“The problem lies not in the perpetrators’ innate character but in some of the core values of their religious belief system.”
“Western leaders cannot expect to defeat “terrorism” in their countries when they deny and evade acknowledging the roots of the jihadi phenomenon: the deep connection of the attacks to the faith.
It is good to see the distinguished Yigal Carmon forcefully defining what motivates the enemy — something my colleagues and I have spent our lives doing at great personal risk and cost. Carmon is the president and cofounder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an organization which monitors and translates Arabic and Persian publications; radio and TV broadcasts; and religious sermons into many languages and circulates them over the Internet.
MEMRI is the world’s leading think tank exploring the Middle East and South Asia through their media, MEMRI bridges the language gap between the West and the Middle East and South Asia, providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu-Pashtu, Dari, and Turkish media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends.
They Are Neither ‘Losers,’ ‘Nihilists,’ ‘Worshipers Of Death,’ Nor ‘Sick Cowards’– But Rather Believers And Idealists Who Commit Horrific Murders For A Cause And Sacrifice Their Lives For A Utopian Future: A World Ruled By Their Faith
By: Yigal Carmon, June 5, 2017:
Following the May 22 Manchester attack, UK Prime Minister Theresa May defined those behind such attacks as “sick cowards,” not Islamists. Between the March 2017 Westminster terror attack and Saturday’s London bridge vehicular and stabbing attack, five additional terrorist plots had been thwarted. We are re-sending this MEMRI article, penned by MEMRI President Yigal Carmon and originally published May 30, 2017. It focuses on the deep connection between these attackers and their faith and stresses the need to stop the hypocrisy aimed at not offending Muslims and instead to speak the truth, because it is more respectful as well as more helpful in the fight against this type of terrorism. It also proposes an immediate strategy: legislation to stop jihadi use of the Internet, which has been powering the spread of jihadi ideology for over a decade. Western leaders must disregard all the corporate excuses, that this is impossible or incompatible with free speech. Free speech does not permit incitement to murder, including faith-based incitement. They should honor the international conventions against genocide and not allow the Internet companies to flout the laws of democratic countries. For a detailed strategy for purging the Internet of jihadi incitement, see MEMRI Daily Brief No. 126, An Internet Clean Of Jihadi Incitement – Not Mission Impossible, May 1, 2017.
Just like Barack Obama, Francois Hollande and David Cameron, who denied that the jihadi bombings in the West were in any way connected to religion, Donald Trump and Theresa May now also insist on mischaracterizing the jihadi phenomenon, calling the jihadis by different names such as “evil losers” (Trump) and “sick cowards” (May).
During his campaign Trump spoke in different terms (“radical Islamic terrorism”) – but since then he has evidently adopted the approach favored by the other Western leaders, who consider any reference to the religious roots of terror as “unhelpful.” Like them, he is apparently motivated by the understandable need to avoid offending 1.4 billion Muslims.
So first, let’s put forward the true, if “unhelpful,” definition. The jihadis who perpetrate these horrific crimes are neither losers, nor nihilists, nor worshippers of death, nor sick cowards. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of them are devout and fanatic believers. They are idealists who sacrifice their lives for the sake of a utopian future: a world ruled by their faith. The attacks they commit are extreme acts of piety. They seek to emulate the dedication of the early believers in order to revive the glory and grandeur of the past. In fact, as part of their training, many suicide bombers adopt a pious lifestyle: they immerse themselves in prayer, help the needy in their society, pay all their debts, and become moral and religious role models for others (see the Appendix of this document for the last statement of the suicide-bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who committed mass murder in a Haifa restaurant and began her will with the religious formula, “in the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate”).
Contrary to the approach of the Western leaders, who blame the evil character of the perpetrators while absolving the faith they follow, the truth is that these perpetrators, by the standards of their own belief, are virtuous people who follow the directives of the Koran [48:29]: “Be fierce towards the infidels, merciful towards each other.” The problem lies not in the perpetrators’ innate character but in some of the core values of their religious belief system. Indeed, their faith – any faith – includes elements that are beautiful alongside elements that are malevolent. Denying that these malevolent elements are part of the faith, as the Western leaders do, is wrong. It is such denial that is unhelpful; in fact, it is self-deception.
Can the mischaracterization of the terrorists’ acts actually achieve the goal of avoiding offense to the world’s Muslims? The answer is no. Faced with the Western leaders’ statements that totally disassociate the jihadis’ acts from their religious roots, the world’s Muslims can only conclude that Western leaders do not understand their faith and have the intellectual conceit to mischaracterize it. In fact, this mischaracterization denies some of the core values that underpinned the great achievements of Islam in which Muslims take pride: the establishment a great civilization and the building of not one empire but several in the course of history.
It would be far more respectful to Muslims to acknowledge that these values (of self-sacrifice and extreme dedication aimed at spreading the faith by force) were the basis of Islam’s expansion, just as the spread of Christianity, after the Emperor Constantine established it as the state religion, was based on a similar process of imposing the faith by force. However, Christianity has since renounced these values. Christianity does not deny its past, but it has jettisoned the element of coercion. Similarly, Western leaders must not denigrate the Muslim past by denying its core values, but rather should demand that Muslims follow the same path: realize that some violent values that underpinned their civilization and glorious past are incompatible with modern morality. Western leaders should therefore demand that contemporary Muslims focus on other aspects of their faith (as Christianity has done), and totally reject imposing their religious utopian vision by the force of arms.
Western leaders cannot expect to defeat “terrorism” in their countries when they deny and evade acknowledging the roots of the jihadi phenomenon: the deep connection of the attacks to the faith.Admitting this connection will not only be more respectful to Muslims, it will also be conducive to reforms and useful to Muslim reformists, who acknowledge that the terrorists’ ideals come from within: from the houses of worship, the schools and society at large. Being truthful towards the Muslims is more respectful than denial. It will also be much more helpful, since only discarding the completely unnecessary hypocrisy regarding the roots of Islamic terror will help Muslims adopt a normal attitude towards their past: pride in its achievements, along with the necessary criticism of the archaic values that led to these achievements. Muslims should accept a post-caliphate role for themselves just like all European states have reconciled themselves to post-imperial status. This is an admittedly painful process but it is an unavoidable one. The most senior Muslim religious leaders should seek a Muslim aggiornamento (a bringing up to date of the religion) along the lines of the reforms introduced by Pope John XXIII.
These messages should be delivered by Western leaders openly and insistently, in lieu of the intellectual evasion and denial practiced today. It should be emphasized that this demand is not addressed exclusively to Muslims. It is a demand that the West and Christianity have applied to themselves, and therefore have every right to demand it of the Muslim world. Only thus will the ideological base of jihad be eradicated and “terrorism” significantly decline. Needless to say, this is a long-term process, but it is nevertheless the genuine solution to the problem and the only way to produce results.
In translating this insight into concrete policies, two steps seem to be immediately necessary. First, Western leaders must cease the hypocritical denial of jihad’s deep connection to faith, and firmly and openly demand that the leaders of the Muslim world take significant steps to reform the religion. Second – and this is up to them alone – they must enact legislation to stop the jihadi use of the Internet, which has been powering the spread of jihadi ideology for over a decade. They must disregard all the corporate excuses, that this is impossible or incompatible with free speech. Free speech does not permit incitement to murder, including faith-based incitement. They should honor the international conventions against genocide and not allow the Internet companies to flout the laws of democratic countries. For a detailed strategy for purging the Internet of jihadi incitement, see MEMRI Daily Brief No. 126, An Internet Clean Of Jihadi Incitement – Not Mission Impossible, May 1, 2017.
Appendix: The Will of Hanadi Jaradat
The following is the transcript of the videotaped “last will and testament” of Hanadi Jaradat, who carried out the Maxim Restaurant suicide bombing in Haifa on October 4, 2003. The transcript was posted on the Islamic Jihad website, at http://www.qudsway.com/
Links/Jehad/7/Html_Jehad7/ hinadi/hinadi2/hinadi_qudsnet_ 003.htm
“The last will and testament of the Martyr Hanadi [Jaradat], before she set off to carry out the Haifa operation:
“In the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate, prayer and peace be upon the master of mankind, our master Muhammad, may Allah pray for him and give him peace:
“The Exalted One said [in the Koran]: ‘Do not consider those who died for the cause of Allah as dead, rather as alive, at their Lord sustained.’ [Koran 3:169]. Verily, Allah’s words are true.
“Dear family, whom the Lord of the world will reward as He promised us all in His Holy Book [with the words], ‘Give glad tidings to those who persevere.’ [Koran 2:155]. Indeed, Allah promised Paradise to those who persevere in all that He has brought upon them – and what a good dwelling Paradise it is.
“Therefore, reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of the reward of Allah, praised and exalted be He, to you in the Hereafter. I should not be too valuable to sacrifice myself for the religion of Allah. I have always believed in what is said in the Holy Koran, and I have been yearning for the rivers of Paradise, and I have been yearning to see the glorious light of Allah’s face. I have been yearning for all this ever since Allah bestowed guidance upon me.”
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