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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paris attacks were not 'nihilism' but sacred strategy

LEADING commentator Janet Daley's article in Saturday's TelegraphThe West is at war with a death cult’ stands for everything that is woeful about European elites’ response to Islamic jihad.

It is a triumph of religious illiteracy.
Janet Daley has called ISIS a 'death cult'

The jihadist enemy, she asserts, is utterly unintelligible, so beyond encompassing in ‘coherent, systematic thought’ that no vocabulary can describe it: ‘This is just insanity’, she writes. Because the enemy is ‘hysterical’, lacking 'rational demands', 'negotiable limits,’ or ‘intelligible objectives’ Daley claims it is pointless to subject its actions to any form of historical, social or theological analysis, for no-one should attempt to ‘impose logic on behaviour that is pathological’.

Despite this, Daley then ventures to offer analysis of and explanations for ISIS’ actions, but in doing so she relies upon her own conceptual categories, not those of ISIS.

Her explanations therefore fall wide of the mark.



Daley writes: ‘We face a violent and highly contagious madness that believes the killing of civilians is a moral act.’  Here she appeals to Western concepts of war, reflected, for example, in the Geneva Convention, which provides detailed principles for the ‘protection of civilian persons’.

Yet the first step in understanding a cultural system alien to one’s own, is to describe it in its own terms.

ISIS does not subscribe to the Geneva Convention.  Its actions and strategies are based upon medieval Islamic laws of jihad, which make no use of the modern Western concept of ‘civilian’.

They do, however, refer to the category of disbelievers (mushrik or kafir).
ISIS believes that killing disbelievers is a moral act, in accordance, for example, with Sura 9:5 of the Qur’an, which states :‘Fight and kill the idolators (mushrik) wherever you find them'.


 Not nihilism

Daley writes: ‘The enemy has stated explicitly that it does not revere life at all’ and ‘Civilians are not collateral damage in this campaign: their deaths are the whole point.’  She goes on to lament that the latest French attacks lack any purpose, but are ‘carried out for the sheer nihilistic thrill of it’.

The claim that ISIS does not ‘revere life’ seems to refer to any number of statements by Islamic radicals, including an ISIS militant who vowed to ‘fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies’, and boasted that ISIS ‘loves death like you love life’ (see here).  This is a theological reference to a series of verses in the Qur’an in which Jews are criticised for desiring life (Sura 2:94-96, 62:6-8).

According to the Qur’an, loving life is a characteristic of infidels (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27) because it causes them to disregard the importance of the next life.  The taunt much used by jihadis, ‘We love death like you love life’,  implies that jihadis are bound for paradise while their enemies are hell-bound.

The point of these statements is that Muslims are willing to fight to the death, while their infidel enemies will turn back in battle. This is not about reverence for life, but about who has the will to win. This has nothing to do with nihilism, which is a belief that there are no values, nothing to be loyal to, and no purpose in living. In fact ISIS fighters have strong and clear loyalties and values, alien though they may be to those of Europe.

Daley’s claim that the deaths are ‘the whole point’ is also mistaken. While it is true that the jihadis consider killing infidels a meritorious act, potentially earning the killer a place in paradise (see here), and they consider being killed in battle against infidels a ticket to paradise, in fact the killings do serve a strategic purpose. This is to make infidels afraid, and thereby to weaken their will to resist Islamic dominance.

This strategy is commended by the Qur’an, for example in Sura 8:12, 'I shall cast dread into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike above (their) necks and strike (off) all their fingers!', as well as by the successful example of Muhammad in fighting the Jews of Medina, referred to in Sura 33:26-27, ‘He brought down from their fortifications those of the People of the Book who supported them, and cast dread into their hearts. You killed a group (of them), and took captive (another) group. And he caused you to inherit their land, their homes, and their wealth, and a land you had not set foot on.’  A similar passage is Sura 59:2, which ISIS has in fact been quoting in its celebrations of the Paris carnage.

It may seem to Daley that ISIS’ often-stated intention of defeating the West is fanciful, but the point is to understand ISIS, and as far as it is concerned, these deadly attacks are instrumental in weakening the will of infidels and hastening eventual victory.

Daley wonders what possible point these attacks could serve. She speculates:  '… what is the alternative that is being demanded? Sharia law? The subjection of women? An end to liberal democracy? Are any of these things even within the bounds of consideration? What could be accomplished by national self-doubt or criticism at this point, when there is not even a reasonable basis for discussion with the enemy?'  It is hardly a secret that the ultimate goal of ISIS is to bring non-Muslims everywhere  to convert to Islam or live under an Islamic caliphate as dhimmis. Sharia law and the subjection of women are part and parcel of this.

It is odd that Daley laments having no reasonable basis for negotiating with the enemy.  ISIS is not playing by a Western-style negotiating rule book. It is following Muhammad’s instructions to his followers to offer three choices to infidels: conversion, surrender, or the sword.  Bin Ladin has explained that the West’s rejection of this framework is the whole reason for its conflict with what he calls ‘the authority of Islam’:
“Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue; one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice, and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: [1] either willing submission [conversion]; or [2] payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or [3] the sword, for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.” (The Al Qaeda Reader)
 It may seem unimaginable to European elites that ISIS is fighting for the goal of the surrender or conversion of Europe, but ISIS is thinking in time frames which extend to centuries, and their forebears conquered vast territories using such tactics.  A final act of conquest can be preceded by decades, or even centuries, of military raids.

While killing is currently the main mode of ISIS’ attacks inside the West, if they could they would use other tactics as well, such as taking booty and slaves or destroying infrastructure, as they have been doing in Syria and Iraq.



Daley claims it is pointless to argue with people who have no reasonable grievances, for ‘the French people did not deserve this, just as Americans did not deserve 9/11’.  However the important question is how ISIS sees its own motivations.  Their ideology teaches them that infidels deserve death, simply by virtue of their unbelief.  This has nothing to do with France’s history of colonialism or its treatment of Muslim minorities.  ISIS needed no appeal to grievances to justify killing and enslaving Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, so why should they view the people of France any differently?  Their objection to Europeans is that they are not Muslims, and their objection to European states is that they do not implement sharia law.



It is irresponsible and dangerous to claim that a tenacious enemy is insane and incomprehensible. To refuse to acknowledge the ideology of ISIS, and to deny its relevance is tantamount to a death-wish.
Like so many other revivalist Islamic groups, ISIS believes that it will be successful if it stays faithful to its divinely-mandated goals and tactics.  It believes the nations of Europe are morally corrupt, weak infidels who love life too much to fight a battle to the death with stern Muslim soldiers who have set their hearts on paradise.  It believes Europe stands on the wrong side of history.

To combat this ideology it is necessary for Europe to prove ISIS wrong on all counts. It must show strength, not weakness. It must have confidence in its cultural and spiritual identity. It must be willing to fight for its survival. It must show that it believes in itself enough to fight for its future. It must defend its borders.  It must act like someone who intends to win an interminably long war against an implacable foe.

There is a great deal Europe could have done to avert this catastrophe.  It could, long ago, have challenged the Islamic view of history which idolised jihad and its intended outcome, the dhimma.  It could have demanded that Islam renounce its love affair with conquest and dominance.  It could have encouraged Muslims to follow a path of self-criticism leading to peace.  This lost opportunity is what Bat Ye’or referred to in a prescient 1993 interview as the ‘relativization of religion, a self-critical view of the history of Islamic imperialism’.

Instead the elites of Europe embarked on decades of religiously illiterate appeasement and denialism.

There is still much that European states could do to defeat ISIS.  They could, for example, inflict catastrophic military failure upon it as a powerful counter-argument to its theology of success.  This will not deliver decisive, final victory against jihadism, but it will make the supremacist claims of ISIS less credible and hurt its recruitment.  Islam’s laws of war allow Muslims to suspend their battle with infidels temporarily if there is no immediate prospect of victory and the risks to their cause are too great.

Europe also needs to act to suppress incitement of jihadi ideology by its clients, including the anti-Israeli jihadism of the Palestinian Authority.  It must put more pressure on the militarily vulnerable Gulf states to stop funding Islamic radicalism throughout the Middle East and exporting jihad-revering versions of Islamic theology throughout the whole world.

One hope for Europe is that Islamic populations will get tired of the doctrine of jihad and all its bitter fruits. There are some signs that this is already happening, and many of the Muslims who are now seeking asylum in their hundreds of thousands will have come to this conclusion.  However it seems likely that Muslim communities now established within Europe will be the last to reconsider their dogmas and their take on history, because they have not had to suffer first-hand the harsh realities of life under Islamic dystopias such as the ISIS ‘caliphate’ or Iran’s Islamic Revolution.  A 2014 opinion poll found that among French 18-24 year olds, the Islamic State had an approval rating of 27%, which must include the overwhelming majority of young French Muslim men.  For Europe, the challenge from within will be more enduring and intractable than the challenge from without.

Nevertheless, European states could still do much on their own turf. They could ban Saudi and other Middle Eastern funding to Islamic organisations, including mosques. They could stop appeasing Islamists in their midst. They could, even at this late hour, demand that the large and rapidly growing Muslim communities now well-established across Europe engage in constructive self-criticism of their religion, for the sake of peace.

This article first appeared in Lapido Media.

Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness.


  1. Thank you Mark for this succinct and accurate analysis. Like a breath of fresh air after being rained on by the medias very confused and confusing comments. The West must learn to start thinking like muslims, and familiarise themselves with Islamic doctrine to understand their motivations. Western laws and codes I agree are mainly worthless in combatting jihad. Words like assimilation, democracy, freedom, charity, and others all seem to have a very different meaning.

  2. How do you deal with someone who, rather than fearing death, actually wants to die as a martyr? The answer is simple - find something they really DO fear! Islamic jihadists are happy to die in jihad because they believe they will get a direct pass to heaven where 72 virgins await them. Whether they win the battle or die fighting they won't lose.
    However, they have an Achille's Heel - if they are killed by an 'inferior' woman, they lose the entry to heaven and all the virgins.
    That's one of the reasons the Kurdish forces do so well fighting against ISIS - they have female soldiers and their battle cry puts the fear of God into them because they'll never know if the bullet that could kill them was fired by a woman and in an instant, instead of heaven and all those virgins it's hell for all eternity. I wonder how more effective the bombing campaigns against the jihadists by Russia and the West would be f there were a number of female pilots flying the missions and that was widely publicized? We'd soon find out how brave the Jihadists really are! How much would they really be willing to risk in the name of jihad if there was the real possibility they might lose everything for all eternity. Would they be so quick to celebrate the martyrdom of their dead comrades and children if there was a real measure of doubt about what fate actually befell them?

    1. Is there actually a basis of that in their texts? I've heard so far 2 versions, that this is just in the case of ISIS and generally. So I was wondering since you also mention it here, if it's just ISIS and why or all jihadist terrorist groups?

    2. I've never come across a basis for such an idea.

  3. Don't bitch too hard about the European media, One of our 'leading' Australian TV stations reported on the matter live with a Dutch Flag superimposed.

  4. "You may not be interested in religious war, but religious war is interested in you." - @walterkirn

  5. Excellently said. Rather than being incomprehensible, jihadist ideology is all too comprehensible. The problem is that the West is unable to accept it, given its intellectual descent into relativism.

    Islam is an ideology of total theocratic domination. And it's in no hurry to finish its task. But to ascribe to militant Islam a random nihilism shows no appreciation of Islam's texts or history.

    The huge problem for current Western thinking is to come to terms with the true spiritual/political content and purpose of Islam. For as long as we hear statements such as: there is no clash of worldviews or civilizations, the West underestimates its peril.

    Islam was spread at the point of the sword. It has been present in power on the continent of Europe before, and it could be again. We have already welcomed in the potential source of our undoing, as a civilization, with our substantial Muslim populations, which must be continually told that we don't hold them responsible for the behavior of an aberrant minority.

    If Islam is a religion of peace, and if jihad is anathema to all right thinking Muslims, why is the silence from our Muslim communities and from those in the Middle East and Africa so deafening?

    Our politicians do us no favors by speaking in appeasing terms, as though Islam had learned coexistence.

  6. Getting Muslims to self-critcize their own beliefs is a non-starter. That will take an act of God. Good luck with that.

  7. Hello Mark
    I have read some different oplinions about the life of Jews in Islamic countries before 1900 that maintain it was better than in Christian countries. Did the jizzya tax always apply? I know that Christian persecution of Jews was a sad reality, but the truth seems a bit elusive due to possible moral equivalence arguments. Have you ever discussed these historical issues or could you suggest a book or article that might supply further information?

    1. What Christian persecution of the Jews. Jesus Christ NEVER preached that.

    2. Jesus did not preach about persecuting anyone, but Christians somehow managed to declare Jews as heretics & therefore kill them horribly if they didn't convert. Have you heard of the "Spanish Inquistion"? If not look it up on Google etc.
      Then there were wars between Catholics & Protestants over the years. At least that stopped long ago.

    3. Hi John - sorry I seem to have overlooked your question. My book The Third Choice discusses these issues. It might be helpful as a place to start. - Mark

  8. Raising the question of 'Self Criticizing' is a start! It is better than just standing there with your mouth open, in utter disbelief about events like what took place in Paris!

    More people need to blow that horn!

    It will not change their foundational beliefs but it will prompt them to start thinking. As humans they are capable! It will at least make those who have never entertained the hesitate on the issue just long enough to halt at indiscriminate murder. It just may be enough time to save someone's life!

    Then maybe later... there would be second thoughts and second thoughts may lead to a reevaluation of the system of thought that they subscribe to, at least for them to doubt themselves and inadvertently blurt out ... 'is this right? Then maybe a conversion in their minds as to why the carnage at all... It is a start!

    We cannot just hold to the thought that says..."why sit we here until we die..." attitude which makes for generating fear that the terrorist hope for!

  9. In previous centuries, and most of the 20th, it was understood that islam is incompatible with western/Christian values, and muslims were kept out of the west. It was inconvievable that a muslim population should be imported to the west. With the death of Christianity, the rise of left think and multiculturalism, the rational thought derived from reality and empirical evidence has been denied. That is why the foolish Europeans have imported millions of muslims, and why America is stupidly considering the same. Evern if there atre "good" (behaviorally,) muslims, the underlying philosophy of conquest, murder, rape and genocide exists in the "holy" book Koran. It is because of this that no muslim can ever be truly trusted, since their underlying ideology calls for the destruction of anything alien to it.

  10. The major problem in my opinion is that islam and muslims are only viewed from the perspective of terror and terrorist. This is not the case why is christianity not judged on the activities of the crusades, its unfair to judge a religion on the opinion and parralel beliefs of a certain sect. Terror groups in the world do not constitute the whole of the muslim population but rather a microscopic section that thinks and views islam in a different way that has to do with terror and killing of mushriks. To say that islam promotes the killing of all non muslims while also stating that the quran also stated that there is no compulsion in religion is a bit confussing and means that islam contradicts itself. The verses you are qouting to explain isis ideology of killing are not always reffering to muslims and non muslims of the modern era but are speaking about the conflict that insued between the prophet and the the arabian pagans in makkah who opposed him and even threatened the early muslims and even there it was stated that you are not to kill them unless and until they kill you. So i believe that its not a mattter of self criticism or consolidated military effort or bombing by females that will solve isis crisis but rather better understanding of wether islam and understanding wether those fighting in the name of islam are actually fighting for its cause, the rationale here is of isis bomb half of europe and kill the majority or all of the non muslim civilians then who is left to be converted i believe the isis crisis is more of a political crisis from an oppresed people than a religious one and the solvijg of the political crisis in these areas is what would make the war go away. Note: jihad literrally means striving in the cause of god not killing u can perform jihad by preaching or giving social services to those in need it does not neccesarily mean fighting but rather striving in the cause of religion, also the jihadis resolve that when they die they go to heaven is not reduced because they are killed by women from the context in which they collect their belief it doesnot matter wether you are killed by a child or a woman if you die while striving for the relgion you go to heaven. Thanks

    1. The crusaders were not Christians. they were catholics. Alsothe teachings of The Lord Jesus Christ contradicts with crusaders's actions. However what ISIS is doing is exactly what their "holy book" commands them to do. Also The crusades were done hundreds of years ago and yet isis still does that...Goodnight

    2. unfortunately i find that hard to comprehend how can you say catholics are not christians, if that is the case then terror groups should not be associated with islam too

    3. Christianity existed long before it was adopted and corrupted by the Romans into the the official state religion (you will note the 'Roman' in Roman Catholic Church), it was known as 'The Way'. The Crusades were a direct response to 400 years of Musul expansionism and belligerence on its frontiers.

    4. A.T. appears to know nothing of the "principle of abrogation" and that the verses of the Koran are not laid out in chronological order. The early verses of Mecca are believed to have been cancelled by later belligerent verses, thus the apparent contradictions are resolved by this principle in the mind of the jihadist.

  11. The root of the problem is not with Muslims or with Christians, not with Arabs or Europeans, not with privilege or oppression. The root of the problem is religion. Not a particular religion, not a distortion of a religion, but religion per se. Belief cannot overcome evil, because belief itself is evil.

    Eliminating all religions and all gods is the only way forward.

    The way to begin is to listen seriously to religious doctrine, to really pay attention for the first time to what is being said, and to allow your natural reaction to emerge - laughter. Religion is ridiculous, and it is slowly killing us all.

    Religion does not deserve to be taken seriously. Religious beliefs do not deserve respect. Please do your part to laugh at all religion and to stop giving it respect, both privately and in public. Your laughter and ridicule may help to save the world.

    1. I beg to differ. All human thought is belief, as all thinking is based on individual interpretation and reaction to incomplete and/or flawed sensory data. All belief cannot be stated as being evil, as this is the judgment of one against the thoughts of all including oneself. It is impossible to "eliminate all religions and all gods" and still exist. You are thus making yourself into a "god". Religion is not killing us all. It is a symptom of a much deeper illness. An illness that every finite being suffers from, including you, and me. The real problem is each individual's insane belief that life is possible apart from the source of life. Jihadism is another warped form of this illness. It believes that one can ultimately promote life (righteously) by seeking the death of others. As no one can ultimately know the heart of another, such action is ultimately murder. Some "religions" have called this human nature problem sin. I prescribe that it is a sickness that only a perfect God can fix. Not a god of war, but a god of love, for a warring heart is a symptom of the illness, not the cure.

    2. Why is it impossible to eliminate all religions? Communism and other dorms of government did a pretty food job albeit ruthlessly. China now moves forard as a county and doesn't celebrate the cultural revolution that for them to their current point. All religions are backwards in that they look backwards for inspiration to live into the future. How dumb is that! We should be looking to the future for inspiration and longevity of our species and that's how we need to start thinking to a species.


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