Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stalking the Elusive Moderate

Anwar al-Awlaki — recently reported killed in Yemen, but now alleged to be alive — is an Al-Qaeda terrorist and mentor of the Killer Shrink of Fort Hood. He is also a middle-class American-born Muslim, as is his protégé, Maj. Nidal Hasan.

Awlaki was the imam of the Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, an affluent suburb of Washington D.C. In addition to Maj. Hasan, he counted among his parishioners two of the 9-11 hijackers and an undetermined number of other radicals who have since moved on to Pakistan and other locations to further their training and enhance their careers.

According to the conventional wisdom, all of these men — many of them American-born, living in the land of opportunity, possessed of a good education and having ample financial resources — should not have become radicalized. The “underlying causes” theory of Islamic terrorism did not apply to them: they weren’t poor and illiterate, they didn’t live in Third World hellholes, and they weren’t surrounded from birth by wild-eyed fanatics and Muslim fundamentalists. By all rights they should have been poster boys for integration into the Western mainstream. They should have been eager to do ecumenical outreach and demonstrate by example that Islam is a modern, tolerant religion of peace.

The same could be said of Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Lap Bomber of Flight 253. Mr. Abdulmutallab comes from a well-to-do “moderate” Muslim family in Nigeria, and enjoyed a privileged existence while attending university in London. He had everything a young man might want, so why should he turn to terrorism? Where were the “root causes” in the Mutallab family?

Whenever a new terrorism event breaks into the headlines — the “Toronto 17” were notable in this regard — the MSM twists itself into devoted multicultural pretzels attempting to detect a commonality that leads promising young people to plot such heinous acts. The books they read, the movies they watch, the food they eat, the bands they listen to — anything to avoid identifying the obvious fact that they all share a devotion to fundamentalist Islamic ideology.

If stupidity is performing the same action repeatedly while expecting a different result, then our mainstream media must be total morons. But they’re not giving up: the search is still on for the occluded “underlying causes” and the mythical “moderate Muslim”. They’re desperate to find a solution to the problem of Islamic terrorism that does not require them to identify the true source: Islam itself.

Take, for example, this article from The Washington Post:

Muslim Leaders Try to Counter Radicals’ Influence on Youths

by Tara Bahrampour

The adults thought they’d done all they could. They had condemned extremist ideology, provided ski trips and Scout meetings, and encouraged young people to speak openly about how to integrate their religion, Islam, with the secular world.

But five college-age Northern Virginia men were arrested in Pakistan this month after allegedly being recruited over the Internet to join al-Qaeda, and many Washington area Muslims are questioning whether condemnation is enough.

Here we are, two paragraphs into the article, and already the moral and spiritual blindness of the author assumes an astonishing clarity. This piece was published in the “Faith” section of the Post, so one would expect the editors and the author to have at least a glimmer of understanding about what religious faith means. But Ms. Bahrampour evidences the core tenets of the devout secularist, assuming that “ski trips and Scout meetings” and “speaking openly” about one’s religious feelings are a way to counter Islamic extremism.

How could such trivial materialism hope to compete with pure and pristine devotion to the exalted transcendence of Allah? One does not address the ecstatic experience of immanent divinity by baking brownies or collecting canned goods for shut-ins!

True religious zealots can only sneer at the stupidity and emptiness of such a viewpoint.

Unfortunately, the well-meaning secularist can use no other vocabulary nor adopt a different viewpoint, because this is the only one she has. The light is better here under the street lamp, so this is where her car keys will surely be found.

Mustafa Abu Maryam, a Muslim youth leader who has known the arrested men since 2006, said he was alarmed by their decision to go to Pakistan after allegedly exchanging coded e-mails with a recruiter for the Pakistani Taliban. “I always thought that they had a firm grasp on life and that they rejected extremism or terrorism,” Maryam said of the Alexandria men.

Mosques and Islamic organizations across the United States regularly issue statements rejecting violence and fringe ideologies. But after the arrests, Muslim leaders have been scrambling to fill what they describe as a gap in their connection with young people, searching for new ways to counter the influence of the extremists whom young people might encounter, especially online.

When mosques and Islamic organizations “issue statements”, these press releases and handouts are intended for a non-Muslim audience. But what do the imams of these same mosques say in their Friday sermons to their assembled flock? Is this what is said in books, pamphlets, tapes, and videos distributed in their mosques?

Extreme separatist and jihad-oriented literature is routinely distributed in the most “mainstream” American mosques. Wahhabist propaganda, created by the Muslim Brotherhood, funded and disseminated by Saudi sources, is made widely available in educational materials used in middle-class Muslim communities throughout the country.
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Anything more than a cursory look would reveal that “radical” Islam is the norm, and “moderate” Islam — to the extent that it can be found outside of the CAIR talking heads on TV — is the exception.

So who do we blame? The Internet, of course!

“I’m really concerned about what the Internet is doing to my young people,” said Mohamed Magid, imam at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling. “I used to not be worried about the radicalism of our youth. But now, after this, I’m worried more.”


Now, Magid said, “I have to be a virtual imam,” meaning that Muslim groups need a larger and more effective online presence. Referring to extremists, he said: “Twenty-four hours, they’re available. I want to be able to respond to that.”

And, again, the search for that elusive “counterweight”:

Until now, many Muslim leaders have focused on what they considered external threats to young people, such as Islamophobia or the temptations of modern, secular life. Now they say it is time to look inward, to provide a counterweight to those who misinterpret Koranic verses to promote violence — and to learn what rhetoric and methods appeal to young people.

This touches on the CAIR taking points again, insisting that the radicals “misinterpret Koranic verses” to create their dastardly ideology.

But what if this is not true? What if the radicals are in fact disseminating the correct interpretation of the Koran, according to the scholarly consensus within Islam itself?

All the evidence suggests that they are. Traditional scholarship and the weight of all four mainstream schools of Islamic law agree with the radicals. Unfortunately for the moderates, they are the ones who are out of step with the Koran. In any doctrinal argument, a Salafist will pin them to the floor in no time. The radicals have the full weight of scripture, theology, law, and tradition to back them up.

The is nothing in “radical” Islam that diverges even a millimeter from traditional authority.

And the radicals are more effective than the mainstream in using the materialist infidel media to lure new recruits:

Radicals “seem to understand our youth better than we do,” said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation. “They use hip-hop elements for some who relate to that.” Bray said “seductive videos” gradually lure young people, building outrage over atrocities committed against Muslims. Extremist videos “play to what we call in the Muslim youth community ‘jihad cool’ — a kind of machismo that this is the hip thing to do.”

When employed by “moderates”, ski trips and Scout troops lead to… what? More ski trips, and maybe some snorkeling and community action dinners. Perhaps a series of charity fundraisers and voter registration drives.

But the Salafists use hip-hop and other secular brummagem to attract young people to the purity and divine ecstasy of the immutable magnificence of Allah.

What can assimilated Muslims possibly offer to distract these “youths” from all that austere glory?

For some, a new approach cannot come too soon. Zaki Barzinji, 20, a Sterling native and former president of Muslim Youth of North America, said mosques are “sort of in the Stone Age when it comes to outreach. Their youth programs are not attractive, not engaging…. They’re shooting in the dark because it’s always adults who are planning this outreach.”


Barzinji said Muslim groups should create online forums where young Muslims can find answers from authoritative sources. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman at the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he spent a recent day at work with a copy of “The Social Media Bible,” trying to figure out how to do just that.

One idea: a Web portal offering video explanations of Koranic verses that are sometimes misinterpreted by radicals, as well as suggestions of what Hooper called “positive things you can do to rectify injustice.”

I’ve got news for Messrs. Barzinji and Hooper: there are already web portals galore that offer ample explanations, video and otherwise, of Koranic scriptures. No curious young Muslim, eager to look online for information about his native faith, need go without instruction.

Unfortunately, virtually all close examinations of Koranic scripture and the traditions that surround it lead unavoidably to the same conclusions that the “radicals” draw.

Misinterpretations of the Koran lead to “moderate” Islam. Correct, time-tested, imam-approved interpretation leads to the mandate to wage jihad in the cause of Allah so that a worldwide Caliphate may be established.

Or perhaps Zaki Barzinji and Ibrahim Hooper are already aware of this fact, since the Muslim Youth of North America is affiliated with ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America, and both ISNA and CAIR are unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial, and thus fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the “moderate” Muslim leaders nailed the issue:

But some advocate a more adventuresome approach, borrowing from the extremists’ methods. “A 20-year-old, he’s not satisfied with a canned food drive to solve the world’s problems,” said a religious leader whose mosque would not permit him to be quoted by name. “You’ve got to give them something more, even a little macho.

“These boys who got busted… they want to be baaaad. You’ve got to be as bad as the jihadis. You’ve got to show them jumping out of helicopters. This ain’t no Peace Corps.”

No, it ain’t. And you’re not going to lure those misguided “youths” away from the cause of jihad unless you can offer an alternative that is just as appealing.

Your alternative would have to offer something as attractive as blowing up Jews and slitting infidel throats and spreading the cause of Allah to the entire world.

What is there in “moderate” Islam — or anything else, for that matter — that could possibly compete?

Hat tip: Esther.


Dymphna said...

An excellent fisk of the terminally clueless...maybe even the determinedly clueless in our media.

Who wants clues when they're ugly and you don't like the meaning or what it says about you? Heck no, might as well go back to rooting around in the rubbish under the street light. At least you lookbusy...

This sentence stood out for me:

True religious zealots can only sneer at the stupidity and emptiness of such a viewpoint...

That's a universal statement about religious experience in general, though it could be phrased a bit differently if you're talking about dyed-in-the-wool secularists (rather than the Salafists). The devout secularist never met a spiritual statement that didn't make them want to flee from the unease it engenders.

After reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's long description of the deep religiosity of her girlhood, one understands the purely spiritual aspects of Islam that attract smart young people like her. You come away with the sense of having glimpsed an immature, adolescent but deeply stirring movement of a human being who strives to overcome the weight of an every-day reality in order to experience the profound reality behind it all.

Thus, in talking about spiritual development, which I'd not often do in front of a secularist readership, I'd tweak your sentence a bit (my words bracket any terrorism for the sake of discussion):

Profound religious experience can only sigh at the opaque and empty melancholy of the secularist viewpoint...

Those violent dudes who are willing to blow themselves to bits in order to destroy others demonstrate well how spiritual creativity or experience can be horribly perverted into mortal destruction.

There is much in our Western culture that is perverted and trivial and ugly. However, that's one streetlight I refuse to stand near.

Violent islamists have challenged us to become more real, to move beyond team sports, reality TV, and shallow serial relationships. I wonder if we have the moral fiber to do may be the case that our spiritual selves have long withered under the onslaught of consumerist America.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

Why can't our young people pick up some sense of the need for self preservation on the Internet?

Ron Russell said...

It's becoming increasing clear that the call from the minaret is "moderation in pursuit of Islam is no virtue and extremism in defense of Jihad is no vice". It does seem that Islam and not radicalism is the problem>

Anonymous said...

All this comes from the apathy of our people who are too lazy to pick up the Quran and Hadiths and read. The new season of Lost is by far more important to them. Thinking of it, if I wouldn't be an European, I'd be disgusted by this pathetic way of life and and lack of values too. All this would actually be sort of amusing to me - the new Desperate Housewives episode being more important than the health of the children... Those that have any anyway.

In Hoc Signo Vinces† said...


"Violent islamists have challenged us to become more real, to move beyond team sports, reality TV, and shallow serial relationships. I wonder if we have the moral fiber to do that..."

Other than the political elite having a timely seismic shift in mindset, present secular politics or a anti neoliberal movement might not be able to gain enough political traction to bring about a reversal or a way forward, the danger is that we descend into a convoluted political battle and the islamists stand back, instigate and enjoy the spectacle while we tear each other apart and then scavenge the victory from the ruins.

Modern secular politics may not have the moral glue to bond, motavate and strengthen all the unraveled threads of British society. The pseudo individualism and bulimic deliberation has afflicted and corrupted the political will.

For these and many other reasons secular politics alone may not be enough to dislodge neoliberalism, as it is so deeply entrenched you would have to backfill the trench.

To prevail, Christianity.

Gort said...

The Baron wrote:

"If stupidity is performing the same action repeatedly while expecting a different result . . . ."

It isn't stupidity. It is insanity or some form of mental illness - a worldview that is somehow foreign or antithetical to rational, logical thought.