ISIS: when Theology matters, blood spatters

Summary

The terrorist researcher, Scott Atran, in his interview on Russia Today, says ISIS attracts frustrated young people, but never mentions they are ALL Muslims. His political correctness is galling.
James White’s position is confusing. He says, on the one hand, the theology (for example, the nature and person Christ) of the Qur’an is flawed. What floors me is that he does not give the impression that the deluge of violent passages in the Qur’an are also theological.
Al Mohler does a better job. He says that what “ISIS is doing is in keeping with historic Islamic teachings and is doing so while recruiting thousands of Muslims (not merely “young people” Scott Atran) with many coming from the most modernized cities in the world including Paris and London and Amsterdam and Bonn and Minneapolis and New York.”

Here is what many Muslims say (see article for context):
“This hatred and violence (of “hard-line Islamist terrorists”) has to be fought by all peace lovers… We should support the call by over 100 Muslim scholars and clergymen” that the Islamic State “through their acts of violence, violated fundamental principles of Islam.” They point out that such acts as “harming or mistreating believers of other religions of the Scripture… and ignoring the reality of ‘contemporary times’ are actually forbidden in Islam… Simply put, IS is a group of mass murderers masquerading as unbelievers.”

Should I insult the intelligence of these Muslim scholars by calling them stupid and ignorant? Or should I call them cunning deceivers? The violent and detestable actions of ISIS are right on the Qur’anic money. The Qur’an is a deluge of directives to subdue and kill non-Muslims and apostate Muslims, and contains commands that are, at best, out of kilter in “contemporary times.” Space does not allow me to cite the dozens of texts on violence against the “unbelievers.” It’s mostly useless telling non-Muslims to read the Qur’an. But if they do, they must not expect any historical coherence: the Qur’an does not appear in the order that Allah is purported to have revealed it. For example, the final “revelations” – about Muslims forcing Jews and Christians to either 1. convert to Islam, 2. submit to paying a crippling tax and being subdued, or 3. being killed – were “revealed” in Surah 9, long before the end of the printed Qu’ran. There are few “peace” passages in the Qur’an, but these were “revealed” to Mohammed early in his career, when he was weak. These peace passages were abrogated (by Allah) by all the nasty stuff that “came down” later when Mohammed had a big enough army to subdue or kill his enemies.

————————————–

Someone who fears Islam is called an Islamophobe. To most this term means, which it does not mean, “hatred of Islam.” Fear of what in Islam? Violence. If you fear violence, you’re going to hate it, and often hate those who perpetrate it. Is there anything to fear and hate in Islam? This article examines this question with regard to ISIS.

Politicians and the mainstream “Western” media no longer say ISIS or ISIL – IS for short – but DAESH. ISIL hates this latter term, one reason being that it replaces the two key terms “Islamic” and “State.” Opponents of the term IS say it is neither a state nor Islamic; not Islamic because it is an aberration of Islam. In this article, I examine whether the term “Islamic” is indeed a misnomer.

Dr. Scott Atran, anthropologist and terrorism researcher, was in conversation with Sophie Shevardnadze (host of Sophieco) on Russia Today, “ISIS sings the same tune Hitler did, promising Utopia in the end” (Atran), 16 Nov, 2015.

Here are a few pertinent excerpts from the conversation. (the term “ISIS is used – Russia Today retains the term). My comments appear in italics:

SS: There are a lot of people joining ISIS from all over the world, not only their region, or the Asian region, but we’ll talk about it a bit later. But, at the same time, ISIS displays of brutality helped governments rally in action against the terror group. Does ISIS not care if it’s provoking an international bombing campaign?

DR.SA: Oh, they actually want it. Again, if you read their sort of Bible, “The Management of Savagery”, they want to provoke the intervention of the Great Powers like the U.S. and Russia, that is their plan. Their plan is to create a sort of apocalyptic scenario, to create as much chaos as possible, in which they can take root and offer their own alternative…. George Orwell in his review of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” back in 1939 have described the essence of the problem. He said: “Mr. Hitler has discovered that human beings don’t only want peace and security and comfort and free from want. They want adventure, glory and self-sacrifice, and Mr. Hitler’s appealed to that – and while the Oxford student union at that time vowed to never fight again, Mr. Hitler has 80 million people fall down to his feet, in one of the most advanced countries in the world.” How did that happen? Again, ISIS is appealing to the same sort of sentiments, that have been appealed to throughout human history.

Comment

Atran does not mention the Qur’an. That is verboten in any “Western” discussion of ISIS. If “The Management of Savagery is their “sort of” Bible (Atran), then the Qur’an is their Bible.

SS: You know, ISIS has a message that “everything is bad and corrupt, and we will change the world for the better”, a message of revolution, a message of cause; and, in response, all we can muster is basically: “oh, ISIS is baad” – you know, only negating what they say, not offering any counter-cause. What kind of a positive idea can stand up to ISIS’ slogans?

DR.SA: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I mean, the counter-narratives I hear, at least in the Western Europe and in the U.S. are pathetic. They basically say: “look, ISIS beheads people, they’re bad people” – God, didn’t we know about that before already? The way ISIS attracts people is that they actually are both very intimate and very expansive. So, they’ve brought in people from nearly 90 countries in the world, and they spend hundreds, sometimes even thousands of hours on a single person, talking about their family, saying to young women, for example, in the U.S.:”Look, we know you love your parents and your brothers and your sisters, and we know how hard it’s going to be to leave them, but there are more things to do in life. Grander things. More important things. Let us try to help you explain it to yourselves when you get here, and explain it to them.” And they go through the personal history and grievances and frustrated aspirations of each of these individuals, and they wed it to a global cause, so that personal frustration becomes universalized into moral outrage, and this is especially appealing to young people in transitional stages in their lives: immigrants, students, between jobs, between mates, having just left their genetic family, their natural family and looking for a new family of friends and fellow travellers. This is the age that ISIS concentrates on, and in response, most of the countries of the world, and the Muslim establishments, who call for “wasatiyyah”, moderation. Well, everybody who has ever had teenage children, they know how worthless that is. So, the counter-narratives we’re proposing are pretty pathetic.

Comment

Why don’t you mention that these frustrated young people are Muslims? Followers of Mohammed, servants of Allah. That would be what they would say is the heart of their calling.

SS: So, you’re saying, you know, the Western volunteers for ISIS are mostly youth in transition and parents usually have no idea what their kids are up to – so, is it a sort of teen rebellion, is it a form of a teen rebellion?

DR.SA: Right, it’s driven by young people, well actually most revolutionary movements are driven by people who are fairly well off and well educated, especially doctors and engineers, for some reason, ever since the XIX century, because they can show commitment and hands on operation knowledge of things… But yes, it appeals to young people and their rebelliousness, and again, that’s the specific target population of the Islamic State – and they provide a very positive message.

Comment

Young Muslim people only. You couldn’t join ISIS unless you were a Muslim or wanted your head chopped off, or if you’re a Christian or Jew – and lucky- allowed to live in subjugation to ISIS, which is what the Qur’an teaches.

SS: But, you know, we’re used to think that young people, teen in transition, like you say, they want freedom. They want to have fun, they want to have sex and drugs and drink. What we see with ISIS is forbidding this, for young people and for everyone – yet, there is this flock towards ISIS. I still don’t understand why, because whatever they’re trying to convince young people of, it’s pretty obvious there is no freedom where they are going. And young people usually strive for freedom…

DR.SA: Yeah, but I believe they do think they’re getting freedom. Instead of freedom-to-do-things, it’s freedom-from-having-to-do-things, where a life well-ordered and promising…

about. The choices are too great, there’s too much ambiguity and ambivalence. There are too many degrees of freedom and so one can’t chart a life path that’s at all meaningful, and so these young people are in search of significance, and ISIS is trying to show them a way towards significance. Again, we have to take it very seriously, that’s why I think it’s the most dynamic counter-cultural movement since WWII, and it’s something I don’t think people are taking seriously, just dismissing them as psychopaths and criminals and… this, of course, is something that we have to destroy… People talk about the clash of civilizations – well, that’s, woefully, inadequate. I mean, that is not the clash of civilizations, that is the collapse of civilizations, as…this is the Dark Side of globalisation, as territorial cultures are imploding in the face of globalization and young people, who used to get their learning and their guidance from their elders are now completely divorced from their elders and they’re hooking up peer-to-peer, across the world, across the territories, over the internet, and they’ve developed a facility in moving across the Internet that’s quite phenomenal. They’re hooking up and making alliances with one another that actually can bring people to kill for one another even if they’ve never met up before – and this is new.

Comment

To describe this as merely a sociological issue is typical of Western (secular) Academia, politics and the media. True, seeking to live a significant life is correct, The key question is where do these these young people (aka Muslims) find their significance? They find it in living – and, glory of glories, dying for Allah. It seems that Atran, the anthropologist, models himself on the Aristotelian maxim. Anthropos politikon zoon esti – “Man is a socio-political animal.”

SS: So, there’s no way to win this social media war against the Islamic State?

DR.SA: Yes, there is; and that is coming up with some kind of equally adventurous and glorious message that can give significance to these young people (who are) finding this call to glory and adventure quite enticing. Again, it’s understandable. Now, how to get them away from that? How to bring them into some kind of prod…You know, people talk about “the youth problem” in the Middle East and in the world – well, it’s not really a problem if you have the right motivation. It could be a “youth boom”, because young people are the source of creativity in the world. But there’s no channels now that I’ve seen existing, whether it is in UN or on the level of governments, where youth can have a voice…

Comment

ISIS has (like Islam from its inception) has come up with not some kind but a particular “kind of equally adventurous and glorious message that can give significance to these young people (who are) finding this call to glory and adventure quite enticing.” It’s called Islam.

Here are two Christian appraisals of the ISIS question. James White and Al Mohler. While White pussyfoots a bit, Mohler gets close to the heart of the matter.

Here is my transcription of a pertinent chunk from white presentation (Dividing Line, 17 Novwmber, 2015, minute 41 ff). My comments appear in italics:

(Many Christians argue that) “they (ISIS) are the real Muslims, and any Muslim that tells you “I don’t support what Isis is doing” is deceiving you and lying to you. This is what is really really concerning me…what I am hearing from so many people, social media, on television, is that Isis represents the real Islam, and any other view is a fake Islam… Here’s the problem: on the one side you have those who say that Isis has nothing to do with Islam, Islam is a religion of peace. On the other side you have those who say this is the real Islam, anyone who does this (what Isis does) is not a true Muslim. Both of them share the same black and white mind set that cannot function in this world, and that is that everything is got to be this or that, and nothing in between.

Comment

Surely ISIS must be either “real Islam” (white?) or “nothing to do with Islam (black). So logically it indeed a black or white issue. What we don’t want is some kind of Jesuit casuistry where if the Pope says black is white or grey, then so it is. The question then is “Which one is correct?”

Many in ISIS believe that they are orthodox, practising Muslims doing their best to follow the example of their prophet as they understand it. There are also among them men who simply love evil; they love to rape, they love to maim, to kill, and they are more than willing to do the religious stuff that allows them to do those things…Isis has its theologians, Isis has its people who are going to have their doctoral degrees and will be able to make their arguments from the literature, from the Hadiths and so forth… This (different interpretations of the literature) is an Islamic problem. On the other side, there are Muslims who are saying they (ISIS) are wrong, here is why they are wrong, here is what they are ignoring… I don’t think that the sources they (the two sides) are relying on are authoritative enough and consistent enough to solve the debate between these two sides.

Comment

White sounds like Reza Aslan, the professor of creative writing and self-styled professor of religions, including the New Testament. That is what I do for a living, actually.” (Reza Aslan). calls himself a Muslim believes that each religion brings its own truths to the table. Atheists call Aslan a “new atheist.” New atheists are like the emperor who says “look at my beautiful clothes,” when, as we know, he is really naked. The “new atheist” is a nude atheist – let it all hang out; we’ve all got something to give: Muslim, Christian, Jew, Jubu (Jewish Buddhist).

The sources are the Qur’an and the authoritative Hadiths. Muslims say you have to read it in Arabic, which means that 80% of Muslims, whose mother tongue is non Arabic, have to rely on their Arabic speaking leaders. We are reminded of the Roman Catholic Church, where the Bible and the Liturgy existed only in Latin, so that the “laity” had to rely on the priests. When White debates Muslims, Roman Catholics and non-Calvinist Protestants, his starting point is that the biblical texts have one unequivocal meaning and the issue is finding out what this single meaning is. White has had many debates with Muslims on Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. He argues that the Qur’an misunderstands these doctrines.

White has written “What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an,” which, like all his books, debates and his theology in general is based on the premise that there is a right and a wrong way to read texts; that there is a real meaning that needs to be discovered. White says:

I am a scholar of religions with degrees including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek and biblical Hebrew and biblical Aramaic, who has been studying the origin of Christianity for four decades. I also happen to be an expert with degrees in the history of religions. So why did I write this book on Islam? In brief, I wrote it because it is my job as an academic. And because I wanted – very important – to show that Islam is flawed. (See here).

Comment

In other words, for him, it is indeed a black and white issue.

What I am concerned about, White continues, is that there are Christians who would deny that there are any on this side (the peaceful side)… We want to force Islam to be monolithic, all on the same page (as Isis).

If you don’t recognize the difference between these groups, says White, how are you any different from the jihadis likewise refuse to make any distinction between us and what we believe. It does not make any sense to me, and it frightens me greatly, and it makes me wonder how any of these people who are adopting this attitude can be seriously praying for an opportunity to actually invest themselves in witnessing to one of these Muslims.

Comment

It seems that White above holds the multiple-interpretations view of the Qur’an only when it applies to the flood of “violent” passages in the Islamic literature. Yet elsewhere he says (Breaking the Cross, Killing the Swine: Truly Thinking About ISIS and the Murder of 21 Copts):

Oh sure, I know some of them are doing it just because they love murder and bloodshed and evil. But some of them do it because they really believe Muhammad was a prophet and that Muhammad showed them the way the day he and his cohorts did exactly what they did on that beach…not to 21 Christians but to between 400 and 900 Jews of the Banu Qurayza tribe. (See here for a more in-depth discussion of this event in Muhammad’s life). Now, I am well aware of the fact that Islamic apologists say this was a just act because the Jews had, allegedly, betrayed Muhammad in the Battle (or, non-battle, in a more realistic sense) of the Trench (AD 627). But the reality is that Muhammad was a man of war, not a man of peace. You are changed when you personally behead someone. The blood may wash off the hands, but it is not washed out of the mind. Muhammad died in 632, so this was done toward the end of his life. The progression of his life was from peaceful monotheistic prophet to warring leader and general, not the other way around. Add in the doctrine of abrogation and you can see why the scholars of Al Qaeda and ISIS and Boko Haram have plenty of material to draw from in forming their theology. They teach that the later revelations abrogate earlier ones (such as the later command not to consume alcohol abrogates the earlier commands which allowed it even though in moderation). Sadly, that means the later sections of the Qur’an, which contain the warfare passages, are considered by most (not all) Muslims in the world to be more authoritative than the peaceful passages that came earlier.”

Comment

It seems White tries hard not to offend Muslims, which is understandable, but loves theology too much to be politically correct. Others (like atheists) say we must not take the Islamic literature, or any religious literature too literally. When we read that Muslims must kill idolators/polytheists, it is silly to say that we must not take this “literally.” Half-literally then? Keep the “ki” and discard the “ll.” And replace “ll” with “ss?” (The verse of the sword: Sura 9:5 and Jihad). KISS the polytheists?

Another Christian theologian, Al Mohler, says that what “ISIS is doing is in keeping with historic Islamic teachings and is doing so while recruiting thousands of Muslims (not merely “young people,” – see Scott Atran above in his interview with Sophieco) with many coming from the most modernized cities in the world including Paris and London and Amsterdam and Bonn and Minneapolis and New York.”

Comment

Great Scott, all of these recruits are Muslims!

Christians operating out of a Christian world-view understand that we have to look at these issues theologically precisely because even as theology is always very near in the headlines in this particular case, it’s even in the foreground. We’re talking about a group and we’re talking about an Army and we’re now talking about a state that names itself the Islamic State… the reality is that Christians understand that where theology is engaged it is engaged at the most basic level and nothing makes that point more graphically and chillingly then the statement that was actually released by ISIS in the aftermath of the murderous attacks, indeed the massacres that took place in Paris. Part of the statement reads, “Eight brothers wearing explosive belts and assault weapons targeted areas carefully chosen in the heart of the French capital. The French stadium, during a match of two crusaders countries French and Germany where the imbecile of France Francois Hollande was present, the bataclan where hundreds of idolaters participating in a party of perversity were assembled, in addition to other targets in the 10, 11 and 18 arrondissement– all simultaneously.”

ISIS then went on to say, “The ground of Paris trembled under their feet and its roads became too tight for them. The toll of this attack is a minimum of 200 crusaders killed and even more injured, the praise and honor belongs to Allah. “Allah helped his brothers and gave them what they hoped for.”

One of the things we must note is the insane insistence on the part of so many Western leaders to deny the obvious and that is the theological identity and the theological ambition behind these attacks in Paris. But the sad fact is that so many modern secular leaders of modern secular governments now increasingly on both sides of the Atlantic lack even the basic theological understanding to know what is at stake in these attacks. (Underlining added). For example, the statement is very clear about martyrdom. And even though martyrdom is something most Western leaders think they understand what they likely do not understand is that martyrdom in Islam is the only way to be assured of spending eternity in paradise… Martyrs for the faith are promised entrance into paradise.

Here is one of the oddest most ironic and most dangerous presuppositions of modern secular governments and that is that theology really doesn’t matter… (Underlining added). As we must repeat over and over again, we are not at war with all Muslims and for that we should be very thankful. But we also have to be equally candid about the fact that our foe in this case is clearly Islamic and is driven by an Islamic worldview, Islamic theology and a very clear and growing Islamic identity.

Comment

There is nothing odd about the fact that atheists (secularists) trash theology; atheist don’t liker them theists, especially the “organised” (as in religions) ones. Mohler thinks “theology matters.” James White thinks so too. (see his weekly radio programme “Theology Matters”).

We should not be, as Mohler says, “at war with all Muslims.” Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies , says – “A lot of Muslims are embarrassed by Isis.” True, because they, like the majority of members of all religions, do not take their religion seriously and/or are too ignorant to do so.

Those Muslims who are embarrassed by ISIS, are they prepared to say to the world that members of ISIS are apostates? Not if you want to keep your head. I cite from an editorial of my city’s newspaper, “Weekend Post,” Saturday, June 27, 2015, “Horrific attacks must be stopped.”

This hatred and violence (of “hard-line Islamist terrorists”) has to be fought by all peace lovers… We should support the call by over 100 Muslim scholars and clergymen” that the Islamic State “through their acts of violence, violated fundamental principles of Islam.” They point out that such acts as “harming or mistreating believers of other religions of the Scripture… and ignoring the reality of ‘contemporary times’ are actually forbidden in Islam… Simply put, IS is a group of mass murderers masquerading as unbelievers.”

Should I insult the intelligence of these Muslim scholars by calling them stupid and ignorant? Or should I call them cunning deceivers? The violent and detestable actions of ISIS are right on the Qur’anic money. The Qur’an is a deluge of directives to subdue and kill non-Muslims and apostate Muslims, and contains commands that are, at best, out of kilter in “contemporary times.” Space does not allow me to cite the dozens of texts on violence against the “unbelievers.” It’s mostly useless telling non-Muslims to read the Qur’an. But if they do, they must not expect coherence: the Qur’an does not appear in the order that Allah is purported to have revealed it. For example, the final “revelations” – about Muslims forcing Jews and Christians to either 1. convert to Islam, 2. submit to paying a crippling tax and being subdued, or 3. being killed – were “revealed” in Surah 9, long before the end of the printed Qu’ran. (See James White again. Why are peaceful muslims not speaking out against Boko Haram).

As ISIS would say “Theology matters, therefore blood spatters.”

Bernie Sanders, the US democratic presidential candidate says ISIS is not the problem; global warming is – and jobs. Prince Charles says the reason why there are so many non-Europeans flooding Europe is because they are fleeing global warming. Where did they find these people?

Want to stop ISIS? Give them jobs – and stop global warming.

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5 thoughts on “ISIS: when Theology matters, blood spatters

  1. Great article albeit discouraging but expected of the western media. Of course theyre all muslim recruits! – apparently Isis has bragged that they’ve recruited something like 6000 Germans for one ~ Raphael this is my argument too,, and do you know? The Arab world is laughing at the apathetic political correctness of the western world. Ive seen it, on their tv shows and the like.. theyre laughing http://unitedwithisrael.org/watch-arab-media-mocks-obama-as-weak-against-islamic-terror-destroying-america.
    You tell people, well what Isis, Boko Haram, Al queda, Hamas etc have been doing is something like the Islamic version of the body of their ‘”church” with its own functions – the different forms of jihad,, but all in the name of Islam, and the objective of Islam which hasn’t changed, convert the world & implement sharia law – to force conversion & kill the remaining kafirs, Christians and jews. This is Islam, this is Submission . I don’t spread hate about people – one is so afraid of being labeled a “hater” but its not the people, its the ideology Islam. Many disillusioned muslims are falling away, this is the final of the number I believe that will come in from the Arab world – people like Daniel Shayesteh.. Ive heard stories coming out, of muslims being saved by our God of Love and being persecuted. These are the real Christians who have come out of darkness into light. We take our God given laws for granted, our peace and freedom we have taken for granted and that in itself has become a trap for us, while these people who have been in the dark and found Gods Love, its absolutely amazing.

    Do you know how their prophecies run invert to the Christian prophecies? And they are so much closer to their own version of the apololypse.. They want to bring about world chaos in order to hasten the arrival of their ‘mahdi” or 12th imam. they believe he will return and bring about peace, and technology for the whole world to benefit (we say he will be the anti-Christ -who wont respect ANY god, ‘not even the god of his fathers”) they believe he will stand with Jesus, the prophet’, and lead the people in prayer to allah – jesus in subordination to & following the mahdi.

    We know that the antichrist comes with the false prophet. Brings a false peace, brings a new system of economy and identification and causes the whole world to follow him and implement the identification. .. anyway, that all said, the point is .. the world as it is right now with the current western worldviews etc? -is almost perfectly aligned to seeing these things happen very quickly. While we’re discussing whether they ‘reeeally mean it when they chant ‘death to america”,, the enemy is growing and bringing their objectives right to our doors… Literally, with our idiotic government buddying up & welcoming Hamas into our country to spew their hatred and propaganda 😦 God bless Raphael, and all the best to you & Cath and the family x

  2. Hi Karen

    Thanks so much for your supplementary material. There’s the idea going round that Islam is a political ideology, where the religious part is merely a subterfuge. That”s a stupid idea. In Islam, politics and religion are two sides of the same coin.

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