As an atheist, I find it odd when non-Muslims refer to ISIS and other similar jihadist groups as not "True Muslims" who are practicing the "True Islam."
Here's a question I have for them: if that's the case, then what exactly constitutes the "True Jedi religion?" Who are the real Jedis out there? What is the difference between the nefarious Sith who have "hijacked the Jedi religion" from its true, peaceful adherents?
For there to be such thing as the "True Islam," then, by definition, the religion, which makes metaphysical claims about the nature of reality, would have to be true. Meaning Allah would have to actually exist, and as an unbeliever your failure to subscribe to the Islamic faith would result in your damnation to eternal Hellfire. Thus, when I hear a non-Muslim, like, say, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, vociferously insist that ISIS has "nothing to do with Islam," my head feels like it's going to explode. As a former religious fundamentalist, the conceptual error is obvious to me.
Well of course we don't actually believe in such a thing. We're just trying to support the moderates in their quest to de-legitimize the radicals who are killing people. We're trying to avoid playing into the Jihadist narrative centering around the clash of civilizations.
My problem with this response is that it's inherently disingenuous, and moreover, essentially facilitates a culture of denialism between the obvious link between Islam and Islamic Terrorism. Doing so prevents us from talking about the problem plainly, and offering real solutions.
Think of religious texts as a data-set. The data-set makes claims about reality (which are false), so really, a religion only "exists" as memes within the brains of believing adherents. Consider the widely varying interpretations of Islam: jihadism, Sufism and everything in between. Some of these memes replicate better than others - arguably, the appeal of jihadism is a mix of its quranic literalism and messianic worldview. The meme is like a type of grand theory offers a method for interpreting the data, which is the texts themselves (in the Islamic case, the Qur'an and the Hadith).
Ignoring that these systems of interpretation clearly rely on the source text does absolutely nothing for the moderates who are trying to wage an ideological war on the battlefield of ideas, where all the drones in the world aren't going to make a damn difference.
Language matters, and it matters very, very much, especially when you're talking about ideas. Then again, I have approximately zero faith in the European political elite's ability to actually deal with this problem, so it's not altogether that surprising.
When I was about twenty years old, I went to a Christian worship concert. "Worship," as it is often referred to in Evangelical circles, is a central component of the faith - both for theological reasons (it holds great value in Christian theology) and also, on varying levels, for practical reasons.
When I was a believer, I was always self conscious about participating in these worship sessions. They felt supremely garish and uncool, and for that reason, I was rarely able to sublimate myself to the moment and allow it to overtake me. In general, most people aren't, except under very specific circumstances.
When I was twenty years old, I went to a concert by David Crowder Band, a Christian worship band, and I lost myself in this song:
I remember swaying at the front of the auditorium, caught in a trance. I felt part of something larger, something bigger than myself, and at the time, it was was one the most meaningful experiences I had ever had.
I knew what I believed to be true. I knew it deep inside of my bones.
I could scarcely explain this experience to one of my secular, progressive friends today without them looking at me like I was insane.
"You had to be there," I would say.
So what does this have to do with cutting people's heads off?
When analysts offer up a legion of socio-political reasons as to why young, disaffected youths travel to the Middle East so they can wage jihad and kill infidels, they often neglect the component of meaning when they proffer up a list of motivations. And meaning is transmuted through a number of different means, chief among them: achieving transcendence in a group-like setting that primes the brain to reach altered states of consciousness, a state of religious ecstasy (and to be fair, Captagon probably helps, too). Going to war with your comrades on behalf of God surely counts among such experiences.
Ask yourself: what is like to be a jihadist? What is it like on the inside?
Westerners find the motivation behind recruitment to be based purely on some element of disenfranchisement or the like - but that's not the entire story. Have you ever seen Star Wars? Would you ask yourself why Luke joined the Rebel Alliance to go fight the evil Galactic Empire? Of course not.
Deep in the throes of killing their enemies, oppressing religious minorities, and executing civilians, I can assure you that these people experience deep, transcendental forms of meaning. For many of them, it is the most important thing they have ever done.
Self transcendence is a powerful drug, and an inherently amoral one, because one man's vision of morality can vary widely from another's.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis