Posts Tagged “terror”

SiegeOfAcre1291For years now I’ve blogged about a Right-wing movement in the US I’ve called “the Great Neocrusade.” It’s a modern incarnation of the medieval Crusade, during which western European Christians ventured to the Levant in an effort to drive Muslims out, under the principle that their presence there was an affront to their Jesus which couldn’t be tolerated. (At least, that’s what the Crusade became. Its origin was in Pope Urban’s approval for Latin Christians venturing east to assist the Byzantines, but that scenario didn’t last long and the Crusaders embarked on their own mission, distinct from Byzantium’s, soon after their arrival. And about a century after the Crusades’ launch it would become a campaign against Byzantium itself).

As it stands within the American Right, the Neocrusade is an effort to drive Islam from the new Christian “holy land.” Neocrusaders are predominantly Christians — most of them being of the evangelical Protestant sort — but there are some Jews who’re part of the movement too. Their effort is predicated ostensibly on the threat posed by Islamist terror, which to be sure is horrific and should be fought using every means at our disposal to do so. That said, the Neocrusaders’ main contention — i.e. that Islam is inherently violent and all Muslims therefore are potential terrorists — is quite simply not true. What’s really going on is that these folk view Islam as the chief rival of their own religion, are incensed that it exists at all, and want to get rid of it in order to show the power of their own faith. All the crap about terrorism is mere pretense. That’s not to say Islamist terror isn’t real — just that they know better than to stomp around claiming every Muslim is a terrorist; they just say that in order to rationalize what they’re doing.

For the most part this Neocrusade manifests itself in the form of rhetoric and occasionally votes (such as outlawing “shari’a law” even though it’s not now, nor will it ever become, the law of the land in the US).

So it’s rare that Neocrusaders actually take up arms against Muslims in the US, but it nearly happened just in the last few months. The Web site Heavy.Com reports a Right-winger and failed Congressional candidate from Tennessee named Robert Doggart admitted he’d planned to stage an attack on a mosque and schools in Hancock, NY (WebCite cached article):

A Tennessee man, who made a failed bid for Congress last year as an independent with extreme right wing beliefs, has admitted in federal court to planning an attack on a Muslim community in New York.

Robert Doggart, 63, was recorded on a wiretapped phone talking about his plan to travel along with members of a private militia to an area near Hancock, New York, known as Islamberg, to burn down a mosque, school and cafeteria, while gunning down anyone from the community who tried to stop them.

“Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives. We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God,” Doggart said in a Facebook post, according to court documents. “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.”

Doggart was arrested April 10 by the FBI on charges that he solicited others to violate civil rights, attempted to damage religious property because of the religious character of the property and made threats through interstate communication.

Two weeks later, Doggart pleaded guilty to interstate communication of threats. A judge has not yet signed off on the plea agreement. He was released on $30,000 bond to home confinement after the agreement was made and faces between 0 and 5 years in federal prison, along with a possible fine of up to $250,000.

The Heavy article describes Doggart’s plot in detail and includes court documentation of the case as well as of Doggart’s background. There’s a lot of detail there and I can’t hope to do any of it justice; I’ll just suggest you check out the article and find out what happened.

There are two things about this case I find disappointing: First, the judge has let Doggart out on bond, in spite of the fact that he’d admitted, in court, to having planned a terror attack. That decision is mind-blowing. Had Doggart been, instead, a Muslim who’d admitted involvement in a terror attack, there’s no fucking way he’d be free right now. Second, the mass media haven’t picked up this story, not even (to my knowledge) news outlets local to Hancock NY or southeastern Tennessee. I hadn’t heard of Heavy.Com before finding this story, and ordinarily wouldn’t have used them as a source for a blog post, but primary-source material is included, so the report is substantive. The other outlets mentioning this are all Left-wing in nature.

Maybe all the good ol’ boys back in Tennessee would prefer not to mention this, so that might explain why Doggart’s local media are running silent, but I can’t imagine how or why the New York state or eastern Pennsylvania media don’t consider this news (Hancock is in Delaware county, abutting the Pennsylvania state line). Unless this story turns out to be untrue — which I admit is possible, but given the evidence contained in the story it seems extremely unlikely — the media are doing a disservice to ignore it as they are. Perhaps they’ll finally pick up the story … I certainly hope so. The reality of Christianism in the US is that it definitely is capable of terrorism, and this is one example of it (albeit one that was nipped in the bud). There have been other Christian terror attacks, such as the rampage in Austin TX last December by a member of the Phineas Priesthood (cached).

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Elton Simpson is shown here in a photo he appears to have taken of himself. Obtained by ABC NewsBy now I assume my readers will know of the shooting that took place in suburban Dallas during an event celebrating art depicting Islam’s prophet Muhammad (WebCite cached article). It took some time for them to get around to it, but authorities finally managed to release the names of the (deceased) attackers. As CNN reports, one of them had connections with Islamist terror (cached):

A day after police killed two gunmen who tried to ambush a Garland, Texas, event [cached] featuring controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, details began to emerge about the shooters.

One suspect, identified as Elton Simpson by a federal law enforcement source, linked himself to ISIS in a tweet posted just before the attack.

He also was no stranger to federal investigators. In 2011, he was convicted of making a false statement involving international and domestic terrorism.

The other suspect, identified as Nadir Soofi by two federal law enforcement officials, was Simpson’s roommate in a Phoenix apartment.

Sanctimoniously-enraged Islamists threatening, attacking and even killing people over depictions of Muhammad is, unfortunately, an old story. It’s happened repeatedly, perhaps most famously in Paris earlier this year. Muslims’ reactions to such things are fairly predictable. Which, perhaps, explains why this event even took place at all.

You see, as the Washington Post explains, it was hosted by the sanctimoniously-enraged Neocrusader Pamela Geller and her outfit (cached):

For those unfamiliar with Pamela Geller, she was in the news a few weeks ago for sponsoring an ad campaign across major U.S. cities with anti-Muslim posters saying, among other things, “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah” [cached].

On Sunday, she was in the news again for sponsoring a “Jihad Watch Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Tex., some 20 miles from Dallas, after which two suspects opened fire on a security guard before being shot and killed by police. Authorities did not immediately link the exhibit and the shootings, but Geller did, with vehemence.

She’s part of a movement by the Religious Right to get Islam banned in the US and maybe Muslims thrown out of the country. Now, most of us realize this is just not feasible, given the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but many of them don’t care about that, and of those who do, they think First Amendment protections don’t apply to Islam, because it’s “not a religion,” and instead is a political, economic, philosophical, judicial, and military system. Yes, they really think this … in spite of the fact that their own movement is all of these things, as well! (Yes, they’re hypocrites … but just like Muslims going on murderous rampages over Muhammad depictions is an old story, so too is R.R. hypocrisy an old story.)

At any rate, this event was clearly a trap that Ms Geller laid down for Muslims, and two of them tromped right into it. She can now trumpet to the universe about how she was right about Muslims, that they’re all dangerous fanatics, and that their religion must be outlawed.

As insanely counterfactual and delusional as she is — especially her paranoid conspiracy theory about some nefarious groups trying to “Islamicize” the country — the truth is that Ms Geller didn’t do anything wrong in this case. The US is a free country with free speech, and if people want to depict Muhammad in artwork, they can! It’s fine for Muslims to believe such depictions are forbidden. If it makes them feel better never to depict their prophet, more power to them! But … it is most certainly not rational of them to expect non-Muslims to obey that precept of Islam. Non-Muslims are never under any obligation to obey any aspect of Islam. They have no reason to do so, since they aren’t Muslims.

That simple statement seems so obvious that it almost doesn’t need to be said, but apparently, it does … because a lot of Muslims seem not to be aware of it.

The effect of this attack on other Muslims also seem obvious. What Simpson and Soofi did makes their religion look bad. As CNN mentioned, one local imam even admitted as much:

Shortly after the Sunday night shooting, a prominent Muslim leader in Dallas said tweeted that the incident was “just what we didn’t want.”

“The community stayed away from event,” wrote Imam Zia Sheikh. “Seems like a lone wolf type of attack. Just what we didn’t want.”

I’m sure they’ll do all they can to disavow these two, and insist their actions shouldn’t reflect poorly on Islam as a religion. The problem, of course, is that … well, it does, even if they’d prefer it didn’t.

My advice to them is the same advice I’ve given to American Christians who tell me the antics of militant Christianists shouldn’t reflect poorly on them, and that is: It’s your religion. You picked it. It belongs to you. If your co-believers are making your faith — and, in turn, you — look bad, then get off your asses and do something about it! Sniff out the extremists in your midst (after all, who else could recognize them as such?). Rein them in. Correct them. Discipline them. Control them. Stop them. Do whatever you must, in order to whip them into line.

Because after all, if you don’t respect your own religion enough to police it, you can’t rationally expect outside observers to respect it, too, or respect you for following it!

To think otherwise is like when “the Wizard” in The Wizard of Oz ordered Dorothy and company to “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” It didn’t work in the movie, and it doesn’t work in real life.

Lastly, because this shooting happened due to Islamists’ hatred of Muhammad depictions, I’m following my usual policy of adding one to this post. It’s the winner of this contest:

'You can't draw me!' / 'That's why I draw you.' / Bosh Fawstin, winner of contest in Garland, TX / via The Freethinker

‘You can’t draw me!’ / ‘That’s why I draw you.’ / Bosh Fawstin, winner of contest in Garland, TX / via The Freethinker

It would behoove Muslims who dislike these sorts of things to pay attention to what’s called the Streisand effect and not let their righteous indignation get so far out of control that it actually calls attention to things they’d rather no one ever saw. If they’d just calm down and shut up about Muhammad drawings, people might stop drawing him.

Photo credit: Top, ABC News; bottom, Bosh Fawstin via The Freethinker.

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This is the image by Lars Vilks published in Nerikes Allehanda along with the editorial. With permission by the Artist. Via Wikipedia.Notice: There’s been additional news from Copenhagen through the day; please see below for updates.

Today there was another eruption of violence over cartoons that, supposedly, “insult” Islam and its prophet, and in the minds of many Muslims, are utterly forbidden to all (not just Muslims). CNN reports on this morning’s shooting in Copenhagen (WebCite cached article):

Gunmen in Copenhagen, Denmark, stormed a building where controversial cartoonist Lars Vilks and his supporters had gathered Saturday, killing one man and wounding three police officers before driving away from the scene, police and witnesses said.…

The attackers fled the scene in a dark Volkswagen Polo, according to Copenhagen police.

Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen tweeted that he was “dismayed and deeply concerned by the shooting,” which French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called a “terror attack.”

Lars Vilks has been targeted by Islamists since 2007 when he produced cartoons portraying Islam’s prophet Muhammad as a dog. There have been several attempts on his life, and in 2010, Islamists tried to set his house on fire (cached). This time they got a lot closer to him, and someone died because of it.

One thing 'Bombhead' by Kurt Westergaard / Jyllands-Posten's Muhammad Cartoons, 2 / Jyllands-Posten, via About.Comthat really needs to stop is for scholars, pundits, and media outlets to trumpet repeatedly that the Qur’an doesn’t forbid depictions of its prophet. Maybe it does; maybe it doesn’t. But even if it doesn’t, that makes no difference: Clearly there are Muslims in the world who think it does, and who’re willing to murder people over it. Nothing else is relevant here.

That said, Lars Vilks Muhammad cartoon, via GawkerI fail to see why a religion’s imperatives must be obeyed by everyone, even those who don’t belong to that religion. It seems irrational for Muslims to assume non-Muslims would adhere to the strictures of their faith and behave as though they’re Muslims. I really don’t get why someone could think that.

I can only assume this sort of killing is the result of infantilization. Unfortunately, religious infantilization is hard to defeat; it takes courage and effort to take on one’s own co-religionists, discipline them, and force them to grow the fuck up. Most human beings don’t have enough courage, and don’t want to put forth that kind of effort. So they just stand back and let the infantilization — and its attendant rage and fury, and occasional riots and killings — keep right on going. It’s much easier that way.

As I always do in cases like this, I’ve added some gratuitous Muhammad cartoons to this blog post. Maybe it will sanctimoniously enrage some more violent Islamists. Go ahead, little crybabies — rage and fume all you like. The more you do, though, the more you reveal yourselves as the overgrown infants you actually are. Wah wah wah.

Update 1: When I wrote this earlier today there had only been the one attack that I mentioned. But a second took place later on, near a synagogue. The CNN story reflects this news, but my quotation above does not (to see what it looked like when I first wrote this post, see the cached page; to see what it looks like as I added this update, see this cached copy). So, unsurprisingly, the Islamist tantrums over cartoons continue.

Update 2: I awoke this morning to discover, as reported by the (UK) Guardian and others, the suspect in these shootings has been killed (cached).

Update 3: Authorities named the deceased suspect as one Omar el-Hussein, as the (UK) Telegraph and other outlets report; he’s Danish-born and had a history of violence, including a crime for which he’d been released from prison only weeks ago (cached).

Photo credits: Top, Nerikes Allehanda via Wikipedia; middle, Jyllands-Posten via About.Com; bottom, Nerikes Allehanda via Gawker.

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Update: No sooner did I finish this blog post, than the Islamist terrorists’ body count went up. See below for more.

'Bombhead' cartoon by K. WestergaardFor much of this year, there’s been a trend toward accusing the so-called “New Atheists” of being Islamophobic and racist, because they insolently dare critique Islam and Muslims. I haven’t been able to make much sense of all this, because, let’s face it — they’re in the business of critiquing all religions, Islam being just one of them. I can only surmise that these accusations are based on the idea that Islam as a religion is unimpeachable, and its adherents are all virtuous and above reproach, hence, the only reason anyone would say anything unkind about them or their religion is due to some racist impulse.

Or something like that. I guess.

If anyone needed evidence that there’s an extremely violent wing of Islam, made up of Muslims willing both to kill and to die for their own vision of al-Lah and Muhammad, this weekend provided it. The world’s Islamist terrorists decided to go on a tear over the last couple days, and are piling up the bodies like cordwood.

First, Injured shoppers call for help after gunmen went on a shooting spree in Westgate mall (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters, via Al Jazeera America)as the New York Times reports, there was an attack on a mall in Nairobi; as I type this, it’s still underway (locally-cached article):

Masked gunmen stormed into a fancy, crowded mall in Nairobi on Saturday and shot dead at least 59 people and wounded more than 150 in one of the most chilling terrorist attacks in East Africa since Al Qaeda blew up two American embassies in 1998.

Parents hurled their bodies over their children, people jumped into ventilation shafts to save themselves, and shoppers huddled behind the plastic mannequins of designer clothing stores as two squads of gunmen believed to be linked to a Somali terrorist group moved through the mall, shooting shoppers in the head. Hours later, the mall’s gleaming floors were smeared with blood as police officers dashed through the corpse-strewn corridors, trying to find the assailants.

A standoff with the attackers, who were reported to be heavily armed and holding an unknown number of hostages, continued as the sun rose on Sunday.

It must have taken enormous courage for these brave and faithful mujahadeen to storm into a mall full of defenseless shoppers and mow them down with assault weapons. What a stunning achievement on their part! They must be so proud!

Next,Deadly Attack at Pakistan Church: A suicide attack on a historic Christian church in northwestern Pakistan killed dozens on Sunday. (Arshad Arbab/European Pressphoto Agency) again as the NY Times reports, we have a church bombing in Pakistan that took place as a service ended (locally-cached article):

A suicide attack on a historic Christian church in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 78 people on Sunday in one of the deadliest attacks on the Christian minority in Pakistan in years.

The attack occurred as worshipers left All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, after a service on Sunday morning. Up to 600 people had attended the service and were leaving to receive free food being distributed on the lawn outside when two explosions ripped through the crowd.

“As soon as the service finished and the food was being distributed, all of a sudden we heard one explosion, followed by another,” said Azim Ghori, a witness.

No doubt the bomber expects to be attended, now, in Paradise by the 72 houris he earned through his act of sanctified suicide. He must certainly be pleased with himself, right about now.

But even these two horrific attacks still were not enough for the world’s sanctimoniously-enraged Islamist terrorists. In Iraq,The bomb attacks targeted a tent where a funeral ceremony was being held (AP photo via BBC) as the Associated Press reports via Yahoo News, they blew up a police headquarters, and a funeral (WebCite cached version):

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near a funeral tent packed with mourners and another bomber on foot blew himself up nearby in a Shiite part of Baghdad early Saturday evening, the deadliest assault in a day of attacks that claimed at least 65 lives in Iraq.

In those two attacks we had Muslims attacking other Muslims. Yes, folks, these people are still waging a war inside their own religion, that began in the middle of the 7th century. Even after over 12 centuries these raging crybabies still can’t grow up and give it a rest!

I’m sure al-Lah must have had very good reasons for ordering all these cold-blooded attacks, including some on his own followers! Please, by all means, let’s continue hearing all about how horrific it is that anyone dares criticize the religion that brought us these atrocities. Let’s continue hearing about how anyone who says even the slightest unkind thing about Islam or Muslims, can only be motivated by “racism,” because Islam is, after all, “the Religion of Peace” and its followers could never be guilty of doing even the slightest thing wrong.

Or so the “New Atheists'” opponents think. I guess. At least, that’s what they’re implying.

By posting this, I absolutely am not suggesting that the followers of any other religion are above reproach, that only Islam is violent, or anything like that. I’ve spent the last several years blogging about horrible things said and done by followers of virtually every religious tradition on the planet. Christians far and away have been the chief targets of my observations, if only because I live in a predominantly Christian country. I’ve even chronicled at length all those militant Christians who’ve chosen to point the finger of blame at Islam, as though Muslims’ transgressions somehow justify their own. Their version of Christianity is dour and vicious in its own way (and yes, there is such a thing as Christian terrorism). They can’t make the viciousness of their religionism go away by kvetching and whining about Islam, even if they think they can. (That’s an example of their “two wrongs make a right” thinking as well as hypocrisy, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly.)

No, the problem is that all religions inevitably lead to excess and extremism, by some of their followers, some of the time. Without exception. Every. Single. Last. Fucking. One. Of. Them. Yes, even eastern religions that so many of us here in the occidental world think are pacifist in nature.

I suppose someone out there may, after reading this, accuse me of being an Islamophobe. All I can say is, if it’s so important to you to do so, then go right ahead. If it makes you happy to think of me as a vile racist Islamophobe so that you can conveniently ignore these facts, then by all means, go ahead! It won’t mean I’m wrong, and it won’t make you right, but you just go and do it, anyway — and don’t you dare let any pesky little facts get in your way!

P.S. In response to this severe wave of Islamist violence, I’ve put one of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons at the top of this post.

Photo credits: Top, Middle East Issues at About.Com; second, Goran Tomasevic/Reuters, via Al Jazeera America; third, Arshad Arbab/European Pressphoto Agency via NY Times; bottom, AP photo via the BBC.

Update: The count of the dead in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi is up to 68, as fighting there enters its third day (cached). Those brave, defenseless-shopper-killing mujahadeen are holding their own and still have hostages.

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Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Crusaders war machinery, via Wikimedia CommonsThis issue isn’t really new. Wired magazine has been reporting on this particular issue for quite some time (cached). It seems anti-terror instruction in the US military has been taken over by Neocrusaders who’ve made any number of outrageous claims about Islam as a whole and are trying to inculcate hatred of Muslims generally among the ranks. I blogged about this particular influence within the FBI when Wired reported on it last year. But the influence of the Neocrusade in the military seems to be worse, more pervasive, and more extensive.

Last year the Pentagon began a review of its anti-terror training materials, and the results of that review are starting to emerge. MSNBC elaborates on an Al Jazeera report on aspects that have come to light already (WebCite cached article):

As the Pentagon reviews all military classes following the disclosure of one that advocated “total war” against Muslims, the news website Al-Jazeera reported Saturday that it had received materials from a similar course and that both were put together by the same group, a nonprofit that offers classes and workshops to military and government officials.

Al-Jazeera said [cached] it received course slides from an unnamed military officer who said “this bigoted conspiracy cabal is both disgusting and so deeply un-American.”

The slides leave the impression that Hamas extremists have infiltrated the U.S. government, media and education via U.S. Islamic groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Al-Jazeera said. …

The documents indicated the two courses were prepared by the consulting firm Strategic Engagement Group, Inc., Al-Jazeera said. The website for Strategic Engagement [cached] does include statements similar to those in the materials cited by Al-Jazeera, msnbc.com found.

I decided to nose around in Strategic Engagement’s Web site to see what they offer. The first link I clicked on was this PDF version of a Powerpoint presentation entitled “CAIR Is Hamas” (cached). It didn’t take long for me to discover that these people are spewing factual errors. For instance, slide 3 of the presentation says:

In the 1920’s, after WWI and the Turkish Revolution, Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk” became the leader of the new nation-state Turkey. He dissolved the nearly 700 old Islamic State (Caliphate) known as the “Ottoman Empire,” outlawed the wearing of hijab, the growing of Islamic beards, the call to prayer, replaced Arabic with Latin, did away with Shariah (Islamic Law) and replaced it with secular law, and built an army to protect secular Turkey.

First, while it’s true that Ataturk did establish a new, and secular, government in Turkey, his new state did not encompass all of what had once been the Ottoman Empire. That dismantled state was succeeded, in those other regions, by other less secular states, or they became colonies of western powers and only later became independent states. So it’s factually incorrect to state that “the Ottoman Empire” was succeeded uniformly by the “secular” state of Turkey.

Second, the Ottoman Empire was not really a “Caliphate.” While some of its rulers did use that title, sporadically, even when they did, it was not universally recognized across Islam. Moreover, that they did so, doesn’t really mean a lot: Ottoman rulers sometimes arrogated other titles, such as “Roman Emperor,” and that’s also difficult to take very seriously. The title that best applies to the Ottoman rulers was “sultan,” not “caliph,” making the Ottoman Empire a “sultanate” rather than a “caliphate.”

Third, Ataturk did not “replace Arabic with Latin.” Within Ataturk’s new state of Turkey, the dominant language had been Turkish, not Arabic, and it remains so. While Turkish had long been written mostly using the Arabic alphabet, it was less than ideal; Ataturk did encourage the use of a Latin-based alphabet instead. But it is simply not true that Turkey went from speaking Arabic to speaking Latin.

I hardly need to investigate these Neocrusading wingnuts any further, given their loose command of basic history. Listen, I get it. Really I do. I get that the United States has been attacked by Islamic terrorists who feel compelled to kill others — and themselves — out of a violent religiofascistic impulse. I also get that there are immature, violent Muslims who are prone to explode in insane fury at the slightest provocation. I concede there are still some dangerously fanatical Muslims out there who think their religion orders them to maim and kill. That’s very much in evidence, and only a fool would say otherwise. What concerns me are these two basic premises of the Neocrusade:

  1. Islamofascist terrorists are not the “fringe” of Islam, they are its heart; which means that all Muslims, not just some, are murderous fanatics.
  2. Only Islam has any murderous impulses; other religions, particularly Christianity, do not.

The former premise is just not true, as witnessed by the fact that there are plenty of “moderate,” non-terrorist Muslims around the world, who at this moment are fighting the terrorist element of their religion. And other religions, including Christianity, most certainly also have their own terrorizing, murderous extremists. Eradicating Islam completely — which is the Neocrusade’s ultimate goal — cannot and will never end terrorism. To assume so is not only irrational, it’s delusional. The cold fact is that nearly any religion, anywhere, is capable of inciting violence and even terrorism in its followers. None is immune to it. The sooner we understand this, the better off we’ll all be.

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In a courtroom sketch, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who tried blowing up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day 2009 is sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmonds in federal court in Detroit, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Jerry Lemenu)This is a story which, no doubt, has lifted the hearts of America’s Neocrusaders, and which will — as they see it — confirm that Islam needs to be banished from the US. As CBS News reports, the infamous “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was sentenced for his attempt to bomb a plane as it approached Detroit in December 2009 (WebCite cached article):

After a short prayer, [Abdulmutallab] said sheik Osama Bin Laden and sheik Awlaki “are alive” and the “mujahedeen are proud to kill for Allah” and that it was “exactly what we were told to do in the Quran”.

I expect violently hyperreligious nutjobs like Abdulmutallab to spew crap like this. The Qur’an is large enough for them to sift through and extract any number of passages that they view as mandating their campaign of terror and death. I’m sure that Abdulmutallab and his murderous cohorts are certain that 72 houris await them in Paradise after their deaths (his, of course, will likely occur in prison decades from now).

While Neocrusaders will view Abdulmutallab and his claim as proof that Islam must be eradicated, they will also miss the real point here, which is that any religion based solely on faith, which presumes to press itself on reality, and which considers itself mandatory for all of humanity, is going to generate murderous followers like Abdulmutallab. There are, for example, Christian groups that advocate killing, such as the Army of God. There have been bombings and killings by Christians who believe their religion orders them to be violent.

In short, this problem is not solely limited to Islam, as the Neocrusaders would have us believe. Any sufficiently religionist system can conceivably lead to terror and murder in the name of metaphysics. Yes, even within Christianity. The sooner we all understand this, the better off we’ll all be.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Jerry Lemenu, via CBS News.

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September 11 Photo MontageToday is the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks that killed thousands in New York City, the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, PA. The mass media are running story after story about the commemorations and remembrances and lots of other aspects of this milestone. For me, this event provides an object lesson in human nature and demonstrates conclusively where we go wrong.

First, all the 9/11 conspiratorialism demonstrates that any event that involves enough details is ripe to be plucked by sanctimoniously-outraged paranoiacs of every possible stripe. Rick Green of the Hartford Courant ran a column the other day about one particular crank named Wayne Coste who stands on Hartford’s streets, railing and wailing like a street-preacher about how “9/11 was an inside job” (WebCite cached article). He uses the fact that he was an engineer as a kind of credential that — supposedly — “proves” his insane jabbering must be correct. But it doesn’t. That he has an engineering credential (in electrical engineering, not in mechanical or civil engineering or in architecture) does not automatically grant his conclusions any veracity. Lots of engineers and scientists have looked at the same evidence he has, but arrived at very different conclusions from it.

Perhaps the seminal explanation of how the World Trade Center came down — researched and written by engineers and scientists with the same kinds of credentials as Coste — was done by the venerable magazine Popular Mechanics. It’s well worth reading for anyone with any interest in this matter. Another source of information is the “9/11 conspiracies” entry at the Skeptic’s Dictionary; it lays out many of the screwy scenarios that have been proposed and picks them off one by one. Yet, in spite of these and many other such “takedowns” of all the lunatic scenarios, the wacky 9/11 conspiratorialism (aka the “Truther” movement) is alive and well and populated by all sorts of animated wingnuts like Coste.

What’s really happening with “truthers” is that their laughable “theories” grant them what they perceive as a moral license to indulge their juvenile impulses and paranoiac brain patterns. Telling them they’re wrong only enrages them more than they already are, causes the person telling them so to be viewed as a willing and integral part of the “wicked conspiracy,” and they just dig their heels in harder and cling even tighter to their insane fantasies. As R.T. Carroll of the Skeptic’s Dictionary puts it in the subtitle of his article on the matter, the “truther” movement is, indeed, very much a “war on critical thinking.”

A second lesson shown by Americans’ reaction to 9/11/2001 is their insular, even selfish reasoning. Too many people in the US view this country as the sole target of Islamofascist terror. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Among the other large-scale terror attacks that have taken place elsewhere in the world since then:

Note, this is only a partial list. There were many more Islamofascist terror attacks in the last ten years. The point is that none of these took place in the US, and Americans were not the targets. Other people in other countries were. The Islamofascist terrorists aren’t killing people in places all over the planet just because they hate the US and our “freedom” — or whatever. They’re doing it simply because they’re murderously religiofascist; quite frankly they don’t give a crap about anything else.

The third chief lesson of the September 11, 2001 attacks, more obviously, is that militant religiofascism can become deadly, and it must be stopped. In every one of its forms. Everywhere it occurs. All the time, every time, without letup, and without granting it any excuses. It’s one thing to have metaphysical beliefs. It’s another to believe that everyone else on the planet must adopt them. And it’s another beyond that to believe one is entitled to kill in order to make that happen. This is rather obvious; we certainly didn’t need 9/11/2001 to tell us so … but apparently there are lots of folks who genuinely were unaware of this fact — and sadly, they remain so, in spite of 9/11/2001.

A proper response to such events is for believers to concede that other people are not theirs to order around or kill because of their beliefs, and just leave them alone. What’s not acceptable is to respond to murderous Islamofascism by becoming militantly Christofascist in return and then launch a Neocrusade to eliminate Islam. This Neocrusade is merely the same sort of religiofascist impulse, just manifest within a different religion and in a different country. Of course, to the Neocrusaders, 9/11/2001 itself is the reason they think they’re entitled to destroy Islam … but this belief, while widespread, is just “two wrongs make a right” thinking and is both fallacious and immoral.

In sum, let’s all stop using events like 9/11/2001 to justify insular thinking, American exceptionalism, and “getting back at Islam” because we feel entitled to. It’s time for us all to grow up, stop “reacting” emotionally every time something bad happens, and start living like the mature adults we all ought to be. And by all means, let’s stop giving in to the idea that militant Christianism is an appropriate response to militant Islamism. It’s not. They’re really just the same thing, only packaged in different wrappers.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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