Creating myths about the myths of terrorism

The Washington Post has a piece that ostensibly educates WaPo readers about the true nature of today’s terrorists.  Interestingly (or do I mean typically) it tries to erase Islam from the equation:

3. Al-Qaeda is made up of religious zealots.

To the contrary, rank-and-file terrorists who claim to be motivated by religious ideology often turn out to be ignorant about Islam. The Saudi Interior Ministry has questioned thousands of terrorists in custody about why they turned to violence, and found that the majority did not have much formal religious instruction and had only a limited understanding of Islam. According to Saudi officials, one-quarter of the participants in a rehabilitation program for former jihadis had criminal histories, often for drug-related offenses, whereas only 5 percent had been prayer leaders or had other formal religious roles.

In the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, second- and third-generation Muslim youths are rebelling against what they consider the culturally contaminated Islam that their parents practice and that is promoted in their local mosques, favoring instead the allegedly purer Islam that they discover online or via imams from the Middle East. But the form of Islam they turn to is often highly unorthodox. For example, the Hofstad group in the Netherlands — a network of radicalized young Muslims — practiced a sort of do-it-yourself Islam cobbled together from Web sites and the teachings of a self-taught Syrian imam who is also a former drug dealer.

And groups linked to al-Qaeda, including in Somalia, have been begun using anti-American hip-hop music or “jihad rap” in their recruitment videos, even though such music is considered counter to the extremist version of Islam promoted by the terror network. Rather than Islam leading young recruits toward al-Qaeda, it may be an ignorance of Islam that renders youths vulnerable to al-Qaeda’s violent ideology.

Maybe I’m reading the above text wrong, but it seems to say that, if you’re not deeply familiar with Islamic doctrine, at a scholarly level, then you’re not religiously motivated.  And if you’re not religiously motivated, of course, than you’re not really an Islamic terrorist.  Instead, you’re just one more piece of the “man-caused disasters” currently plaguing the West.

As far as I’m concerned, if you use Islam, no matter how limited your understanding, as the justification for slaughtering civilians all over the world, than you are by definition an Islamic terrorist.

Jessica Stern, who wrote the above, works for the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law.  As far as I know, the Hoover Institution is a somewhat conservative outlet.  On the other hand, she’s also a Harvard Law lecturer.  I think, though, that what one mostly sees in the above few paragraphs is the curse of the Ivory Tower.  In that rarefied little world, unless one has achieved the abstract professorial knowledge Stern and her colleagues enjoy, one is not the real thing.  Those men and women hollering “Ala Akbar” as the last words in their (and their victims) lives are just making it up as they go along.

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  • ConnectTheDots

    Whenever in doubt about the workings of the Religion of Peace™, I refer people to Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch.
    I also recommend his books “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades” and “The Truth About Mohammed.”
    After reading these books, I am convinced it’s all about religion. The arabic world ‘islam’ supposedly translates to ‘submit’ in English.
    Wish the powers that be would get their head out of the sand before it’s too late.

  • David Foster

    “rarefied little world”…we are going to either have to destroy excessive reverence for “elite” academic credentials, or this reverence is going to destroy us.
    To previous generations, the idea that college professors should be regarded as either the final arbiters of right & wrong or as the soundest guides to practical action would have seemed absolutely ludicrous. Why has this implicit belief become so common?
    I suspect part of it is transference from *real* knowledge & accomplishments of academics in the hard sciences (viz nuclear physics & biotech) to greatly overstated or totally imaginary expertise in other fields.

  • excathedra

    I have no doubt that the vast majority of the Crusaders were less than theologically astute, but I have no doubt at all that the Professsoress would consider THEM “religious zealots.”
    ConnectTheDots is correct for the jihadis, it is all about religion. And for the useful idiots in the West, I believe it is all about race. Though Islam is a religion, not a race, it is a Third-World religion and white liberals (and their Obamanoid anti-white liberal allies) cannot abide criticizing any group that is less than white. If Islam had been cooked up in South Africa by Afrikaaaners, it would be denounced all over the media as a totalitarian fascist cult.

  • Danny Lemieux

    As a Christian Iraqi put it to me: if you read the Koran, you will quickly realize that it is obsessed with sex and violence. To say otherwise is delusion at its most grandiose. There is no redeeming feature about this religion and there are plenty of good reasons right in the Koran for why Islamic societies have been stuck in medieval ruts for hundreds of years.

  • Jose

    Every article I read yesterday about the appearance of the Times Square bomber in Federal court quoted him describing himself as a “Muslem soldier”.  Where did he ever get that idea?

  • Jose
  • 11B40

    Sounds, to me, like the old “Misunderstanders of Islam” trope with a new coat of semantic paint.  The problem is the Islam, the ideology that has been passing for a religion for way too many years.  It’s this ideology that must be attacked and hopefully destroyed and that won’t be done by tiptoeing through or around the tulips.  Ms. Stern reveals herself to be just as much a Ms.Understander of Islam as those whom she would hide behind analytically. Going on ten years since 9-11, it amazes me than she is able to restrict her understanding to that thin veneer of civility within which all the muslim propagandists in the world have laminated their ideology.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Jose…I think someone needs to set him straight, don’t you? He’s just a misunderstood multiculturalist trying to express himself in street theater. So he hates America…that just makes him a Liberal Democrat.

  • Ari Tai

    Be interesting to do a side-by side comparisons of articles discussing the “clingers,” evangelicals and the right-to-life movement with their words about islam and its followers.

  • garyp

    I posted this (unfortunately very long) comment on the Voloch Conspiracy site.  I don’t always get the legal subtleties but it appeared that most (not all) were tending toward saying that the recent SCOTUS decision that giving money to Islamist Terrorist front groups was not “protected speech” was incorrect.

    I imagine that the legal community will disagree with my reasoning but here it is (for whatever it is worth).

    Let me start with: I am not a lawyer but…
    If someone during WWII was found to be sending money to either the Germans, Japanese or Italians would we not have considered that a crime?
    If they gave a speech in the park on Sunday saying the US should stop fighting Germany, etc., that would appear, to me, to be exercising their right to free speech.
    (Of course, they would have been beat half to death for their trouble, because very few Americans had signed the societal suicide pact at that point, but that is beside the point.)
    I imagine you legal types see talking about supporting a goal as the same thing as actually doing something (as in sending money to a group) to help toward that goal. Non-lawyers don’t quite get it. I am obligated to walk away from some idiot screaming “I am going to kill you,” but am justified in punching someone who accompanies those words with a knife attack.
    When I hear someone say (usually someone who is extremely unlikely to ever be shot at by a jihadi) that “Islam is a religion of peace,” I am inclined to shake my head but am willing to admit that not all Muslims want to kill us. Figuring out how to share our country (and world) with the Muslims that don’t want to kill us, while killing the ones that do, is the hard, practical part. However, I don’t think any sane person would think making it legal, much less socially acceptable, to allow anyone in America to send money to any government/group to buy bullets to shoot American citizens/soldiers is OK.
    By the way, if you think outlawing donations to Hamas will give cover to our government for outlawing donations to the Tea Party, or any political party, I think you need to re-read the Declaration of Independence. Governments exist by the consent of the governed, if the governed have the bloody- mindedness to do what is necessary to express their non-consent.
    As far as I can tell, what I have learned reading this blog (and I do regularly) is that Dickens character that said: “The Law, Sir, is an ass” was pretty accurate about the kind of legal system we have. Sorry, but I sense that many Americans feel that the legal system has become their enemy, rather than their protector.
    I imagine, most any good lawyer of the day could have come up with 10 reasons the British were acting legally when they marched to Lexington and Concord (and they probably would have been correct if you view it from the British legal system’s point of view.)
    However, while the law and fear of legal entanglements is quite rightly drilled into the people who do the work, fight the wars and pay the taxes, eventually, the legal system needs to be seen as beneficial to the these citizens if it wishes to retain their support.
    If the law is seen as more concerned with the rights of groups trying to kill the average Joe (and his family) than with doing everything it can to protect Joe (and his family), this is ultimately not good for the continued existence of the legal system.
    Certainly, there are difficult and complex questions of how to balance the rights of some against the rights of others. However, if our government (including our system of law), is not seen as generally tending toward ensuring the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” of the bulk of the populace, then subtle distinctions over points of law, quoting legal scholars, and prior court decisions will all become moot.
    Ultimately, societies are fragile. Hundreds have risen and fallen, some with as high ideals and as excellent legal codes as ours. Ultimately, all societies rest on one foundation. It is the willingness of its members to fight and die to ensure that the larger society, and their own family, continues to exist.
    Undermining that willingness to sacrifice for the greater good while correctly answering the legal equivalent of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” (as seen from a non-lawyer’s point of view) is a dangerous road to travel down.
    You may not have wanted my opinion, but for now, I get to express it anyway (and no, I do not think that it should be my right to give money to any group who might use it to kill anyone–excepting our own government, of course, which falls under the “rendering to Caesar” rule, which we all must obey).
    For today, we need to first protect our society from its enemies. If we are all dead, it won’t matter whether we were “right” or not. The old saying, “Better to be judged by twelve, than carried by six” comes to mind. Perhaps “better to be judged by history, than buried by our enemies” is another way to say it.

  • Ymarsakar

    People have been giving money to the Left and wasting their political enemies for awhile yet. Most of em weren’t even Americans, but foreigners like the Vietnamese or Iranians.
    It’s just an increasing trend that people let get out of control and here we are.

  • gpc31

    David at #2,
    You are absolutely right:  “physics envy” has destroyed the humanities and with it, the modern university, in more ways than I can enumerate here. 
    Regarding academics and Islamic terrorism, I have found the exception that proves the rule:  A Yale historian, Mary Habeck, wrote a great book entitled “Knowing the Enemy:  Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror”.  A great book.

    Ibn Warraq at the is the goto source for the dark and tangled roots of islam.

  • suek

    >>Figuring out how to share our country (and world) with the Muslims that don’t want to kill us, while killing the ones that do, is the hard, practical part.>>
    The critical point for me was comprehending “taqiyya”.  If you really accept the concept that any muslim considers it his _religious duty_ to lie or deceive as necessary if it is good for islam, you then understand that _no_ musim can be trusted.  I have no doubt that there are some who are true loyal Americans – but I don’t know who they are.  There’s no way for me to know who is with me and who is against me, if they all use the same words – but their words are not consistent with their minds and hearts.
    And by the way – although taqiyya is a religious principle for muslims, I believe it is also true of dedicated leftists.   They do not have an objective standard of right and wrong other than achieving their goals of world socialism, so they have mo moral compunction about lying as necessary to achieve those goals.  The problem here is that we Americans tend to be naive, I think.  The culture of the nation has been based Judeo-Christian values, which means that we value straightforwardness and honesty.  We simply _expect_ that what someone says is truthful.  We’re vulnerable to conmen, and apparently also those in the world who’s culture teaches them that lying is ok unless it’s within the family.  I guess there’s a certain non-family/tribal identification in America – we’re _all_ family/tribe.  So _we_ consider it wrong to lie to any of us – whereas other places place a much tighter limit on who “us” is.
    Or maybe it’s just me.

  • garyp

    To correct my misunderstanding:

    The support on Volock Conspiracy was not for being able to give money to terrorist front organizations.  That is illegal and no one seemed to openly oppose that.

    However, the controversy was over whether it is “protected speech” to publicly support the goals of terrorist organizations.   The point of contention seemed to center around whether the government would have to prove that the speaker was working “with” the terrorist group as opposed to “in support of” the terroist group.  (my summary of the argument only–may have missed the point–again).

    Most commenters seemed to feel that restricting speech that supported the goals of terroists or the terrorists themselves would have a chilling effect on free speech of other types.  Also mentioned was that an administration could put a domestic political party (Tea Party was mentioned) on the list of terrorist organizations to make it illegal  (not if they have any sense, unless it is a real terroist organization like the old Communist Party).

    What led me astray was a lot of talk about soliciting donations, “material” support (which can be immaterial apparently) and so on.  That was really not the issue at hand

    What I objected to (and still do–although I misread what they were supporting) is the idea that to protect the Tea Party, we must give Hamas, etc. the same protections.  I think that once the campaigning stops and the shooting starts that our government should focus on protecting us and I don’t give a hoot about protecting the constitional rights of anyone who supports any group trying to kill Americans. 

    If someone wants to speak out saying America should bring the troops home because they oppose the war, that should be protected speech.  If they say that they hope the Taliban kills lots of American soldiers, that should be a one-way ticket to jail (or Afganistan).

    Anyway, just didn’t want to let my confusion on this discussion misrepresent to you what other people were saying.

  • Ymarsakar

    The difference between speech and actually killing or aiding in it, are two different spheres.

  • suek

    >>What I objected to (and still do–although I misread what they were supporting) is the idea that to protect the Tea Party, we must give Hamas, etc. the same protections. >>
    Interesting point.  I think that in a previous generation it wouldn’t have been necessary for legal repercussions – society would have pretty much have put a lid on such support of the enemy.  Perhaps that’s at least a part of the problem – society as a whole doesn’t agree that Hamas _is_ an enemy.  If Congress would declare a war on an enemy (and defining that enemy is the crux of the problem) then you could prosecute for treason.  But Congress hasn’t.  Hamas is not an enemy – because we aren’t really at war.  At least theoretically.  But…that’s why  we have to give Hamas the same protection as we give the Tea Party.  In fact…sometimes I think we should give the Tea Party the same protection we give Hamas….