Time and again it is reported that Muslim terrorists in the process of inflicting lethal bodily harm (with firearms, explosives, knives, or by running over people with cars) shout “God is Great!” (Allahu Akbar). It is a remarkable and seemingly puzzling phenomenon that has received little attention, although it is likely to shed light on the motivation and mindset of the terrorists.
These exclamations appear to be a form of encouragement, intended to vindicate and justify actions that certainly need justification. God is great, the perpetrators seem to say, because He allows, perhaps even demands, that some people—the infidels, deserving to be put to death—be dispatched. On these occasions, God, or the God of Islam, is compulsively invoked to bear witness to these acts of faith and reassure the perpetrators. The exclamation is intended to make clear and confirm—both for the perpetrators and for those witnessing their actions—that the perpetrators are carrying out divinely sanctioned retribution, rendering the act meaningful and morally justified. These violent radicals are among the men, who, in the words of Isaiah Berlin, “will kill and maim with a tranquil conscience under the influence of the words and writings of . . . those who are certain that they know perfection can be reached.”
The terrorists, assured that God endorses their motives and actions, are certain of their access to Him and of their understanding of His will. Given that their target selection often includes civilians—children, women, and the old—they may need extra reassurance that they are doing the right thing. They may need even stronger reassurance if they aspire to become “martyrs,” suicide bombers, to convince themselves that they are throwing away their lives for a very good cause. In doing so, they also rely on the comforting belief that they will be recipients of generous otherworldly rewards.
Western nonbelievers are likely to interpret such behavior as delusional, perceiving the devout terrorists as suffering from a serious mental illness, or victimized by a rare form of false consciousness originating in their justified grievances and low socioeconomic status. As a rule, these commentators aver that Islamic religious beliefs provide no justification or encouragement for such vile acts, that violent Islamic radicals misuse and misinterpret the teachings of their religion. If so, we need not pay attention to their assertions and explanations of their motives and behavior. We should dismiss their emphatic insistence that they are carrying out God’s will.
This approach is exemplified by John Kerry’s warning at Davos that “it would be a mistake to link Islam to criminal conduct rooted in alienation, poverty, thrill-seeking and other factors.” In the same spirit, White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggested (referring to those who committed the recent murders in Paris) that “these are individuals who carried out an act of terrorism, and they later tried to justify that act of terrorism by invoking the religion of Islam and their own deviant view of it.” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman observed that “this makes it sound as if the Charlie Hebdo terrorists set out to commit a random act of violent extremism and only subsequently, when they realized that they needed some justification, reached for Islam.”
Also in the New York Times, bioethics lecturer Tom Koch warned against holding the terrorists responsible for their actions, emphasizing the socially determined nature of their conduct:
The tragedy [of the recent murders in Paris] lies . . . in the decades of military encroachment and colonial expansion that helped to radicalize a religious sect. It lies too, in our culture’s failure to integrate new members in an ethos that is inclusive and assures a political space for legitimate complaint. . . . Our tragedy is this collective fatal flaw, which insists on demonizing those we disagree with and turning them into mortal enemies. The question is whether we will react . . . breeding more terror [my emphasis] in our responses, or, instructed in its causes, search for resolution.
The website Vox.com appears to still be thriving, despite my best efforts to warn people off of their willfully ignorant "explanatory journalism." As I have previously observed, we're on the tail end of a media "golden age for liberals where, to paraphrase Kipling, all the young turks were paid for their writing, and none of them paid for their sins."
While the attention of much of the world Sunday was focused on the massive unity rally in France in response to the recent terror attacks in that country, Secretary of State John Kerry was in India for a "global business" summit where he spoke of, among other concerns, the "one enormous cloud hanging over all of us which requires responsibility from leaders.
Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN contributor, reported late last night that out of towners from Oakland might be the ones responsible for inciting violence in Ferguson, Missouri. He made the comments when talking about the continued unrest last night:
President Obama blasted gun violence in a Tumblr event today at the White House. He said that it's "off the charts" here in America.
"This is becoming the norm," he said. "We should be ashamed."
Here's the pool report:
Pres Obama, in response to a question that Karp said was submitted a few days ago from a tumblr user about mass shootings, declared that as president "my biggest frustration so far is that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps" to curb gun violence.
He cited the failed effort to toughen background checks.
Earlier this week, a couple shot two Las Vegas police officers while saying "this is a revolution." They draped the police officers' bodies in Gadsden flags and swastikas, and evidence later emerged they had gone out to support rancher Cliven Bundy.
President Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on the phone about the violence in Ukraine. The two leaders agreed "to stay in close touch in the days ahead," according to a White House read-out of the call.
On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder are scheduled to make a joint appearance at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, MD. The purpose of the visit is to hold a roundtable with students on "Solutions to Enhance School Climate/Improve Discipline Policies and Practices" and to make an announcement, accompanied by "civil rights advocates and local community members."
The White House is ramping up a new push for the president's version of comprehensive immigration reform. In an opening salvo, White House advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal wrote a blog entry titled, "Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Survivors Can’t Afford to Wait," saying that "it’s up to Republicans in the House to decide whether to move forward with immigration reform." Ms.
While Germany was engaging in peaceful elections and the United States was watching football – civilized societies being big on democratic rituals and sports – people in other parts of the world were relieving their frustrations in violence.