For 300 years the Muslims of the Barbary States carried out the unprovoked kidnapping of more than a million Westerners; besieging their ships, raiding their towns, enslaving them and killing those whose ransoms were not paid. In 1786 U.S diplomats Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were dispatched to London to meet with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the ambassador of Tripoli, to enquire as to the reason for this brutality towards a country with no history of aggression towards Muslims, and in fact with no history of any kind considering that the United States had only been founded a decade prior.
Jefferson and Adams recounted this meeting in a letter to Secretary of State John Jay:
“We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
The terseness and clarity of Adja’s answer was enough for Jefferson, and once sworn into office in 1801, he immediately launched a war against the Barbary pirates.
213 Years Later…
Immediately after the Islamic States’ declaration of the new caliphate in June 2014, they published the first issue of their monthly propaganda and recruitment magazine Dabiq. The magazine is named after a town in Northern Syria prophesised in Islamic eschatology as the location of the final apocalyptic battle between the Muslims and the unbelievers. Knowledge of this, coupled with a knowledge of the emphasis that the Islamic State put on capturing and controlling this strategically unimportant piece of land should give you a clue as to the motives of this group. Fortunately ISIS, and Islamic terrorists in general, are not in the habit of relying on peoples familiarity with obscure theological end-times prophesies. Like Ambassador Adja, they instead have a tendency to state clearly and succinctly exactly what motivates their behaviour and what they hope to achieve as a result of it.
Take the words of Mohammad Sidique Khan for example. In a videotape he recorded shortly before he led a band of jihadists to blow themselves up on the London transport system in 2005, he gave the following explanation for his actions:
“I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our driving motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam – obedience to the one true God, Allah, and following the footsteps of the final prophet and messenger Muhammad… This is how our ethical stances are dictated.”
A similar theme emerges in the confession of 9/11 orchestrator Khalid Sheik Muhammed:
“Killing you and fighting you, destroying you and terrorizing you, responding back to your attacks, are all considered to be great legitimate duty in our religion. These actions are our offerings to God. In God’s book, he ordered us to fight you everywhere we find you, even if you were inside the holiest of all holy cities, The Mosque in Mecca, and the holy city of Mecca, and even during sacred months. Our religion is a religion of fear and terror to the enemies of God: the Jews, Christians, and pagans. With God’s willing, we are terrorists to the bone.”
Infuriately enough, these articulate and surprisingly forthright explanations of their motives and goals have been met with obstinate denial among a depressing number of Muslims, heads of state, western academics, media personalities and professional excuse-makers for Islamofascism. We are instead told that the root causes of jihadism and Islamism are poverty and lack of education. We are told that Sunni suicide bombers detonating in Shia mosques are nothing more than semi-valid protests against Western foreign policy. The numerous studies which show an inverse correlation between poverty and terrorism are ignored along with the myriad statements of the terrorists themselves.
The below cartoon neatly illustrates this culture of pathological denialism:
As intensely frustrating as this fingers-in-the-ears attitude is for anyone who is willing to actually acknowledge the role that Islam plays in the behaviour of Islamic extremists, and for anyone who takes the confessions of jihadists seriously, I’ve often thought it must be doubly maddening for the jihadists themselves. I’m by no means opposed to pissing off Islamic fascists but I mean, it must take a serious amount of planning and strategy to fly under the radar of the security services long enough to pull off a large scale coordinated atrocity, and then to explain in punishing detail exactly why you did it and what you mean to accomplish only for vast numbers of your enemy to give you excuses you didn’t ask for and motivations you reject.
Sam Harris puts it like this:
“We’re told that burning people alive in cages, crucifying children, and butchering journalists and aid workers is an ordinary human response to political and economic instability. Even representatives from our own State Department assert this. I can’t imagine how comically out of touch with reality we appear from the side of the jihadis.”
Well it seems that I was on to something, not only with regards to why Islamic terrorists do what they do, but also with how dumbfounding and exasperating these same terrorists find our response to them. The most recent issue of Dabiq contains a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin article catchily entitled Why We Hate You and Why We Fight You which absolutely lays waste to the politically correct apologetics of the regressive left. An anonymous author speaking on behalf of the Islamic State painstakingly describes the motivations of his group in a six point list ranked in order of importance. At the very top of the list is the Islamic obligation to wage war against disbelievers.
“We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers… just as your disbelief is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief is the primary we fight you, as we have been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they submit to the authority of Islam.”
The author then helpfully provides a reference to this religious imperative by quoting verse 8:39 of the Quran:
“And fight them until there is no fitnah (paganism) and (until) religion, all of it, is for Allah.”
The list goes on to berate Westerners for their secularism, liberalism, atheism and their tolerance of behaviours deemed haram such as; mockery of the Prophet, criticism of Sharia and mistreatment of the Quran. It is not until the final two points at the very bottom of the list do we hear any mention of Western foreign policy. The article contains a handy explanation as to why such de-emphasis is put on the drone strikes and carpet bombings carried out by the “armies of the crusaders”. And it is this explanation which arguably contains the most unambiguous declaration of motive and priority I’ve come across since Mr Jefferson’s confrontation with Ambassador Adja:
“What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam.”
And there we have it. Crystal clear confirmation that Islamic terrorism is not, as many liberals have proposed, a matter of using religion as a cover for politics, it is rather – the exact opposite. In ISIS’s own words, the primary motives of jihadism are entirely religious and all other considerations are secondary.
Theoretically, this should spell the end of the debate about the causes, inspirations and agendas of Islamists. Unfortunately though, there is simply too much resting on the notion that we are responsible for the attacks against us. And the people propagating this narrative are simply too insincere to acknowledge this inconvenient truth. It will simply be brushed under the carpet and the argument will continue. In fact, I have checked the Twitter feeds of the most prominent and vocal members of foreign-policy-blowback brigade – Glenn Greenwald, Reza Aslan, Max Blumenthal, CJ Werleman – and cannot find a single mention of the Islamic State’s revelations.
However, in ignoring this fatal hammer-blow to the regressive narrative, the apologists will have shown in the clearest possible terms that their position is utterly unfalsifiable. No amount of evidence would ever be enough to change their opinions or their arguments.
When Muslims commit an act that is given explicit justification in the Quran and the Hadith, is in accord with the example of Muhammad, is a staple of Islamic tradition and is cited by the perpetrators themselves as being religiously motivated – denial of a religious imperative is either outright and flagrant dishonesty or an illustration of monumental ignorance. The fact that Islamists and jihadists are motivated, first and foremost, by their understanding of Islam and the behaviour it commands is simply no longer up for dispute.
Of course jihadists are animated to some extent by objections to Western foreign policy: objections to the Western retraction of support for Muslim Indonesia’s invasion and annexation of Christian East Timor for example, or the French intervention to prevent Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda carrying out industrial scale terrorism in Northern Mali, or the airstrike eradication of the psychopathic terrorist and founder of ISIS Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or the proximity of “Christian crusader armies” to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia.
Yes they have grievances, and I suppose you could call them political if you were intent on missing the point. But as the terrorists have now spelled out in the clearest possible terms – they are an afterthought. And as Christopher Hitchens noted, they are nothing compared to the grievances we have with them.