According to a new study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, we should stop equating terrorist groups like ISIS with “radical Islam.” It turns out that serious, pious Muslims don’t join ISIS; secular people do.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
Virtually every “Islamic terrorist” blamed for virtually every major “radical Islamic terror attack” beginning with 9/11 has been radically un-Islamic. These terrorists (or patsies), from Mohammed Atta to Omar Mateen, have been radically secular, non-religious individuals.
Mohammed Atta (or the Hebrew-speaking imposter who used his ID) was just about the least Islamic man who ever lived. He dated pink-haired stripper Amanda Keller, drank heavily, snorted cocaine, loved gambling junkets and pork chops, and never saw the inside of a mosque. The other alleged 9/11 hijackers led similar lifestyles.
The Charlie Hebdo patsies, the Kouachi brothers, were seedy underworld types who were recruited by intelligence services after they were busted for child pornography. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind of the 2015 and 2016 Paris and Brussels attacks, was a drunkard and heavy cannabis smoker, as were his confederates. Omar Mateen, blamed for the June 2016 Orlando shooting, was a boozing, promiscuous, gay man who regularly hung out at the Pulse Nightclub. I could go on with dozens of similar examples.
ISIS fighters follow the same mold. According to the Independent:
A new study by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point revealed that the vast majority of almost 1,200 militants surveyed had no formal religious education and had not adhered to Islam for their entire lives. Extremist groups may prefer such recruits because they are “less capable of critically scrutinising the jihadi narrative and ideology” and instead adhere totally to their chosen organisation’s violent and reductive interpretation of Islam.
While most ISIS recruits come from nominally “Islamic” backgrounds (just as most secular Americans come from nominally “Christian” backgrounds) they tend to be highly secularized, not religious, people. As they pack their bags in preparation for a trip to Syria, ISIS recruits typically have to head for the bookstore to purchase Islam for Dummies or The Koran for Dummies in hopes of quickly acquiring the very basics of Islam.
Maybe the “war on terror” needs to shift gears. Instead of being a disguised war on Islam, it should become a war on secularism.
We need to start preventive “deradicalization” programs that teach young people to be pious and religious. Captured terrorists need to be weaned of their alcohol and drug habits, taught to eschew extramarital sexuality, and given broad and deep Islamic educations. Every schoolchild should be taught Arabic so as to be able to read the Qur’an with understanding. We should be encouraging all young people to perform the five-times-daily salaat prayer correctly, at its proper time, and with assiduous devotion. Dhikr, Islamic meditation, ought to be taught in our schools and universities. Friday should be declared a holiday to encourage mosque attendance (and usher in the Islamo-Judeo-Christian “three day weekend.”) Work and school schedules should change during Ramadan to encourage fasting.
We could drop the “T” and rename it the War on Error.
And then there is the matter of “shariah law.” Virtually all “terrorists” have little if any knowledge or understanding of the Islamic legal tradition; if they did, they would not be terrorists. So we ought to do as much as possible to encourage young people to learn about and follow the precepts of the Islamic legal tradition – the only successful major legal tradition in human history that is primarily enforced by God, ones conscience, and consensus – not by force and coercion.
I recognize that the government of the United States of America is Constitutionally prohibited from any form of religious partisanship. All religions must be treated precisely equally under the First Amendment. Therefore to the extent that the US government adopts the above proposals, it must also encourage other religious traditions, not just the Islamic one. (Which is precisely the position of the Founding Fathers, who wanted a pro-religion but non-partisan government.)
My proposal for a three-day Islamo-Judeo-Christian weekend, for example, is not just Constitutional, it is Constitutionally required. Currently we take Saturday off because it is the Jewish Sabbath, and we take Sunday off because it is the Christian day of worship. It is unconstitutional to define our weekend according to one major and one minor branch of Abrahamic monotheism, while ignoring the third (and second major) branch of that great religious tradition. Notice to employers: If you are not giving your employees Friday off, you are violating the Constitution of the United States of America!
Perhaps our soon-to-be President Trump could issue executive orders implementing my proposals.
Realistically, for that to happen, Trump would have to undergo a dramatic change of personality and worldview. One way that could happen: He could repent, recognize the error of his ways, and convert to Islam.
Stay tuned for my future satirical piece (or news story, if God so wills) entitled:
Trump Converts to Islam.
Dr. Kevin Barrett, a Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist is one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror.
He also has appeared many times on Fox, CNN, PBS, and other broadcast outlets, and has inspired feature stories and op-eds in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune, and other leading publications.
Dr. Barrett has taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin; where he ran for Congress in 2008. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, author, and talk radio host.