MARK DURIE THE AUSTRALIAN 21 NOVEMBER, 2015
As the expressions of shock and solidarity subside after the Paris killings, the challenge to understand will remain.
Much commentary of the past week has situated these atrocities in opposition to values familiar to Western people. Seen in this light, the attacks appear senseless and even insane. US Secretary of State John Kerry called the killers “psychopathic monsters”.
However, the first step in understanding a cultural system alien to one’s own is to describe it in its own terms. We can and must love our neighbour, as Waleed Aly urged this week on Network Ten’s The Project, but this need not prevent us from understanding our enemy, and to do this we need to grasp that this latest slaughter was shaped by religious beliefs.
In July, an Islamic State militant vowed on video to “fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies”, boasting that his terror group “loves death like you love life’’. Yet for Islamic State these attacks were not pointless nihilism. Nihilism is a belief that there are no values, nothing to be loyal to and no purpose in living, but these killings were purposeful. They were designed to make infidels afraid, to weaken their will to resist and to render them self-destructive through fear.
This strategy is made explicit in an Islamic State celebratory post put out after the carnage, which quoted the Koran: “Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the believers” (Sura 59:2).
The taunt that Islamic State jihadis “love death like you love life” is not simply a life-denying death wish. It references multiple passages in the Koran in which Jews (Sura 2:94-96, 62:6-8) and non-Muslims in general (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27) are condemned for desiring life.
On this basis, Islamic State considers Europeans morally corrupt, weak infidels who love this life too much to fight a battle to the death with stern Muslim soldiers whose hearts are set on paradise.
The Islamic State post also referred to the French victims as “pagans”, by which it made clear that the victims were killed for being non-Muslims.
Many commentators have rightly lamented ‘‘civilian casualties”, but the point is that Islamic State rejects the Geneva Conventions and has no use for the modern Western concept of a civilian. Islamic State fighters are taught that non-Muslims, referred to as mushrikin (pagans) or kuffar (infidels), deserve death simply by virtue of their disbelief in Islam.
Some, such as Australia’s Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, have spoken in this past week of Muslim grievances. However, Islamic State needed no appeal to grievances to justify its genocidal killing and enslaving of the Yazidis, whom it targeted solely because they were “pagans”. It has the same fundamental objection to the people of France.
Islamic State objects to Europeans because they are not Muslims, and to European states because they do not implement sharia. Its goal is to dominate Europeans as dhimmis under a caliphate. It claims to follow Mohammed’s instructions to offer three choices to infidels: conversion, surrender, or the sword. Or as Osama bin Laden put it: “The matter is summed up for every person alive: either submit (convert), or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.”
It may seem fanciful for Islamic State to set its sights on the surrender or conversion of Europe but, mindful of the history of Islamic imperialism, it thinks in timeframes which extend to centuries.
It believes Europe stands on the wrong side of history, and a final act of conquest can be preceded by decades, or even centuries, of military raids.
To combat this ideology it is necessary to prove Islamic State wrong on all counts. France — or any nation that believes in its own future — must show strength, not weakness. It must have confidence in its cultural and spiritual identity. It must be willing to fight for its survival. It must show that it believes in itself enough to fight for its future. It must defend its borders. It must act like someone who intends to win an interminably long war against an implacable foe.
There is a great deal Europe could have done to avert this catastrophe, which Islamic State has declared is “just the beginning”. It could, long ago, have demanded that Islam renounce its love affair with conquest and dominance. It could have encouraged Muslims to follow a path of self-criticism leading to peace. Instead, the elites of Europe embarked on decades of religiously illiterate appeasement and denialism.
There is still much that can be done. European armies could inflict catastrophic military failure on Islamic State as a counter-argument to its theology of success. This will not eradicate jihadism or bring peace in the Middle East but it would make the terror group’s supremacist claims less credible and hurt recruitment.
Europe also needs to act to suppress incitement of jihadi ideology by its clients, including the jihadism of the Palestinian Authority. It must put more pressure on the militarily vulnerable Gulf states to stop funding radicalism throughout the Middle East and exporting jihad-revering versions of Islamic theology throughout the world.
For Europe, the challenge within will be more enduring and intractable than the challenge without. An opinion poll last year found that among all French 18-24-year-olds, Islamic State had an approval rating of 27 per cent.
While many of the millions of war-weary Muslims now seeking asylum in the West will have had enough of jihad, it seems likely that Muslim communities already established in the West may be the last to challenge Islam’s supremacist take on history, because they have not had to suffer firsthand the harsh realities of life under Islamist dystopias such as Islamic State and the Iranian Revolution.
Nevertheless, European states could still do much in their own backyard. They could ban Saudi and other Middle Eastern funding to Islamic organisations, including mosques. They could stop appeasing Islamists in their midst.
They could, even at this late hour, insist that the large and rapidly growing Muslim communities now well-established across Europe engage in constructive self-criticism of their religion, for the sake of peace.
If this fails, then according to Islamic State’s jihadi mindset the alternatives are conversion, surrender or death.
Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-GinsburgWriting Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness.
Original article here