Sunday, July 27, 2008
Ibrahim: Islam's appeal and Captain Hook
In recent headlines, three American converts to Islam—Gregory Patterson, Levar Wasington, and Kevin James—were recently arrested and tried for intending to wage jihad against the U.S. They are by no means the first American converts to Islam to go terrorist. There was Christopher Paul, who was tried for conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction; John Walker Lindh, who, as a “warrior of Islam,” was captured post 9/11 fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan; “Azzam the American” (formerly “Adam Gadahn”) who, after being graciously introduced by al-Qaeda leader Aymin Zawahiri on a video made some months ago proceeded to harangue and mock his fellow Americans—including JW’s own Robert Spencer—into abandoning Christianity and submitting to Allah; and Jose Padilla (aka “Abdullah al-Muhajir”).
Then, of course, there are the countless European converts. There’s the British “shoe-bomber,” Abdul Rahim (formerly “Richard Reid”) who attempted to achieve “martyrdom” by detonating explosives in his shoes while aboard a passenger aircraft; the late Abdullah Shaheed (formerly “Germaine Lindsay”) who did achieve “martyrdom” by killing himself and 56 of his fellow citizens, and injuring over 700, in the London bombings of 2005; and Abu Abdullah (original name unknown), the native Briton turned fiery Islamist preacher who, before finally being arrested, made no secret of his vitriolic hatred of the West (all, of course, while enjoying Western liberties, such as freedom of speech).
At any rate, what causes such men, born and raised in the West, often from Christian backgrounds, to abandon their heritage, embrace Islam, and conspire to kill the very people they grew up with?
As for Islam’s “intrinsic” appeal, it has long been argued that, unlike Christianity, which can be "heavy" on theology, Islam is relatively simple and straightforward. So while Christianity revolves around metaphysical concepts and topics, such as the Trinity, Christology, the nature of salvation, grace, free-will vs election, and the futility of the law, Islam, in black and white terms, commands its adherents to do this and not do that. In fact, the Arabic word “sharia,” that comprehensive body of laws Muslims must follow, means the “pathway”—as in, “the pathway to paradise.” (In pre-Islamic Arabic, of course, it specifically means pathway to water for camels.)
Yet there is another more subtle factor that makes Islam attractive, especially to men. Traditional masculine roles are well preserved in Islam—the sort that have been the norm for almost all societies, including Christian and Western, up until recently. Pride, honor, courage, patriarchy, and a sharp division between the sexes are at the core of Islam’s social mores. This may appeal to Western men who find it difficult to assert their “manhood” in increasingly neutered Western societies. Harvey Mansfield, author of Manliness, defines that term as “a quality both bad and good, mostly male, often intolerant, irrational, and ambitious. Our gender-neutral society does not like it but cannot get rid of it.”
With an ethical code that coalesced in an extremely un-neutered 7th century, Islam today is an avenue for men attracted to the most exaggerated, patriarchal styles of manliness. Even philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who despised organized religions due to their emasculating effects and who preached the need for man to be transformed into an amoral “hyper-man,” professed some admiration for Islam, describing it as “masculine” and “affirmative.”
Of course, traditional masculine roles are not the sole domain of Islam. As previously mentioned, historically almost every civilization has lived in accordance to “masculine-centric” norms; “gender-neutral” societies are historic aberrations. It is only natural, then, that disaffected young men living in a “postmodern” West, who feel that they do not fit into a “gender-neutral” society, find a religion which emphasizes traditional masculinity appealing.
John Walker Lindh especially seems to fit this category. Precipitating his conversion to Islam was his teenage discovery that his father was homosexual—an event that, by all accounts, traumatized and alienated Lindh. Islam’s masculine ideals and condemnation of homosexuality undoubtedly baited young Lindh, who soon after his father left his mother and moved in with another man, converted to Islam at age 16.
The main reason, of course, that Islam possesses what are seen as “masculine virtues,” has to do with the fact that its very essence is trapped in the 7th century—when, as the saying goes, men were men, for good or ill. Such is the “golden era” of Islam, when the Muslim prophet Muhammad, paragon of all Islamic virtue, whom Sunnis are exhorted to emulate in every possible way, walked the earth, sword in hand, accepting no insult, and conquering his”infidel” neighbors.
But just as traditional masculine virtues are upheld in Islamic culture, so too do traditionally masculine vices abound—for it is often a very fine line that separates hyper-virtue from hyper-vice. Honor, courage, as well as patriarchic ethics can and do (as Jihad Watch daily documents) easily morph into destructive pride (e.g. “honor killings”), disdain for life (e.g. suicide-bombings), and misogyny.
Nor is that all. For those more “adventurous” men looking to add a bit of “excitement” to their lives, Islam offers avenues. Based on the Koran and Muhammad’s history, raiding, killing, and plundering infidels, abducting their women and enslaving their children, are all legitimate, so long as they are at least nominally done in the “service” of Islam. In fact, that is exactly how the Islamic prophet and first Muslims spread Islam, as attested by the Koran and other sacred texts and histories—all written and compiled by Muslims themselves.
Of course such behavior was somewhat “normal” in the 7th century. Then, wherever one looked, men of all races, creeds, and religions were raiding, pillaging, and plundering their neighbors. In Islam, however, the actions of one 7th century man—Muhammad—are seen as perfect and to be literally emulated today no less than yesterday. The Koran declares: “O you who believe [i.e. Muslims]: wage war on those infidels who live near to you, and let them discover harshness in you” (9:123; see also, 9:5 and 9:29). After defeating the infidels, the faithful are free to enjoy the plunder and captives, which are described as “lawful and good” in Koran 8: 69 (see also 8:67, 48: 20-21, and 69: 30-37.) Moreover, any moral scruples the potential jihadi may experience over such barabarous practices -- that is, should his conscience momentarily get the best of him -- immediately dissipate in light of Allah’s explicit approval. For instance: “Married women are prohibited to you [Muslims]—but not those taken captive in war” and “Successful indeed are the Believers who … restrain their carnal desires, except with their wives and captives” (Koran 4:24 and 23:6 see also 33:50-52, emphasis added).
Little wonder that Islam appeals to certain Western men over Christianity: it comports much better with man’s most carnal lusts—for war, booty, and women—than do Jesus’ teachings, such as “turn the other cheek,” “pray for those who persecute you,” and “he who lusts after a woman in his heart has already committed adultery.” Even Islam’s version of paradise is far more alluring—there, rivers of alcohol and super-natural, “high-bosomed” women await the holy-warrior who dies battling infidels (see Koran 47:15, 78:31, 37:40-48, 44:51-55, 52:17-20, 55:56-58, 55:70-77, 56:7-40).
And so like mischievous little boys who find the pirate life-style fascinating—raiding, killing, plundering, abducting (not to mention hiding in caves)—so, undoubtedly, do some Western men find the lifestyle of the Islamic warrior fascinating. And so they convert. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that the physical appearance of some of radical Islam’s most charismatic heroes is reminiscent of those wily pirates of legend, such as the furtive Taliban leader “One-Eyed” Mullah Muhammad Omar, or, more illustrative, London’s radical ideologue Abu Hamza, who not only is one-eyed, but also has a metal hook for a hand which he used to shake menacingly when referring to infidels. (Like Walt Disney’s “Captain Hook,” he is affectionally referred to by his followers simply as “The Hook”…)
None of this is to say that Muslims in general are murderers, plunderers, hedonists, or misogynists. It is to say, however, that very valid interpretations of the Koran and Islamic history certainly justify and make such behavior, under the rubric of “religion,” legal for any would-be Muslim (“If it was ok for Muhammad and the first Muslims, it must be ok for us”).
Further revealing is the fact that many of the aforementioned proselytes had criminal records previous to their conversion to Islam: Reid and Abdullah had convictions for muggings, Padilla for gangster activity, and Lindsay for drug-dealing. Not to mention the vast majority of American blacks who convert to Islam while serving time in prison. Most recently, the Californian jihadists began their "cell" while serving time in prison, under the leadership of James; Patterson and Washington conducted over a dozen armed robberies previously.
One of the reasons ex-cons turn to religion is to change their evil ways. Not so these Westerners turned Islamic terrorists. It would seem that they turned to Islam merely to receive divine sanctioning to gorge their villainous appetites. From being petty criminals, they went on to embrace Islam and became major criminals—terrorists and traitors.