August 22, 2007
At noon today, Fausta will be hosting a BlogTalk Radio podcast with Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and author of Religion Of Peace? Why Christianity Is And Islam Isn’t (Pajamas Media has a review by the NRO’s John Derbyshire). Fausta has kindly asked us to be a part of the podcast.
Spencer is nothing if not controversial. He is tenacious and opinionated and more often than not, is an agent provocateur of sorts. He challenges conventional wisdom and politically correct thinking, asking us to think for ourselves. He is often accused of being inflexible and didactic, but in truth, many 0f his detractors hurl those accusations because they cannot upend his arguments or logic. Predictably, there are those who challenge his interpretations of Islam and the Arab world (he is an expert on both) but in the end, Spencer’s conclusions are usually of the ‘proof is in the pudding’ variety. He draws his conclusions from the reality on the ground.
Spencer’s enveloping thesis is that what emanates from much of the Arab and political world is predictable. He understands that grafting religious ideologies to dysfunctional and failed political regimes only serves to further the deterioration of both.
How does political and/or ideological indoctrination work? Surprisingly, the process is fairly simple. Wilfrid Bion explained the process:
The child (or even adult) is taught that he is part something much bigger than him or herself. The individual is taught that because of that affiliation, the are very special, and expression of narcissism that celebrates the self (an expression of which is necessary component of every healthy individual) is frowned upon. It is because of that affiliation with the group, they are loved.
Those outside the group are rejected at best and hated and reviled at worst. This is not hard to grasp: Within the group, there is love. Non members or members of different groups are ignored or rejected- they are outsiders. If and when those outsiders reject the group or cling to their own group, they become hated.
It bears remembering that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
When the ‘love’ offered by the group by virtue of attachment to that group is so strong, so to is the hate proffered by that group, directed at outsiders. The group leaders control the ‘volume’ of hate. The closer group leaders control their followers, the more they focus that hate on the chosen ‘others.’
What we see in the Middle East are members of a group so desirous of love (worthiness) and attention, that they make a deliberate choice to opt out of the rules that define civilized society. They refuse to deal with or even interact with non members. This is no small matter or self imposed isolation. Human progress of every single type has it’s origins in the interaction we have with each other. By deliberately choosing to not participate in an honest exchange with others, or by believing that forced or coerced interactions (i.e., believing that forced religious conversions denote religious embrace) are the equivalent of real exchanges, many in the Arab world separate themselves from the reality, even as they perceive that their forced interactions place them center stage, or in a position to dictate reality. The Cartoon Riots are an example of that. In the end, free speech in the west will not simply disappear (notwithstanding shrill cries to the opposite).
In any event, as the individual withdraws from reality into the fantasy love/respect the group offers, the stage is set for the terrorist and (even more importantly) the terrorist supporter. The hate fueled by the group nurtures envy (”what they have is rightfully ours”) and sadism (we will punish them for their evil. We are the righteous ones”).
That level of intense hate is matched only the level of intense love (and therefore ‘worthiness’) bestowed by the group. Death becomes an expression of fidelity to the group. Murder and killing on behalf of the group bestows an ultimate morality in the absence of any kind of morality (”of course we can justify the murder of innocents and civilians) of the group.
From an early age, Palestinians are taught that martyrdom is the ultimate expression of fidelity to the group and the ultimate expression of the elevated self. Terror and murder are the vehicles in which one can achieve fulfillment as a Muslim, Palestinian and as an individual. Terror and murder are celebrated. When a suicide bomber completes his deed, there are celebrations in the local mosque. His or her actions elevate the rest of the congregation. It is as if there were a competition among churches as to which might provide the most saints.
These expressions are not only religious in nature. Schools, media and entertainment reinforce the message. There is a whole subculture that reinforces that culture, not unlike American gang culture. Gang members are willing to die for their ‘colors.’ A kind of code of ethics (religion) permeates the culture and there is an entire subculture of entertainment and art that feeds and glorifies that culture.
Suicide bombers and terrorists are glorified. Parents are regaled as almost equal to the shahid, for having raised and encouraged a child to go off to his death, murdering as many non members of the group as possible. Those parents become elevated in status and morality, precisely because their child embraced the immorality of indiscriminate murder. The prestige bestowed (and thus the dysfunction) is so great that many other parents harbor wishes for the same recognition. They are willing to sacrifice their own children. It is not uncommon to hear the refrain that ‘we love death,’ not because of the finality of death but rather, because of the desperate belief that in death will come a kind of relief. The restrictive bonds of life under tyranny (Palestinians and the Arab world are well aware of who their leaders are) will be broken- a new, more pure ‘life’ awaits them on the other side. Even talk of sexual pleasures unavailable in conservative Arab societies, can be talked about within a religious context. A teenager, consumed with own sexuality- and feeling guilty about that obsession- often sees his own shahada as a kind of redemption in addition to the skewed religious and moral expressions he or she was taught to believe.
The shahid and his or her family have to believe that. They cannot question those who define the afterlife, because to question that would be too painful. They understand that the ideologues that encourage young men and women to their deaths are corrupt. They understand that those ideolgues define religion in any way that best suits their needs at any given time. They understand that deceit is as much part of the ideology as is religion (”Jews never had a Temple. The Bible is forged. Jesus was really a Muslim”).
To question the basis of Palestinian shahada (martyrdom) is to question the predicates and foundation of the group.
That is why Muslim apostates are reviled and feared in their community and not simply ignored. One who leaves the group, knows the group. The non member is hated because he is a non member, and perceived to reject the group without knowing the group (”Come learn about Islam, get to know us. We are not as we seems”) The apostate is reviled because he refuses to accept the ‘love’ (worthiness) of a flawed and murderous ideology. The apostate thinks for himself, a cardinal sin in the Arab world. There is a reason the quality of education in the Arab world is so abysmal. An educated citizen thinks for himself and does not need to rely on the group to do that for him. An educated citizen finds his own self worth, in his community and beyond. The Arab citizen cannot compete outside his own environment. He sheltered by deliberately imposed ignorance. This is not his fault. Arabs are the greatest victims of their own leadership.
To be clear, not all Palestinians or Arabs are enamored with the ‘love’ of Islam and Arab societies bestows upon their culture and society. There are other voices that reject the ideologies that have served to degenerate and subjugate Islam and the Arab world.
Nonie Darwish is one of them. The daughter of a decorated ‘guerrilla’ fighter, she acknowledges that all she was taught was wrong. More importantly, she finds something more distressing than the hate. In discussing Arab culture and societal norms, she notes
To admit one’s flaws and mistakes, to correct and repent is inconceivable…
To acknowledge one’s shortcomings before first blaming others would bring deep shame and dishonor not only to the individual but to his or her entire family…If the mistake is a cultural taboo, one’s reputation may be scarred for life and the perpetrator might end up brutally punished.
This is the kind of environment that allows for and justifies ‘honor killings.’ This is also how many young women are recruited into terror. If they are thought to have shamed the family, an act of terror serves as act of redemption for their family as well as themselves. The higher ‘morality’ of indiscriminate killing of innocents makes up for their transgressions.
This highlights another reality. In Arab cultures, there is no real reward or recognition for loving the sanctity of life. Those who profess a desire for real peace, non violence, less corruption and less oppression are considered reformers.
In societies and cultures where violence is often seen after religious services (unique in the Abrahamic faiths). little emphasis is placed on self improvement, the betterment of society (the ‘real jihad,’ we are told) or humility. Rather, worshipers are whipped into a murderous frenzy directed at non members. Each week, the hate is elevated.
These realities have brought Arab nations to their knees. Repression, oppression, terror, genocide and hate flourish. Entire populations are groomed to know only hopelessness, and not hope. There are failed economies, failed civil infrastructures and failed educational infrastructures. A child born in the Arab world today has little hope of achieving success on his own. There is little in the way of opportunities or a way out if the bleakness. There is no bright future to look forward to.
The only promise and guarantee that child can count on, is being taught to hate.
Today’s BlogTalk Radio podcast with Fausta is must.
Portions of this post have been previously published.