Mr. Trump, the front running Republican Presidential Candidate asked an interesting question in his now-infamous call for all Muslim travel/immigration to the U.S. to be halted until “U.S. Representatives figure out what is going on.”
Well, Mr. Trump, we know very well what is going on, and what the Daesh Pigs, Al Qaida and others are using as excuses and ways to radicalize people. Let’s look at these issues step by step.
And, as an aside, a religious test for entrance into the United States is Unconstitutional. If we follow your plan, we stop being America.
By the way, I am officially adopting ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām, = the acronym Da’ish or Daesh (داعش, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈdaːʕiʃ]) to speak about these repulsive people. Watch the video below to find out why. From Facebook: ” [They] consider the acronym Da’ish derogatory because with the appropriate grammatical conjugation it sounds similar to the Arabic words Daes, “a bigot who crushes something/someone underfoot”, and Dahes, “one who sows discord” They reportedly use flogging and the cutting out of tongues to punish those who use the term in areas under its control.” Daesh it is!
And I must emphasize at the beginning, nothing here is meant to excuse or defend terrorism. There can be no excuse. This is only a quest for understanding.
Radicalizing the Hopeless
It is relatively simple to radicalize those who are hopeless, or think they are hopeless. David Brooks reminded us recently of a seminal work by Eric Hoffer written in 1951 which still rings true today. In The True Believer, Hoffer demonstrates how people living in a situation they believe is hopeless are very vulnerable to manipulation. Here is an excellent summary of the book’s arguments.
Many in the Arab World, and some in the Non-Arab Muslim World live in this kind of environment. (Some of the causes for this situation will be discussed in the next section.) Add to this the conditions of years of war in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and the potential to radicalize people in those environments is very high indeed.
Most of the Arab Governments are dictatorships of one kind or another, and real freedoms are hard to come by. Jordan and Palestine stand out as more genuine democracies, but the Palestinians, as we know, have a desperate situation which must be solved for the good of both Israel and Palestine.
In the non-Arab Muslim world, such as in Pakistan and Somalia and other parts of Africa, generations of seething resentment and strife make some vulnerable to radicalization. It is easy to make the West a target for their ills. Iran, of course, is a somewhat singular case, and has its own State reasons for disliking America, while the Iranians themselves are very favorably disposed toward the West and America.
In Western Europe, the social conditions of many Muslim immigrants are often difficult. It is easy to become an American, we are a nation of Immigrants. It is not so easy to become French, German, etc. Even living in Western Countries, some Muslim immigrants feel marginalized from the surrounding society, and are seemingly unable to find adequate employment and social acceptance. They are stuck, forever being “the Other.” It does not matter whose fault this is, it is how they experience life.
All of these situations are fertile breeding grounds for legions of new “True Believers,” disempowered, hopeless people looking for a way out.
These factors certainly explain how men and women in these situations can easily be radicalized. But how does a native-born American Muslim like Syed Rizwan Farook of the 2015 San Bernardino massacre get radicalized. How did they convince him?
To answer that, we need to look at History to see what Daesh and other similar groups use as rationales to radicalize those who are not disempowered and in despair.
A Brief Primer in Islamic-Western History
There can be no real doubt that Islam began on a martial path. The Prophet Muhammad was indisputably a leader of armies, and Islam rapidly expanded through conquest in the 7th Century and after.
As history proceeded, Islam “cooled down,” and gradually become more peaceful. Today, 1,400 years later, it is, as many call the faith, a religion of Peace. The Mystical Paths of Sufism (which some claim transcends Islam) and Ismāʿīlism are deeply spiritual paths, among the most beautiful of world spiritualities.
By comparison, Judaism went through a militant phase (remember all those wars clearing Palestine after the Exodus?), as did Christianity from about 320 – through the 20th century Protestant-Catholic conflicts in Northern Ireland. Violent Christian Fundamentalist Terrorists are still an active threat in the United States. Mainstream Judaism and Christianity have cooled down too.
Many point to the Crusades as the primary example of the West’s aggression against Islam. I am not one of those.
Islamic armies had conquered many parts of what had been the lands of the Roman Empire. It was therefore quite natural that the Empire would strike back to reclaim its territory. The Roman Emperor Alexios I Komnenos appealed to the Roman Pope Urban II in 1095 requesting Western European troops to aid in his project of reconquest of lands lost to Islamic forces.
If the Western armies had been disciplined and loyal to the Imperial Throne, it would have been a very different outcome. Tragically, however, the Westerners were loyal in lip service only, and plundered and pillaged their way to Jerusalem, setting up their own Western Kingdoms. In Jerusalem and elsewhere the Crusaders indiscriminately killed Muslims, Jews and Middle Eastern Christians. The streets ran red with blood.
Naturally, the Crusades are a bitter memory for Middle Eastern Muslims, but they fought back, and because of the internal divisions of the Christians, were able to finally regain all of their territory, and eventually conquer the Roman Empire itself in 1453. They understood at the time that this was simply the Empire Game.
I think that the stigma of the Crusades is largely optics today, and not a real source of recruitment. For that, we must look to the much more recent past.
The Decaying Ottoman Empire and World War I
By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Ottoman Empire which had occupied the Roman Capital of Constantinople in 1453 was old and decadent. Its subject peoples were restive.
During World War I, Sherif Hussein bin Ali led an Arab revolt against Ottoman Rule in 1916. The British and their allies instigated this in the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence of 1916, as part of the general war effort, since the Ottoman Empire was allied with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was a young British Officer who fought with the Arabs. In this alliance, the Triple Entente Allies (The British Empire, France and the Russian Empire) promised the Arabs their own Kingdom or Kingdoms for supporting the Allies in the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence.
At the successful completion of World War I, the British, French, and Russians did not fulfill their bargain. Indeed, they had never intended to do so. In 1916 they had negotiated a secret treaty, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided up the Arab Lands as protectorates and territories. The British also occupied and ran Egypt. So they had been lying to the Arabs all the time.
- Deep Blue: French occupation.
- Orange: British occupation.
- Green: Russian occupation.
- Light Blue: Zone “A” French protectorate.
- Light Orange: Zone “B” British protectorate.
- Violet: International zones.
When the Bolsheviks revealed the secret treachery after the Russian Revolution, the Arabs were outraged. But rather than back down, the British and French set up puppet governments in their areas. The United States stood by. The Arabs stewed.
The Anti-Communist West of the Cold War
After World War II, the United States, and the West in general, were gripped with the fear of Communism. Therefore we supported dictatorial leaders in the Middle East, so long as they were anti-Communist. Perhaps the most egregious example was the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He was put on the throne in 1941 following a British-Russian invasion which toppled the government of his father.
He was a Westernizing reformer, but brutally savage to his own people with his Secret Police. When Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddegh began in 1951 to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Industry, the West became alarmed. and in 1953, the British MI6 asked the American CIA to intervene. We did, and Mossaddegh was deposed and imprisoned, the Shar regained power, and Western oil interests were safe. But Iran and the rest of the Middle East saw how things were, and how the West acted toward them.
Our support of dictators in Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere did not endear us to the Arab peoples.
Lebanon’s experience was different. When they gained independence from France in 1943, the majority of the country was Christian. Their unwritten National Pact set up a balanced government guaranteeing all parties representation. This all fell apart during the late 20th Century and into the 21st Century due to a number of outside interventions by Syria, Israel, the PLO, Hezbollah, as well as the Lebanese Civil War. This has caused the situation of conflict despair we spoke of first.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and its Aftermath
Finally, of course, there is the case of the Balfour Declaration of 1917:
His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The basis of this was the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence which had excluded the coastal portions of the Levant (modern-day Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine) from the proposed Arab Kingdom because they were not exclusively Arab or Muslim.
Another motivation was that the movement for Zionism was strong in the United States, including two of President Wilson’s top advisors, and several of the leaders of the Russian Revolution were Jewish. Britain wanted to strengthen its alliance with both in World War I, and they also wanted Jewish support at home. This was a calculated act.
As we know, “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” did not exactly work out that way. Thus, another huge Western intervention is still a flash point.
Let me be exceedingly clear on this point:
I fully and unequivocally support the existence and security of the State of Israel. I see this as a parallel with the existence of the Eastern Catholic Churches that were lured away from their Orthodox Churches by Roman Catholic economic, political and military means (this then excludes the Russian Byzantine Catholics, the Italo-Greek Catholics, the Maronites, and the Melkite Greek Catholics as these were not coerced unions). I may not agree with the way in which many of the Eastern Catholic Churches, or Israel, were created, but I stand firm on their right to exist today.
I also fully and unequivocally support the existence and security of a sovereign, independent Palestinian State.
Israel and Palestine must bury the hatchet (and not in one another’s heads) and realize that they have every reason to be firm allies, business and regional partners. Israel is a lively and fully functioning Western Democracy. Palestine is a nascent democracy. Both are multicultural, multi-religious populations. Both must guarantee the other’s security.
In these two counties, more so than perhaps in any others, the Children of Abraham–Jews, Christians, and Muslims–have the promise of peace and prosperity with one another. Our American role would be to make sure that outside influences, other nations, weapons dealers, et al. stay out of the settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict once and for all, for the benefit of both.
Sunni vs Shia
The final piece of this historical primer is the Intrareligious War between Sunis and Shias in Islam.
I am not an Islamist, and cannot detail all the differences between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. Suffice it to make a few points:
- The dispute began in 632 at the time of the death of the Prophet. It has to do with the succession as to who would be Caliph after the Prophet. It rages even to the present day, and has been the source of tension and armed conflict for 1,400 years in the Muslim World.
- The vast majority of world Muslims are Sunni (85-90%), while some 10-15% are Shia.
- As such religious schisms often due, the simple break over the succession produced more divisions on “religious practice, traditions, and customs, often related to jurisprudence. Although all Muslim groups consider the Quran to be divine, Sunni and Shia have different opinions on hadith.” Hadith are the sayings collections attributed to the Prophet.
- The Saudis (Wahhabis–radical fundamentalists) are Sunni.
- Daesh are Salafis with a Wahabi connection, and therefore Sunni.
- Iraq is 65% Shia, and 35% Sunni among its Muslim population (95%).
- Sunnis in Iraq feel persecuted and powerless against the Shia majority government, and are therefore potential allies of Daesh.
- Iran is majority Shia.
As you can see, this is an intrareligious conflict fueled by 1,400 years of hatred. It rivals anything that Catholic-Protestant, Catholic-Orthodox, and Protestant-Orthodox conflicts ever presented within Christianity. And we are caught in the middle.
The Bush-Cheney régime (the worst Presidency in U.S. History) thoroughly screwed things up in this conflict by lying to us bald-face about WMDs in Iraq and going to war there. Then they proceeded to completely disband the Iraqi Army, many of whom are now in Daesh! Stupid, stupid, stupid!
We blundered our way right into the middle of a 1,400 year old conflict, and didn’t even arm our men and women in uniform properly with either physical arms or good intel. Good Going! They created Daesh! I guess that is about right, Daesh is what you would expect as the Love-Child of Bush and Cheney!
The Daesh Project
Daesh’s project is very simple. Turn back the clock to the year 622, year 1 of the Islamic Calendar, when the Prophet emigrated from Mecca to Medina and do it all over again, and this time, conquer the world in preparation for the Last Battle that will end the world. They are the ultimate fundamentalists, rejecting any “softening” in Islam (that is, rejecting God’s Grace in reshaping Islam into a Religion of Peace).
This fits perfectly with Hoffer’s True Believers. In the conflict regions, they are a dime a dozen, ready for the radicalizing. And the seemingly disenfranchised, wandering youth throughout the West are like rats following a Satanic Pied Piper to their enslavement among Daesh. They will get guns, and be able to dominate others!
And as for a dupe like Syed Rizwan Farook who was “living the American Dream,” they use a different tack. The history reported above is used, over and over, to show how the West, and the obvious leader of the West, the United States, is the great enemy of Islam. They play on what fears he may already have, such as homophobia, women’s independence, or any other cultural disagreements he may have with Western society, to inflame him, and give him a very simple answer, as all fundamentalisms do: it’s evil, it’s the devil, and that Great Satan’s face and hammer is the United States. France, Germany, etc.
They hammer away at him relentlessly using the facts of recent history to bolster their story until he too becomes a True Believer and is radicalized.
The very word radicalized gives us a clue about the process: from French radical, from Late Latin radicalis (“of or pertaining to the root, having roots, radical”), from Latin radix (“root”), from Proto-Italic *wrād-ī-, from Proto-Indo-European *wréh₂ds (“root”). Cognate with Ancient Greek ῥάδιξ (rhádix, “branch, twig”), Gothic 𐍅𐌰𐌿𐍂𐍄𐍃(waurts), Old Irish fren (“root”) and Old English wyrt (“herb, plant”) (English wort).
They are literally uprooting him from his native, healthy mental soil and planting him in their squalid, fetid bubbling cesspool of filth and hatred. What now courses up his roots is pure evil and lies. And he embraces the transplanting, so convinced is he.
How Can We Fix This?
So Mr. Trump, how do we fix this? Not by banning all Muslim travel to the U.S. Here are some steps:
- Facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian Two State Solution that protects both Countries as explained above. Make sure they understand they have no other option than to settle this now.
- As quickly as possible, move the United States to sustainable, green energy, so that we are 100% free from the need of any Foreign Oil or any Energy sources. In the process, the American sustainable, green energy industry will make Billions of dollars, and will assist in controlling Climate Change. This way we have no vested interest in fossil fuel resources in the Middle East.
- Big Oil and the Billionaires who keep it going must be soundly defeated and exposed as the world-destroyers they are.
- Increase our vetting procedures for all immigrants. We have great technology, we also need more intelligence on the ground.
- Stove piping of security data must be 100% eliminated. The CIA, NSA, FBI, Homeland Security, and all other Law Enforcement Agencies must stop stove piping immediately. If any official stovepipes, he or she must lose their job if they do not stop after being warned.
- The Nations of the West (and this includes Russia) must come clean and admit that we have not always acted in the best interests of the freedom, liberty and rights of Arab peoples, and of Muslims in non-Arab Muslim countries. It’s not all our fault, but we have had a significant role in screwing things up, out of greed, colonialism, and anti-Communist hysteria. We have to apologize and move forward.
- We must openly and heavily publicize the MANY protests by responsible Muslims here and around the world who are actively opposing Daesh and terrorism. There’s a lot of such statements and concrete action. We must publicly join in solidarity with these good people, and use our Media Juggernaut to put all peace-loving people on the world stage.
- I don’t think we have to worry about The Crusades. That was one Empire fighting another, perfectly normal stuff on a planet that makes the world of A Game of Thrones look like a picnic planet. I’m not a fan of the way the Crusades worked out, but today it is only bad optics.
Again, I must repeat, we are not the cause of 9/11, or San Bernardino, or any terrorism, and no terrorism is ever justifiable. Nevertheless, some of our actions in the past can be used as excuses the Daesh Pigs and others of their ilk employ to radicalize others, and we have to get out ahead of them and remove them as tools that terrorists can use to enflame and radicalize.
So let’s get to work, everybody!
Thanks for reading!
Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant