimately be counterproductive. ISIS feeds on Muslims’ feeling that they don’t belong in Western societies, and so policies that deepen that identity crisis will only foster more violent attacks…these policies will discourage the sort of cooperation and positive efforts needed to truly prevent radicalisation. ”
In this view Islam (and Muslims) are to get a “free pass”. They must not be watched or singled out in any way despite the fact that it is Islamic terror that is the problem we are facing. And we must not do this for fear of making them more violent?
The irony here is that were Islam (and thus most Muslims) really opposed to Islamic terror (I’m courting an oxymoron I know) then surely they would be fully supportive of efforts to root out the “anti-Islamic” extremists within their midst. And to be fair, some are. Quite a lot of the intelligence that allows the U.K. security services to interdict Islamic terror comes from the Muslim community, but there are still far to many within the community who shield, protect and support those with terrorism in mind.
An article in the New York Times (now deleted) made an interesting case-in-point. After the murder of the Imam and a friend, the local Muslim community “was split” over whether it wanted more surveillance and a greater Police presence; some did but others believed that the Muslim community should safeguard itself, one representative went so far as to say that “the community was capable of policing itself”, implying that the Muslim community should not be policed (by Kuffar) at all.
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This article shows how various tropes were used to “facilitate” Muslim competitors (and their bigotry, misogyny, Jew-hatred etc.) at the 2016 Rio Olympics, do read it – it’s darkly amusing. Ironically the Olympics are supposed to take place under a truce whereby all hatreds etc. are set aside, clearly not everyone was “on-message” with that.
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My next tropes (and attached sub-tropes) are only relevant to “interfaith” dialogue thus (and if you wish) Agnostic, Atheist and Humanist readers can stop reading HERE and skip to the conclusion.
The “We all believe in the same god.” trope.
All too often it is simple for Christians and Jews to give the superficial response of “Yes”.
The irony here is that those who do so are actually aligning themselves with the Islamic position at it’s broadest which, from the perspective of Islam, is ‘proof’ of Islam’s claims.
(Without getting into the argument let me note that when the “nuances” of the Islamic position are considered then in practice the Islamic position is that only Islam is acceptable to Allah and any Jew or Christian who in any way opposes Islam – for example by not converting – is a rebellious kaffir, more on this below.)
It’s also seductive in that it begs a discussion about what individuals believe and worship which deflects the conversation from fact (in the sense of what religions teach) to feelings.
There are, in round terms, 2 billion Christians on the planet and 1.7 billion Muslims. Combined that’s 3.7 billions. Can anyone actually make a definitive claim about what 3 700 000 000 people actually believe no matter what their religions in fact teach?
Thus the question is unanswerable – another seduction for those who wish either to be emollient or to obfuscate the issue.
The question that should be asked and discussed is “Does religion X teach the same god as religion Y?”
This question applies to comparative Theology between all religions, thus it is a much more widely applicable question for a start.
The second reason why it is the right question is this: it does not depend on any individual’s (or group’s) interpretation of a religion, it only depends on what the religion in and of itself teaches in it’s canon of scripture. To be fair that last is slightly simplistic, but I’m not getting into that argument either.
A sub-trope of this is the “We’re all Abrahamic religions” trope.
Islam asserts that Abraham is it’s “spiritual father” and thus Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all “related”. Muslims often state that Islam is a “middle way” between Judaism and Christianity.
Without going into the lengthy exploration and discussion that would be needed to refute this sub-trope, suffice it to say that there is no reason for Jews & Christians to accept it without demur and several to reject it as a specious claim.
The “You’re a Kitabi and have a special place in our hearts!” trope.
This means “we” (Jews and/or Christians) have a “kitab” (i.e. religious book) and are thus “People of the book” aka “People of the scripture”.
This trope has some truth in it. Jews and Christians are “kitabi” and do have a special place in Islam – as Dhimmis.
As Koran 9:29 says: “Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and (4) those who acknowledge not [i.e. don’t convert to] the religion of truth (Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Hilali-Khan translation, emphases mine)
Not many Muslims will explain “kitabi” even this far never mind how under Islam the Kitabi has to abide by conditions such as those found in “The Pact of Umar”.
In traditional Islamic exegesis payment of the “Jizyah” is in “recompense” for remaining a “kitabi” and to stave off “the sword”. Thus payment allows the Dhimmi to keep his head on his shoulders.
Let me be clear here: this is better than the options offered by the Koran to non-Kitabi – which are to become Muslim or become dead (although later on Sharia allowed non-Muslims to also have the option of becoming destitute refugees in neighbouring non-Muslim Countries) but it’s still servitude, humiliation and degradation for the Kitabi in Dhimmitude.
[For those Agnostics, Atheists and Humanists who have read to here let me note that regarding points 1 to 3 above, THIS MEANS YOU. Your choices are thus Islam, death or – if you are lucky – becoming a destitute refugee.]
However the Koran also states clearly that both Jews and Christians are Kuffar. Thus even though “Kitabi” have a “special status” they are still “criminal-sinners” and “defiant rebels against Allah” etc. and thus they cannot be innocents according to Islamic teaching.
Put a little simplistically, being a “kitabi” aka Dhimmi-fodder is, in theological terms, a distinction without a difference. Thus this trope is essentially an emollient for Jews and Christians that means little theologically though something practically.
I should also note that, historically speaking, the concept of Dhimmitude was pragmatically extended to Hindus in response to the fact that the Muslim invaders couldn’t kill them all despite repeatedly making hills of their skulls. It may also have originally applied to Zoroastrians and Sabians.
Some in the Catholic Church which (of the Churches in the west) has the longest history with Islam, both good and bad let it be said, but one free of Islamic domination (unlike Eastern Churches) has, Pope Francis notwithstanding, recently wondered about the value of “interfaith dialogue” with Muslims on the grounds that “the Muslims” (here meaning primarily al-Azhar Sheikhs) only seem to want to undertake “interfaith” on their terms and for their purposes, see here, here and here for example.
Deception on the part of the Muslims occurred in at least one instance when the Imam prayed in the Vatican for “victory over the disbelieving people” (K2:286) – i.e. the kuffar, of whom “the people of the book”, aka Jews and Christians, are a subset – instead of (or as well as, it’s not quite certain which) offering a previously agreed set of “prayers for peace”. Thus the Imam was praying for victory over the (Catholic) Christians within the Vatican. Personally I suspect he was laughing all the way back to his mosque… in Egypt. And no apology has been offered.
That this embarrassed the Vatican is shown by the fact that the version published by the Vatican (rather than that aired in real-time) edited this “ad-libbed” part out.
As we’ve seen there are several groups of tropes used in the West.
One group, exemplified by the second and third tropes discussed, is based around the fears of violent Muslim response to things they deem offensive or insulting. Events like the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the murder of Theo van Gogh etc. give credence to such fears and bolster the use of what might be termed “deferential tropes” by non-Muslims in particular, especially those who are “high-profile” enough to have a rational fear of attack by offended Muslims.
The self-destructive part of the use of these tropes is that they merely serve, by honouring Mohammed and Allah, to convince the Muslim of the rightness of his/her religion system and the wrongness of all others (recall what I wrote about the meaning of “kafir” above).
The second group, as exemplified by most of the rest of the tropes are what might be termed “evasive tropes”.
They seek to evade Islam being held up to scrutiny through a mixture of ad hominem attack (via Islamophobia) on those who do critique Islam and concentrating on Muslim “victimhood” either as a means of pseudo-exoneration or blame-shifting.
Others in this group evade any criticism by the flat denial of a link between Islamic terror and Islam.
It is here that the greatest degree of invention can be seen in that the sub-tropes are ever multiplying as more and more “reasons” are sought not to link Islamic terror to Islam (that still sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?). Why this is done, often by people who are otherwise well intentioned, escapes me.
The final two tropes are examples of those I’ve heard of being used in “interfaith dialogue”.
They are “Interfaith pre-dawah tropes” primarily targeting Western Christians. These tropes are, at base, deceptive – either through being largely meaningless or else cynically disguising the reality the “nice words” mask – and used to make Islam seem more palatable or closer to (primarily) Christianity (which the Koran rejects even more vehemently than it does Judaism).
The problem with most interfaith attempts is that Islam in and of itself has no intention of coexisting alongside any other religion or system. Islam can only “coexist” when it is superior to or has eliminated all other religions: K.9:33 “It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad SAW) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikoon (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).” (Hilali-Khan)
As a final note: Whilst those deemed “people of the book” are allowed the extra option of Dhimmitude, for all others (non-religious please note) the options are, ultimately, Islam or death.