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What 9/11 liberals ignore

by DoDo Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 11:41:43 AM EST

There is a group of liberal atheists in the Anglosphere – people like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Bill Maher – whose reaction to 9/11 was to view Islam (in general) as the problem, and religion as the elephant in the bathroom in mainstream discussions about the cause of terrorism. Their views were not all the same – for example, while some became liberal hawks, strange bedfellows with would-be Crusaders in supporting the so-called War on Terror, others remained thoroughly critical of Bush –, but there is enough affinity to speak of a group. I took the "9/11 liberals" moniker from Bill Maher (in a video I saw recently which made me write this diary).

I am an atheist whose view of the net effect of religion on society is barely less negative than that of Richard Dawkins (especially when it comes to child indoctrination). Even in matters where I don't think religion is the original source of problems, I think it tends to make things worse. Yet, I think 9/11 liberals are missing some quite basic facts, and only contribute to Islamophobia.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

1960s–1980s terrorism

9/11 liberals always emphasize the roots of modern (Sunni) Islamist terrorism in Islamic tradition. To me, the most glaring omission in this view is the roots in non-Islamist Middle Eastern terrorism. When I was a child in the early eighties, terrorism of Middle Eastern origin mostly meant car bombings and plane hijackings by leftist and nationalist groups like Fatah, Black September or the PKK. I lived through the time when these groups faltered and were over-taken by more radical alternatives championing the same political causes. More recently, Daesh consolidated an ideologically very diverse Iraqi Sunni resistance movement. In all of these cases, it should be obvious that religion merely provided a new framing for an old political cause.

Most prominent 9/11 liberals are older than me and lived through even earlier stages of the transition from Fatah et al to al-Qaida et al. So I have a difficulty understanding how they can ignore these secular and political roots of modern Islamist terrorism.


It's not just the methods and ideology taken from secular Middle Eastern terrorists that is novel and not at all traditional in modern Islamist terrorism, but some of what differentiated the latter from the secular precedents, too. Take suicide bombing, for example. Traditionally, Islam views suicide as a sin, and it took several steps of ideological innovation to adapt suicide bombing into modern (Sunni) Islamism.

  1. The way I see it, the first precursor was suicidal tactics applied by Iran's armed forces in the Iran–Iraq War from the early eighties: the human wave attacks of the Basij. For this, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had to update the Shi'a ideal of martyrdom for modern times, after all, there is a difference between facing enemies with swords at overwhelming odds and clearing a minefield by running through it in great enough numbers. And Khomeini's motivation was something very practical rather than theological: Iran was under attack by Saddam Hussein who had superior military hardware.
  2. The next precursor was car bombs with a driver, as applied by the secretive Islamic Jihad Organization (allegedly a front for Hezbollah) in the Beirut civil war from 1983. The religious aspect was the further expansion of the concept of martyrdom to include the martyr's death at his own hands. The secular, tactical aspect was overcoming heavy security, against mostly military targets (like the US barracks): a poor man's cruise missile.
  3. The next and most dramatic step was to strap explosives on the suicide bomber's body under his clothes, as a new means of assassination. This innovation wasn't even a Muslim one: it was invented by the Tamil Tigers, the Sri Lankan separatist group. 9/11 liberals keep telling that only belief in the afterlife enables someone to strap on a suicide belt, but for the Tamil Tigers, nationalism – which included a cult of martyrdom similar to that of the Shi'a, but on nationalist rather than religious basis – was enough.
  4. So how did Sunni Muslim extremists adopt a tactic developed by people whom they must view as heretics resp. pagans? (As far as I know, the Shi'a concept of martyrdom itself is apostatic for Sunnis.) The answer is: under special circumstances, when these differences could be overlooked in a fight against a common enemy. Suicide bombing against explicitly civilian targets was first adopted by Palestinian Sunni Muslim organisation Hamas. Hamas was, on one hand, in "friendly" competition with the Hezbollah-inspired Shi'a Muslim Islamic Jihad over who fights the Israeli occupation harder. On the other hand, the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre by a Jewish setter extremist gave Hamas the opportunity to claim revenge as justification.
  5. Meanwhile, al-Qaida was forming in Afghanistan. The original ideal of the Mujahideen – wisemen hiding in the desert with frugal simplicity in clothing and lodging, but with modern weapons and cars and propaganda – wasn't really compatible with the clandestineness and pretence required of a suicide bomber. What's more, the al-Qaida people were far from Palestine and still hated the Shi'a as heretics. But they were practical people, and saw what's effective. And, since they sought to create a Sunni Islamist terrorist internationale, in the 2000s, their ideology spread to fellow extremists across the Muslim world.

Speaking of al-Qaida's pragmatic abandonment of Islamic traditions, there is also their propaganda. The Islamic tradition of demonising portraits was not limited to depictions of Muhammad: normally you had to be a Shah or a high cleric to defy this ban. Yet, in spite of their back-to-the-roots romanticism and disdain for the despots ruling the Arab world, al-Qaida turned Osama Bin-Laden into a jihadi Che Guevara and also filmed and promoted their "martyrs" for recruitment purposes.

Overall, I get the sense that for Sunni Islamist terrorists, key tactics and even part of the ideology is very much a matter of practical choice, with religious justifications tacked on to sustain ideological coherence.


Another point 9/11 liberals often make is that the suicide bombers and foot soldiers of jihadi movements have been indoctrinated from early childhood. This is actually true in the case of the Taliban, which was formed by the "alumni" of Koran schools founded by a few, mostly Pakistani mullahs to swallow up the orphans of the Afghan War. However, it's already difficult to apply the claim to the original Mujahideen, who consisted mostly of Afghan tribal militiamen and foreign legionaires who wanted to escape the nihilistic consumerism of the Gulf states (a rebellion even if these same Gulf states bankrolled them).

The indoctrination from early childhood argument gets progressively less tenable if you consider Palestinians joining Hamas (I remember reading stories of suicide bombers who weren't even religious just desperate and out for vengeance), the former members of Saddam's armed forces and middle-class Sunni Iraqis who have fled Shi'a death squads cleaning mixed quarters in Baghdad, the 9/11 terrorists, and finally the European recruits of Daesh. The latest attacks in France and Belgium were committed by a circle of friends who have been hedonistic violent common criminals, converted in prison, and radicalised over a period of no more than a year.

Furthermore, there are the stories questioning the depth of the faiths of the 9/11 Hamburg cell and the Brussels cell behind the recent attacks in France and Belgium, from drinking to striptease bars. I am particularly intrigued by the cases of Ziad Jarrah, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 93 who seems to not have given up on plans to marry his girlfriend in Germany until the last few days; and Salah Abdeslam, the earlier frequenter of gay bars who threw away his suicide belt but nevertheless had a substantial part in the logistics of the Paris attacks. Be it peer pressure or political considerations out-weighing the religious ones, these people still tagged on.

The hope of sex with 72 virgins in paradise is particularly unhelpful in explaining female suicide bombers.


A slightly more nuanced version of the view that modern Sunni Islamist terrorism is all rooted in Islamic tradition focuses on one strand of Islam only: Salafism. With the notable exception of Hamas, most Sunni Islamist armed groups indeed have Salafist roots, and Saudi Arabia is under the thumb of Wahhabi clerics, where Wahhabism is a branch of Salafism. However, to go from there and assume that all Salafists are ticking bombs is a leap of logic.

From what I know, the typical Salafist is like the typical Orthodox Jew: obsessed with praying, mostly withdrawing to the community of the fellow faithful, oppressing the fellow faithful, and occasionally rioting when the outside world interferes. For such people to get pro-actively violent, there has to be a context of political struggle, like Israel's colonisation of Palestine in the case of radical settlers. Violence also involves an aspect of rebellion: men of action despise the inactive as people not true to their words.

What these points boil down to in my mind is that the ideology of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists is more a rebellion against than a direct continuation of tradition, even if they all claim to want to get back to the roots. (In that, they are similar to the various Protestant sects in 16th to 18th century Europe.)

:: :: :: :: ::

I conclude this train of thought with a thought experiment: what would be the fate of terrorism of Middle Eastern origin if Islamic fundamentalism would falter and go out of fashion? I think it would find a new ideological framing and continue, as long as the underlying problems of the region remain the same.

Even if we ignore the issue of terrorism, I have a disagreement with many of my fellow atheists about the aspect of tradition.

It's true that religions created some very stupid traditions. It's also true that religions cemented other traditions by giving them divine justification which can only be challenged at great personal danger. However, I think it's significant that religions often end up perpetrating pre-existing traditions which weren't part of them (or which they were originally even meant to root out). Take honour killings, for example: an ancient Middle Eastern "custom" in which the statistically worst offenders aren't even Muslims but the Yazidi. Or consider the Christian idea of charity: originally supposed to be the distribution of wealth among the needy without expecting anything in return, turned into the wealthy giving droplets of their wealth to the needy in full expectation of thankfulness, praise, and prayers for a better afterlife.

In my mind, tradition is a greater and deeper evil than religion.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 11:45:10 AM EST
I am well old enough to remember all of the events you describe. I was even in Saudi Arabia '84 and '85 and can attest to the wariness of educated Saudi's and others of Arab descent I met about Palestinians. They might support their struggle against Israel but they considered them to be trouble on two feet. And Palestinians already were the most highly educated population of Arabs in the world.

I was also aware through friends of friends working for various princelings of the ambivalent attitude about Wahabism held by members of the Royal Family. The Arab News, an English language paper, regularly described certain ministers as 'going home for prayers' - which most took to mean anything else but praying. Meanwhile foreigners learned to lie low during noon and evening prayer times. Otherwise you might encounter the Mu'tawain in an ugly way. And these religious 'police' were old men in dirty thobes who drove around in beat up '60s Blazers when not patrolling the souk and hitting foreigners on the head with metal tipped canes if they stood or looked to closely or too long at a young Saudi female in a chador. The regime wouldn't even bother to make them appear presentable.

Well to do Saudis  were  upset about all of the strife in Lebanon, as they had considered Beirut to be their 'beach', where they could go and be 'western'. The distrust of Shias was palpable and they were concerned about native Shia on the 'Arabian Gulf' and the role of Shia in the sectarian conflicts in Lebanon. They were glad that Iran had become pariah to the US.

I have always rejected as mostly BS the common framing of 'Islamic Terrorists' for and after '911'. That made little sense from what I knew. Complements on putting all of this together into such a fine, lucid diary. I find nothing with which to quibble.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 02:28:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Take honour killings, for example: an ancient Middle Eastern "custom" in which the statistically worst offenders aren't even Muslims but the Yazidi.

It's funny you mention that.  Back when we and our BFFs, the Kurds, were trying to prevent Daesh from slaughtering/starving all the Yazidis, I also had to shake my head a fair bit at the press treatment -- which, of course, everybody (at least in the states) believed -- of the Yazidis as these peaceful, snuggly little oddball Pagans.  The honor killings were the first thing that always came to mind, given their propensity for getting into the news for them.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 11:06:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then again, I wonder to what extent Daesh's decision to use Yazidi girls as sex slaves was designed as a violation of Yazidi "honour". Here is a heartbreaking story about the fate of two of these sex slaves, as told by a defector:

The reluctant jihadi | Robert F Worth | News | The Guardian

The next day Abu Ali was transferred to another guesthouse in the city of Falluja, not far away, which was under Isis control. This one was crowded with men. Not long after, he was amazed to hear the sound of two girls giggling in the next room. Another fighter told him the girls were Yazidis who had been captured in northern Iraq eight months earlier, when Isis overran the area and sold hundreds of Yazidi women and girls into sex slavery. They were 13 and 14 years old, the man said. They had been offered to the governor of Falluja, who didn't want them, so they were being kept there for the moment. Abu Ali had heard about the Yazidi sex slaves, though he had never encountered any himself. The men called them "sabaya". They were mostly rewards for officers or men who had done well on the front - not for delinquents like Abu Ali. Over the next few hours he heard the girls laughing, and once he heard them sobbing. He assumed it was because they missed their families. Later that day, a shouting match erupted in the dozen or so men in Abu Ali's guesthouse. All of them wanted the sabaya. It went on for half an hour or so, getting increasingly heated.

Then a man in fatigues burst into the guesthouse. He looked like a commander. He asked where the sabaya were, and one of the men pointed to the door of the next room. He marched in without a word. Two loud shots rang out. The man in fatigues walked out again. Abu Ali, sitting in a chair by the door, stared up at him, frozen. "What did you do?" he asked. The man seemed unruffled. "Those girls were causing trouble between the brothers, so I dealt with them," he said. And he walked out.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 06:38:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it certainly can be a greater and deeper evil, with religion simply serving as an amplifier, but the two play off each other to a large degree, and divine justification can enable overthrowing tradition.

Asherah-worship used to be a-okay.  Then Jeremiah came along.  Paganism used to be a-okay.  Then the Christians got hold of the empire.

Religion is simply a newer, broader form of tribalism.  And like any tribalism, it incorporates some traditions and purges others.

Tribalism is the real evil.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 08:40:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a quote from an op-ed with a similar tenor as the diary. This one based on actual research, which is usually ignored in the terrorism "debate".

I've studied radicalization - and Islamophobia often plants the seed | Sarah Lyons-Padilla | Opinion | The Guardian

Many assume that people who commit terrorist attacks in the name of Islam are religious zealots. Actually, many Muslim radicals were not particularly religious at the get-go. Indeed, a substantial number of Isis sympathizers are converts to Islam - hardly lifelong devotees.

If not religion, then, what is to blame?

Researchers have long studied the motivations of terrorists, with psychologist Arie Kruglanski proposing a particularly compelling theory: people become terrorists to restore a sense of significance in their lives, a feeling that they matter. Extremist organizations like Isis are experts at giving their recruits that sense of purpose, through status, recognition, and the promise of eternal rewards in the afterlife.

My own survey work supports Kruglanski's theory. I find that American Muslims who feel a lack of significance in their lives are more likely to support fundamentalist groups and extreme ideologies.

What we really need to know now is, what sets people on this path? How do people lose their sense of purpose?

My research reveals one answer: the more my survey respondents felt they or other Muslims had been discriminated against, the more they reported feeling a lack of meaning in their lives. Respondents who felt culturally homeless - not really American, but also not really a part of their own cultural community - were particularly jarred by messages that they don't belong. Yet Muslim Americans who felt well integrated in both their American and Muslim communities were more resilient in the face of discrimination.

The Florida mass shooter's justification for lying about knowing the Boston terrorists (the reason for his earlier FBI investigation), teasing from work colleagues for being Muslim, could well have contributed to his radicalisation (on top of being a mess).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 05:15:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is hard to give a sense of purpose to all, especially on a post-industrial planet. In non-progressive societies, mere survival and slight status improvements give people more congruous purpose, perhaps.
by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 06:30:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
of the roots of middle eastern terrorism. I think you have demonstrated that those roots are not necessarily religious, much less Islamic in nature, and are in fact the fruits of oppression by despotic regimes in the region which nowadays are mostly religiously inspired by Salafism or Zionism. In some sense, they are therefore a revolt against one's own religion as corrupted by others, or against a rival religion. The methods used, however, owe little to Islamic Tradition, even the Islamic tradition of martyrdom, and more to the tactical exigencies that terrorists face:  They have no other effective means.

I am therefore interested in your conclusion in your seed comment: DoDo:

In my mind, tradition is a greater and deeper evil than religion

Surely tradition is no more than a routinisation of things as they have been done in the past with their current function being to maintain order, stability, and the status quo in a tribe.  Traditions can be both good and bad - continuing practices which had a positive function in the past - e.g. burial rituals as a means of dealing with grief. It is only when they become politicised as a means of oppressing one group by another that they become evil in your sense.

In the neutral, sociological sense, tradition is merely a means of passing on the learnings of one generation to the next.  It is when those traditions become ossified, impervious to changed circumstances or greater learning, that they need to be replaced by updated traditions, and that can be a difficult process because many vested interests are tied in with the older tradition.

But traditions, in themselves will always be part of any society. The question is whether, at any one point in time, they are predominantly for the good, or evil. The question we must ask is what function they are serving at any one point in time, and whether that function is in need of change.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 01:13:28 PM EST
In the diary and the seed comment, I kind of made two arguments from opposed directions. In the diary, I'm arguing against considering modern Islamic fundamentalist terrorism as a direct continuation or mainly a consequence of religious tradition, emphasizing the departures from that tradition. (To put it yet another way: IMHO the Taliban and  Daesh are more Mad Max than Middle Ages.) In the seed comment, I'm arguing that, even though religion makes things worse by giving divine justification to ideologies and customs with other sources, tradition is a force in itself which has the power to perpetrate insanities, is a deeper force than religion because it can shape the latter, and can even be stronger than the latter when coming into conflict.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 03:23:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To your history of suicide attacks, you may add the Japanese kamikazes in WW2. With the Tamils, this suggests that suicide attacks have something to do with modernity, not religion.

In the Middle East, there is the additional fact that Hizbollah (or their predecessor) is probably the only organisation in history to actually win wars with terrorist attacks, kicking the US, and, later, Israel out of their country this way. That may have given a big push to others who thought they could do the same thing.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 03:03:24 PM EST
The Kamikazi pilots were acting within their Shinto religious beliefs - that it was honorable to deliberately sacrifice your life in defense of your emperor and country. And Seppuku was an honorable way for a Samurai to die under the code of bushido in certain circumstances. In Homer's  Odyssey Ajax goes mad when Odysseus is awarded Achilles' armor and kills the Achean's flocks. Disgraced, he falls on his own sword. It was not considered a 'sin' by the Greeks, who didn't, as far as I know, at that time have any concept such as sin. I suspect suicide is more acceptable in strongly honor code based societies.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 04:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wanted to chart only the continuous part of this history: the Tamil Tigers weren't a separate development, they were inspired by Hezbollah (their first suicide attacks were car bombs with drivers), and Hamas in turn imported suicide belts. But I wonder whether Kamikaze pilots inspired Islamic militants in any way.

I very much agree that Hezbollah was inspirational with their success; that also helped the Shi'a to Sunni cross-over mentioned in the diary. But quibbling, I contest the notion that all of Hezbollah's attacks that contributed to the kicking out of the US and later Israel, especially the attacks on the US and French barracks and the attacks on Israeli military, should be counted as terrorism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 03:36:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is a loaded term.  The IRA were terrorists to some, and freedom fighters for others. However one can perhaps describe a method of attack as terrorist without taking sides in conflict - chiefly one which involves an indiscriminate attack on civilians, or an attack on a military target with no regard for the likelihood of even greater civilian casualties.  By that definition the bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden were terrorist attacks, regardless of your view on the justification of the WW2 in general.

The purpose of a terrorist attack is often not to achieve a military objective, but to, quite literally, strike terror into a general civilian population, with a view to cowing or suppressing them as a potential source of opposition, regardless of their own individual sympathies.  Many civilians are simply caught up in an attack by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is, and always should be, a war crime.  But of course only the losers are ever prosecuted. The US could simply have demonstrated their military superiority by detonating a nuclear bomb over the sea within sight of Tokyo accompanied by an ultimatum to surrender.  Dresden was simply an act of revenge. Much of modern day middle eastern originating terrorism is an inchoate response to the overwhelming military power of the US and Israel which makes any conventional response impossible to sustain.

The problem with terrorism is that it destroys both those it is directed at and those who use it - as the rise of Trump and the degradation of US political culture so eloquently testifies. The failure to prosecute Bush/Cheney and their acolytes for the Iraq war is the proximate cause - as is the ongoing failure to recognise the international court of Justice in Den Haag. American exceptionalism is breeding a terrorist monstrosity simply because there is no means of regulating the beast.  Will we have to wait for the US to be defeated in a nuclear exchange for that to change?  I hope not.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 06:21:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Terrorism" is a conclusory term designed to conceal, not reveal.  It is a label slapped on violent (and often on nonviolent) opposition by the current authorities to demonize that opposition and avoid having to recognize, let alone address, the issues giving rise to it.
by rifek on Mon Jun 13th, 2016 at 05:32:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One reason suicide attacks are a relatively modern phenomenon is that they have been enabled by modern explosives and motor vehicle technology, and to a lesser degree by modern automatic weapons.

Assassination has always been possible, and the option to commit suicide by cop/soldier has always been there, but actually harming large numbers of people in a spectacular fashion is not easy without, at the very least, something like dynamite. Motor vehicles vastly amplify the killing power of explosives by making them mobile and relatively difficult to stop.

We live in an era where one well-motivated individual can, with some study and practice, become a destructive force vastly greater than was possible in the past.  This makes a difference, and the rise of suicide tactics is at least in part a response to this new technology.  The motivation has probably been there for hundreds of years, it's just the ability is newer.

In my opinion this has been part of the reason behind the end of outright colonial rule.  Colonialism and Imperialism were just vastly more profitable when it was harder for the oppressed to fight back, when they had to form actual armed groups with training and tactics and expensive weaponry to accomplish anything.

by Zwackus on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 05:27:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agree on the end of colonialism.

Interesting reasoning on suicide bomb cars. In a way the fire ship can be seen as a precursor. That went out of style with the wooden ships, but remains a common ingredient in sci fi movies where the doomed hero (but not the real hero, because he gets the girl in the end) valiantly steers a aircraft/spacecraft into the evil aliens spacecraft (or an asteroid or whatever) and everything explodes. Of course that is brave and heroic, nothing like the cowardly attacks of suicide bombers...

by fjallstrom on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 11:31:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The first suicide attack in Mid East contemporary history was carried out by three members of the Japanese Red Army in 1972, the Lod Airport massacre.

It might be the case to emphasise the business behind the suicide industry. It has similarities to the organized crime, hefty insurance for relatives or settling of debts.There's a fascinating judiciary document in Italy on the confession and deprogramming of a suicide bomber arrested before he acted, related to the Abu Omar case.

For the record and for what it's worth, there are 12th-century Arab accounts of suicide attacks against European Crusaders.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 04:23:06 PM EST
Heh. I wondered upthread about any possible connection between Kamikaze pilots and Islamic militants, I should just have read on... I find that the suicide aspect is debated, however:

Lod Airport massacre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yasuda was accidentally shot dead by one of the other attackers, and Okudaira moved from the airport building into the landing area, firing at passengers disembarking from an El Al aircraft before being killed by one of his own grenades, either due to accidental premature explosion or as a suicide.

Then again, the only English-language web source on this is Wikipedia, which sources the passage to two books. Only one of these can be read on Google Books, and that one merely uses neutral language ("Two of the Japanese attackers were torn apart by their own grenades", which is not even true as one of them died of gunshot wounds). Meanwhile, another book with a more detailed description of the attack claims Okudaira "threw himself on top of a grenade and detonated it", which would be a simple suicide rather than suicide bombing. On the other hand, I find the surviving terrorist later said "I thought I would die in the gunbattle and thought I would be sentenced to death even if I had survived and had been caught," so the characterisation as suicide attack seems justifiable.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 04:11:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that in Runciman's book? He told Uri Avnery that he originally wanted to give his book on the Crusaders a subtitle "A guide for the Zionists on how not to do it".
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 05:36:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a compilation of medieval Arab authors on the crusades edited by Francesco Gabrieli, Storici arabi delle crociate, Einaudi,latest edition 2007.

There is an excerpt on the assassin cult as well as the account of an Arab who had gained the trust of a prominent European figure so as to assassinate him.I recall that it was a suicidal mission that took several years to carry out. They're called "sleepers" now. Catchy thing.

As soon as I find my copy I'll brush up and be more concise.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 07:42:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it only suicide terrorism that horrifies?

The Arab Revolt during the World War I is a prime example of military guerilla terrorism, with T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) the primary practitioner and theorist of modern guerilla warfare:

The genius of Lawrence was to perceive the potential and turn it into reality. Among his key principles of modern guerrilla warfare were to strive above all to win hearts and minds, to establish an unassailable base and remain strategically dispersed. The key was to operate in small, local groups, in depth rather than in lines and strike only when the enemy could be taken by surprise, never engaging in sustained combat. His strategy also relied on remaining largely detached from the enemy - and having perfect intelligence about them.

Lawrence was not the first practitioner of guerrilla warfare, nor even of guerrilla warfare with modern weapons - he was preceded by Boer leaders Louis Botha, Koos de la Rey and Christiaan de Wet. But he was the first to transform the experience into a military theory. Take any of the guerrilla victories of the 20th century, including Ireland (1921), China (1949), Cuba (1959) and Rhodesia (1979). Or take today's guerrilla wars including the Taliban in Afghanistan, who drove out the Russians in 1989 and are now on the verge of driving out the Americans, or the wave of jihadist insurgency ranging from the Western Sahara to the Himalayas, signalling the defeat of the so-called "war on terror". Read the great guerrilla commanders of the last century -Mao, Giap, Che. All reiterate principles first set down by Lawrence immediately after the First World War.

So the Arab Muslims were at the forefront of this art of war.

T. E. Lawrence's vision for the Middle East: How does it look now?

so-called "terrorism" is a form that warfare assumes for the politically disenfranchised, whether we approve or disapprove of the political cause in question. For example, the current Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, wrote as "Michael" when he was a member of the command of the Lehi underground organization:
But first and foremost, terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier. The real terrorist hides behind his stacks of papers and of laws he himself legislated. (Our terrorism) is not aimed at persons, but rather at representatives, and therefore it is effective. If, in addition, it shakes the Jewish population out of its complacency - so much the better. Thus, and only thus, will the battle for liberation commence (Shamir, 1987-1988, p. 23).
by das monde on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 02:20:06 AM EST
Yes, there is a continuity between the tribal-nationalist guerilla forces helped and organized by Lawrence of Arabia and the leftist and nationalist militant groups of the 1960s-1980s I mentioned in the diary; and the terrorism of the latter can count both guerilla methods and the methods of pre-Israel Zionist terrorists (not all of whom limited their actions to representatives of the British authorities, BTW).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 04:18:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(not all of whom limited their actions to representatives of the British authorities, BTW).

Hardly! I have a friend and business owner in LA whose Syrian Orthodox family, comprised of Syrian, Turkish, Armenian and other ethnicities, owned an automobile assembly plant in Bethlehem in 1946. He and his brothers were raised learning Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Turkish and English just to be capable of doing business in the area. They were told by Zionist terrorists to just leave or they would all be killed. So they left. They made out much better than most 'Palestinians' - which label they reject. The family had assets outside of what became Israel and moved to Beirut. My friend moved to the USA, married a German citizen while on an engineering job in Europe, and founded a Consulting Electrical Engineering firm in LA. One of my all time favorite clients. The majority of non-Jewish residents of Palestine in 1946 did not fare nearly so well. And they WERE deliberately terrorized by Irgun and others so as to create Jewish 'Lebensraum' in Palestine.    

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 10:13:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Morbidly interesting diary on the history of terrorism.

The chief question raised seems to be does tradition come before religion or vice-versa?

In truth present day suicide bombers and the like are an extension of the self-abnegatory courage which is a sine qua non of fighting in battle.

Most British infantrymen boarding trains for the front knew the statistical chances of their coming back alive.

Dogged, numbing determination to conquer fear is a male trait evolved for emergencies. To fear death was ignoble and unbecoming, you were expected to feign bravery and have total control over your muscular and excretory systems to be accepted into the brotherhood of combat. Such is the power of the trained human will combined with peer coercion that whole troops can be brainwashed to feel this way, especially with judicious use of drugs such as amphetamine, benzidrine and the like, which cut us off from the tender parts of our characters and make us feel temporarily, cavalierly invincible.

Obviously the stress of maintaining this level of psychological stress for long campaigns plays merry hell with the adrenal and nervous systems. Many went mad with the contradictions, shell shock was common. My grandfather, veteran of two world wars was a walking example.

So we're hardwired for dissociation.

People commit suicide when they see no way things will improve. Many take others down with them for no reason other than bile, almost daily in Gun Nirvana stateside.

So it's easy to put these traits together and semi-rationally explain the phenomenon. Bribe a poor young ghetto kid with a some money for his descendants, fire up his religious circuits (Paradise!) and his carnal ones (72!). Tell him instead of being another anonymous cipher he'll be a legend in his community, and recruiting them is probably easier than most western minds can allow ourselves to think.

Anthropology and archeology try to give us answers to which came first, tradition or religion, inconclusively so far. Patriotism, tribal pride, bellicose music all have been used to get men to keep going straight into the mouth of hell even when every cell in their bodies was screaming danger, abort!

Now it's the name of a sky god. It is interesting how much our wills can over-ride our desire for survival.
Grandpa would have walked off a cliff if the King had asked it of him, it was his duty as an Englishman, "Ours not to reason why, ours but to do or die".

Jim Jones laid a deathwish spell on himself and thousands of followers submissively complied.

There's only one letter difference between thanatic and fanatic, life is very, very cheap in some parts of the world. Almost three generations in Europe have lived without war on our doorsteps, coddled in consumer comfort, in the main we have completely forgotten what it meant to have to die for a cause one believed in more than life itself, and do try and do so with serene aplomb if we could.

It's the thorniest of present-day problems. Millions of dollar-think-tank-man-hours are going into the intricate psychological niceties of why someone would do such a thing.
Occam's razor leads me to believe the human race uses war and violence as a form of self-culling. Those most adapted to continued violence are thus removed from the gene pool before they reproduce, possible creating beings even and ever more attracted to violence. Stupidly simplistic certainly, but it has a Darwinian tidiness to it.

Lastly the paradox of how more soldiers commit suicide after returning from battle than do on the field speaks volumes about this issue...

Religion and tradition, which is chicken, which is egg?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 08:19:34 AM EST
Watching the stonily impassive faces of the N. Korean soldiers on parade, there is little doubt they have drunk much Koolaide to get where they are.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 08:23:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A recap of "Game of Thrones" from Salon.com:

"Violence is a disease--you don't cure it by spreading it to more people"

And for the occasion:

Boxing After Ali

The fighters' strategies were plain enough: Vargas, slightly taller and longer, leaned and twisted away from Salido, trying to create space; Salido, undeterred, crouched and advanced, trying to fill it in. Neither fighter hits especially hard, and both can take a punch: this combination is what made De La Hoya (and many others) so excited about the pairing, because it suggested that the two fighters would trade blows for a full twelve rounds. This calculation proved correct: there were moments when each fighter's knees buckled, or his body sagged, but both men stayed on their feet, delivering and bearing barrages that seemed, in the aggregate, unbearable. According to CompuBox statistics, they combined to throw 1,593 power punches, a category that includes every punch except a jab; that's the highest total ever recorded between two junior lightweights. (By contrast, when Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fought last year, CompuBox recorded only 404 power punches.) Before the start of the twelfth round, a doctor ascended into the ring to examine Vargas's face, which was swollen and blotched, partly as a result of a series of head clashes. The crowd booed, by way of exhorting the doctor not to stop the fight. Vargas passed the examination, and his reward was three more minutes of HBO glory, and of punishment. The crowd applauded both boxers at the end, although the bipartisan mood lasted only until the judges' decision was announced: one judge had Vargas slightly ahead, but the other two scored it even, which meant a draw, and more booing; Salido had been the fan favorite, and it just so happened that most fans seemed sure that he had won. Online, the consensus among experts was that the fight had been close, and that a draw wasn't unreasonable.

In another way, though, a draw underscores the unreasonableness -- the irreducible pointlessness -- of boxing. After nearly an hour of violence, all the judges could determine was, in essence, that it was a close fight. Which is another way of saying that the fighters did exactly what everyone hoped they would do.

The Outsized Life of Muhammad Ali
Watch the third fight with Joe Frazier, in Manila. The two men nearly destroy each other. Ali admitted afterward that it was the "closest I've come to death." And Frazier, who despised Ali for mocking him, for calling him a gorilla and an Uncle Tom, said, "I hit him with punches that would have knocked a building down." Ali, who had won after Frazier's cornermen determined that he was too swollen, too blinded to go on, admitted that both he and Frazier were never the same after that third fight. "We went to Manila as champions, Joe and me, and we came back as old men," he said.
by das monde on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 10:47:09 PM EST
Is Islam 'Exceptional'? -- Atlantic.com
where theologians like Martin Luther famously fashioned a dialectic between faith and good works, these two things are inextricably tied together in Islam. Faith is often expressed through the observance of the law. The failure to follow Islamic law is a reflection of the believer's lack of faith and unwillingness to submit to God. Salvation is impossible without law. This has implications for the nature of the Islamic state. If following the sharia -- for example, refraining from alcohol and adultery, observing the fast, and praying five times a day -- is a precondition for salvation, then political leaders and clerics alike have a role in encouraging the good and forbidding evil, a role they played, to various degrees, for the entirety of the pre-modern period.

[...] Hard-won independence offered a gleam of hope in the 20th century, but the promise of secular nationalism ultimately disappointed, with young nations descending into dictatorship. Perhaps God had forsaken the Muslims, punishing them for straying from the straight path. After all, God had promised glad tidings for those who followed his commands, and he had, seemingly, delivered for centuries. The most devout -- the prophet, his companions, and their earliest followers -- had enjoyed unimaginable success, conquering the entirety of North Africa, then spreading out through Spain and into France within a hundred years of the prophet's passing. This must have been evidence of their righteousness. That, though, could only mean that the territorial contraction of once-great empires must have been evidence of sin and decadence.

[...] The prophet Muhammad was a theologian, a politician, a warrior, a preacher, and a merchant, all at once. Importantly, he was also the builder of a new state. It is difficult to know when he was acting in one role rather than the other [...]

[...] the basic idea of extracting general principles while emphasizing the historicity of their application has, in less explicit form, been advocated by a growing number of "progressive" Muslim scholars, many of whom live in the West. There are reasons, though, that these theories have struggled to gain adherents in the Muslim world. First of all, they're not very easily explained to those without a background in Islamic law. For many Muslims, the point of Islam is that it is accessible and straightforward, at least in its broad outlines.

by das monde on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 11:49:44 PM EST
What is missing from this account is the impact of the Mongols. If the Arab-Muslim civilization was the most advanced at that time, the Mongols did crucial damage to their golden age. Any progressive drive was just gone thereafter.
by das monde on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 08:04:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is much more missing in this account. Sunni vs Shi'a, the shock of the Crusades, the long decline of the Ottoman Empire before its collapse, the 18th century emergence of the Saudi state, European colonialism, Pakistan, Israel (yeah they mention it but only via the reflections of an Islamic scholar), the USA and its meddling, oil, consumerism. The article sounds as if the Muslim world was largely left to itself, with only introspection to influence its development.

And the central claim:

Islamic Exceptionalism: How Religion Shapes Politics in the Middle East - The Atlantic

Islam is distinctive in how it relates to politics--and this distinctiveness can be traced back to the religion's founding moment in the seventh century. Islam is different...

That the Christian tradition seems ambivalent about law, governance, and power is no accident. Islam and Christianity are, after all meant to do different things. Law, at least in part, is about exposing and punishing sin. Yet, when Jesus died on the cross, he in effect released man from the burdens of sin, and therefore from the burdens of the law.

Delusional bullshit. Most religions, including Christianity, were quite adamant to enter the political sphere and impose laws. The Old Testament is full of laws. The New Testament describes the sectarian community of the Apostles. A few centuries later, Christianity was turned into a legitimising ideology for rulers and began to hunt heretics. It was only after the Catholic–Protestant stalemate and general disillusionment that a clear separation of politics and religion became possible, and it took more time in the Colonies where various Protestant sects and off-shoots (Mormonism, anyone?) were still busy trying to create religion-based states.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 11:08:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our intuition of religions is based on Abrahamic examples. I do not see other religions as equally adamant about enjoying highest power. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto - these religions are generally content with advisory, propaganda roles (so to speak).  

In comparison to Christianity, Islam does seem to identify itself with political and legal authority more verbatim. I give distinctiveness points here to Islam. The Western separation of Church and State originated before the Enlightenment.

An interesting psychological-superstitious suggestion in the article is that the intellectual golden age in the Middle East and Central Asia transpired to a traumatic experience, because of the "punishing" shocks of the Crusades and Mongols. It is then easier to imagine aggressive rationalization of anti-intellectual skepticism. The embrace of terrorism would be then "logical" as adaptation of a practice that works towards their implicit ambitions.

by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 12:06:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto - these religions are generally content with advisory, propaganda roles (so to speak).

Where do you draw the line between "advisory, propaganda roles" and whatever you think Islamists do? In Tibet, the Buddhist rule was quite direct. In Confucianism, running a country (as opposed to just running your private life) is a central theme. Shintoism is a special case because today it is more a collection of rituals than an ideology, but it, too, is intractably entwined with the erstwhile ruling class. Meanwhile, Salafists could argue that Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was just an advisor, too.

The Western separation of Church and State originated before the Enlightenment.

The Treaty of Worms wasn't a separation of church of state, quite the opposite! It was a truce in the battle between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor over control of the local church. But I would agree that the foundations for the separation of Church and State were laid before the Enlightement, when Catholics and Protestants fought to a standstill and created general disillusionment in the 30 Years War.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 02:12:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The very fact that Henry IV, Henry V were negotiating with the Popes shows that the Church did not have absolute authority. Yes, the Treaty of Worms empowered the Church - as a political entity foremost. Its moral authority rose up only for a few other centuries.

The notion that there are lines between Church and sovereign authorities was underscored by the Canossa and Warms episodes. For Islam, this notion still seems to be lightyears away, especially regarding the Sunni doctrine of caliphate.

Where do you draw the line between "advisory, propaganda roles" and whatever you think Islamists do?
We better have a taste for distinctions here. Concrete metrics would be: claimed necessity of own superiority (over politics, other religions); free will of sovereigns; historical evolution; eagerness of "supply vs demand".

My mentioned religions coexist in China, Japan for centuries almost without particular religious wars, and are pretty cool about "foolish" rulers. Confucianism went though the Han synthesis with Taoism and Qin legalism; distrust of the (Mongol) Yuan dynasty; Neo-Confucianism, New Confucianism variations.    

by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 04:45:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the Church did not have absolute authority

Yes, and? Neither did the mullahs and imams have absolute rule under the various shahs and sultans.

especially regarding the Sunni doctrine of caliphate

Church of England?

I think you are trying to paint with too broad a brush. There is a spectrum of church-state relations in Christian-dominated states through history, so is there one for Muslim-dominated states. I think the only way to see a significant difference is by ignoring large parts of the spectrum on both sides.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 10:52:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is you using a broad paintbrush "all religions are the same", refusing to see spectra differences. Clinging on extreme examples by superficial similarities is not a great instance of scrutiny.

Church of England is an example of political demand.

The Muslim countries had relaxed times about 50 years ago. And just as with (not so numerous) "free" shahs and sultans, the orthodox backlash was intense.

by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 06:26:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  • I never claimed that all religions are the same, not even that there are differences in spectrums I pointed out. I only contradicted your claims of fundamental differences.
  • Be specific: what do you consider an "extreme example" or a "superficial similarity" and why?
  • I don't get what "political demand" changes about the fact that the Church of England unites political and religious leadership just like the caliphate doctrine. Meanwhile, I don't view the caliphate doctrine as it developed as purely rooted in religion, either. Soon after Mohammed, it was transformed into a quite political justification for the hereditary imperial power of a clan (contrary to original Islamic notions of choosing a leader), and even later the Ottoman sultans claimed the title for their own imperial benefit (legitimising rule over Arabs) despite lack of descent from Mohammed. This, I note, wasn't too successful in practice when a string of Arab kingdoms defied central rule and gained semi-independence.
  • What is the narrative you are constructing with this "orthodox backlash"? Are you, like the author in the Atlantic, ignoring all other factors affecting various parts of the Arab world (European colonialists, CIA coups, Israel, etc...) and claim an intrinsic development? If we just speak about Iran, it has a very interesting history which doesn't lend itself to such simple narratives. For example, 47 years before the CIA-funded coup d'état against secular leftist PM Mohammad Mosaddegh, there was the Persian Constitutional Revolution, in which a broad coalition including clerics, merchants and advocates of Western-style reforms, united in rejection of submission to European colonialists, forced the Shah to establish a parliament. Those aren't the fault lines of The Atlantic's narrative. In fact, the fault lines in the 1979 Revolution weren't quite like that, either: in both Iran and the West, the fact that the revolution was the work of a broad coalition from Khomeini to communists was airbrushed from history (after establishing power, Khomeini quickly went after his former allies).
  • Furthermore, it is totally off to claim a switch from relaxed times to orthodox backlash for the entire Islamic world on the example of Iran. There was a more or less synchronous development in urban Afghanistan, Egypt and Palestine, but elsewhere, I don't think so. If anything, the Gulf States minus Saudi Arabia became more relaxed over the same time period, while orthodox madness started in Pakistan with independence. And as bad as Erdoğan is, IMHO it is a stretch to call developments in Turkey an orthodox backlash: Turkey is still more liberal and Westernized than the Shah's Persia ever was.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 04:51:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't have time to discuss "what is extreme, superficial, fundamental". The tone of your responses shows that you focus on own confirmation bias rather than open judgement of differences and their significance. There are many ways to sort Wikipedia facts. Some specific sorts would be optimal to see capably where the world is "stretching" now - but it is too costly for us to debate this fully academically. Nor we are qualified, or determined to have actual impact.

It is only since recently that I consider historical-social-religous-psychological backlashes against progress, enlightenments seriously. Here I have an occassion to share newly informed contemplations. But my time is limited, so I am not on a big educational mission.

To me, "political demand" versus "zealous supply" is a significant distinction. As for Sunni caliphate aspirations, I refer to this acclaimed Atlantic article for a start: "What ISIS Really Wants"

by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 05:53:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't have time to discuss "what is extreme, superficial, fundamental".

If you aren't prepared to back them up, then don't throw around such sweeping accusations. Which BTW you continue in your next sentence. Same about sweeping claims.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 12:05:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ironically and in a few ways, this discussion exemplifies what is apparently wrong with progressive aspirations. We do not have all energy to really sell Rationalism to everyone. And our rigid criteria limits own understanding of other sentiments.
by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 09:18:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For what it's worth, I continue my IMHO sub-academic discussion of both differences and similarities on the subject of parallels to the caliphate, where I see a direct connection to the investiture conflict.

Unlike Islam or Confucianism, Christianity started out without a direct connection to state power, which it only gained in the 4th century when it was turned into the state religion of the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, and its descendant the Byzantine Empire, the Emperors developed an ideology of divine justification of power and exerted practical control over the church, which modern historians call Caesaropapism. But what is IMHO more interesting is what became of this tradition in the West.

When the Frank kings sought to re-establish the Roman Empire, this included the religious justification of power. For example, Charlemagne was quite brazen:

In any event, Charlemagne used these circumstances to claim that he was the renewer of the Roman Empire, which had apparently[citation needed] fallen into degradation under the Byzantines. In his official charters, Charles preferred the style Karolus serenissimus Augustus a Deo coronatus magnus pacificus imperator Romanum gubernans imperium[71] ("Charles, most serene Augustus crowned by God, the great, peaceful emperor ruling the Roman empire") to the more direct Imperator Romanorum ("Emperor of the Romans").

The claim of religious authority, of course, also translated into practical control of the Papacy. The investiture conflict was directly preceded by the church's rebellion against this:

Investiture Controversy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The crisis began when a group within the church, members of the Gregorian Reform, decided to rebel against the rule of simony by forcefully taking the power of investiture from the ruling secular power, i.e. the Holy Roman Emperor and placing that power wholly within control of the church. The Gregorian reformers knew this would not be possible so long as the emperor maintained the ability to appoint the pope, so their first step was to forcibly gain the papacy from the control of the emperor. An opportunity came in 1056 when Henry IV became German king at six years of age. The reformers seized the opportunity to take the papacy by force while he was still a child and could not react. In 1059, a church council in Rome declared, with In Nomine Domini, that leaders of the nobility would have no part in the selection of popes and created the College of Cardinals as a body of electors made up entirely of church officials. Once Rome regained control of the election of the pope, it was ready to attack the practice of investiture and simony on a broad front.

In 1075, Pope Gregory VII composed the Dictatus Papae. One clause asserted that the deposal of an emperor was under the sole power of the pope.[5] It declared that the Roman church was founded by God alone - that the papal power (the auctoritas of Pope Gelasius) was the sole universal power; in particular, a council held in the Lateran Palace from 24 to 28 February the same year decreed that the pope alone could appoint or depose churchmen or move them from see to see.[6] By this time, Henry IV was no longer a child, and he continued to appoint his own bishops.[5] He reacted to this declaration by sending Gregory VII a letter in which he withdrew his imperial support of Gregory as pope in no uncertain terms: the letter was headed "Henry, king not through usurpation but through the holy ordination of God, to Hildebrand, at present not pope but false monk".[7] It called for the election of a new pope. His letter ends, "I, Henry, king by the grace of God, with all of my Bishops, say to you, come down, come down!", and is often quoted with "and to be damned throughout the ages." which is a later addition.[7][8]

Note how Henry IV claims to be king "through the holy ordination of God" (rather than the Pope). It wasn't until the height of the investiture conflict that the Frankish empire began to call itself Holy Roman Empire, though. (Its claim of supremacy becoming increasingly hollow, it existed until the early 18th century.)

When compared to the Sunni Caliphate, what stands out to me is not the position of the Emperor but the position of the Pope.  AFAIK in Sunni Islam, you rarely find a top cleric with (at least symbolic) power comparable to that of the secular ruler (Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab is the exception); and even in Shi's Islam or Orthodox Christianity, the religious authority of top clerics is usually limited to a state.

How could the Papacy not just endure but strengthen after repeated attempts by rulers (not just Holy Roman Emperors but French kings, too) to make it their tool? I think the reason is less religious than political. Already before the investiture conflict, requesting a crown from the Pope was a means for kings of newly established Christian kingdoms to protect their independence from the two Empires (Byzantine and Frakish). In the first round of the investiture conflict, the Emperor had to back down because his barons used the occasion to rebel against his authority. There was loss of central control in Sunni Islam, too, but instead of using an independent religious authority as catalyst, the renegades established rival caliphates.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 12:46:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The political evolution of Christianity is rich indeed, in a clear contrast to Islam's. Is this the difference between ongoing concurring successes and early traumas of Crusades, Mongols? Or does the desert environment lead to intellectual dessert, ha?

To Tom Holland (in "Millenium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom"), Canossa is an inauguration of the Western church-state separation. It seems that his The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West is just an alternative title:

Henry IV presumed that he had not only the right but also the duty to poke his nose in the affairs of the church, Holland says. Gregory's victory intended to assure that the business of the church was of the church alone.

Paradoxically, the incident, known as the "Investiture Crisis," eventually led to the idea of separation of church and state.

Now I am reading "Desert Queen", a biography of Gertrude Bell. The Arab religious leader around WWI was Sharif Hussein. His sons led the Arab revolt, together with T. E. Lawrence. Hussein declared himself a caliph briefly in 1924, but was soon militarily eclipsed by ibn Saud.

by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 09:52:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The political evolution of Christianity is rich indeed, in a clear contrast to Islam's.

I don't see how that follows from what I wrote, at all. I wrote about the parallel evolution of the Sunni caliphate and the Holy Roman Empire ideas. The former is just as complex. It first moved from a notionally elected leader to a hereditary concept, then absorbed Persian imperial culture, then came rival caliphates, then appropriation by dynasties without connection to Muhammad. And that's just the Sunni idea of the Caliphate.

Further, given that we are discussing the time period before the Mongol invasion, when Christian Europe still had everything to learn from the Muslim world intellectually, your "intellectual desert" speculation is totally off.

Regarding the Tom Holland quote, "eventually led to the idea of" is a lot weaker than your "inauguration of". Perhaps it will prove useful if I go into more detail. The outcome of the investiture conflict didn't change the facts that bishops were also feudal lords, attended the imperial assembly (Reichstag), and 3 of the originally 7 electors choosing new Holy Roman Emperors were cardinals. Neither was there a change in the Empire (as well as kingdoms independent from it) giving assistance to the Church in its hunt for heretics, and referring to divine authority and the Bible in its laws. What did change was only that the authority to appoint the same bishops as feudal lords and as church leaders was separated (forcing the Empire and the Papacy into compromises). I think real separation means the removal of the Church from state institutions and religious references from law. (BTW, in some Catholic states, this gathered steam well after the start of Enlightement.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 06:09:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"eventually led to the idea of" is a phrase of a reviewer. Tom Holland is very emphatic that the Canossa episode was a significant crossroad in European history. Islam may have been similarly dynamic at that time, but the dispute between the Henries and the Popes was a special development that defined European norms and enabled a more dynamic trajectory. Sunni complexities remained chronological facts somehow.

Our general discussion is not just about before the Mongol invasion (especially if you still pivot on the real separation). It is surely an open question how Christianity would have coped with the Mongols if they would have seen Europe worthwhile to conquer. But the Mongol impact on the Middle East soil and ideology was pretty arresting.

by das monde on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 07:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have The Collected Letters of Gertrude Bell along with The Memoirs of Aga Khan in my library. I found them in a group of books on sale to the public from Cal State LA. Primary source material! I was appalled and snapped them up. Possibly a case of the university no longer having a middle east specialist on its faculty. I haven't taken the time to read either yet.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 02:52:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cal State Northridge it was. CSULA has an excellent middle east historian, but he wouldn't get into issues involving the Saudi monarchy. Told me about giving one talk and, afterwards, having an agent of the Saudi government come up to him and tell him: "You got things right THIS time." He has extended family in Alexandria.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jun 16th, 2016 at 09:05:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a clear separation of politics and religion became possible, it took more time in the Colonies where various Protestant sects and off-shoots (Mormonism, anyone?) were still busy trying to create religion-based states.
The "wall of separation between Church and State" in the newly founded US looked no less firm than in the Revolutionary France.  Famously, the Founding Fathers forgot to reference God in the Constitution.  The liberal Scottish Realism, Deism, Unitarianism rather dominated the American thought between the first two Great Awakenings.  The direct opposition was firstly from Romanticism, Transcendentalism.  Protestant evangelism revived via anti-authoritarian reform societies rather than large organized Churches.  The Mormons, Shakers, Millerites were withdrawing Come-Outers, an extreme end of the market for the American existential combination of short term pessimism (for moral corruption or so) and some longer term optimism.  The evolution of American religious authority is complicated.
by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 07:54:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "wall of separation between Church and State" in the newly founded US

But that's the Enlightement already. And a direct reaction to the religious madness of Protestant sects in the preceding 150 years, a period during which Europe already got past that phase. The Mormons, meanwhile, could pursue a state led by their religious leaders in the 19th century, which was ended in 1858 by force (see Utah War and subsequent direct federal law enforcement). Only from then on can you speak of a full enforcement of the wall between Church and State.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 11:03:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you bring "it took more time in the Colonies" and "Enlightenment already" together?

Surely, most North American colonies were founded as religious projects, escaping religious prosecution in Europe. But they were disintegrating as such after a generation, as utopias. With so much fertile land around and so much labour to be done, authoritarian rule did not have a chance. Now US is dense, squeezed, resources expensive for most - thus a large potential for Big Brother.

There is a serious discontinuity of religious "madness" of the first settlers and later Awakenings. Romanticism and those Great Awakenings were direct anti-intellectual reactions to Enlightenment, industrial revolution. Apparently, there are human aspirations that progressive developments do not satisfy still, nor understand fairly. And that is where there could be a serious similarity with Islam - the cyclical pattern of stronger anti-intellectual sentiments. But then, differences in this similarity would be just as interesting.

Utah was not the first territory the Mormons were escaping to. Yes, they were seeking a religous state, theodemocracy. But they developed in opposition to the established religion and politics. Thus shelving them on the Christian spectrum without a footnote is not remarkably illuminating.

by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 07:04:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you bring "it took more time in the Colonies" and "Enlightenment already" together?

I thought we were in agreement that Church–State separation was definite with the Enlightenment, and only disputed how much older it was. (You traced it back to the Treat of Worms, I totally disagreed and traced it back to aftermath of the 30 Years War only, and even later elsewhere.) So when you brought the Great Awakenings into discussion, it had little to do with my comment it was a reply to, which was more about the madness of the first settlers.

I don't get your protest about my arguments regarding Mormonism. I didn't claim Utah was the first territory they were escaping to, I claimed they actually established a theocracy (which was crushed by force). Opposition to established religion and politics is an almost universal feature of religions when they are new.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 05:09:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the context of differences between Islam and Christianity, "definite" Church-State separation is a red herring in other galaxy. I argued that Islam did not come significantly close to the argument of Worms.

The Mormons only went so far to establish their theo(demo)crasy. ISIS would go back a thousand years, blow up the planet.

Mad first settlers in America? That would be the ones who saw only Cortez and Pizzaro as viable business models. Religion based settlements let their utopian "madness" dissipate very quickly. Interesting religion started with Great Awakenings.

by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 06:11:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I argued that Islam did not come significantly close to the argument of Worms.

And I argued that Worms wasn't a separation of church of state, quite the opposite. If we drop "Church-State separation" and look whether there is a parallel to Worms in the Islamic world, or specifically in Sunni Islam, I agree that there isn't, since there is no parallel to the Pope (see upthread). Then again, I question the significance of this difference.

The Mormons only went so far to establish their theo(demo)crasy. ISIS would go back a thousand years, blow up the planet.

What kind of argument is this? The Mormons went quite far in establishing their fake democratic theocracy (including death squads), which existed for decades, until they were checked by outside intervention. The Protestant madness which you claim dissipated "very quickly" also endured at least decades (in the case of the Amish, much longer). How far the only few years old ISIS will get, we'll see. I argued in my diary that ISIS may claim they want to go back a thousand years, but they are more Mad Max than Middle Ages.

Finally, I thought we were debating all of Islam, not just ISIS, and you don't want to pick extreme examples?...

Interesting religion started with Great Awakenings.

You again throw out a bold claim you don't elaborate on. Why do you think only the Great Awakenings are interesting (and when phrased that way, not just for you subjectively, but objectively)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 01:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ISIS obviously has deep cultural, political influence - far deeper than the Mormoms (or any extreme Christianity sect) ever did. Apart from the concrete Daesh form, their medieval grounding should be taken seriously.

You again throw out a bold claim you don't elaborate on.
Our perception is too asymetric. I can only encourage do targeted reading (or audio learning).
by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 10:08:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<dies laughing>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 03:55:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A continuation on Atlantic.com:

The Meaningless Politics of Liberal Democracies

The desire for theocracy in the Muslim world can be partly understood through the failures of Western secularism.

.... when we try to understand why someone joins an Islamist party, we tend to think of it as, "Is this person interested in power or community or belonging?" But sometimes it's even simpler than that. It [can be] about a desire for eternal salvation. It's about a desire to enter paradise. In the bastions of Northeastern, liberal, elite thought, that sounds bizarre. Political scientists don't use that kind of language because, first of all, how do you measure that? But I think we should take seriously what people say they believe in.

It's interesting that we're having this conversation at a time when many people, including outside the Middle East, are loosing faith in technocratic, liberal democracy. There's a desire for a politics of substantive meaning. At the end of the day, people want more than economic tinkering.

I think classical liberalism makes a lot of sense intellectually. But it doesn't necessarily fill the gap that many people in Europe and the U.S. seem to have in their own lives, whether that means [they] resort to ideology, religion, xenophobia, nationalism, populism, exclusionary politics, or anti-immigrant politics. All of these things give voters a sense that there is something greater.

by das monde on Fri Jun 10th, 2016 at 01:32:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
when we try to understand why someone joins an Islamist party, we tend to think of it as, "Is this person interested in power or community or belonging?" But sometimes it's even simpler than that. It [can be] about a desire for eternal salvation.

Again, something major is missing here. Between "power or community or belonging" and "eternal salvation", there is also a desire for a non-corrupt, just, pro-welfare government. Of course, a self-described liberal member of the Brookings Institution will be unwilling to see any system Western resp. pro-Western described as "technocratic, liberal democracy" as a corrupt, unfair, poverty-perpetrating abomination.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 05:29:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The same author - Shadi Hamid - has been a regular contributor to Atlantic.com for years. Here are pieces of his earlier articles:

The Roots of the Islamic State's Appeal

The rise of ISIS is only the most extreme example of the way in which liberal determinism -- the notion that history moves with intent toward a more reasonable, secular future -- has failed to explain the realities of the Middle East. It should by now go without saying that the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not share ISIS's view of religion, but that's not really the most interesting or relevant question. ISIS's rise to prominence has something to do with Islam, but what is that something?

ISIS draws on, and draws strength from, ideas that have broad resonance among Muslim-majority populations. They may not agree with ISIS's interpretation of the caliphate, but the notion of a caliphate -- the historical political entity governed by Islamic law and tradition -- is a powerful one, even among more secular-minded Muslims. The caliphate, something that hasn't existed since 1924, is a reminder of how one of the world's great civilizations endured one of the more precipitous declines in human history. The gap between what Muslims once were and where they now find themselves is at the center of the anger and humiliation that drive political violence in the Middle East. But there is also a sense of loss and longing for an organic legal and political order that succeeded for centuries before its slow but decisive dismantling. Ever since, Muslims, and particularly Arab Muslims, have been struggling to define the contours of an appropriate post-caliphate political model.

[The Muslim world] has already experienced a weakening of the clerics, who, in being co-opted by newly independent states, fell into disrepute. In Europe, the decline of the clerical class and mass literacy laid the groundwork for secularization. In the modern Middle East, these same forces coincided with political Islam's ascendancy. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood disproportionately drew its leadership from the professional sectors of medicine, engineering, and law. The movement, founded in 1928, was decidedly non-clerical and, in some ways, anti-clerical. In the 1950s, Cairo's al-Azhar, the Arab world's preeminent center of Islamic thought, was co-opted and politicized by Gamal Abdel Nasser's regime, the Brotherhood's chief antagonist.

The much more literalist Salafis also had little time for the religious establishment. The premise of Salafism was that centuries of intricate and technical Islamic scholarship had obscured the power and purity of Islam, as embodied by the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. Salafi leaders told their followers that the Quran's meaning could be accessed by simply reading it and following the example of the Prophet. Salafism -- and for that matter groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS -- would be inconceivable without the weakening of the clerics and the democratization of religion interpretation.

France's False Choice

Historically, forcing people to be liberal or secular, when they don't want to be, doesn't work particularly well.

Imposed liberalism, in fact, is something of a contradiction in terms. Liberalism privileges individual autonomy and personal freedom; to negate that autonomy because it is directed toward religious ends is, to put it mildly, problematic. A liberal society can survive with a minority that opposes blasphemy. More than that, a liberal society cannot truly be liberal without allowing citizens to express their own personal illiberalism, as long as they do so through legal, democratic channels.

[...] Walzer writes that "individual liberty, democracy, gender equality, and religious pluralism aren't really Western values; they are universal values that first appeared in strong, modern versions in Western Europe and the Americas." This is fine as far as it goes, but it raises a question: Why aren't some "universal values" -- such as the right to offend -- universally held? And, if they aren't universally held, is it enough to insist that they should be?

The End of Pluralism

We might not like to admit it, but violence can, and often does, "work" in today's Middle East. This is not just a reference to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but also to less extreme militant groups that control territory throughout Syria, providing security and social services to local populations. From Libya to Palestine to parts of the Egyptian Sinai, armed -- and increasingly hard-line -- Islamist groups are making significant inroads. This is the Arab world's Salafi-Jihadi moment. It may not last, but its impact is already impossible to dismiss, to say nothing of the long-term consequences. In Libya and Syria, even non-Salafi groups like the Brotherhood are adapting to the new world of anti-politics, allying themselves with local armed groups or working to form their own militias [...]

Islamism, as a distinctive construct, only made sense in opposition to something else -- and that something else was secularism, which grew in influence during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Islam was no longer just a way of being; in the face of Western dominance, it became a political theology of authenticity and resistance and a spiritual alternative to liberal-secular democracy.

by das monde on Wed Jun 15th, 2016 at 08:47:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was a teenager, there were cells being recruited in Britain and taught about guerilla tactics, along with what would now be known as IEDs - all in expectation of a Soviet invasion.

Had it all gone that way, can I imagine some of us ending up making suicidal attacks? I would guess so - we were brought up to think of the Soviet Union as a fundamental evil. Gulags, secret police, etc. Resistance would have been futile, but noble.

None of this particularly related to religion, my generation of English schoolboys were basically agnostic/atheist in general.

Worth remembering as well that in Iran and Egypt, the religious radicals gained the biggest boosts from the US sponsored suppression of unions and leftist groups. When the only officially allowed expressions of dissent are religious, then dissenters will become religious...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 04:37:03 AM EST
The UK put some effort into creating a guerilla force during WWII, but I've never heard of the same being done for WWIIII - especially not for teenagers. Was this in the North?

I always assumed government planning worked on the assumption that the UK would be turned into a pile of smoking radioactive rubble fairly quickly, so there wouldn't be much left to invade.

There are civil defence maps from the 1950s which have much of the UK turned into desert. I can't imagine that would have been less likely in the 70s and 80s.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 05:20:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was in the North, offshoot of a wave of recruiting for military colleges. It wasn't officially sanctioned, although the access to hardware indicates someone with influence in MoD at least was supporting it.

You are of course correct that the preparation for a non-nuclear war was vaguely insane, which is probably why it wasn't an official program.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 08:11:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In a pre-WWI Hungarian patriotic historical novel I wrote about here (an account of a failed Ottoman siege of a castle in 1556), there is an episode when Turkish soldiers force a student to show the way into the castle via hidden underground routes. The student leads the soldiers to a chamber storing gunpowder which he ignites, burying himself, the soldiers and any path into the castle: a de-facto suicide bombing. [The gunpowder explosion and the existence of secret tunnels was historical, the suicidal student was fictional.] So yes indeed, nationalism is enough to inspire such ideas.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 11:11:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prokofiev's Ballad of a boy who remained unknown (Op.93) is  about a boy suicide bomber in WW2. I've no idea if this is based on any real event.

Embedding doesn't work.

In spite of its fairly considerable artistic merit, this Prokofiev cantata is rarely encountered in either the concert hall or on recordings. The composer employed a text by Pavel Antokolsky that recounts a heroic act during World War II by an unnamed Russian boy who, to take vengeance against the Nazi invaders for killing his mother and sister, blows up their commander with a grenade in a suicide mission.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 11:35:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There were several Heroes of the Soviet Union with similar suicidal exploits in WWII.

Even in 1613, there was Ivan Susanin, setting up the Russian mythology for the later big wars.

Wikipedia credits this:

The first known suicide bomber was Russian. The invention of dynamite in the 1860s presented revolutionary and terrorist groups in Europe with a weapon nearly twenty times more powerful than gunpowder, but with technical challenges to detonating it at the right time. One way around that obstacle was to use a human trigger, and this was the technique that assassinated Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1881. A would-be suicide-bomber killed Vyacheslav von Plehve, the Russian Minister of the Interior, in St Petersburg in 1904.
by das monde on Wed Jun 8th, 2016 at 07:18:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But as your link points out, Susanin may be a myth (Wikipedia, unlike RT, is much more certain about that). And if we're talking about myths, none of them get close to the 3,000 or more killed in Samson's suicide attack, without the benefit of modern technology.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Jun 9th, 2016 at 03:19:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When Russians talk about legendary things, it is hard to tell what is not quite real. Either way, the cultural impact was huge. Wikipedia summarizes the evidence and gives references well. Here is a little more in poor grammar.
by das monde on Thu Jun 9th, 2016 at 08:21:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had long thought that Sampson died after pulling down the pillars of 'The Temple of the Philistines' but was corrected by someone who quoted a bit from the OT that noted that Sampson died of old age after serving as a Judge over Israel. But Judges 16-30 says:"30 Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived."

It wouldn't be the only instance of there being two very different accounts of the same thing in the Bible.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jun 9th, 2016 at 09:09:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where is the other OT version?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Jun 9th, 2016 at 10:07:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I recall correctly the quote was in Elaine Pagel's 'The Chalice and the Blade'. I recall her then writing: "So this great amocker was Judge over all of Israel", to quote from 30 year old memory.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jun 9th, 2016 at 10:52:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I will try to find it after the work day is done. It is now relatively cool and I can arrange shade and a fan in my garden. Much to do.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jun 9th, 2016 at 10:54:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Wikipedia, Judges 16 includes him judging for 20 years, but they interpret it to be before the temple incident and after killing a thousand Philistines with a donkey's jawbone.
by fjallstrom on Thu Jun 9th, 2016 at 05:27:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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