Thursday, 19 November 2015
LEADING commentator Janet Daley's article in Saturday's Telegraph ‘The West is at war with a death cult’ stands for everything that is woeful about European elites’ response to Islamic jihad.
It is a triumph of religious illiteracy.
The jihadist enemy, she asserts, is utterly unintelligible, so beyond encompassing in ‘coherent, systematic thought’ that no vocabulary can describe it: ‘This is just insanity’, she writes. Because the enemy is ‘hysterical’, lacking 'rational demands', 'negotiable limits,’ or ‘intelligible objectives’ Daley claims it is pointless to subject its actions to any form of historical, social or theological analysis, for no-one should attempt to ‘impose logic on behaviour that is pathological’.
‘Civilians’Daley writes: ‘We face a violent and highly contagious madness that believes the killing of civilians is a moral act.’ Here she appeals to Western concepts of war, reflected, for example, in the Geneva Convention, which provides detailed principles for the ‘protection of civilian persons’.
Yet the first step in understanding a cultural system alien to one’s own, is to describe it in its own terms.
ISIS does not subscribe to the Geneva Convention. Its actions and strategies are based upon medieval Islamic laws of jihad, which make no use of the modern Western concept of ‘civilian’.
They do, however, refer to the category of disbelievers (mushrik or kafir).
ISIS believes that killing disbelievers is a moral act, in accordance, for example, with Sura 9:5 of the Qur’an, which states :‘Fight and kill the idolators (mushrik) wherever you find them'.
Not nihilismDaley writes: ‘The enemy has stated explicitly that it does not revere life at all’ and ‘Civilians are not collateral damage in this campaign: their deaths are the whole point.’ She goes on to lament that the latest French attacks lack any purpose, but are ‘carried out for the sheer nihilistic thrill of it’.
The claim that ISIS does not ‘revere life’ seems to refer to any number of statements by Islamic radicals, including an ISIS militant who vowed to ‘fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies’, and boasted that ISIS ‘loves death like you love life’ (see here). This is a theological reference to a series of verses in the Qur’an in which Jews are criticised for desiring life (Sura 2:94-96, 62:6-8).
According to the Qur’an, loving life is a characteristic of infidels (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27) because it causes them to disregard the importance of the next life. The taunt much used by jihadis, ‘We love death like you love life’, implies that jihadis are bound for paradise while their enemies are hell-bound.
The point of these statements is that Muslims are willing to fight to the death, while their infidel enemies will turn back in battle. This is not about reverence for life, but about who has the will to win. This has nothing to do with nihilism, which is a belief that there are no values, nothing to be loyal to, and no purpose in living. In fact ISIS fighters have strong and clear loyalties and values, alien though they may be to those of Europe.
Daley’s claim that the deaths are ‘the whole point’ is also mistaken. While it is true that the jihadis consider killing infidels a meritorious act, potentially earning the killer a place in paradise (see here), and they consider being killed in battle against infidels a ticket to paradise, in fact the killings do serve a strategic purpose. This is to make infidels afraid, and thereby to weaken their will to resist Islamic dominance.
This strategy is commended by the Qur’an, for example in Sura 8:12, 'I shall cast dread into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike above (their) necks and strike (off) all their fingers!', as well as by the successful example of Muhammad in fighting the Jews of Medina, referred to in Sura 33:26-27, ‘He brought down from their fortifications those of the People of the Book who supported them, and cast dread into their hearts. You killed a group (of them), and took captive (another) group. And he caused you to inherit their land, their homes, and their wealth, and a land you had not set foot on.’ A similar passage is Sura 59:2, which ISIS has in fact been quoting in its celebrations of the Paris carnage.
It may seem to Daley that ISIS’ often-stated intention of defeating the West is fanciful, but the point is to understand ISIS, and as far as it is concerned, these deadly attacks are instrumental in weakening the will of infidels and hastening eventual victory.
Daley wonders what possible point these attacks could serve. She speculates: '… what is the alternative that is being demanded? Sharia law? The subjection of women? An end to liberal democracy? Are any of these things even within the bounds of consideration? What could be accomplished by national self-doubt or criticism at this point, when there is not even a reasonable basis for discussion with the enemy?' It is hardly a secret that the ultimate goal of ISIS is to bring non-Muslims everywhere to convert to Islam or live under an Islamic caliphate as dhimmis. Sharia law and the subjection of women are part and parcel of this.
It is odd that Daley laments having no reasonable basis for negotiating with the enemy. ISIS is not playing by a Western-style negotiating rule book. It is following Muhammad’s instructions to his followers to offer three choices to infidels: conversion, surrender, or the sword. Bin Ladin has explained that the West’s rejection of this framework is the whole reason for its conflict with what he calls ‘the authority of Islam’:
“Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue; one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice, and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam:  either willing submission [conversion]; or  payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or  the sword, for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.” (The Al Qaeda Reader)It may seem unimaginable to European elites that ISIS is fighting for the goal of the surrender or conversion of Europe, but ISIS is thinking in time frames which extend to centuries, and their forebears conquered vast territories using such tactics. A final act of conquest can be preceded by decades, or even centuries, of military raids.
While killing is currently the main mode of ISIS’ attacks inside the West, if they could they would use other tactics as well, such as taking booty and slaves or destroying infrastructure, as they have been doing in Syria and Iraq.
GrievancesDaley claims it is pointless to argue with people who have no reasonable grievances, for ‘the French people did not deserve this, just as Americans did not deserve 9/11’. However the important question is how ISIS sees its own motivations. Their ideology teaches them that infidels deserve death, simply by virtue of their unbelief. This has nothing to do with France’s history of colonialism or its treatment of Muslim minorities. ISIS needed no appeal to grievances to justify killing and enslaving Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, so why should they view the people of France any differently? Their objection to Europeans is that they are not Muslims, and their objection to European states is that they do not implement sharia law.
It is irresponsible and dangerous to claim that a tenacious enemy is insane and incomprehensible. To refuse to acknowledge the ideology of ISIS, and to deny its relevance is tantamount to a death-wish.
Posted on 11/19/2015 8:58 AM by Mark Durie
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