The hashtag “terrorismhasnoreligion” started trending on twitter immediately proceeding the devastating events in Paris on Friday night. It was of course inevitable, but nevertheless I still watched on, exasperated. Let’s be honest with one another here, religion is one of the main sources of distress and anguish across the globe. If it’s not the Catholic Church preaching against homosexuality or propagating AIDS across Africa with its anti-contraception ramblings; if it’s not the Hindu Cast System encouraging the appalling treatment of millions of ‘untouchables’ in India; if it’s not Buddhist Monks murdering Muslims or setting themselves on fire in Burma; then it’s Jihadists seeking to implement Theocratic dictatorships across the world. Clearly, much terrorism has a religious source.
The events of Friday evening illustrates that the biggest threat Western civilization faces is Islamic Fundamentalism. The threat we face however is dwarfed by the threat to progress in the Middle East and Africa that fundamentalism poses. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Nusra, HAMAS, Boko Haram and Al-Shabab, is to name but a few violent Islamist organizations seeking to impose their influence on these regions.
So why is Islamic Fundamentalism the biggest threat to the Western world? Well, I also believe that uncontrolled capitalism and corporatism is potentially just as big a threat to the Western world. However, this trails behind in second place to Islamism because at least we can criticise corporatism. At least we can criticise uncontrolled capitalism. People can acknowledge and recognise the problems with these systems. Therefore, we have the potential to stop them before they spiral out of control. Unfortunately, we cannot criticize Islamism without regressives conflating that with the criticism of Muslims and labelling you any number of undesirable things. Hashtags such as “terrorismhasnoreligion” highlight how we have not yet acknowledged the root cause of religious extremism – the text.
Piers Morgan and people like him contribute to the problem. His comment that the terrorist’s weren’t “real Muslims” does not help. Aside from the absolute cheek of claiming to know what a “real Muslim” is, he completely ignores the fact that ISIS can find justification for much of what they do in their religious texts. Whether that be in the Qu’uran or the Hadith.
Piers cannot, nor can anyone else, claim to know what a “real Muslim” is. There are many different interpretive traditions within Islam and there is no one recognized authority. Islam has no pope, and so it has no absolute authority. Therefore, there is no accepted template as to what a ‘proper’ Muslim is. Of course, we’d all love it if Muslims everywhere were as tolerant and liberal as those in Britain. However, they are not. This is because, quite frankly, British Muslims ignore and gloss over those parts of the religious texts that preach evil. They focus only on the positive parts because they are good people. Unfortunately, ISIS revels in the less harmonious parts. So to deny that the evil teachings exist at all or that terrorists are in some way mentally deficient is denying the problem of what is actually written down as the word of God.
Christianity had a reformation. It challenged the difficult texts, and overcame many problems. Islam is yet to have such a large scale movement that directly challenges the text. This is why Muslim reformers are so important, and why they should not be shunned by the Muslim community for “demonizing” their religion. They are not demonizing Islam; they are simply highlighting the difficulties the religion faces. The great sensitivities around this area must be overcome if we are to make any progress. And it must be Muslims who lead the way.
For those claiming that the Paris attacks were purely political and nothing to do with religion, let’s go through the statement that ISIS released in response:
“The Very High All Said: “It is He who expelled the ones who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture from their homes at the first gathering. You did not think they would leave, and they thought that their fortresses would protect them from Allah ; but [the decree of] Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts [so] they destroyed their houses by their [own] hands and the hands of the believers. So take warning, O people of vision.” Surah 59 verse 2.”
So, immediately ISIS have justified their actions through scripture. They make sure to tell us that they had a divine blessing to carry out these acts. Not only that, but this quote reinforces what should already be obvious – that first and foremost, these people died because they are “disbelievers” and do not conform to ISIS’ version of Islam. We continue.
“In a blessed attack for which Allah facilitated the causes for success, a faithful group of the soldiers of the Caliphate, may Allah dignify it and make it victorious, launched out, targeting the capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe, Paris”.
This sentence clearly highlights the religious war that ISIS believe themselves to be waging on the West. The fact that they believe Paris is the “carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe” shows the religious nature of their anger and hate. Apparently, they disapprove of Paris uniquely within Europe, as they name it as the “capital of prostitution and obscenity”. I suspect this statement is referring to the depictions of their Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hedbo. If so, it seems no amount of punishment will ever be enough for those who flout their blasphemy laws.
“Youths who divorced the world and went to their enemy seeking to be killed in the cause of Allah, in support of His religion and His Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and his charges, and to put the nose of His enemies in the ground.”
Now we mustn’t be so patronising as to claim to understand the reasons behind these attacks more so than those who claim responsibility. ISIS says the terrorists committed these acts “in support of His religion and His Prophet”. There we have it, in black and white. These acts were done because of their faith. For anyone claiming otherwise I ask them: why not take these people at their word?
We then have a couple paragraphs where the author of the statement simply recounts the events of the night. This is littered with religious language such as “apostates”, “crusaders” and “disbelievers”, further emphasizing the theological roots of the attack.
“Let France and those who walk in its path know that they will remain on the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State, and that the smell of death will never leave their noses as long as they lead the convoy of the Crusader campaign, and dare to curse our Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and are proud of fighting Islam in France and striking the Muslims in the land of the Caliphate with their planes, which did not help them at all in the streets of Paris and its rotten alleys. This attack is the first of the storm and a warning to those who wish to learn.”
They sign off with this rather ominous paragraph. This seems to be what the media has focussed on when reporting the statement – that the attacks were a response to the French bombardment campaign on Islamic State. This is where the idea of the events on Friday being “political in nature” comes from. No doubt this is partly accurate. However, this is the only time the aerial campaign is mentioned in the entire statement. Bear in mind also that this paragraph contains a threat to all who “dare to curse our Prophet” and break their blasphemy laws. This is the second reference to the Charlie Hedbo depictions of Mohammed. Clearly Friday’s events were also partly an attempt by ISIS to implement their blasphemy laws throughout the secular world.
So, if one were to read the statement released by ISIS then the obvious conclusion to draw would be that these attacks are as a result of religious fundamentalism. Yes, politics plays its part as it always does. But to deny that religion played any part in the attacks is outrageous. Let’s not forget what lies at the root cause behind all of ISIS’ actions – an attempt to implement a fascist, unyielding, extreme form of Islamist Theocracy across the globe.