“Islam is not the Problem” … Is that Right?

Many of our intellectual elite keep (White House, others) keep repeating that Islam is “not the problem” behind the terrorism, violence and so on in the Middle East and elsewhere (France for example). What is not said in those pronouncements is, if Islam isn’t the problem, exactly then where does the problem lie? It seems likely that the statement Islam is not the problem is only half right. People who claim “Islam is the problem” (or not the problem) can be compared with people who claim “germs cause disease” (or that they don’t). Stating that Islam is or isn’t “the problem” isn’t useful. What are some more useful remarks or questions that might be raised instead? Such as, what does a more complete story/picture look like? What are useful ways of approaching this matter, not that the President and the left elite don’t have a useful way, they just are very very coy about what that way is, as “it’s not X” does not explain “it is Y”.

To say Islam and warfare/violence are not related is not correct. Islam arose in the early 7th century and was followed by centuries of conquest as it spread through the Middle East, Western Asia, North Africa and Spain. The genesis of Islam is inextricably linked with warfare and the rise and spread of the Arab speaking peoples into the greater international arena. This might rightly be noted is a shallow and perhaps not a relevant point, but as we shall see, it will return.

What then might be a more realistic notion of why al-Qaeda and ISIS and other Islamic linked groups are using violence to spread their message? What is the source of their complaint. It seems likely, that they, like other similar cultural groups in the past are feeling threatened. What similar groups and threatened by what? Well, most of the non-Western world are anthropologically speaking living in Honor/Shame based societies. In this context the Western European and US cultures are Individualistic/Wealth based society. In the past 200 years a gap, still growing exists between the wealth, military, and commercial capabilities of H/S vs I/W societies.

Who then are the extremists? They are those in H/S societies who most acutely feel the conflict that the surrounding ever-present I/W society/nations/cultures at large present to local H/S culture. Why do they turn to violence, after all the mostly Hindu India following Ghandi managed a non-violent separation from the UK. This is where the language of violence and the example of early Islam comes in. These individuals use common strong striking imagery and language from their home, which not unsurprisingly arises from their religious traditions. Early Islam with striking history and language of conquest and rapine gives them plenty of examples from which to draw. The Left elites are right (and wrong) to say “Islam isn’t the problem”. It is the cultural divide between I/W and H/S societies which fuels the conflict. At the same time, however, “Islam is the problem” because it provides such a rich tapestry of violent poetry and history from which to call to arms those who are angered by the divide.

Why then does the leftist elite not point to the H/S vs I/W anthropological stress as the cause. Well, the modern left is committed as well to value a thing called “multiculturalism”. A fundamental tenet of multiculturalism is that my society and my culture is not better than the others. No one culture is superior in any way. To point to H/S culture as “the problem” would be to admit that multiculturalism is founded on a fallacy. And apparently they can’t admit to that. So they are left with saying X isn’t the problem while being incapable of admitting that if X isn’t the problem, then what exactly is the actual problem in your eyes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

11 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    A point to consider. Suppose you made it a point of studying the Hell’s Angels and related biker gangs. I think you would find a lot of Christian symbolism. Many cross tattoos, cross necklaces etc. Many bikers may claim to be Christians too.

    So the anthropologist from Mars might note how many biker gangs are violent, how many earn income from illegal activities like theft or selling drugs….a few may even have histories of pseudo-terrorism. So he may begin his Phd dissertation on the strange relationship between Christianity and violence and crime.

    Yet the rest of us would be a bit perplexed by this. Yes if we visit the prisons we’d find bikers there with their giant crosses tattooed on their arms…yet that wouldn’t all that interesting for us. There are hundreds of millions of Christians and the ones who don biker gang garb and hit the roads would be but a blip. While they may be culturally Christian we don’t really think the Christian faith has to account for their existence.

    Why do they turn to violence, after all the mostly Hindu India following Ghandi managed a non-violent separation from the UK. This is where the language of violence and the example of early Islam comes in.

    And the faith of the person who assassinated Gandhi was?

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Uhm, I guess I wasn’t clear enough. I said Islam (mostly) isn’t the problem. Islam is only the issue in that it gives a strong context from which to draw violent poetry and symbolism from. “Christian bikers” when they go to gang fights will find little in Jesus or Paul’s words or from early Christianity to rouse other to their cause or spur them to violence. Islam is not the trigger. It is not the fuel. It is perhaps additional lighter fluid added to the fire.

    What spurs biker gangs. Probably cultural issues, eh? Why do they fall on some religious symbolism? For the same reason, it resonates. Why don’t you hear them quoting scripture or early Christian times, because it won’t help them with what they’re about.

    The faith of the person who assassinated Gandhi was … (not known by me) but mostly irrelevant for this conversation I think.

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    So the anthropologist from Mars might note how many biker gangs are violent, how many earn income from illegal activities like theft or selling drugs….a few may even have histories of pseudo-terrorism. So he may begin his Phd dissertation on the strange relationship between Christianity and violence and crime

    And that guy from Mars, he’d be just as wrong as the guy who says Islam is the cause of the violence.

  4. Boonton says:

    The faith of the person who assassinated Gandhi was … (not known by me) but mostly irrelevant for this conversation I think.

    He was a Hindu who objected to Gandhi’ not being sufficiently pro-Hindu and hence felt it was a good idea to assassinate him. Which belies your depiction of Hindus as a remarkably peaceful religion compared to Islam. Just about any religion that humans belong too will be about as crappy as humans generally are.

    What spurs biker gangs. Probably cultural issues, eh? Why do they fall on some religious symbolism? For the same reason, it resonates. Why don’t you hear them quoting scripture or early Christian times, because it won’t help them with what they’re about.

    Bingo. And let’s consider the French shootings. What I find notable about these cases is that most of the time they aren’t very Islamic Muslims. Face it, Islam is a rather challenging faith if your’re not born into it. You have to learn Arabic (a difficult language to learn I understand). You have to master a dense and difficult text along with a series of sayings that different scholars assign different levels of authenticity too. Not for nothing the religion is somewhat on a par with someone suddenly deciding to become a rabbi…

    And yet what types of characters inevitably turn up among terrorist types? We have a slew of what can best be described as ‘recent converts’. Bikinii facebook models, petty drug users and thief’s. Even ‘proper terrorists’ like the 9/11 hijackers seem overly drawn from engineering majors….which there’s nothing wrong with but does attract the type of mind not given to theological introspection. Here’s a question, why are so few Muslims terrorists and so many Muslim terrorists not all that great Muslims?

    Of course there’s other hints… there’s the numerous reports that huge stashes of porn are often found in terrorist hangouts. The stories of 9/11 hijackers hanging out at strip clubs before the attack, the petty crap the Boston bombers engaged in, the drug dealing of the French shooters….are we seeing an integral part of the faith or the international version of ‘biker gangs’ who adopt what they think are the surface trappings of their cultural faith?

  5. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Hmm, I missed something. Bikers = Christians because they have crosses. Uhm, no. Biker’s would be Christians if they claimed they were Christians, they wear crosses and have crosses in tattoos not because they believe in Christ for salvation but because the music genre Heavy Metal is popular in that crowd and that genre has a lot of Satanic imagery. If you want to claim Satanism as a Christ cult, more power to you, but I think that’s a hard row to how. Your biker analogy also fails because, well, bikers aren’t in the terrorism trade.

    ISIS is Islamic because they say they are. That terrorists aren’t real devout is proof of what? That you like the “no true Scotsman fallacy?”

    Another problem is with your biker’s analogy, is that, oddly enough bikers rarely use IEDs to blow up buildings and commit acts of terror in their home country and they don’t go overseas to commit acts of terror overseas. If they are acting out against society, it’s not very clear what they are against. However with terrorists and the other Islamic insurgency movements I’ve identified a “Y” (as mostly but not completely not Islam) in the conflict between H/S and I/W cultures. You haven’t disagreed with that but you haven’t clearly said what “Y” is if it isn’t Islam. This conversation would get a lot further if you managed to stake out your position instead of just randomly poking.

    Again. If it isn’t Islam. What is it. Come out and say it. What is the problem and therefore what is the fix.

    Let met make it as plain as I can.

    I’ve said it is the H/S vs I/W divide as the primary irritant and that Islam having its peculiar history and rhetoric within those cultures makes it easier than many other cultures with other religions to commit/resort to violence.

    I don’t think a solo Hindu shooter is evidence to the contrary.

  6. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    About terrorists and their sins. Uhm, Islamic H/S culture tells us that they think women should be concealed because men have little control over their desire to, well, chase women and do things like view women’s ankles and such. So, when porn and strip clubs are available and your culture says you won’t be able to resist and lo and behold they don’t resist. Odd. Their prediction is confirmed. This however, is not an indication of whether they adhere to Islamic beliefs, just that they confirm their cultural prediction that they won’t be able to resist the wiles of attractive women who display their bodies.

    Regarding the other stuff. Are you someone who claims the Crusaders weren’t Christian? By your logic apparently they weren’t. Everyone else in the world would likely disagree.

  7. Boonton says:

    Let me mull over a bit, but this caught my eye:
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/02/03/didier_francois_isis_quran_former_hostage_says_captors_did_not_discuss_religion.html

    Not only that, they didn’t even have a copy of the Koran. Starting to look more and more like a prison gang thug decorated with crosses but not even half aware of anything actually said by the person who made them famous.

  8. Boonton says:

    However with terrorists and the other Islamic insurgency movements I’ve identified a “Y” (as mostly but not completely not Islam) in the conflict between H/S and I/W cultures. You haven’t disagreed with that but you haven’t clearly said what “Y” is if it isn’t Islam.

    Not really sure this distinction is as clear you think it is. For example, is Europe a “I/W” culture? Are you sure? Ever see Godfather II? Is Japan an H/S culture? Then why its affinity towards the west? Is Arab culture really not an ‘individualistic/wealth’ oriented one? The Middle East is renoun for its merchant class. The so-called caliphate, which ISIS delusionals seem to think was some type of Islamic utopia, was actually rather lax about religion (I recall reading they not only tolerated different faiths but actually discouraged conversion…least it lower tax collections).

    Islamists groups, esp. ISIS, seem to do a remarkable amount of ethnic cleansing. This begs an interesting question that is rarely asked, if Islam is so absolutist, so intolerant, how exactly did so many different variants and faiths end up inside the territories thought of as Islamic?

  9. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    if Islam is so absolutist, so intolerant, how exactly did so many different variants and faiths end up inside the territories thought of as Islamic?

    Crack a history book. If you think Islam is tolerant inspect the life of a Christian or Jew within the Caliphate. I’ve been reading Isabella: Warrior Queen prior to Spain’s Christian resurgence it was (and still is in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries) a death penalty to convert from Islam to another religion. In Egypt today many Copts tattoo a cross to their kids inner forearm in case they are kidnapped they can prove they were originally from a Christian household. Pretending today Middle Eastern nations are tolerant w.r.t. religion is delusional.

    Are you sure? Ever see Godfather II?

    Sicily is not Britain (and oddly enough not an economic powerhouse).

    Is Arab culture really not an ‘individualistic/wealth’ oriented one? The Middle East is renoun for its merchant class.

    Yes. Merchants are not missing in H/S cultures. Family and family honor typically signify status not wealth.

  10. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Yes. And you could say that of many crusaders. What’s your point?

  11. Boonton says:

    Crack a history book. If you think Islam is tolerant inspect the life of a …

    Who exactly has had a peaceful and tolerant lifestyle from the history book?

    Sicily is not Britain (and oddly enough not an economic powerhouse).

    is honor/shame a culture or simply an economic arrangement in a culture that changes as time goes by? The Downtown Abbey period, for example, looks a lot like a type of H/S culture. Was the US never an h/s culture? How about a few hundred years ago when dueling, while not quite respectable, was tolerated?

    Yes. Merchants are not missing in H/S cultures. Family and family honor typically signify status not wealth.

    Historically it seems regions with weak gov’ts tend to fall back on family power to protect and amass wealth. Think of the Medici family in Europe and the trading groups that worked the silk road. I would predict that you’d discover ‘family honor’ is less of a factor in, say, Turkey or India/Indonesia (which have more Muslims than Arab nations) than in Libya…although I’m not sure how you’d measure such things.

    This would be less of a conflict between culture types but between more and less primitive cultures. ISIS dominates in a primitive region. Changing their religious faith would probably not change their activity all that much.