Does ISIS Direct Attacks or Inspire Them?—And Why That Matters

Two analyses come to radically different conclusions about how the Islamic State seeks to cause violence in Europe and the United States.


Do the Paris attacks mean that the Islamic State (ISIS) has managed to slip endless numbers of foreign agents and terrorists in Western countries unable or unwilling to harden their borders? Or is the jihadist group actually focusing on would-be terrorists who by and large live in their home countries and perhaps never roam far from home?

Either (or both) scenario is plausible with regard to the Paris attacks. According to USA Today, six of the eight men involved in the attacks have been apprehended or killed, and they are a mix of French and Syrian nationals.

And two recent analyses of how ISIS operates suggest that home-grown terror is more likely than it coming from foreign agents.

Writing at The Guardian, anthropologist Scott Atran (who teaches in France, England, and the U.S.), writes that ISIS is not simply a group of madmen seizing whatever opportunities allow them to cause mayhem and murder. Rather, he notes there is a specific manifesto, The Management of Savagery (published online in 2004), that guides the group's thoughts and actions as it seeks to create a new caliphate based on a seemingly medieval form of Islam.. There are also highly considered recruitment strategies and even a specific vision for social change and a utopian endpoint that isn't only about rolling back modernity:

Simply treating Isis as a form of "terrorism" or "violent extremism" masks the menace. Merely dismissing it as "nihilistic" reflects a wilful and dangerous avoidance of trying to comprehend, and deal with, its profoundly alluring moral mission to change and save the world. And the constant refrain that Isis seeks to turn back history to the Middle Ages is no more compelling than a claim that the Tea Party movement wants everything the way it was in 1776. The truth is more complicated. As Abu Mousa, Isis's press officer in Raqqa, put it: "We are not sending people back to the time of the carrier pigeon. On the contrary, we will benefit from development. But in a way that doesn't contradict the religion."

Atran argues that the West opens itself up to ISIS in two different ways. First, slack economies and ongoing anxieties over the shrinking middle class soften the groud for recruiting new, disaffected youth from Muslim backgrounds. It's not about jobs per se or even assimilation, according to Atran, but a more generalized sense that there is no bright future on the horizon and that if they were, they were be excluded from it. Second, the xenophobia and resentment against Islam adds a sense of allure and projected identity with groups such as ISIS.

What inspires the most uncompromisingly lethal actors in the world today is not so much the Qur'an or religious teachings. It's a thrilling cause that promises glory and esteem. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: fraternal, fast-breaking, glorious, cool – and persuasive.

A July 2014 ICM poll suggested that more than one in four French youth between the ages of 18 and 24 have a favourable or very favourable opinion of Isis, although only 7-8% of France is Muslim. It's communal. More than three of every four who join Isis from abroad do so with friends and family. Most are young, in transitional stages in life: immigrants, students, between jobs and mates, having just left their native family. They join a "band of brothers (and sisters)" ready to sacrifice for significance.

Read the whole thing here.

Over at the website for the Terrorism Research Initiative, Thomas Hegghammer and Petter Nasser, look at the Islamic State statements, videos, speeches, and other materials about attacks and attempted attacks that took place between 2011 and mid-2015 in Europe and North America. After examining the data, they conclude that

IS [Islamic State] appears to have had a decentralized attack strategy based on encouraging sympathiser attacks while not mounting centrally directed operations of their own. There have also been more plots involving only IS sympathisers than plots involving returned foreign fighters.

How does that break down in terms of numbers?

For this four and a half-year period, we identified a total of 69 plots; 37 in Europe, 25 in North America, and seven in Australia. Of these, 19 (28 %) came to execution; 12 in Europe, five in North America and two in Australia. The total number of plotters involved was about 120 (over 80 for Europe, over 30 in North America and nine in Australia).

We found reports of an IS connection in 30 of the 69 plots. Most of the IS-connected plots occurred in the last 12 months (from July 2014 through June 2015); of a total of 33 plots in this period, 26 (79 %) had an IS connection. As we shall see below, however, the connection in most cases consists of declared support for IS, not meetings or communications with IS cadres. In any case, these numbers suggest that Islamic State has surpassed al-Qaida as the main provider of inspiration for plots in the West.

Hegghammer and Nasser find that the number of Europeans who went to fight or train in the Middle East (especially Syria) and then come back to commit terror in their homelands is vanishingly small. It's on the order of "11 plotting returnees from an outgoing contingent of around 4,000."

They conclude that the most likely sort of ISIS-related plot in the West is properly understood as inspired by ISIS rather than directed or even coordinated by the group.

The authors note in passing that in terms of committing acts against the West, ISIS has outstripped Al Qaeda, but that the sort of actions are very different. Al Qaeda was more of a top-down organization, where ISIS has to date operated very differently in the West:

IS sympathiser plots represent a formidable challenge to Western security agencies. So far, there have been over twice as many IS sympathiser plots (22) as plots involving foreign fighters who returned from Syria (9). IS sympathiser plots admittedly tend to be small in scale, but they have an execution rate of almost 50% (10 of 22) compared to around 20% for other plots in the same period. The implication for counterterrorism professionals is clear: worry not only about the foreign fighters, but also about IS sympathisers who never made it to Syria.

Read the full paper here.

What are the implications for the United States, which is now hotly debating whether to let any (or more) Syrian refugees into the country (despite no single recorded act of terrorism by a refugee)?

The first and perhaps most important is that refugees shouldn't be the first place to look for likely terrorists. The people most likely to plan and attempt attacks are already here and, if the billions of dollars we spend every year on intelligence and law enforcement are even a bit well-spent, we probably have some idea of who they are already.

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  1. Using lumped terms like “The West” completely elides the fundamental differences between European societies and US society. This inevitably leads to stupid ideas and conclusions.

  2. Nick, if the terrorists are likely to come from the children of the refugees instead of the refugees themselves that is not a reason to let the refugees in. You’re essentially telling those who have concerns that its okay the bombs timer is set to go off when their children are adults instead of right this second.

    Now being realistic, terrorists tend to arise from ghettoed communities were immigrants’ children grow up without much hope of full integration (job and all the goodies they see the natives enjoy). We aren’t as likely to produce these ghettos due to our smaller welfare state, but allowing in a large population who don’t speak English, don’t have marketable skills, and due to their refugee status have full access to welfare benefits is very likely to lead to one of these locations being created. We don’t live in libertopia, and when we accept refugees we need to acknowledge that and learn from the mistakes non-libertopia Europe has made in the past.

    1. Nick, if the terrorists are likely to come from the children of the refugees instead of the refugees themselves that is not a reason to let the refugees in. You’re essentially telling those who have concerns that its okay the bombs timer is set to go off when their children are adults instead of right this second.

      Europe is different than the US. No-one seems to get that unless they’re mocking Bernie Sanders for trying to have us be more like Denmark.

      1. I acknowledged that in my second paragraph.

    2. Not sure about the ghetto part. I thought they ‘tend’ to be middle-class and/or well-educated. Few come from ‘desperate’ backgrounds.

      1. Well that would solve the problem if true. We’ve just got to be real careful about not letting the middle eastern equivalent of China Town develop from these populations.

      2. Also, it seems that immigrants who come here willingly at least try to make a go of it and have a better chance of actual assimilation, since the US isn’t a country based on culture. Not saying it is easy – it isn’t – but when you look at the difficulties faced by every ethnic immigrant group that came here it has largely been an unparalleled success.

  3. If this is true, and the potential terrorists are inspired rather than sponsored (which really does make the most sense), then dropping bombs in brown people in the Middle East will only inspire them more.

    1. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth. Blowback is a myth.

      1. You’re one of those Peacenazis who probably thinks “This is for Syria” constitutes blowback.

    2. Initially, yes. Similar to how knocking down two buildings in New York spawned a ton of volunteers for the Armed Services…then shit got shitty in Iraq, and suddenly we’re tens of thousands short in soldier headcount and have to impose stop loss and huge reup incentives to get close to minimum manning numbers.

      The reality is, people don’t join losers. Defeat them violently and nobody flocks to the wavering black flag.

      Besides, you know who else we bombed into submission?

  4. Most are young, in transitional stages in life: immigrants, students, between jobs and mates, having just left their native family. They join a “band of brothers (and sisters)” ready to sacrifice for significance.

    This has also been my analysis of the popularity of zombie apocalypse scenarios (and other post-apoc set-ups.) It’s a realistic stab at a Thoreauvian lifestyle. All the useless and boring people go away and the young and strong and capable survive. And, of course, the people who desire it see themselves as young and strong and capable. It’s a power fantasy.

    1. And the only reason why anyone would like to own a gun is because they have a small penis.

      1. You managed to miss my point quite spectacularly.

      2. Dude, Sweet’n’Low has a small pancreas. You misspelled.

        1. Oh yeah. Sorry. I forgot.

      3. What if you own five guns? What does that say about someone’s penis?

        1. Dunno. I only own three. I’ll get back to you when I acquire two more.

        2. It says he wears a condom that fits like a glove?

    2. That is a pretty good analysis. All of the professional telephone sanitizers will be gone.

      1. +1 B Ark

    3. Most terrorists were not poor, but middle class or wealthy.

  5. It matters because if ISIS is just “inspiring” attacks, then Europe is truly fucked (which we knew) – since anyone who has read the Koran can give the same inspiration to a few of the millions of Muslims there.

    1. I work with a guy who is from the middle east. According to him the real problem is Saudi Arabia (which says a lot because we’re oil business and the Saudi’s can do no wrong. They want you to dress as a chicken you ask what color). Apparently, a lot of the people lower in the court tend to fund the Imams that support this radicalism and even fund some of the radicals themselves. They also don’t take in any refugees from all the instability the Imams cause.

      I can’t make a judgment call on if he is right or not, but it’s an interesting take.

      1. Yep. al-Wahhab was a Saudi and one of the first of the Puritanical / Fundamentalist Islamic preachers. While they agree with him and his kind, the Saudis also like being rich. So they fund the loonies as long as they keep their distance.

        1. FYI – al-Wahhab lived 1703 ? 1792. Saudi Arabia did not come into existence until the 1920s. There was no such thing as a “Saudi” when al-Wahhab lived.

          Still, it is worth remembering that the entire Middle East in between Egypt and Iran (f/k/a Persia) consists of artificially-drawn political units, created to serve the interests of Britain and France at the end of World War I, that have no basis in a historic common language, religion, ethnicity, culture or national identity. “Saudi” is just one example of an artificial label we apply to a group of warring tribes, family groups, etc., that just happened to fall on the same side of a line that was drawn on a map by an outside party.We persist in treating these inherently-unstable artificial entities as though they are established nation-states on the European model. And then we wonder why the region is a perpetual shitstorm.

      2. Ignoring the Saudi/Emirati funding and support of terrorists has to be the greatest failing of US foreign policy vis-a-vis the Middle East. There’s a lot of noise about Iran, and they’re certainly no saints, but the Wahhabis and Salafis (Sunni) aren’t getting money from Iran (Shia).

  6. – And Why That Matters

    Why did Reason start doing that with the headlines? “And that’s OK”, “And why that’s not Ok”, “We’ll tell you why”.

    It’s unnecessary. The headline works just fine without everything after the hyphen. Or is this a case of “Get off my lawn?”

    1. IF Slammer = {on Reason’s lawn}
      THEN PRINT “Get off my lawn!”

    2. A descent into Buzzfeed clickbait?

    3. The popular kids tell you what to think these days so that’s what Reason’s doing, ‘cos Nick, above all else, wants to be popular.

      ……and a kid.

    4. Why did Reason start doing that with the headlines?


  7. Of course it matters.

    We aren’t at war with ISIS or Alqaeda. We are at war with an ideology. This is a violent culture clash. This is not helping the open borders argument. Letting people into our country who share that ideology simply because they don’t belong to ISIS is…dumb as hell.


    I think it is important to distinguish the peaceful majority from the radicals. Any ideas on how we can do that?

    1. If ISIS is inspiring young people, as opposed to sponsoring them, then borders don’t really matter.

      1. Borders don’t matter. Location does.

    2. Send them back where they came from with the means to fight back and set up a peaceful state?

    3. I will repost my comment from last night’s ‘man slams door’ article. Cytotoxic posted two links:



      He also claimed that those people ‘deserve’ a stab at the good life.

      From the first link: “Europe’s tribalism and collectivism have crashed against its ideal of liberal universalism, and tribalism is winning.”

      That is because the liberal multiculturalists wanted to sing Kumbaya with tribalists who want to cut their heads off and take their land. No shit they are crashing.

      “…the refugees deserve a stab at the good life…”, means what exactly? Deserve? Based on what? What is a stab? I think this means that poor savages from oogabooga should be relocated to modern cities and given handouts from civilized people who work for a living. This will magically transform them into bluejean wearing, big mac eating rock and roll fans. Fantasy.

      From the second link: “Italian-Americans were a major immigrant group 100 years ago: they have made America more Italian (nothing is more American than pizza and spaghetti), and are American because they swear to uphold the Constitution and adapt to the American culture of independent thinking and productive living. Chinese immigrants do the same today: they embrace and exemplify the American ethic of success.”

      1. Take classes on citizenship and then swear allegiance in earnest and you are welcome. That isnt what is going to happen, is it? We are going to ship them in in-bulk and then put them on assistance and then blanket amnesty. This is not a recipe for success.

        Again, I don’t understand this business of ‘they deserve a chance at the good life’. The world is filled with people. Are we going to bring them all in, every one, because by this standard everyone ‘deserves’ the good life. Packing all of the people in the world into the US isnt going to result in them enjoying the good life. The good life is not a thing located in a place. It is a way of life that has to be lived, practiced by people with a certain outlook and values. ‘The good life’ is something that can exist anywhere as long as the people living it live by certain principles. Adopt those principles and the good life can be lived anywhere. Bringing a bunch of people who don’t believe in those principles into a place filled with people who do is what created the ghettos of Europe.

        It isnt rocket science.

        1. Serious questions: how,do,people,adopt the principles of the good life when they come here as an adult but have never been exposed to anything but a theocratic dictatorship? How do women suddenly consider themselves equals when their entire existence has been to be a piece of property–where honor killings happen and their rape results in their punishment?

          And how would you expect those people to react when they get to our shores and are given all of this wonderful freedom, only to find out we have had the means to have helped them achieve it in their homelands if only we had the will to do the just thing and destroy the barbarians that have subjugated them their entire life in the name of a fucked up religious system that enslaves half of them? I don’t know the answers to these questions.

        2. Good post Suthen.

      2. “Italian-Americans were a major immigrant group 100 years ago: they have made America more Italian (nothing is more American than pizza and spaghetti)…

        I eat a lot of hummus. I think we’re trending that way.

      3. Your linky no worky

    4. Kill them all. Let God sort ’em out. 😉

  8. I would like to blame Obama for what I am about to say but I truly don’t believe he is that intelligent. Even Reverend Wright thought he was just someone’s lacky. All conspiracy theories aside I believe that our nation is being set up for a series of domestic attacks that will usher in Marshall Law. Although 9/11 brought about unprecedented erosion of our civil liberties under the guise of better security the American people in general keep calling for the repeal of parts of the Patriot Act while the government keeps adding layers to the law for our protection. Elements in Saudi Arabia plot and paid for 9/11 and we do nothing. Russia tells us about the 2 brothers who bombed Boston but we do nothing. There are reports of 20+ Islamic training camps outside major US cities and we do nothing. If those groups are true and coordinate attacks across the country the government will declare Marshall Law and it will never go back for our safety of course. People better wake up.

    1. To quote William Munny – “Deservin’s got nuthin’ to do with it.”

      If you want something, build it.

      1. This was supposed to go under my last comment.

    2. simplybe – You are supposed to exclaim “Wake up Sheeple!”

      That is much more convincing than “People better wake up.”

    3. The term is martial law – not Marshall Law.

      1. It’s Marshalls Law. We’ll all be rounded up and herded into department stores.

        1. FEMA death camps!

          1. IKEA death camps

  9. ISIS shows we are at the ‘Men of Will’ stage in this little drama. In the upper Mesopotamia it means sex slaves and mass killings.
    In Europe it means young men hosing down concert goers and blowing themselves up.
    Either way, this will go on for awhile and then when enough of the wrong sorts of ‘Men of Will’ are dead (and a whole lot of other folks), it will peter out.

  10. This is similar to some of the points Nick is making. http://www.theatlantic.com/int…..ic/385710/

    Lots of interesting stuff, and after reading it and other things, I have even less faith in the US political leaders’ ability to make good decisions.

    1. Less faith means you had some to begin with.

  11. I think it better to know who your friends are and are not. Saudi’s are not our friends.

    1. It’s too bad we don’t have billions of barrels of our own oil, millions of tons of coal, and the technology to build nuclear reactors to free us from our dependence on Saudi oil.

      1. We’re not pulling rig after rig in Eagle Ford and Carrizo Springs because we’re dependent on or want to placate the Saudis. We’re doing it because the market has cratered.

        As for the others, I totally agree that we should continue to exploit our natural resources to,the fullest of our abilities. But not to free ourselves of dependence. We should do it because our government, since it manipulates energy policy, owes it to her citizens to provide services in the most cost-effective manner.

      2. How much petroleum does the United States import and from where?

        The United States imported approximately 9 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum in 2014 from about 75 countries. Petroleum includes crude oil, natural gas plant liquids, liquefied refinery gases, refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and biofuels including ethanol and biodiesel. In 2014, about 80% of gross petroleum imports were crude oil, and about 46% of the crude oil that was processed in U.S. refineries was imported.

        The United States exported about 4 MMb/d of crude oil and petroleum products in 2014, resulting in net imports (imports minus exports) of about 5 MMb/d in 2014. Net imports accounted for 27% of the petroleum consumed in the United States, the lowest annual average since 1985.

        The top five source countries of U.S. petroleum imports in 2014 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Iraq. The country rankings vary based on gross petroleum imports or net petroleum imports (gross imports minus exports).

        1. Top sources and amounts (million barrels per day) of U.S. petroleum imports, and percent share of gross imports, 2014

          Import sources Gross imports Exports Net imports
          Total, all countries 9.24 4.18 5.07
          OPEC countries 3.24 (35%) 0.24 3.00
          Persian Gulf countries 1.88 (20%) 0.01 1.86
          Top five countries2
          Canada 3.39 (37%) 0.81 2.58
          Saudi Arabia 1.17 (13%) 0.00 1.16
          Mexico 0.84 (9%) 0.56 0.28
          Venezuela 0.79 (9%) 0.08 0.71
          Iraq 0.37 (4%) 0 0.37

  12. First, slack economies and ongoing anxieties over the shrinking middle class soften the groud for recruiting new, disaffected youth from Muslim backgrounds

    I stopped reading right there. None of the terrorists who have attacked the US came from poor backgrounds. Hussein who shot up Fort Hood was a psychologist and a major in the Army. Whatever is going on here, Marxist claptrap about “lack of opportunity” is not going to explain it.

    Why does Reason endorse this shit? Don’t they understand that these sorts of arguments are false and in when made in economic contexts do tremendous damage to the cause of free markets? You can’t endorse this kind of horseshit when it suits you and then try and argue its horse shit when it doesn’t.

    1. Yeah, I’ve yet to see any of these terrorists say they blew a bunch of shit up because the growing income disparity has caused the middle class to shrink to a point where they’re concerned it won’t help them more easily import Sharia to our shores.

      I’d imagine if I had seen that, I would have seen it in Slate and HuffPo. And the reporting on it would be laudatory.

    2. Marxist claptrap about “lack of opportunity” is not going to explain it.

      I disagree….

      John, think about it. Who were the most ardent marxist revolutionaries? People who came from upper middle class or wealthy backgrounds. They see suffering, they come up with a diagnosis as to what sort of revolution will cure it, and they have the means to act on it.

      I know several people who came from upper middle class backgrounds who live in much more meager conditions than they knew as kids. Many of them blame society for their reduced fortunes. Fortunately they throw themselves into the sort of philanthropy that Boston Brahmins do to give their lives meaning. One or two are actually lowercase marxists!

      Which brings up the next point. Poor economies fuck over everyone, not just the poor. A guy who lived in a 3,500 sq ft home as a kid, who can only afford a 1,500 sq ft apartment is going to see life as going in the toilet, even if the masses are full of people who think a cardboard box in the street and cold poison for breakfast are luxury.

      1. Good point. It could be that they feel they are in a position to ‘do something’. If so, then the question becomes why someone with choices and opportunities would conclude that joining an organization whose express goal is to usher in the apocalypse makes sense to them.

      2. Limousiene liberals. I live in the SF Bay area. We’ve got enough of them to populate a whole country.

    3. I stopped reading at the same spot. purely an attempt to deflect the blame to something other than what it is.

  13. ISIS uses multiple strategies to succeed.

    In other news–water is still wet.

  14. But GUYyyyyyyyyyyyyYYYYYYYYYYYYzzzz!

    Wasn’t there an article yesterday that told us that we can defeat terrorism with free enterprise and liberty? Like, if we make the world more free* than terrorism will go away, right?!

    *How the fuck do you MAKE people free? Just sayin’.

    1. We can free some of the souls of these barbarians from their bodies. That would be a start.

      Sorry, but I believe the only way we preserve a free society is to completely destroy anybody that would subjugate half of their society by turning women into chattel; to completely destroy anybody that would impose Sharia, including taxation on those that refuse to convert; to completely destroy anybody that would put people to death for sexual “deviance”*; and to completely destroy anybody that would enslave other people for their amusement or to use as soldiers, especially children.

      This is a clash between civilized human beings and barbarians. The only way to defeat them is to utterly destroy them.

      *they don’t include the rape of their sex slaves, many children, with their deviance yet do consider sexual relationships willingly entered into by two people of the same sex as “deviance”. Chew on that insanity for a minute.

      1. How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

        A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

        Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

        Churchill warned us!

    2. We are free to do anything.

      Except control our borders, that is.

  15. Excellent article, and important.

  16. “A July 2014 ICM poll suggested that more than one in four French youth between the ages of 18 and 24 have a favourable or very favourable opinion of Isis, although only 7-8% of France is Muslim.”

    It wouldn’t surprise me if two in four American males between the ages of 18 and 24 had a favorable or very favorable opinion of the crips or the bloods–although a very small percentage of Americans are gangbangers.

    1. “A July 2014 ICM poll suggested that more than one in four French youth between the ages of 18 and 24 have a favourable or very favourable opinion of Isis, although only 7-8% of France is Muslim.”


      What percentage of French youth between 18 and 24 are Muslim?
      Without that, this is a worthless mash of statistics.

      1. I don’ think it’s worthless.

        It’s probably safe to assume that Muslim youth are more predominate, especially because immigrants tend to have a higher birthrate than France does generally.

        Regardless, I doubt it rises to the level of suburban white boys in America who think crip and blood rappers are cool–even when they rap about all the crazy ass, violent shit they supposedly do.

        When I was younger than that, I thought this was really cool:


        Set off a moral panic when Tipper Gore found out about it.

        Don’t be Tipper Gore.

        1. What if the statistics showed that there exist only 4 french Muslims between age 18 and 24. Then the statistic that 25% of those 4 (one person) supports ISIS would not be significantly newsworthy.

          What if the statistics showed that 25% of French between 18 and 24 are Muslim. (even though 8% of the total population is Muslim). Then it would be possible that close to 100% of young Muslims (millions of people) support ISIS.

          I’m not commenting on your crips/blood speculation, just on the shitting statistical reporting quoted.

          1. Well, I fucked that up a bit. But the point remains.

            It would be nice to know how much the support for ISIS correlates with being a Muslim.

  17. Clearly there is something very different going on when we’re talking about immigrants from Muslim countries. It’s been noted that the foreigners who join terrorist networks are often well educated, and often were educated in the West.

    I think there is something particular that happens to Muslim immigrants from third world countries when they come to the developed world, and I think it has something to do with the Muslim worldview–specifically with one point of their theology. They believe in predestination, and that has implications for them that Westerners don’t understand

    In the Western world influenced by Christianity, God punishes people in the afterlife because they transgressed the law and didn’t truly accept Jesus’s sacrifice and hence God’s forgiveness. In the standard Muslim configuration, however, Jesus never died–because God wouldn’t let something bad like that happen to a man who had never sinned.

    In the Muslim formulation, God doesn’t condemn people because of the choices they made; they are violating the strictures of the Quran because God has already condemned them. They were condemned to hell before they were even born.

  18. So, what does that have to do with a Muslim immigrant experience in the West?

    If you’ve never been to a non-tourist part of the Third World, the difference is astounding. Our wealth is mind blowing to people from the Third World who have never seen it for themselves. And if you believe that God has condemned the people who don’t know them and makes them suffer for it in this world–then how can you explain the opulence of the West–even while women are walking around without any regard for the Quran whatsoever?

    Our prosperity relative to Muslim poverty is a direct challenge to some of the most fundamental points of Muslim faith. And one of the ways to circle that square to believe that God chose you to show the West that their opulence is an illusion. That God actually condemned the victims of terrorism to die in a horrible terrorist attack before they were even born; if he hadn’t, then God never would have allowed the terrorist attack to happen. That’s predestination.

    1. People talk about how there needs to be a reformation in Islam, and that may be. The reform doesn’t need to be about sola scriptora or the priesthood of believers, though. It’s interesting because in Islam, they more or less already have those things.

      It’s almost like we want them to go back to the way Christians used to be before the reformation. In fact, the Christian experience with the reformation produced our own version predestination by way of Calvinism, but eventually, we rejected that*. If we could challenge them on that one tenet of their faith–predestination–it would do the world a whole lot of good.

      *The Westboro Baptist Church believes in predestination–which is telling.

      1. The Reformation produced essentially endless versions of Christianity, for better or worse. Calvinism is still alive and well, btw. The 2 main differences between the Christian Reformation and Islam, IMO:
        1) Christianity is based on the New Testament – the nice God compared to vengeful one in the OT
        2) Christians stopped fighting and killing each other over doctrinal disputes hundreds of years ago.

        Another big difference is that Islam promotes a theocracy and Christianity can exist in a secular government. Some early American colonies were set up as Christian theocracies but they quickly failed when successive generations weren’t interested in such austerity. Citizens decided to remain faithful to their religion while living under secular laws. That’s harder to do in an Islamic theocracy where the religious leaders have more authority than their secular peers.

        1. “The Reformation produced essentially endless versions of Christianity, for better or worse. Calvinism is still alive and well, btw.”

          Its effects can still be felt in the culture by way of the Protestant Work Ethic, but predestination theology itself is on the margins–with groups like Westboro. There aren’t any predestination Protestants in the mainstream that I can think of, and I can think of a lot.

          “Another big difference is that Islam promotes a theocracy and Christianity can exist in a secular government.”

          No question, the separation of Church and state–as we have it in the First Amendment–is a Protestant thing. And there are other doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam.

          This thread is about why some third world immigrants are drawn into becoming terrorists (with the educated and those who have been to the West prominent among them), and I was addressing that. The opulence of the West without regard for the Quran should be impossible given their views on predestination–and the terrorist is rewriting the script in a way that squares his ideas about predestination with the opulence of the West and its disregard of the Quran.

          1. I don’t think it’s at all accurate to say that Calvinistic predestination is only on the margins with groups like the Westboro Baptists. Calvinism, often going by the name Reformed Christianity, still has a large following.

            Also, the concept of predestination is viewed quite differently by Calvinists and Muslims. In Islam, predestination is more far reaching in the sense that everything that will happen has already been written by God in a book. For Calvinists, it generally means that some people have been preselected for salvation while (most) others have not, and there is nothing that can change it.

            That’s where the Protestant work ethic comes in – since no one knew who had been selected for salvation, it was thought that success and moral discipline in one’s life might be an indication of selection, so people tried to demonstrate through their work that they had been selected.

            Lastly, the separation of church and state also applies to Catholicism, which is the largest Christian denomination.

        2. The Reformation also gave Europe the Thirty Years War.

          That worked out real well.

    2. Muslim poverty in the Middle East often coincides with Muslim opulence, and especially in the Gulf states.

    3. “If you’ve never been to a non-tourist part of the Third World, the difference is astounding. Our wealth is mind blowing to people from the Third World who have never seen it for themselves. ”

      Ken, yes and no. Actually, what is mind blowing to them is the vastness of our middle class. I’ve been to a shit ton of 3rd world countries, and one thing they all have is an elite upper class that is obscenely rich. They (the poor) have all seen the corrupt wealth of their own leaders. They are very much aware that their own elites having been raping and pillaging their economies for generations.

      Now, why they turn their hatred on the West, I don’t know. I guess their religion and tribal instincts dwarf any reason they might apply to their sorry state of affairs.

      1. It is easy to see why they hate the West. Their obscenely corrupt leaders also control the press, making themselves out to be heroes of the common man, protecting the country and culture against Western aggression (as they take handouts from the West).

        It’s extremely difficult for, say, a poor Egyptian to formulate his own views of the world when he is getting spoonfed propaganda and doesn’t have the time or ability to learn anything different.

  19. Islamic Fundamentalists are fundamentally correct about what their religion teaches. Mohammed was a warrior, and a conquerer and his teachings reflect that. There can be no reformation because humans can read the text and see what it says. The Quran isn’t going to be rewritten.

    Muslims aren’t stupid, they understand their religion.

    1. It’s not going to be rewritten, just as the Old Testament hasn’t been rewritten. What they’re missing is a Jesus-like figure to move them past tribal warfare into something more peaceful. IOW, they need a New Testament…

      1. They need Barrack Obama!

      2. Does the Koran say that Mohammed was the last prophet or does it allow for future prophets? My impression is that it would have to specifically allow for them, as opposed to being mute. Anything not specifically allowed being forbidden and all.

        Switching to a less violent, superstitious and dogmatic faith is a step, but only an interim step. As long as people believe in gods, demons, angels and souls we’re still dealing with irrationality.

        1. People will be irrational with or without religion, so I don’t think it really matters.

          Not sure about whether or not the Koran allows for a future prophet, nor do I know if the OT provided for the possibility of Jesus.

          1. Irrational is not a problem.

            Violently coercive is the problem.

  20. The answer is ISIS directs some attacks and inspires others.

  21. I see its America’s fault. actually it does not matter if its internal or external since it is promoted from the outside terrorist group. If action is taken to silence the terror group such that they are shown to be both inept and have nothing to offer then the internal terrorist will no longer have an outside source for their weapons. Yes internal terrorist will always exist but they will have fewer resources and maybe just join a useless nazi organization.

  22. The warmongers should bomb where the Isis magazine Dabiq is published. That’s probably somewhere around Herndon, VA!

  23. ISIS is something our governments and most experts clearly don’t understand. I won’t pretend to either but I do think writing them off as a mere Islamic inspired terrorist group greatly underestimates them and their appeal.

  24. Are terrorists really militant activists, or simply a deranged criminal element?

    1. Embrace the healing power of and.

  25. “Directed”, or “Inspired”?
    I’m sure that difference is quite a comfort to the families of those that died.
    Nick, get your head out of your ass.

    1. No, no, it’s not as bad. Just following orders being much worse than just following guidelines.

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