New from Prager University, in this video Dr. Haroon Ullah does a good job of debunking two of the myths about why Muslims become terrorists, poverty and a lack of education. He does so by showing that terrorists often come from well-off and well-educated middle class families. (Remember that the 9/11/01 jihadis almost all came from such backgrounds.)
He then gives what he sees as the real reasons young Muslims turn to jihad: a revulsion at their own societies’ failings and corruption, a need to blame others, and a resort to a belief system that offers simple, clear, and absolute rules for making things better. I think he mostly gets this right, but more on that after the video:
Like I said, I think Dr. Ullah mostly gets this right, and the comparison of Islamic extremism to the appeal of Nazism, Fascism, and Bolshevism is apt: all offer simple solutions to the challenges of a complex world; all offer conspiratorial enemies responsible for our woes (Jews, capitalists, or both); and all promise paradise at the end of the line.
But he only glances against the core problem with Islamic extremism: Islam itself.
Islam’s belief system, like the ideologies of the “Isms” mentioned above, requires war against the outsider — “jihad fi sabil Allah,” or “War for Allah’s sake.” It declares an entire class of people, Jews, its eternal enemy, who at the end of days will side with the Devil. Its rules –Sharia law– are totalitarian, and its founder commanded death for any man who left the faith.
Dr. Ullah says that imams should preach that terrorist violence only causes misery in this world, that it does not make things better. He also asserts that Islamic preachers must preach that such acts will lead the terrorist to Hell, not Paradise.
He’s right, but imams who do that would be up against a big challenge: their own religion. From the Qur’an and the hadiths through over 1,400 years of learned commentary, Islam has provided theological justification for jihadist terror. Even Muhammad himself said he had been made “victorious with terror” (Sahih Bukhari 4.52.220) and his deeds, including the violent ones, are considered good examples for all time. If an imam were to say “violence is wrong,” the extremist could point to dozens of examples commanding violence or showing violence as a pious act, even at times against other Muslims. If he says those engaging in violence are condemned to Hell, the extremist believer could counter with Sura 9, verse 111 of the Qur’an:
GOD has bought from the believers their lives and their money in exchange for Paradise. Thus, they fight in the cause of GOD, willing to kill and get killed. Such is His truthful pledge in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Quran—and who fulfills His pledge better than GOD? You shall rejoice in making such an exchange. This is the greatest triumph.
Again, jihad fi sabil Allah. War for Allah’s sake. Tell him he’s going to Hell, and the jihad-terrorist can point to this and other places in the Qur’an, the hadiths, and scholarly commentaries ancient and modern that promise him instead unending pleasures in the afterlife.
I’m not saying Dr. Ullah and his hypothetical moderate imams are wrong or that it can’t be done, but Islam and its orthodox interpretation are working powerfully against them.