Category Archives: ISIS

Islamism is a response to a psychic problem

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Adel Kermiche

Mohammedanism, writes Dalrymple,

rushed in to fill the gap left by the collapse of the Soviet Union and its collateral damage to the prestige of Marxism. How many of us predicted that this current of something that only vaguely approximates thought, and is more like an inflamed state of feeling, would become so important?

From the intellectual point of view,

even gender studies are more interesting than Islamism. No doubt the history of the world is replete with absurd doctrines for the sake of which people have been ready to kill and to die, but one might have hoped that in the 21st century no part of mankind would be any longer susceptible to Münster-Anabaptist-type delusions.

Anyone, says Dalrymple, who has read Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones

quickly appreciates the almost pathetic thinness of the political thought behind it.

The appeal of Islamism

is not to the head but to the gut. Young European-born Moslems who go to join Isis have biographies that are depressingly similar. Often (though not quite always) of poor educational attainment and economic prospects, and resentful of their subordinate place in society, they nevertheless take with enthusiasm and gusto to the less refined aspects of contemporary Western culture. Before conversion, as little boys go through a dinosaur stage, they go through a rap-music, drink, drug and petty-crime stage.

Mohammedanism

is the answer to their impasse, there now being no other on offer. Suddenly they are superior instead of inferior, important instead of insignificant, feared instead of despised; best of all, they are licensed to kill. Better a dead lion than a live rat.

The sadist-moralists

The dehumanisation of people is one of the mechanisms by which atrocities are committed and accepted

The dehumanisation of people is one of the mechanisms by which atrocities are committed and accepted

Committing evil for goodness’ sake, writes Dalrymple,

satisfies the inner sadist and the inner moralist at the same time.

That is why, he says, the beheadings in the Middle East and recently in the Philippines are, for those who conduct them,

such fun.

The latest outrage, Dalrymple reports (though he is sceptical about its veracity), is the

freezing to death by ISIS of 45 of their fighters who retreated, or ran away, before the advance of Iraqi forces; ISIS is alleged to have put the men into a freezer in a forensic morgue in Mosul and then put the bodies by the roadside as a warning to other would-be cowards. For myself, I was a little surprised that as sophisticated an institution as a forensic morgue was still in existence and still functioning in the Islamic State.

Dalrymple is interested in a reader’s comment underneath a report of the alleged atrocity. The commenter describes ISIS as vermin, to be eradicated as such. Dalrymple warns:

There is by now good reason to fear resort to such metaphors, the dehumanisation of people being one of the mechanisms by which atrocities are both committed and accepted. We should fear our own worst thoughts and refrain from giving them expression, for far from assuaging such thoughts, expression of them only goes to make them more frequent and more extreme. By means of such thoughts and such expressions, we become a little more like those who are supposedly the occasion of them, who have also persuaded themselves that there exist human vermin in the world to be eradicated.

This is, he says,

a call to decency and self-control, not to political correctness. Political correctness is the means by which we try to control others; decency is the means by which we try to control ourselves. There is no doubt which is the easier to undertake, and the more pleasurable and gratifying. There is a considerable element of sadism in political correctness.

From Dr Johnson's dictionary

From Dr Johnson’s dictionary

Allahu quackbar!

Civilised people, writes Dalrymple,

must defend to the death the right of satirists to mock, bait, and needle Muslims.

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Islam has nothing to say to the modern world

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.25.23For the second time in living memory, writes Dalrymple,

we find ourselves obliged by historical circumstances to examine doctrinal philosophies that, from the abstract intellectual point of view, are not worth examining. They belong, rather, to the history of human folly and credulity: which is itself, of course, an inexhaustibly interesting and important subject.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.43.06The first was Marxism; the second Islamism. Which of us, Dalrymple asks,

would have guessed thirty years ago that an inflamed and inflammatory Islamic doctrine would soon replace Marxism as the greatest challenger to liberal democracy? The vacuum left by the collapse of one totalitarian doctrine is soon filled by another.

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.44.55Dalrymple hopes that Islamism

will pass from the world stage as quickly as it arrived on it. In the meantime, however, it can cause a great deal of havoc, and will not disappear spontaneously, without opposition, much of which must be conducted on the intellectual plane.

Yet

Western intellectuals have failed to examine Islam and its founder in the same light as they would examine any other religious doctrine of comparable importance.

Dalrymple believes that all forms of Islam are

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.47.53very vulnerable in the modern world to rational criticism, which is why the Islamists are so ferocious in trying to suppress such criticism. They have instinctively understood that Islam itself, while strong, is exceedingly brittle, as communism once was. They understand that, at the present time in human history, it is all or nothing. They are thus more clear-sighted than moderate Moslems.

The problem with Islam may be rooted

Image (latterly effaced) of Mohammed on frieze, Birch Memorial Clocktower (1917), Ipoh, Perak

Image (latterly effaced) of Mohammed on frieze, Birch Memorial Clocktower (1917), Ipoh, Perak

in its doctrines, its history and its founder.

Mohammed

connived at armed robbery, mass murder and the abduction of women. Of course, autres temps, autres mœurs, and it may be that, on the whole, he sometimes behaved better than his peers.

He was

a political genius: he understood what motivated men, and he developed a system of belief and practice, of social pressure and ideological terror, that meant that Islamisation once established was irreversible, at least until the present day. Leonid Brezhnev’s doctrine was that a country, once communist, could not become non-communist; how puny, historically, was the communist achievement beside that of Islam!

Part of private quarters (1578) of Sultan Murad III

Part of private quarters (1578) of Sultan Murad III

Islamic civilisation has many attractive qualities . At least at its summit, the Ottoman civilisation was

exquisite, and in the decorative arts was Western Europe’s superior for centuries.

But the quality of a civilisation

does not establish the truth of the doctrines current in it, nor the suitability of those doctrines for living in the modern world.

Judged by the abysmal standards of fifteenth century Europe, Islam

looks quite tolerant; but judged from the modern, post-Enlightenment perspective, it looks primitive.

Its attitude towards polytheists and atheists is

doctrinally abominable.

Islam

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 14.46.00has nothing whatever to say to the modern world, and as yet has no doctrinal means of dealing constructively with the inevitable diversity of human religion and philosophy, beyond the violent imposition of uniformity or second-class citizenship.

Can Moslems of moderate temperament find some way of reconciling their faith with the exigencies of the modern world?

The problem is that this reconciliation cannot be a mere modus vivendi; it has to be intellectually coherent and satisfying to last. Personally, I am not optimistic. Islamism is a last gasp, not a renaissance, of the religion. But last gasps can last a surprisingly long time.

Islamism-Leninism

The dictatorship of the proletariat, writes Dalrymple,

has given way to the establishment of the caliphate as the transcendent answer to the personal angst

of certain persons. Had they grown up a generation or so earlier, their kind

would have become members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang rather than Islamic extremists.

Rote Armee Fraktion (Baader-Meinhof-Gruppe); الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام‎ — Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Rote Armee Fraktion (Baader-Meinhof-Gruppe); الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام‎ — Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Even the Moslems of ISIS might demur

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 08.46.38Dalrymple goes to the opera — Verdi’s The Fallen Woman at the ENO. He confirms that

of course there is an orgy scene.

He notes also that

when Germont sings his aria requesting Violetta to forgo the love of Alfredo for his daughter’s sake, who will not be able to marry the man she loves if Alfredo continues to live with a woman of such ill-repute as Violetta, the daughter is actually made to appear on the stage, unceremoniously and unlovingly pushed to the fore by her father.

The daughter is

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 08.39.57dressed in a beret and grey gabardine Mackintosh, and wearing thick glasses. She looks about 12, an awkward pubertal age, and more likely to grow up a bluestocking than a sensualist.

Dalrymple comments:

Even the most ferocious Moslems of ISIS would hardly have considered her old enough to marry.

More their type

More their type

The Savonarola of atheism

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 07.15.38Richard Dawkins, the atheist proselytizer, has tweeted that the destruction of the ancient Semitic city of Palmyra by the desert-tribal warriors known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant demonstrates the doleful

power of religion.

Dalrymple points out that it seems to have escaped the notice of Dawkins, whom he describes as a Savonarola of atheism,

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 06.45.12that temples are generally built in the first place from a religious impulse, and that Palmyra had survived for two millennia in a region to which religion was by no means entirely unknown.

Dalrymple notes that

Satellite image confirming the destruction of the Temple of Baal (dedicated 32 A.D.)

Satellite image confirming the destruction of the Temple of Baal (dedicated 32 A.D.)

such destructiveness is not confined to the fanatically religious. The greatest outburst of cultural vandalism in recent history was probably Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which had nothing cultural or revolutionary about it—nor anything religious.

Of course, it is always gratifying for Dawkins

to contemplate the stupidity or barbarism of others.

Actually the destruction of Palmyra ought to warn Dawkins to turn his gaze inward and consider himself. And what he will discover when he does so is less than reassuring.

OK, so they joined Isis. It could’ve happened to anybody

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 08.15.02Liberal intellectuals, writes Dalrymple,

want to divide humanity into the tiny minority of people with agency (perpetrators) and the vast majority without it (victims)—the latter requiring salvation by liberal intellectuals. The rich and powerful are perpetrators with agency; everyone else is a victim without agency.

Asked why they started taking heroin, addicts say they

fell in with the wrong crowd,

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 07.45.50passively,

as if by some kind of natural force.

Isis happens

A newspaper describes some ‘Portsmouth lads’ of Bangladeshi origin as ‘falling into Isis’s hands’.

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Victims of circumstance

The use of the word lads is intended to imply that there is nothing special or different about these young men. Its use is a manifestation of wishful or even magical thinking. The men fell into the hands of Isis as an apple falls to the ground by gravitational force. It could have happened to anybody, this going to Syria via Turkey to join a movement that delights in decapitation in the name of a religion—their religion. Joining Isis is like multiple sclerosis; it’s something that just happens to people.

The word fell

denies agency to the young men, as if they had no choice. They were victims of circumstance by virtue of their membership of a minority, for minorities are by definition victims without agency.

Islamic vice advanced by Western gutlessness

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 07.45.02The problem, writes Dalrymple,

lies at least as much with us as with them. By our cowardice, often inadvertently, we support and encourage Islamism. There are many stories of Christmas decorations being taken down, no reference to Christmas being made in case it should offend, etc., when no demand from the Muslim population that these things should be done has been made. It is an anticipatory cringe that encourages the extremists to push a little harder at what they think is a half-open door.

A fine US example of this genre, he notes, is the bowdlerisation of Yale University Press’s book on the Jyllands-Posten Mahomed cartoons affair.

Many Islamist terrorists, Dalrymple points out, have gone through a libertine phase. Muslim men in the West very often immerse themselves in libertinism, but if at all reflective, may come to discover that

libertinism is not the answer to life’s dissatisfactions, and will then find a ready-made utopian ideology at hand, one which emerges from their own background and is therefore a source of pride to them.

A religion of peace

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 08.21.04It’s just that Muslims choose strange ways of showing it

At Sousse, 38 people — 25 of them British — were murdered by a Mohammedan fundamentalist gunman at an hotel (in an atrocity prefigured in the 2001 Michel Houellebecq novel Plateforme).

The attack possessed, writes Dalrymple, logic from the Islamo-Leninist ‘the worse the better’ point of view. Tourists

like sun, sea and sites, but not at the cost of their lives. Tourism can survive a dictatorship such as that of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but not a democratically elected government that cannot guarantee security.

After the attacks, David Cameron

made a statement in which he reiterated, among other things, that Islam was a religion of peace. He was under no pressure, except that of his own pusillanimity, to say any such thing, which is in flat contradiction both to history and to the state of the world today. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt would not have said anything as stupid or as cowardly.

Leadership, says Dalrymple, should not

propound blatant untruths. It is true that most Muslims are peaceful and want to get on with their lives; the same is true of almost everyone, including Marxists. It is blatantly obvious that not all terrorists are Muslim; but when they are Muslim, their religious ideas are a necessary precondition of their acts.