Islamic State Feature: We Need to Talk about ISIS’s Interpretation of Islam


PHOTO: Islamic State parade in Raqqa in northern Syria (AP)

Written in partnership with The Conversation:

Since capturing swathes of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has embarked on a cyber-offensive to spread its message through social media. A great effort has been made to block and remove the content, to understand how this information spreads – and to understand why some find it so convincing.

But it is also important to look at the message itself. Islamic State’s claims are not plucked out of the sky. As unpalatable as they may be, they are framed by religious narratives and debates about Islam that have spanned centuries.

A look at Islamic State’s online magazine, Dabiq, reveals arguments built on Wahhabism, a fundamentalist branch of Islam. There are invocations of the founder Ibn Taimaya, “Sheik al Islam”, and references to Ibn Abbas, Ibn Masood, Ibn al-Qayyim, Ibn Hajar, Muhammad Ibn Abdil-Wahhab, Bukhari, and Sahih Muslim – Muslim scholars either collecting, interpreting, or narrating Hadith (the words of the prophet). The broader message is blunt: “Kill whoever changes his religion [Sahīh al-Bukhārī]“.

To claim that Islamic State is not related to Islam is therefore naive, even wilfully dismissive. It ignores the interpretations of Islam that IS presents in its videos, statements and other communication.

Arguing that IS is comprehensively Islamic, on the other hand, is simplistic, too. That is to see the group as representing all Muslims and the different and competing readings and interpretations of Islam around the world. Clearly, they do not.

Grabbing either of these easy, polar explanations for what IS represents will not provide a solution to the problem. We need to consider some controversial issues upon which most of the varying sects of Islam agree in order to understand IS, and subvert its narratives.

Selective Reading

For example, IS invoked Sabi — the Arabic term for the enslavement of women –– when it kidnapped Yazidi women in northwest Iraq in August 2014. It argued that this was justifiable because the Yazidi are “infidels”.

When reporting on what had happened to the Yazidi women, Arabic media shied away from having an honest discussion about Sabi. Questions were asked about whether it was justifiable to call the Yazidi infidels, but less about whether the practice of Sabi itself was justifiable.

Later, the question of Sabi was raised among Muslim scholars who generally agree that the practice existed before Islam and continued during the religion’s early stages. The debate was about whether Sabi can justifiably be revived as a practice if a caliphate is created –– as IS would argue.

Some Muslim scholars tried to contend this by undermining the legitimacy of IS and its self-proclaimed caliphate. Some went further to stress that Sabi is not legitimate in our age – but they were few and far between. They failed to provide a strong counter-narrative to IS.

The Islamic State’s demand that Christians should either convert to Islam or pay Jizya, a tax imposed on non-Muslims in return for protection and services, has also caused problems.

In an open letter to leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 120 Sunni scholars criticised how IS was interpreting Islam but failed effectively to respond to its claims. Instead, their comments about whether jizya is still applicable in the modern world were vague and contradictory.

They first described Christians as “Arabs” and “friends” who should not be subject to jizya, but then the tax was put into two categories: one against groups who waged war against Muslims, and the other — described as similar to Zakat (a tax paid by Muslims) — imposed on Christians who did not wage war. Having tried to establish that jizya was illegitimate, the scholars had failed to offer a coherent religious argument against it.

There are plenty of other problematic cases that arise from IS activities. Can atheists or apostates be killed, for example, as some extreme interpretations of Islam suggest?


Claimed image of an Islamic State public execution

An Honest Debate

There is no immediate magical solution to this problem. A comprehensive, constructive, and critical reading of Islamic fiqh (the human understanding of Sharia law) and history in all its stages requires a huge collective effort. That effort needs to include governments, religious authorities, and other institutions, such as academia and the media.

Such effort needs to start with challenging religious messages that incite hatred or violence. That should include TV channels that support sectarian and ethnic division. These are not only broadcast from Arabic countries but also from Western countries, including the US and Britain.

Given the political conflict that feeds religious and sectarian conflict – often supporting and funding extremist voices delivering the message of hatred among and beyond Muslims – this might be difficult to achieve in the foreseeable future. Still, there are steps that need to be taken to pave the way for this ultimate goal.

People are already creatively trying to shift the extremist language and narratives through comedy and factual programmes. These efforts often emphasise the human over religion or ethnicity.

And messages of this kind can be found in religious texts too – even if they are largely overlooked by extremists. Take the Quranic verse: “there is no obligation in religion”; the Hadith by Prophet Muhammed: “religion is how you treat others”; and the saying by Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin of Prophet Muhammed, “people are two types: your brothers in religion, or your human counterparts, otherwise”.

We need to listen to these messages and use them to confront violence. It will be a long journey, but it is worth all our efforts. If we defeat IS but do not have an honest, critical re-reading of Islam, another group will only come along to replace it.

As the debate among Islamic scholars has shown, it has been difficult to establish the consensus that, even if sabi and jizya were once considered valid, they are no longer legitimate. But that very difficulty reinforces the need to undertake the task.

The Conversation

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  1. Well, as the Irish joke has it, if you want to get to where you’re going, I wouldn’t start from here. But we are where we are, so we have to make the best of it. The plots of Jane Austen’s novels are driven by a sort of Sharia in family law: but they were written 200 years ago. Muslim-dominated societies have some catching up to do. What do we do with a problem like Sharia?

    What would success look like? It would be the creation of flourishing, secular democratic societies across the Islamic world. Unfortunately in those 57 or so states we have varying degrees of totalitarianism, barbarism and attacks on universal human rights. We know that the states today which consistently return for the highest levels of well-being by all criteria are the secular democratic Scandinavian states. It is no coincidence that they have the lowest degree of religiosity and the greatest commitment to religion as a private matter, powerless in the public space, but with guaranteed rights for people of all faiths, and none, to worship or not as they wish in private. It is highly likely that the cause of the well-being is the effective neutrality of the state in matters of religious sectarianism. The rights of religious minorities are guaranteed by the state but none shall be privileged.

    That there is a problem with Islamism is not in doubt. The difficulty is how that conversation can be held in an honest, non-violent way. Here, there are 2 road-blocks to a free discussion and a third which is a function of the other.

    The first problem is with the extraordinary sensitivity of many conservative imams, East and West, to criticisms of the doctrine and individual tenets. Well, in a free society they just have to get used to that. They need to stop alleging ‘hate speech’ whenever criticism of the doctrine comes up. It is not, it is criticism of ideas. It is the sure sign of a disingenuous interlocutor when they shout ‘racist’ at anyone analysing and disagreeing with the core tenets of Islam. The irony is profound when one considers that one could declare huge sections of the Koran as hate speech.

    And they need to stop threatening critics of Islam and Islamism with violence.

    In parentheses, the western legal idea of hate speech is a bad idea and the sooner we get rid of those laws, the better: all crimes which can be labelled ‘hate speech’ can be prosecuted under a different law. Hate speech laws are being used in the taqiyyah of the demagogue and the da’waist. To such an extent that British universities are infected with the no-platforming of perfectly rational and decent critics of Islam. Birmingham University itself restricts ‘offensive language’ and literature: the Students’ Union bans far right and ‘extremist’ speakers. Bath University is notorious for its pro-Islamist lecturers.

    Which brings us to the second problem in the discussion: the self-censorship and sometimes outright fellow-travelling among huge swathes of the western left and academia. There is an astonishing unwillingness to ascribe Islamist terror to Islamic ideas. The gestalt is that we, the west, must have caused this or that atrocity. Robert Pape and Scott Atran are among the leading purveyors of this masochism: Pape’s work is selective and circular, Atran’s explanations are orthogonal to the data he amasses. Yet, in the nearly 28,000 jihadi attacks since 9/11, the terrorists keep telling us that they did it because the Koran tells them to: they even cite the verse. I find suicide/murder bombing while quoting the Koran an extremely convincing form of rhetoric. While the regressive left in the west performs a pretty good impression of an ostrich, we are left with right wingers like Le Pen and PEGIDA actually pointing out what Islamists are doing. That is disastrous for the public conversation and reasonable secularists need to grasp the nettle. And not care 2 hoots if they are called ‘racist’ for doing so: too, they should expect legal protection for their own security.

    The third problem derives from the second: the extreme reluctance of western leaders to call jihadi atrocities what they are – Islamic terrorism. Only Cameron comes anywhere near doing this, although he is inconsistent in his approach. We cannot solve a problem if we don’t know what it is, let alone name it.

    So are there any reasons to be cheerful? The op ed says the reform will take a long time and I agree. This is the work of generations and I suspect that for the rest of my life we will be witnessing horror upon horror inspired by Islam. We do notice, however, the spread of liberal, secular ideas in the Muslim world: the internet can connect rational and free-thinkers in a second. From Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia to Iran: the builders of secular Muslim-dominated states are out there. They just keep being imprisoned or executed. We have to show solidarity with these people. First, we have to agree our values: at the minimum, a secular, democratic state, with equality under the one law, a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the practice of the US 1st Amendment on the wall of separation between Church, Mosque or Synagogue and State.

    The discussion has been started in a small but significant way. In the publication last month of ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’ by Sam Harris the US atheist and Maajid Nawaz, the British ex-jihadist and now liberal Muslim: these are the conversations which need to multiply, but especially in the umma. Islam needs not only a Reformation à la Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but also an Enlightenment. It took at least 4 centuries to break the Christian theocratic hold on the western states: one would hope with that experience in mind that releasing the stranglehold of Islamic theocracy on the state will be shorter. Bloody, I fear, because of the theocrats’ barbarism, but shorter.

    • Dermot ….”we are left with right wingers like Le Pen and PEGIDA actually pointing out what Islamists are doing.”

      Le Pen, Pegida, Ukip and AFD aren`t puting out what Islamists are doing: The right wing takes Islamism as an excuse to present it`s somehow hidden form of racism and and Xenophobia. The right wing creates a wired exaggerated nationalism only to oppose Islamism but it`s like fighting nonsense with the means of mischief. The outcome of this kind of fight between madness against craziness can be confusion only.

      The conflict with Islam can only be a very hard value-oriented combat with a smiling face using first the basic arguments like “Concentration on live on earth” — against the “cult of death” to search fulfillment in heaven after live, Gender equality and a open debate about sexuality — against filthy discriminatory religious promises to find 72 virgins in the sky.

      The more open the discussion and the more friendly relaxed (on the side of human rights and democracy defenders) but relentlessly on the matter to expose unashamed
      mendacious and hypocritical myths of islamistic thinking despising human rights —
      the more effective it is.

      It`s a discussion to win hard`s and mind`s and it’s about the present values of the 21st century. Without these values a coexistence on earth is impossible. The more merciless but friendly without any taboos this death cult is dragged to the daylight – the more effective it is.

      • Why expose only Islamist thinking? Why not expose Islam itself and its ideology of hate, enslavement and submission?

        Iranians hate Islam so passionately that there is no chance for MEK to get anywhere.

        • Kazemi, Hamed Abdel-Samads “The Islamic fascism” is interesting to read but sorry – couldn`t find an english version.

          Hamed has described Islamism arising parallel with the Italian fascism and Nazism. But Islamistic ideas however goes back much further – it`s already created in the Ur-Islam Hamed Abdel-Samad said.

          Hamed has described Mohammed´s live in contrast to the values of the tribes at the Arabian Peninsula in the 6th century. That`s the valuable part of the book.

          2..But there are also a lot of serious, developed or philosophical Disputes within the Islamic faith – which are, incidentally, rejected for example by one-eyed blind people like Erdogan or its AKP followers. It is always important to respond precisely on who you’re dealing with.

          • Hamed has described Mohammed´s live in contrast to the values of the tribes at the Arabian Peninsula in the 6th century. That`s the valuable part of the book.

            Interesting. Is he saying that Mohammad’s values were an improvement over tribal values, or on the contrary were regressive?

        • You are a partisan of MEK, Kazemi?

          What do you think of the saying “We’ll take the Kurds under our tanks and save the bullets for the IRGC“, attributed to the boisterous Maryam, circa 1991, while helping Saddam deal with some minor internal unrest?

          • Sparky, read again. How can I be sympathetic to an Islamic-Marxist outfit? I have been riling against both ad nauseam. Maryam is an idiot, dumber than her cultish followers. You asked for definition of left-fascism. I have already told you, checkout links-faschismus.

          • But I am surprised that you have not taken a fancy to MEK. They are Marxists demanding power to the proles and the destruction of capitalism and redistribution of wealth.

    • Lol. Are you joking men?, you are proposing to secularize the muslim world and then you claim “the difficulty is how that conversation can be held in an honest, non-violent way”.

      And what are these series of ridicule and baseless claims?:

      “What would success look like? It would be the creation of flourishing, secular democratic societies across the Islamic world.”

      What is this garbage?:

      “We know that the states today which consistently return for the highest levels of well-being by all criteria are the secular democratic Scandinavian states. It is no coincidence that they have the lowest degree of religiosity and the greatest commitment to religion as a private matter, powerless in the public space, but with guaranteed rights for people of all faiths, and none, to worship or not as they wish in private.”

      This ones are even better:

      “When you send a Jain crazy he becomes even more pacifist. When Amish get upset they cut off each others’ beards. If you oppress a Tibetan Buddhist, he kills himself.”

      “And they need to stop threatening critics of Islam and Islamism with violence”

      Lol so they should all let themselves be killed or else what?, what you will do?, your “Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society” has turned you into a helpless child who can only cry daddy they need to be destroyed!!.

      Geez! Now I understand why the west is outsourcing the job to the russians, Dermot´s “humanist” utopian cult is sucking us of all our vitality.

      • What do you suggest in the alternative to Dermot’s violently evangelistic AHS cult, which as far as I can tell is really just a new garb for the White Man’s Burden of yesteryear?

        • He is not saying anything new. He says the civilizational development of the West applies to the Muslim world, and other societies. But of course following the post-moderns, you have a fundamental disagreement with that liberal democratic civilization.

        • Right now there is no alternative Barbar. Dermot´s maternalistic cult can´t be stop but will eventually exhaust itself -paradoxically not before consuming many of its duped devotees-. The best you can do is to protect your family from the influence of these jacobin lunatics.

    • Dear Dermot C,

      1. “What do we do with a problem like Sharia?” — perhaps start the treatment in a country where ‘we’ [I take it to mean Western Imperialism] have influence, e.g. Saudi Arabia. A mere 5 years of stringent economic sanctions should serve to launch the Revolution to ‘regime-change’ this basket-case into the model Arab democracy. Of course that will probably entail some unpleasant consequences for the Yanki ability to parasitize on the Petrodollar, but surely it is a price worth paying, to quote Albright?

      2. “What would success look like?” — All Muslims would have learned to suffer peacefully and never squeak, resist or fight back while being robbed, raped and murdered by their benevolent Western Imperialist Massas.

      3. “The difficulty is how that conversation can be held in an honest, non-violent way.” — I think you mean a non-violent way for ‘them’, whereas your side continues to resolve all ‘difficulties’ by an intensified use of the Western war machine to wipe ‘them’ out, as you have already recommended, no?

      4. I agree that the Yankified concept of ‘hate speech’ is a legal nonsense used to attack free speech and should be abolished.

      5. Your complaint re. Pape refers I suppose to his ‘Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism’ [2005, ]
      Please explain wherein resideth the [logical] circularity?

      6. Similarly, re. Altran, wherein the orthogonality? [your favourite bit of jargon, eh?]

      7. I agree that the critique of Islam is not per se racist, but it is often and not coincidentally of late [post 911] carried out by political or religious bigots who are supporting warcriminal aggression in one form or several: Pam Geller being a fine example of the more vulgar type. For this type it is a path to win the ‘war of civilisations’, i.e. Crusade to crush the Muslim concept of resistance [Jihad].

      8. “the extreme reluctance of western leaders to call jihadi atrocities what they are – Islamic terrorism” — Yes, there is a huge aversion to honesty in Western politics, because if this habit were to be encouraged most of its warcriminal ‘leading lights’ would end up in jail where they belong. A crystal clear case: Tony Blair/George Bush, who are both still running around unindicted while their aggressive atrocities against all law scream to the very heavens.

      9. “First, we have to agree our values: at the minimum, a secular, democratic state, with equality under the one law, a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the practice of the US 1st Amendment on the wall of separation between Church, Mosque or Synagogue and State.” — A hopeless suggestion: Western Imperialism cannot agree even amongst itself to banish its anti-democratic Kings, who usually also still sponsor (one way or another) an official state religion, e.g. England, Holland, Spain. Once you have these last 2 wrinkles ironed out maybe then you’ll be ready with some actual credibility to tackle the Moose’lims with your maternalistic chatter about imposing ‘democracy’ on them.

      10. The ‘Christian theocratic hold on the western states’ was not broken by an attack from without, which would only tend to strengthen and prolong it, and in fact is still very much unbroken, as already noted in point #9 and exemplified even in nominal Republics such as Germany where the ‘Church Tax’ [implemented by Hitler in connivance with the Pope in July 1933] is to this day still extorted from the people’s wages by the State via PAYE. Ireland itself [add Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Poland] is another example of where the Church’s claws are thoroughly sunk into the State’s pockets and institutional mind, as the Halappanavar case recently demonstrated.

      11. What will be the effect in this epic struggle of the ad lib Western barbarism you actively encourage?

      • #1 — lol in Iraq you decry simple minded democratization. Now you advocate it for even a bigger nutjob Saudi Arabia?

        Parasite on petrodollars? Examples and evidence please.

        #2 Why would the Western so-called imperialists want to rape Muslims?

        #3 Wrong. The West does not bomb civilians or those whom they disagree with.

        #4 Wow – we agree on something. However racist hate speech I think is beyond the pale.

        #5 These are generally not hard to spot. Needs an open mind though.

        #6 Hahhaha you meet someone eloquent devoid of rhetoric, and you can’t stand it. (hint – cut down on the rhetoric, for your own good)

        #7 Your whole gestalt is conflictism due to exploitation. Get over it buddy. Have you heard of trade? Trade means win-win. Can groups of people ever be in win-win? According to you, no. If one side is not exploiting and subjugating the other side, then there is something wrong, and it does not fit your gestalt. All of history is reduced simplistically to conflicts and contradictions and one side trying to overlord the other side. That must have been a massive dose of indoctrination you received in your formative years of the Soviet days.

        #8 nonsense

        #9 England and Netherlands are theocracies? If you can’t tell the difference between an England an an Islamic Republic, then you are beyond all hope. These are the favorite talking points of the Left.

        #10 Wow, the lack of clarity. Muddled mind.

        #11 No western barbarism is being advocated, by calling for the reformation of Islam. Muslims have been calling for reformation and enlightenment since the advent of Islam.

        #12 none of what you said made much sense and are basically talking point Leftwing knee-jerk reactions, #4 excepted.

    • Well said and thank you. #2 concerns me most as that is a real threat to civilization, and other more nefarious currents feed this. It is a symptom of something deeper. Something evil which we need to identify and train our immune system to encounter.

  2. A late response to this article, just a couple of quick points:

    Why do these articles always fail to mention the decades of brutal suppression of islamic movements by dictators who are invariably praised, welcomed and supported politically and militarily by non-muslim countries like the US and western countries ? You can’t have it both ways, and actually, western governments are know of and are more fearful of the peaceful political movements in Islam. But if you’re going to bomb and suppress a whole chunk of the worlds population dont be surprised to find that some of them get angry and brutalised.

    The mainstream in Islam has always been more reflective of the tolerance that muslims have shown throughout the centuries, like in the Ottoman or Abbasid caliphates. Muslims dont have anything to prove in that regard. But what has decades of post-colonialist interference brought ? Take that out of the equation and then talk about Islam.

    • Answer this one question, date palm. What if all the Muslims in the world were Jains, western-style feminists, Amish or Quakers? Would you have the same reaction?

      Of course not. When you send a Jain crazy he becomes even more pacifist. When Amish get upset they cut off each others’ beards. If you oppress a Tibetan Buddhist, he kills himself.

      You can include all the western imperialism you want but you still have to understand the ideology of Islam to predict the reaction of some Muslims to the west’s actions.

      Btw. why was the Amish woman excommunicated? Too Mennonite.

      • I note you do not address his serious point, DC, just attempt to deflect with the demand he answer some fantastical nonsense.

        It rather seems that a full and frank examination of ‘the West’s actions’ [usually illegal or highly unethical] upon Muslims countries is anathema.

        At the same time you preach, “There is no conversation that you can have with these people. They need to be destroyed“, advocating for an even greater use of “western fire-power [to] annihilate them“.

        This hypocrisy dressed up in a faux-concern for ‘human rights’ is painfully evident.

        • “There is no conversation did you can have with these people. They need to be destroyed.”

          Much fun to talk with Paris terrorists or with Daesh anhilating the opposition, Jezidis and Kurds.

          • Ah, you see dear gunny, that talking to Daesh could be in the form of accepting blame for their actions. In other words, it is the west that deserves and should welcome such attacks.

            If you attack Daesh, it would be a violation of their human rights. Because the west must bear responsibility for highly unethical and illegal actions against Islamic countries, such as removing Saddam Hussein and Ghaddafi from power, or buying oil from Arab kings.

        • I really do not understand why this sentence to DC needed to be excised, as it is, given all he has said, a fair conclusion to reach:

          Your interest lies only in containing and controlling the ‘reaction’ by those who would resist the West’s depredations, i.e. teaching them to suffer peacefully, so that said ‘actions’ may continue unabated and forever.

          • @Barbar — what you say is beyond conjecture. It is ad hominem at all Westerners and is racist IMO. You have never been able to define “Western depredations”, except through well debunked talking points.

            This while Russian bombing of civilians is extolled as legitimate and peace loving.

        • ISIS and their fellow travelers has vowed to destroy human rights. Therefore they will become a target simply to preserve human rights. This is not hypocrisy.

          You are saying, if a murderer is executed after a fair trial, then that is as bad as murder. I.e. there is no such thing as justice.

          You uphold human rights by taking it away from those who wish to destroy human rights.

          If ISIS wishes to destroy human rights, then it means it wishes not to have human rights for itself. So why can’t ISIS be obliged, by taking away its rights?

          See Article 21(f) of the Syrian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

          Malcolm X. Lol. The guy was a proto-fascist.

        • In all his debates with various religious charlatans and all-round nut-jobs, I only ever saw Christopher Hitchens walk out on one. After being subjected to myriad incoherent rants and bombastic scatter-gun assaults on logic, intelligence and reason, CH and the Chair had finally had enough and simply left the stage, leaving their interlocutor to shout at the baying audience, Ian Paisley style.

          That man was Playthell Benjamin, a noisy New York demagogue with zero influence. There is no rational counter one can make to such conspiracists: debunking their unfalsifiable world-view takes years and I have better things to do with my time. x

          • Thanks for that, Dermot, I enjoyed seeing Old Hitch thoroughly dissected and shown up for the tawdry imperialist poseur and poor serial liar he so tragically had become, by an able FieldNegro:


            Your problem is you cannot counter the large amount of substance with which this man and many others demolished the false idol, and Old Hitch shamefully used the same excuse to make his escape from the ritual humiliation.

          • Hahaha, the certificate was self-issued. Have you forgotten the pleas of mercy, atonement, repentance, and promise of future change of behaviour – of becoming positive instead of taking away from the substance? Where do you live, I would love to take you out for a beer, on my tab? (not each and every Muslim rebukes beer)

    • An excellent point, DP, but Imperialists by nature cannot resist trying to insert their oar of interference into other [less industrially developed] countries, as it is literally the business model by which they have traditionally gotten their bread buttered so thick, so asking them to take it out is to expect the leopard to change his spots.

      The only way this destructive blight on humanity will ever be removed is by a joint effort of the self-aware working class united across continents, simultaneously breaking the Imperialist warcriminals’ power to successfully aggress abroad while smashing their ability to resupply the war-machine with men/materiel from home.

      Or, in the poetic [-ally licensed] words of Karl Liebknecht:
      Regime-change begins at home, Motherfuckers!”

      [which applies everywhere equally]

      • The fish rots from the head – Assad is running a terror factory at syria with the use of massmurder and a concentration camp system. The more he is misusing human rights the more terrorists he is going to create.

        The more russia is bombing civilians and Hospitals the more people get radicalized. That`s why syrians are looking for the strongest organisation able to resist Assad, Russias and Irans neo-imperialism.

        Additional Assad is leading a Ghost Army. Most are dead. Shia islamists out of 10 countries are fighting against syrians.

        If you want to stop it –

        Regime Chance is the most important condition

        • A classic NATO-Imperialist ‘solution’:

          Save yourself by suicide, or I will continue torturing you to a slow death anyhow.

      • An excellent point, DP, but Imperialists by nature cannot resist trying to insert their oar of interference into other [less industrially developed] countries, as it is literally the business model by which they have traditionally gotten their bread buttered so thick, so asking them to take it out is to expect the leopard to change his spots.

        Any numbers please? At the height of the British Empire, which I would claim is a historic high, all of Britain’s foreign trade was less than 10% of its GNP. Much less for all other western capitalistic nations.

        The only way this destructive blight on humanity will ever be removed is by a joint effort of the self-aware working class united across continents, simultaneously breaking the Imperialist warcriminals’ power to successfully aggress abroad while smashing their ability to resupply the war-machine with men/materiel from home.

        Lol – straight out of the Communist Manifesto. I suppose Assad is promoting a worker’s revolution, instead of bombing his own workers. Hypocrisy.

        “self-aware working class” – union types who jack up the cost of products impoverishing everyone else including the working and non-working poor.

    • I don’t think the Ottomans displayed much tolerance. Read, for instance, the Turkish Letters of De Busbeq (a diplomat in the 16C).

    • Wrong date palm. The western backed dictators (backed to prop up anti-communism) actually attacked democrats and libertarians and Marxists much harder and violently than they ever brutalized religious activists. This is well documented, and the historical record is clear.

      So why is it that only Islam and Marxism took up violence, overthrew the dictatorship, and then installed their own brand of fascism? Why did they install fascism, when they were oh so peaceful? “Peaceful political movements in Islam”? Any serious examples?

      Islamics have generally shown very little tolerance, especially to ideas that contradict Islam or to minorities that don’t submit to the Islamic order. You have gotten it wrong. Nothing tolerant about the Ottomans — that is so romantic. Even during the olden age of Islam you had people like Avicenna persecuted and his books burnt.

      Don’t confuse Muslims with Islamics. Just because the downtrodden Muslims were nice albeit bigotted people, it does not imply the Islamics and Islamists have been so nice.

  3. As for ISIS, I always think of Orwell and his views on fascism. He wrote very little about the ideology of fascism because he simply knew that it had to be militarily defeated, obliterated. We have the de facto emergence of a state explicitly based on slavery. Now. Fascism, bearded.

    There is no conversation that you can have with these people. They need to be destroyed. Because their purpose is to detract from any human well-being.

    In their apocalyptic interpretation of Islam they foresee a glorious death on the battle-field of Dabiq: and their immediate entry into Paradise as martyrs. Well, I wonder why we should not just give it to them; western fire-power would annihilate them. We win: they win, in a way, although I only wish they could still be conscious after death in order to realize that they were wrong all along.

    The counter argument is that it would create a lot more jihadis: maybe, maybe not. It looks like a pretty good disincentive to extremism to me. And, according to new Pew polls, we know that 63 million Muslims in 11 countries have a favourable view of ISIS: and that doesn’t include Saudi Arabia nor the Muslim-dominated countries which refuse public opinion polls.

    It’s a possibility, and a long-term probability, that the theocrats might finally get the message, ‘Whatever makes you think that these lands are Muslim lands?’

  4. And this is what proper ex-Muslim secularists have to endure from adolescent Islamists. This is the problem about merely having a debate. British academics, you should be ashamed of your ‘safe space’ anti-free speech nonsense. This is from Goldsmith’s University: where taught Richard Hoggart the star witness of the ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ landmark anti-censorship trial. Oh, the chuffin’ irony.

    ‘Goldsmiths ISOC fails to intimidate and silence dissenters
    I spoke on 30 November 2015 at Goldsmiths University at the invitation of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH).

    The night before my talk, the ASH president received an email from the president of Goldsmiths Islamic Society (ISOC) saying the following:

    As an Islamic society, we feel extremely uncomfortable by the fact that you have invited Maryam Namazie. As you very well probably know, she is renowned for being Islamophobic, and very controversial.

    Just a few examples of her Islamophobic statements, she labelled the niqab- a religious symbol for Muslim women, “a flag for far-right Islamism”. Also, she went onto tweet, they are ”body bags” for women. That is just 2 examples of how mindless she is, and presents her lack of understanding and knowledge about Islam. I could go on for a while if you would like further examples.

    We feel having her present, will be a violation to our safe space, a policy which Goldsmiths SU adheres to strictly, and my society feels that all she will do is incite hatred and bigotry, at a very sensitive time for Muslims in the light of a huge rise in Islamophobic attacks.

    For this reason, we advise you to reconsider your event tomorrow. We will otherwise, take this to the Students Union, and present our case there. I however, out of courtesy, felt it would be better to speak to you first.

    Despite claims of “safe spaces” and concerns about “bigotry”, the Goldsmith ISOC never made any formal complaint to the Student Union, which had already approved my talk, showing that it was an attempt at intimidating ASH organisers.

    After my talk began, ISOC “brothers” started coming into the room, repeatedly banging the door, falling on the floor, heckling me, playing on their phones, shouting out, and creating a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent me from speaking.

    I continued speaking as loudly as I could. They repeatedly walked back and forth in front of me. In the midst of my talk, one of the ISOC Islamists switched off my PowerPoint and left. The University security had to intervene and remain in the room as I continued my talk.

    Eventually the thug who had switched off my PowerPoint returned and continued his harassments. At this point, I stood my ground, screamed loudly and continued insisting that he be removed even when the security said he should stay because he was a student. When he was finally escorted out of the meeting, discussions on many issues from apostasy, the veil to Islamism and Sharia laws continued, including with some of the ISOC “sisters” who remained behind.

    In the Q&A, a women’s rights campaigner who had been kidnapped by Islamists in Libya and held for three days said that the attempts at intimidation reminded her of those dreaded days.

    Another CEMB activist said one of the ISOC thugs disrupting the meeting threatened him by pointing a finger to his head.

    The behaviour of the ISOC “brothers” was so appalling that a number of Muslim women felt the need to apologise, to which I explained that no apology was needed from those who were not to blame.

    Absurdly, this very group which speaks of “safe spaces” has in the past invited Hamza Tzortzis of IERA which says beheading of apostates is painless and Moazzem Begg of Cage Prisoners that advocates “defensive jihad.”

    The ISOC’s use of rights language are clearly a cover to silence any critic and opponent of Islam and Islamism and to normalise the far-Right Islamist narrative under the guise of Islamophobia and offence.

    Despite the many attempts of the ISOC “brothers,” the meeting ended successfully and raised critical issues, including that criticism of Islam and Islamism are not bigotry against Muslims who are often the first victims of Islamism and on the frontlines of resistance. The meeting also helped expose the Islamists for what they are – thugs who cannot tolerate dissent.

    Nonetheless, the Islamists at ISOC will need to learn that apostates, and particularly women, have a right to speak and that we will not be intimidated or back down.

    Freedom of expression and the right to criticise and leave Islam without fear and intimidation is a basic human right. We have a responsibility to fight for these universal values at British universities and also across the globe.

    A video of the talk will be made available shortly’

    Btw. as the Brummie Andrew Cummins said, Islamophobia is a word created by fascists, and used by cowards to manipulate morons.

    • Dermot, don’t expect to get an answer to your good questions. Discussing Islam is taboo and the left has an obsessive emotional attachment to what is essentially metaphysical hogwash.

      • 1. He didn’t pose any question there, though I agree with him that the Yankified ‘safe space’ nonsense as a means for closing down free speech [for which you recently clamoured] should be discarded asap.

        2. I am ‘the Left’ [of you anyhow] and do not have taboos or any attachments to hogwash, so what is it about Islam you would like to discuss?

        3. You have several times claimed to be a Muslim [but also, incongruously, an Atheist] and stated that this is your race, due to the fact that it says ‘Muslim’ on your [probably long-ago expired] ID card. Please clarify: does the card say ‘Muslim’ under the rubric of Religion or Race, and who issued such a document and when?

        4. Would the same office now upon request change this designation to read ‘Atheist’.

        5. Have you requested such a change, or do you consider Atheism a lesser race?

        • Lol — my note on ‘safe spaces’ was pure sarcasm. Safe spaces is the invention of the counter-enlightenment cultural left. How can you make such an egregious error to associate me with that method of intimidation? Muslim in an Islamic country does not mean believer. It means a person whose father (or sometimes mother) is a Muslim. A Muslim can be an atheist or an Islam / Mohammad hater. In Islamic countries (most if not all), the ID card has a field for RELIGION. It would say Islam or Mosalman (Arabic for Muslim). The ID card is issued by the state. Conversions or apostasy out of Islam are not accepted, and in places like Iran would be subject to punishment. The ID card is also the birth certificate.

          Again, I repeat — in Islamic countries Muslim does not mean Believer or Islamic. It means born to a Muslim, or someone who has converted to Islam, for example a non-Muslim spouse of a Muslim. A huge part of Muslims do not abide by Islamic laws, norms or edicts. They do not pray 3 or 5 times a day and do not fast and do not perform hajj. Muslims drink alcohol and eat pork and listen to music. In particular Muslim middle class in Islamic countries are irreligious or may be atheist.

          No, as a Muslim, you cannot change your ID. There is no such concept as atheist in Islamic countries. Atheist is derogatory and an insult at the level of ‘paedophile’ or ’embezzler’. Who would want that on their ID card, even if it were available. Even if you are an atheist, you would hide it and when asked you would say you are a Muslim, because their are sanctions for being an apostate or an atheist. For example you would lose your government job, or you could be killed at a checkpoint. In Islam, it is halal to lynch an apostate.

          Atheism is not racial. It is a default, natural, and honest state of mind whereby a person does not accept something without proof. Atheists make no claim, and atheism is the creed of doubt. Atheism is not an ideology.

          My advice to you: Go to websites like Harrys Place or and stretch your mind. Meet intelligent people and wean yourself from petty Yanki this or workers revolution that politics. Politics is the most boring subject invented by mankind.

  5. Ran into a facebook discussion between a leftwinger and an actual ISIS cyber jihadist on the Paris attacks:

    Jihadist: “We did this because our holy texts exhort us to to do it.”

    Leftwinger: “No you didn’t.”

    “Wait, what? Yes we did…”

    “No, this has nothing to do with Islam. You guys are just using religion as a front for social and geopolitical reasons.”

    “WHAT!? Did you even read our official statement? We give explicit Quranic justification. This is jihad, a holy crusade against pagans, blasphemers, and disbelievers.”

    “No, this is definitely not a Muslim thing. You guys are not true Muslims, and you defame the great religion of Islam by saying so.”

    “Huh!? Who are you to tell us we’re not true Muslims!? Islam is literally at the core of everything we do, and we have implemented the truest most literal and honest interpretation of its founding texts. It is our very reason for being.”

    “Nope. We created ISIS. We installed a social and imperial economic system that alienates and disenfranchises you, and that’s why you did this. We’re sorry. The fault is ours.”

    “What? Why are you apologizing? We just slaughtered you mercilessly in the cafes and concert halls. We targeted unwitting civilians – disenfranchisement doesn’t even enter into it!”

    “Listen, it’s our fault. We can’t blame you for feeling unwelcome and lashing out at us.”

    “Seriously, stop taking credit for this! We worked really hard to pull this off, and we’re not going to let you take it away from us.”

    “No, we nourished your extremism. We accept full blame.”

    “OMG, how many people do we have to kill around here to finally get our message across?”


  6. If a differentiated view on Daesh is naive – than I will be naive from today on.
    It`s better to be naive than confused.

    The first amazing problem is how Daesh is discussed. How could it be that an unstructured debate blending one think without the other but not distinguishing between the institution or the organisation – from the religion?

    1. The organization of Daesh – the Core – How Daesh works
    The Implementation of the Plan

    The expansion of Daesh at Syria began so inconspicuously that, a year later, many Syrians had to think for a moment about when the jihadists had appeared in their midst.

    The Dawah offices that were opened in many towns in northern Syria in the spring of 2013 were innocent-looking missionary offices, not unlike the ones that Islamic charities have opened worldwide.

    When a Dawah office opened in Raqqa, “all they said was that they were ‘brothers,’ and they never said a word about the ‘Islamic State’,” reports a doctor who fled from the city. A Dawah office was also opened in Manbij, a liberal city in Aleppo Province, in the spring of 2013. “I didn’t even notice it at first,” recalls a young civil rights activist. “Anyone was allowed to open what he wished. We would never have suspected that someone other than the regime could threaten us”.


    As soon as it had identified enough “students” who could be recruited as spies, Daesh expanded its presence. In al-Dana, additional buildings were rented, black flags raised and streets blocked off.(..)At the beginning, its modus operandi was to expand without risking open resistance, and abduct or kill “hostile individuals,” while denying any involvement in these nefarious activities.


    The Free Youth Assembly was founded (at Raqqa), as was the movement “For Our Rights” and dozens of other initiatives. But in the view of some who fled the city, it also marked the start of its downfall.

    True to Haji Bakr’s plan, the phase of infiltration was followed by the elimination of every person who might have been a potential leader or opponent. The first person hit was the head of the city council, who was kidnapped in mid-May 2013 by masked men. The next person to disappear was the brother of a prominent novelist. Two days later, the man who had led the group that painted a revolutionary flag on the city walls vanished.

    “We had an idea who kidnapped him,” one of his friends explains, “but no one dared any longer to do anything.” The system of fear began to take hold. Starting in July, first dozens and then hundreds of people disappeared. Sometimes their bodies were found, but they usually disappeared without a trace. In August, the Daesh military leadership dispatched several cars driven by suicide bombers to the headquarters of the FSA brigade, the “Grandsons of the Prophet,” killing dozens of fighters and leading the rest to flee.

    The organization Daesh has conquered Syrian cities by means of an merciless operating secret service – just like in WWII imperialist Stalin Russia and Nazi Germany had conqered foreign countries.

    There is absolute no difference – Stalin as attacked and conquered the Baltic States, Polen and Germany with the same means.


    What has this terrible fashion to conquer a country to do with Religion?


    2. The Use of a religion

    To win hard and mind`s Daesh had misused a Religion because the mass of very different and partly conflicting interpretations of seemingly islamic values is determing the identity of many Arabs.

    Quran isn`t a complete story but divided into chapters and further divided into verses . It`s easy to make everything out of it. – If some one says the Daesh ideology reveals arguments built on Wahabbism, than he should gives proves how the Saudi Arabian interpretation has come to Syria and Iraq. It`s different from Pakistan and Afghanistan because Syria and Iraq had been nearly closed countries for decades.

    The former intelligence officials of Saddam Hussein have known exactly how to use the religion for their purpose of conquest.

    • … because Syria and Iraq had been nearly closed countries for decades” — what kind of ignorant nonsense is this, prey tell?

      Do you mean they did not provide free office space for the CIA, or what?

    • Gunny, let the truth be told: Islam sucks and the backwardness of Iran (and other Islamic countries) can be easily traced to Islam and Mohammad. This theory that Islam is just fine (or infallible) and the problem is with Daesh or with Arabs or with Talibans or with mollas, etc. is not sensible and flies in the face of reality. You are a smart guy and you should know that religion is reactionary, rightwing, and directly opposed to human emancipation and human rights.

      • Kazemi, Hamed Abdel-Samads resumen about comparing the arab tribal society of 6th century with Mohammed`s ideology of Islamism:

        At length Hamed discribs the massacres and Mohammeds strange connections to women and he is painting Muhammad as a mass murderer and as a sick tyrant who has suffered from compulsion to control, narcissism, megalomania, fears to loss something and paranoia. At one point Hamed is comparing him even with Hitler.

        The mental illness of Mohammed had “inherited” to the Muslims of today, Hamed says that the ideology of Mohammed was more backwarded than the tribal arab society 1400 years ago.

        Looks like that Abdel-Samad fights with his family and with the religious devils of his childhood and today because his father was a kown Imam. But the point is: Hamed says that Islam isn`t refomable.

        Hamed stance would be the same as if you ask the Catholics to reject the idea of an immaculate conception and the doctrine of the Trinity, or if you aske the Jews to finally recognize Jesus as the final prophet.

        This is absurd. Hameds fight against the devils of his childhood is okay – but
        his discrimination of 1.5 Billion Muslims to potential perpetrators of violence and terrorists like Daesh and Boko Haram is the same as if you would tell the Ku Klux Klan with its burning crosses is the only correct interpretation of Christianity.

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