The Purpose-Driven Strife

How to stop Islamic terrorist attacks? Discredit the theology behind them.

Except for the short-circuit in his shorts, Umar Abdulmutallab would have killed nearly 300 passengers on Northwest Flight 253. There are many more like him in numerous countries waiting for their chance at martyrdom. How can they be stopped?

Improved intelligence and security are an important first step. But unless we deal with the religious motivation that inspires the terrorists we will consign ourselves to an endless and high stakes game of “whack-a-mole.” For every terrorist that we put down, 10 others will pop up to take his place. It’s important to take out the terrorist, but in the long run it’s more important to take down the terrorist’s ideology.

It’s often said that the terrorists “misinterpret” or “misunderstand” Islam. But the more we find out about terrorists, the more it seems that they understand Islam very well. Abdulmutallab was president of the Islamic Society of University College, London, and in high school he was known as “the scholar” for his extensive knowledge of Islam. In the past three years, three other presidents of university Islamic societies in the UK have been convicted on terrorist charges. A year before his attack on fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood, Major Nidal Hassan, who was known as a devout Muslim, gave an articulate and well documented PowerPoint presentation on Islam.

What they all seem to understand correctly about Islam is that Islam, almost by definition, is at war with all that is not Islam. Islamic scholars normally divide the world into two camps: the “House of Islam,” and the “House of War.” The “House of War” refers to all that is not Islam, and it is considered obligatory for all Muslims to do what they can to bring the non-Muslim world under the control of Islam. This obligation is based on numerous verses in the Koran, such as “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you” (9: 123), and “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and Allah’s religion shall reign supreme” (8: 34). And this is not just an exercise in cherry-picking quotes. Indeed, one of the principal themes of the Koran is that Allah hates unbelievers (i.e., non- Muslims), and that he expects Muslims to deal with them as harshly as he will. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that this theme can be found on almost every page of the Koran. As Muhammad said, “I have been commanded to fight against people, till they testify that there is no god but Allah.” Islam is, in effect, an open-ended declaration of war against non-Muslims.

In other words it’s not just Muslim terrorists who need to be feared, but also Muslim theorists and theologians. The attacks won’t stop until the belief system that inspires the terrorists is undermined and discredited. Although the great majority of Muslims won’t actively wage war against non-Muslims, the obligation to support jihad is, nevertheless, a thoroughly mainstream teaching. It may be that some terrorists get their final marching orders from an Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg or London, but most young Muslims are already on the road to radicalization simply as a result of passing through the standard curriculum offered in Muslim elementary and high schools.

If Islam considers itself at war with us, how should we respond, short of a call to arms?

We should respond with what many Muslims have already accused us of— amely, a war on Islamic belief. During the Second World War we didn’t hesitate to wage a propaganda war against the Nazi belief system, and during the Cold War we didn’t shrink from pointing out the unworkable nature of Communism. Although many in the West can’t bring themselves to admit it, we are now in a cold war with Islam. Hence it stands to reason that we should do our best to undermine the driving force of Islamic aggression, namely, Islamic ideology. In other words, we should want Muslims to lose faith in Islam just as Nazis lost faith in Nazism, and Communists lost faith in Communism. Instead of making excuses for Islam—which is pretty much what we have been doing up to now—we should be devoting our energies to exposing the hateful and supremacist nature of Islam.

A propaganda war, it should be noted, does not necessarily involve spreading falsehoods. For example, the Radio Free Europe broadcasts were simply aimed at getting out the truth about the Soviet system. Think of it as an information campaign. Nevertheless, a new Cold War is not a pleasant prospect. On the other hand, it is preferable to the other likely alternatives: a hot war, possibly involving nuclear weapons, or a slow capitulation to Islam. You fight a cold war to avoid the alternatives.

A slow capitulation is what is happening right now in Europe. It is happening in large part because there is a taboo against criticizing Islam (in some parts of Europe criticism of Islam is a criminal off ense). No such taboo, however, exists in regard to Christianity. For many decades European elites have delighted in discrediting Christianity, with the result that Europe is now practically defenseless in ideological terms. As Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk recently observed, “Europe has denied its Christian roots from which it has risen and which could give it the strength to fend off the danger that it will be conquered by Muslims.”

“Today,” he added, “when the fi ghting is done with spiritual weapons which Europe lacks while Muslims are perfectly armed, the fall of Europe is looming.”

To put it in terms that might get you jail time in Europe, one of our best weapons is the superiority of our beliefs and ideas—most of which derive from the Judeo-Christian tradition. But Europeans, and many Americans as well, can’t say as much because they are overinvested in another belief system— that of multiculturalism. Many of our leaders seem to have signed on to a suicide pact with multiculturalism, and the pact requires them to keep insisting that all cultures and religions are created equal. Islam lives to dominate the world, while the West lives to avoid offense. Westerners pride themselves on their ability to think outside the box, but Western thought has been boxed-in for decades now by the cult of multiculturalism.

As Islamic expert Hugh Fitz gerald points out, Cold War propaganda was directed at two diff erent audiences. The first lived behind the Iron Curtain, and the objective was to provide them with information about the failures of the Soviet system and the success of the West. The other audience “was those in the West who might have been most vulnerable to the siren song of Communism.” Likewise, the present situation requires a two-theater propaganda war: propaganda aimed at sapping Islam’s faith in itself, and propaganda aimed at convincing ourselves that we have something worth defending. Thanks to multicultural doctrine, a great many in our society are vulnerable to the siren song of relativism—the tune that tells us, among other things, that one religion is as good as another.

But, as the slow suicide of Europe suggests, societies that substitute multicultural doctrine for Christianity will eventually be ruled by Islam. The formula goes something like this:

a. As demonstrated by what is happening in Europe, a weakened Christianity invites an aggressive Islam.

b. Christianity has been severely weakened in America by att acks from multiculturalists, secularists, and atheists, not to mention the proclivity for self destruction displayed by some Christians.

c. Therefore, if this trend continues, we will see an Islamization of America similar to the one now occurring in Europe, and along with it the eventual annihilation of our culture.

Thus our war of ideas needs to be directed not only at the destructive doctrines of Islam but also at the enervating equivalencies taught in our own schools. Nothing has been as conducive to Islam’s smooth and steady jihad as our own unshakeable belief in cultural relativism. For example, in reducing all religions to the same level, multiculturalists have managed to obscure the central role that religion plays in society.

When a multiculturalist says that all religions are equal, what he really means is that they are all equally unimportant. If all religions are relative, then religion is not something that we need pay much attention to. And, unfortunately, in regard to Islam and terrorism, we haven’t paid much attention. Thus, one of the greatest disservices multiculturalism has rendered is to minimize the importance of religious motivation in people’s lives.

Hence, our official explainers are always trying to find some other motive for terrorism—poverty, discrimination, oppression, or even the slings and arrows of mental stress. Anything but religion. As a result their prescriptions for ending terror often border on the absurd. For example, two of the suspected leaders behind the Northwest Flight 253 terror plot had been released from Guantanamo prison into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” run by the Saudi government. ABC news reported that Saudi officials admit failures in its program, but maintained that overall it “has helped return potential terrorists to a meaningful life.”

Unfortunately, such an analysis fails to recognize that terrorists already have a meaningful life. They don’t commit random acts of terror; they commit religiously inspired acts of terror that are packed with meaning and purpose. For a dedicated Muslim, fighting and dying for Allah in the cause of jihad is the summit of human endeavor. You might call it “the purpose-driven strife.”

Take the case of Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian doctor/double agent who recently killed seven CIA agents in Afghanistan. In a 2008 web posting he wrote, “to those who preach jihad, I advise you not to fall into my dilemma and the nightmare I have that I may die one day in my bed.” It’s not quite clear whether his nightmare was that of failing to participate in the jihad, or that of missing out on the heavenly game of 72 pickup which, by some readings of the Koran, is only reserved for those who “kill or are killed for the sake of Allah.”

The Koran describes the dark-eyed maidens of paradise as being “chaste as virgin pearls” (56:20). And for those of a different persuasion, “there shall wait on them young boys of their own, as fair as virgin pearls” (52:22). Christians look forward to “the pearly gates,” but Muslim warriors can look forward to pearly mates. It’s easy to minimize the sexual motivation for committing jihad, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand it, given that for many in our own society, sex with multiple youthful and yielding partners is considered the summit of attainment. Al-Balawi took his religion very seriously; so should we.

If many young men believe that their violence will be rewarded with a bevy of beauties in Paradise, the idea needs to be taken seriously—although not in the sense in which multiculturalists accord serious respect to strange ideas. The belief that Allah hates non-Muslims so much that he will reward you for killing them with six dozen freshly minted maidens is not just another colorful thread in the rich tapestry of diversity, it’s a dangerous idea that needs to be examined, challenged, and if need be, ridiculed.

If he were to make a judgment about the origin of this belief, the average Westerner would likely conclude that it was a clever recruitment tool manufactured by Muhammad to provide an incentive for following him. But that’s just it. The average Western citizen doesn’t make such judgments. We’ve gotten used to the idea that cultural beliefs are sacrosanct and beyond judgment. So when we hear that Muslim martyrs are counting on sexual setasides in Heaven, we shrug and think, “That’s their religion—who can say?”

The idea of a propaganda war is to instill doubts in the minds of your enemies. Since most of Muslim theology is doubtful to begin with, the task might not be as difficult as we tend to imagine. If young Ahmed comes to realize that his ideas about paradise seem juvenile and laughable in the eyes of the world, it might begin to sow the seeds of doubt in his mind. If, on the other hand, we tell him we have great respect for his religion, he will continue to yearn for the martyr’s reward.

Unless we want a hot war on our hands, or unless we want to witness the gradual extermination of our society, we had better start casting such doubts. Anyone who is familiar with Islamic theology knows that it is a house of cards—the case for Muhammad actually having received a revelation from God being very thin. That’s why jihad is not incidental to Islam. In a sense, it’s the whole point of Islam.

If you dimly suspect that there is a hole at the center of your life, you can either fall into a depression, or you can plunge into activity. In individual lives, motion sometimes becomes a substitute for meaning. Thus, the attraction of fast cars for young adults who lack purpose in their lives. Islam, likewise, finds its meaning in motion—in waging jihad, in expanding outward, in conquering new territory for Allah. It is what one would expect from an ideology that has very little else to offer. Conquest serves as the chief validation of Islam. And whenever Islam’s expansionistic ambitions are thwarted, Islam begins to dry up.

This means that it is probably a mistake for Westerners to challenge Islam on the grounds that it is warlike. Most Muslims already know that, and it is not an issue for them. The challenge needs to be issued on the grounds of truth. The main question to ask about the Koran is not whether it contains warlike passages, but whether its claims to authenticity have any basis in reality. The case for its being a self-serving, made-up revelation is a very strong one. And it’s a case that ought to be pressed—just as we pressed the Cold War case that Communism was an unrealistic and unworkable system, maintained only by deception. Our message to the Muslim world—or, at least, one of our messages—should be, “We have our doubts, and so should you. It looks like you’ve hitched your wagon to a deceiving prophet.”

Right here, of course, we bump up against our own secular religion of cultural relativism. According to the diversifiers we should never talk in terms of true and false. All of which is why the war of ideas must be waged on two fronts: arguments to create doubts in the Muslim mind on the one hand (maybe 1.3 billion Muslims can be wrong), arguments to discredit militant multiculturalists and relativists on the other. Militant Islam would not have been able to move so far, so fast if we had not first convinced ourselves that it is a moral virtue not to make judgments of any kind.

Over the long haul, the way to stop terror attacks is to discredit the terror theology that prompts them. The aim is to create a world where Islam is a badge of shame, not honor, and where a Muslim parent would no more namehis son “Muhammad” than a modern German would name his boy “Adolf.”

We won’t make much progress in creating that world unless we also abandon our own misplaced faith in secular relativism. The tenets of that faith have put us all at risk, and the risks will only escalate if we don’t find the courage to challenge them.


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About William Kilpatrick 79 Articles
William Kilpatrick is the author of several books on religion and culture including Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West (Ignatius Press) and What Catholics Need to Know About Islam (Sophia Institute Press). For more on his work and writings, visit his Turning Point Project website.