Regressive Left, Religion, Security

Platitudes About Terrorism Are Not Helping

Yesterday afternoon, a terrorist drove a 4×4 car onto the footpath of Westminster Bridge, mowing down pedestrians, maiming dozens and killing four people. Among the dead was a British police officer, Keith Palmer, a husband and a father. The British Prime Minister Theresa May called the attack “sick and depraved”. Yet it did not take long for others to put forward defensive statements:

To an alien newly arrived from Jupiter it would appear that we humans on Earth merely have to say what we are and we magically become that thing. Witness all the debates about on campus about gender and racial and disabled identity. But terrorists who memorise the Quran, shout Allahu Akbar as they plough into pedestrians and—most importantly—self-identify as Muslim, are told by the liberal left “Nope, sorry. Not a Muslim”.

When someone says “terrorism has no religion” they need to start by defining religion. Is Scientology religion? Is Scientology pure and virtuous and the people who do evil things in its name simply not real Scientologists? Were the Crusaders not real Christians? Were witch hunts carried out by people who failed to fully understand the Bible? How about the Inquisition? Not a real reflection of Spanish Catholicism in the early modern period, right?

Ask if they believe all terrorists to be atheists, because this is essentially what they are saying when they claim terrorism has no religion, and it is a ludicrous position to arrive at.

To illustrate the philosophical difficulty of holding the “terrorism has no religion” position I like to recount the story of a young Briton of Pakistani ancestry who travelled to Syria to fight and kill for ISIS. Let’s call him Omar.

Omar grew up in a religious family. As a teenager his father made him pray five times a day and punished him when he didn’t. Eventually, frequent prayer became part of his daily routine and as natural to him as breathing.

As he got older he grew out his beard and started to don Islamic garb. He became increasingly politicised, especially by what he saw as the global mistreatment of Muslims by a sinister Judeo-Christian alliance. At his local mosque a firebrand imam would regale the bored, unemployable young men of the town with exhilarating tales of martyrdom and political injustice.

Speaking with the imam one day, Omar was encouraged to visit Pakistan where he could be trained as a soldier of Allah so that he might protect the ummah from the rapacious infidel. The promise of eternal paradise and the glory of a jihadi’s death certainly sounded better than life in small-town England, where the culture seemed to consist of the kafir drinking themselves half to death at the weekend while keeping the STD clinics in a roaring trade.

In Pakistan Omar felt at home. He learned how to fire AK-47s. He felt confident that he could fight bravely in Syria and in doing so help the burgeoning Islamic State cement its place in the global community of nations. He flew to Syria and was instrumental in the planning of a successful attack on a military convoy that killed three Russian soldiers. Three weeks later Omar himself killed an American hostage, beheading him on a video that was broadcast around the world.

When people say “terrorism has no religion” they’re asking you to think Omar here is irreligious and that he is not a real Muslim. If that is indeed the case, it might be useful to try pinpointing the exact moment Omar stopped being a Muslim. Was it when he felt the thrill of future jihad as he spoke with the imam in the early days of his radicalisation? Was it when he did weapons training in Pakistan? Was it when he travelled to Syria with murder in his heart? Was it when he planned the attack on the Russians? Was it the moment his knife touched the skin of the beheaded American, or the moment his victim’s spine was completely severed at the atomic level, or the moment his heart stopped beating? There must have been a single action that caused Omar to stop being Muslim. What was it?

A No True Scotsman fallacy is the attempt to protect a universal generalisation from counterexamples by changing the definition to exclude the counterexample. That is exactly what we have on our hands here. A logical fallacy that is being pushed, opioid-like, by the liberal media and global leaders then happily consumed and disseminated by leftists who feel great for not having to deal with ugly truths.

We now live in a world where Donald Trump’s election, Brexit, and even a lack of diversity in Hollywood get blamed for Islamic radicalism. For many it seems the only thing that doesn’t contribute to Islamic terrorism is Islam itself. Ostensibly the “terrorism has no religion” catchphrase might just be a kumbaya, we-are-the-world statement of anti-racist universalism. Perhaps.

But it isn’t just that. It’s also an attack on truth, and if we don’t respect the truth then the West is dead already.

Derek Hopper Irish writer living in Bangkok. Follow him on Twitter @derekmhopper.

Derek Hopper

Derek Hopper

Derek Hopper Irish writer living in Bangkok. Follow him on Twitter @derekmhopper.
Derek Hopper

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23 Comments

  1. It’s noteworthy that many of the folks that would skirt around religious labels and identities – like ‘Islamist’ – and using the “terrorism has no religion” platitude, are likely to be the same people that don’t hesitate to use labels like ‘Islamophobe’ against those that criticise a religion on the grounds that it is associated with violence and oppression.

  2. For a lot of things, thought precedes action. For a lot of things, belief dictates thought. Trying to find what belief might have propelled an action can explain things simply enough. Explaining why people have whatever beliefs they have, though? It’s not so easy.

    Could be that these “platitudes” are attempts to skip steps in reaching a deeper understanding of motivations, because these people don’t want to realize we have to wade through trash to reach a treasure of understanding. Or maybe these simple definitions are just being offered by manipulative dicks.

    • I think “sheer sophistry” adequately describes Linda’s tweet. Sheer sophistry also describes most of the current thought in history and the humanities.

  3. Genus/species issue, resolved more than 2 millenia ago.

    Indonesia banned atheism years back, not because it’s Muslim majority, but as a defence against Communist insurgency. All citizens must have an ID card. All ID cards must specify religion. The religion must come from an authorised list. Militant atheist extremism since the French Revolution, through Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others, has not only slaughtered tens of millions of the wealthy and the clever (and the poor), but also Catholics in France, Jews in Germany, Orthodox in Russia, Buddhists in Tibet and Cambodia, and others like the Falun Gong considered criminally theistic by recent Chinese governments. So is atheism tyrannical? Is tyranny atheistic? Well it depends on the *type*, doesn’t it, the species within the genus. Agnosticism is irenically pluralist, where the Indonesian government tries to sit, despite a 90% Muslim majority. No small challenge!

    Contemporary Islamism is identifiably Wahhabi/Salafist, and a subset of it. They don’t get to own the whole Islamic religion, just because they claim its name, and *do* have warrant for that from their books and history. Do we agree that trans-women can define what “woman” means? There’s a species within a genus, and we don’t want to make category mistakes.

    The author commits a classic blunder in application of the so-called “true Scotsman” fallacy. Some Darwinism and theology would help him. The fallacy is real, but doesn’t generally apply to scientific and philosophical theories, including religious ones. It doesn’t apply to classifications of species in biology either, and for the same reason. It is precisely the business of these fields to determine the parameters of what the necessary and sufficient conditions are for accurate definitions of “natural kinds” and schools of thought.

    In fact, it matters that the public *do* consider the question of what a true Muslim is in broad terms, because it is characteristic of the “genus” Muslim that “species” of Muslim vie strenuously to claim to most perfectly represent the common ancestor or archetype. You can’t understand that if you make the category error of the left in excluding a species genuinely in the genus, or of the right in conflating a species with the genus.

    The author also fluffs fuzzy logic, where understanding evolution would help again. Leaving Islam happens often, and is typically a process not one event. Knowing the definition of Muslim, which is complex, like possessing many biological traits, helps in understanding how change can occur gradually, as with speciation. A five year old is a child. A 25 year old a young adult. Is a 19 year old an adult? Did one event change them? The logic is fuzzy but real.

    But I do agree we are facing one branch of Islam in which persistent use of terrorism is one of its core modus operandi. I’d be more positive about the article if it didn’t risk annoying genuinely moderate Muslims, like those in Indonesia, which I think is not about minimising offence, but sheer self-protection. Will they continue to speciate towards secularism, if secularists provoke them into speciating towards Wahhabism?

    • Andrija Stupar says

      I suggest reading “We Don’t Know What We Are Talking About When We Talk About Religion” – https://medium.com/incerto/we-dont-know-what-we-are-talking-about-when-we-talk-about-religion-3e65e6a3c44e#.7h9bcl8m9 – by N. N. Taleb. It drives home rather simply the point that people of different religions have very different ideas about what religion itself is. In the West, we have different conceptions of “religion” and “ideology” (not to say that the two do not frequently overlap), and we have no problems with branding an “ideology” as bad, wrong, evil, harmful (e.g. fascism), but we are reluctant to do the same with “religion” for fear of trampling on someone’s religious rights, conveying a sense of cultural superiority, and so forth. We should realize that although Salafists/Wahabis and the like call their worldview a “religion” it is much more, from a Western perspective, an “ideology”. The failure to realize this is why many in the West (esp. on the left) fall into this nonsensical “evil has no religion bla bla bla” discourse, which the article rightly criticizes. On the other hand, those same people would usually have no problem accepting the statement “evil has an ideology”. If we mentally re-categorize Salafism/Wahabism as a political ideology, we will have much less trouble calling a spade a spade, and will not have to worry about tiptoeing around doing so for fear of insulting Muslims who are not Salafists/Wahabists.

      • Good article and comments. Thanks. I think it’s a great topic of conversation. How different are ideologies and religions? Are they distinct, overlapping, or essentially the same? But I agree with your main point: any supernatural beliefs associated with Salafis/Wahabis seem to be tangential, it’s not belief in Allah that’s the issue, but the aims and methods of the ideology. I think that generally works, but martyrdom guarantees salvation in all of Islam, and that’s part of what fuels S/W methodology. It’s complex. I don’t have the answers. Thanks again for comments and article.

      • Santoculto says

        Communism is a ideology that is near to the “religion” in bizarre magical thinking so…

        Real atheist or agnostic societies never was tried.

        • Jacques Bensimon says

          Sadly, “real atheist or agnostic societies” probably won’t ever exist: any ideology that goes against some ingrained aspect of human nature (in this case the propensity for magical thinking) is doomed to failure. Communism (which goes against the very human, nay animal, instinct to look out first for oneself and one’s own) is similarly untenable.

    • DJA says

      alastair,
      I understood and agreed with most of the points made in the article, but your outpourings in reply seem to me to be very weard and full of peculiar inaccuracies. As an agnostic l particularly dislike your using the term agnostic in the way you do which is simply not correct.
      DJA

    • Banned from Nick Land's Roomba Robo-Child Meth Hour Blog says

      1. RE: Species/Genus. You are using the term category mistake incorrectly. A category mistake in Ryle’s original terminology (also called a type error) is where some claim is made that, “x is a C1” s.t. C1 is some category. The error occurs when x is actually another distinct category C2. Ryle’s test for distinctness is roughly the placing of x into C1 comes out as absurd, while the placement into C2 is not (this roughly equates to disjoint sets, if you start equating types with sets). The whole motivation behind Ryle’s term was to make distinctions between categories. Since you are using set-theoretic terminology to get your argument off the ground, this commits you to saying that you see these categories and types as extensive with sets (this is controversial, but we’ll go with what you’ve said). That means that the categories themselves must have some domain of objects they range over and some sort of properties. To make a category mistake under this view, where types equate to sets, is to place some object (that may be primitive or a set) into a set where the object doesn’t have the properties of that set. Suppose you have the statement: (a) “Salafism is a subset of Islam”, and someone says something equivalent to: (b) “Islam is a subset of Salafism” (thus implying either proper subset or equaling). According to (a), Salafism has the property of being Islamic. To say (b) is a category mistake is to say that it is not the case that Islam has the property of Salafism. This does not seem like a category mistake, since Salafism as a property clearly contains other (unpacked) properties that are contained in Islam. They aren’t distinct categories (partitions) at all, but cross over, since that is how you set up (a). Moreover, in some places in the world Salafism is Islam in the set equality sense of “is” (and this is growing, since these sets aren’t trapped in time). This makes the statement (b) in both its forms not absurd in Ryle’s original test of category distinction. So, (b) is not a category error. If anything on the surface, it can be said about (b) that it is perhaps a converse error of (a). But does anyone really make this claim such that it can be decomposed set theoretically? Seems like you are making a strawman. Sets and quantified predicates make for poor arguments when probabilistic claims about populations are better for political decision making. Otherwise you get garbage arguments about “not all x” in response to probabilistic claims.

      2. Your denial of “true Scotsman” fallacy to certain fields is not a good argument. Firstly, leftists and liberals throughout the media say something like, “x is not a Muslim” (usually coinciding after a terror attack, or some sort of ongoing vibrant activity that enriches our lives, e.g. organized child sex gangs). Then someone retorts, “but x has several properties or characteristics of a typical Muslim.” To dismiss these characteristics (when there is evidence for them) is to engage in the sort of reasoning that closely matches a “true scotsman” fallacy. It’s knocking away relevant counter-examples that happen to get in the way of the original “narrative”. So, OP is right in his application of naming the fallacy, you are wrong (and without argument on it, you’ve merely asserted it doesn’t apply, not justified it). Secondly, not even philosophers regard sufficient and necessary conditions (the classical theory) as needed for definitions these days (where definitions in this sense capture the meaning of the term, which in most types of definition reduces to conceptual content). They are too strict. Go read any recent literature from naturalist philosophers (like Thagard) or x-phi philosophers (like Machery). Or go as far back as Wittgenstein with his family resemblance criticisms. Thagard’s 3-Analysis (concepts as exemplars, typical probabilistic features, and explanations) certainly matches up with the way that humans naturally reason about concepts (exemplar theory, prototype theory, and theory-theory), and can be formalized in a way that is philosophically sophisticated (see Thagard’s writings, or any writings from any naturalized epistemologists, like Alvin Goldman). Thagard’s 3-Analysis is a perfectly fine way to do post-autistic epistemology: gather up a big bunch of examples of different Muslims and Islamic thought, name their typical features, find out what explains Muslims, and what Islam explains. Sure, you’ll get exemplars, features, and explanations in your collection that don’t match what the comments section of Breitbart. Nevertheless, if you are honest in your data collection you’ll also probably aggregatively zone in on those unmentionable hatefacts in the pew polls about what large amounts of Muslims (no matter their denomination) actually believe.

      3. Your raising of the fuzziness of claims is confusing to me. Above, you attack the OP for not using strict, well carved out category distinctions and biconditionals (necessary and sufficient conditions). Yet you switch to the claim about vagueness (fuzzy boundaries) applying to the phenomenon.

      4. The use of Indonesia as an exemplar of pluralism and moderate Islam is terrible. This is a country that had insurgencies in Aceh, groups like Jemaah Islamiyah, beheadings and attacks in Sulawesi (that POLRI took a blind eye on), state-backed Islamic gangs like the Islamic Defenders Front (that we know are backed by parts of the government through cablegate), TNI connections to radical Islamists (like Fauzi Hasbi), and random pogroms on both minority sects and Christians going back years. Progressives put Indonesia up as some great exemplar of Islam and democracy, but once you dig deeper than your average slop journalism in places like The Economist, it is a terrible example (and don’t forget West Papua, or whatever province it is called now, where the Indonesian government is engaging in land grabs and genocide of native Papuans through transmigrasi, population replacement, and environmental destruction by transnational energy corps. I bet this is a major reason why so many elite leftists and globalists are silent on digging into the Indonesian issue beyond surface platitudes like yours. Indonesia is a microcosm of the coalescing globalist and left ideology: Islam is good, our-side violence is social justice, transnational corporations are good, and surreptitious population replacement against those who are in our way is best). Googling you online shows you have personal ties to Indonesia. My bet is you are too blinded to see beyond this to have a conversation with. Take that as an ad hominem if you will, but it is true: your ethos on the topic of Indonesia is suspect.

      • Thank you for such an erudite and careful reply. I’m familiar with everything you mention, as I presume you are aware, which is why you mention it.

        1. Yes, on reflection, an obvious case of a “fallacy of composition” would have been a simpler concise criticism, rather than “category error,” which is too sophisticated, and I’ll use that in future instead; but I don’t discard my point. There is a meaningful sense in which religions are complex abstractions (like minds), rather than the actions of those who claim to represent them (like bodies). This has political implications for legislating against acts rather than beliefs, and keeping religion out of politics, and politics out of religion: a win-win in general. But that’s a long story you have no doubt thought about, and where we’d probably agree in practice, but perhaps for different reasons. I will just note what I did above, though, in answering another reply, that belief that martyrdom guarantees salvation motivates the actions of especially jihadis, but also some Kurds who oppose them (see the photos of “martyrs” at the YPG site). I don’t believe in legislating against that belief, but I can certainly understand a popular desire to do so. We should just know what we are doing if we agree that there is actionable “thought crime.”

        2. I’m not a necessary and sufficient conditions kind of guy regarding natural language as a general rule, but *legal* writing typically *does* have that character, and so do computer languages. Were you to use your approach to classify Protestant Christian denominations it would lack explanatory power, volumes of documentary evidence, and people’s self-perception. You’ve also completely missed how my biological analogy has *precisely* the character of the methodology you propose anyway, which would actually *confirm* a basically common descent tree-like structure. Our difference is not in analysis, or even in disliking both common ancestor and its descendants, but in my willingness to concede that not all branches of Islam should provoke identical reactions.

        3. I think you’re just arm waving here. Asher and Lascarides have an interesting approach to understanding conversational logic that utilises several different non-classical logics as applicable to different parts of what’s involved. There is nothing odd in suggesting Protestants have a valid objection to Catholics being considered to be representative of all Christianity on all issues, while Catholics considering it also to be valid that “lapsing” as a Catholic is a matter of degrees. Different issues, different logic. The second is non-classical. Again, you’re missing the force of how my evolutionary analogy is instructive.

        4. Ad hominem is a fair criticism and so are association fallacies in regards to Indonesia. In fact, my familiarity with Indonesia and its people is better evidence for my direct empirical
        knowledge, rather than acceptance of any fashionable left-wing wishful thinking, which I actually explicitly repudiated in my comment. But you’re broadly quite right, of course: Indonesia is far from perfect. But it is a brute fact that they have been dealing for decades with precisely the issues we are now facing. It is also telling that despite a couple of centuries of Dutch colonial governance over a majority Muslim people, it is only in recent times jihadis have been a serious issue, in Aceh even fighting their own Muslim majority government. The same is true in other Muslim majority countries, almost all of them!

        In short, the OP doesn’t really engage with the evidence of many governments of Muslim majority countries opposing Wahhabi/Salafi insurgents. By analogy, secular cultural moderate or whatever Muslims in the west are important allies against extremism as our governments know. Professional counter-terrorists tell them, and they don’t take their orders from the left-wing or the media. They know what sources of information are unreliable.

        Please feel free to have the last word. I’ve had my right of reply, and that’s sufficient.

    • ASBroad says

      A. Genus/species issue, resolved more than 2 millenia ago.

      Simply wrong given as the taxonomic distinction you attempt to use in your argument was brough forth in the (biological) sciences by Linaeus in the 18th c., i.e. merely 300 + years ago. This for factology.

      B. Indonesia banned atheism years back, not because it’s Muslim majority, but as a defence against Communist insurgency. All citizens must have an ID card. All ID cards must specify religion. The religion must come from an authorised list.

      Your assertion that Indonesia “bans” atheism is just as factually incorrect as A. It hasn’t. So is the assertion that the “ban” aims to ‘defend’ against ‘communist insurgency’. a) the Indonesian constitution from 1965 doesn’t explcitly “ban” atheism, and neither does it favour anyone particular relgion – it does proclaim the nation’s foundation in a belief in (a) god; b) Indonesia has a blasphemy law on which basis atheism is persecuted, not on an outright legal “ban” of rejection of theism. Blasphemy laws are typical of state legislature that is overtly theistic. Such exist in all Muslim-majority countries, for example. Saudi Arabia as recently as 2 years ago included atheism in its penal system alongside terrorism. So, there’s no explicit need nor indeed evidence that “banning” atheism has anything whatsoever to do with protecting against “communist insurgency”; rather, it’s protection of theism against ANY challenging ideology or philosophy, and in particular the expression of such ideology or philosophy; and c) the Indonesian constitution and blasphemy law have nothing whatsoever to do with a threat (and resulting need for protection against) “communist insrugency”; the blasphemy law in Indonesia has been used against e.g. Christians for perceived insult of the religious feelings of Muslims.

      C. Militant atheist extremism since the French Revolution, through Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others, has not only slaughtered tens of millions of the wealthy and the clever (and the poor), but also Catholics in France, Jews in Germany, Orthodox in Russia, Buddhists in Tibet and Cambodia, and others like the Falun Gong considered criminally theistic by recent Chinese governments. So is atheism tyrannical? Is tyranny atheistic? Well it depends on the *type*, doesn’t it, the species within the genus.

      Herein lies a particularly egregious fallacy that you appear only too happy to pedal. a) the French revolution was as far from an atheism inspired event as they come; b) Hitler and the Nazi were most definitely, and provengly so, not atheist, and atheism played no role – virtually, none – in the formulation of Nazi ideology, which is inherently Judeo-Chrisitian and more specifically, Protestant-Lutheranian in its nature. c) Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot have never explicitly declared atheistic leanings,and neither have they – and the political movements they led – ever put atheism at the forefront of their ideologies. To suggest otherwise betrays lack of most basic understanding of communism as a political philosophy firtst, and of Leninism and Maoism as political ideologies, second. There’s no evidence – not a shred – of any actions perpetrated by anyone of those figures and the political apparatti they helmed to have been committed ‘in the name / because of’ atheism, i.e. for the cause of not believing in a deity. d) all communist regimes you reference have infinitely more in common with religious cults (they’re by definition personality cults) that they do with a secular, and inherently atheistic, society like most any Scandianvian state of the last half a century, for example. The only *type* (and by the way, ‘the species within the genus’ phraeology is void of meaning – it’s ‘a species of a genus’, and the nesting of the former into the latter follows from pertaining sufficient number of higher – genus – level characteristics in order for such an identification) – of ideology that involves positioning in relation to a deity – for which there’s sufficient historical evidence to establish trends with respect to propensity for ‘tyranny’ is theism, not atheism.

      D. Agnosticism is irenically pluralist, where the Indonesian government tries to sit, despite a 90% Muslim majority. No small challenge!

      Agnosticism is a theolifical position of claimed uncertainty of the existence of a deity. In constrast, the Indonesian constitution claims there’s a deity. So yet again your assertion that agnosticism defines the ‘side’ the Indonesian government takes between theism and atheism is factually erroneous. The only ‘plurailism’ you could possibly claim from your example is with respect to theistic belief. It’s blatantlty obvious that pluralism in Indonesia doesn’t extend to non-theistic belief.

      E. Contemporary Islamism is identifiably Wahhabi/Salafist, and a subset of it. They don’t get to own the whole Islamic religion, just because they claim its name, and *do* have warrant for that from their books and history. Do we agree that trans-women can define what “woman” means? There’s a species within a genus, and we don’t want to make category mistakes.

      Islamism is a political ideology based on its religious foundation, Islam. You yourself make a category mistake but conflating Islam (and Wahhabism/Salafism – which are conservative interpretations of the Islamic doctrine) with its political manifestation. Islamism, like Zionism, is also applicable to anyone of the mainstream Islamic ‘interpretations’ (or denominations), Sunni and Shia, precisely because of their shared religious ideology. That’s precisely why both, and Wahhabism and Salafism by extension, do not recognise the Ahmanddiya version of Islam as Islamic (just like Catholicism didn’t recognise as Christian and persecuted catharicism in France, or the orthodox Christianity in Bulgaria didn’t recognise as Christian and persecuted the bogomilicism and other ‘heretic’ Christian sects / ideologies). P.S. A trans-woman is a woman if she meets the sufficient requirements for identifying of the gender; hence a trans-woman would indeed define what a woman means because she would satisfy by definition the expectations of the meaning of ‘woman’. Your attempt at separation here is just as fallacious as attempting to assert that a gay man is not a man or doesn’t define ‘man’, unless you claim that heterosexuality is part of the sufficient requirements for identifying of ‘man’. (It isn’t)

      F. The author commits a classic blunder in application of the so-called “true Scotsman” fallacy. Some Darwinism and theology would help him. The fallacy is real, but doesn’t generally apply to scientific and philosophical theories, including religious ones. It doesn’t apply to classifications of species in biology either, and for the same reason. It is precisely the business of these fields to determine the parameters of what the necessary and sufficient conditions are for accurate definitions of “natural kinds” and schools of thought.

      The fallacy in question is in fact fully applicable to theology and science. The point of the fallacy is not the propositional identification of a kind, but the shifting of the rules for identification of a kind once the previously prosed rules – or assertions made thereupon – have been refuted.

      Once again you’ve made a ‘category’ error of a kind, by conflating form for function. These two are rather ambiguously related in theology but are clearly defined and juxtaposed in the sciences.

      G. In fact, it matters that the public *do* consider the question of what a true Muslim is in broad terms, because it is characteristic of the “genus” Muslim that “species” of Muslim vie strenuously to claim to most perfectly represent the common ancestor or archetype. You can’t understand that if you make the category error of the left in excluding a species genuinely in the genus, or of the right in conflating a species with the genus.

      This whole para- is virtually non-sensical as far as your insistence on operating within the genus-species framework. Anyone species must satisfy sufficient resemblance of a genus to be identified *of* it, so if X (species) belongs to Y (genus) then X *is* Y. The genus sufficient and required set of characteristics is reductive – all species belonging to the genus must carry those characteistics irrespective of and addition to anyother, non-genus identifyable ones they may also possess. So the question here should be what sufficient chararecteristics define Islam in order to be posible to identify related ideologies as Islamic, and the subscribers to those ideologies as Muslim.

      H. The author also fluffs fuzzy logic, where understanding evolution would help again. Leaving Islam happens often, and is typically a process not one event. Knowing the definition of Muslim, which is complex, like possessing many biological traits, helps in understanding how change can occur gradually, as with speciation. A five year old is a child. A 25 year old a young adult. Is a 19 year old an adult? Did one event change them? The logic is fuzzy but real.

      Nothing thus far leaves one with the impression that you understand evolution (which is a process), or taxonomy (which is a system for classifyig the variance associated with the process of evolution). Speciation is indeed a synthactic approach to describing the process of evolution in taxonomic terms. What changes the transition from a child to an adult, to borrow your unrelated to the issue of what is a Muslim example, is biological growth and – importantly – the ability to reproduce (from a purely biological perspective). What makes a Muslim is the subscription to Islamic dogma as one’s worldview – this, the subscription, may be viewed both as a process – the indoctrination in the dogma – and as a discrete entity – one’s self-identification as a Muslim. The definition of a Muslim is thus not complex; it’s contingent upon subscribing to a belief system, at the centre of which lies the belief in a deity. The only differentation within the set of ‘belief in a deity’ arises from different claims (subsets) – the different religious dogmas – about the nature of a) the deity and b) its (formal) expectations of its subscribers. That the subsets (different religions) have sub-subsets (sects/denominations) is due to interpetative variations with regard to b) above. Yet importantly, those variations do not in the general concern the a) above, and so that – if you insist to fit the intra-religious taxonomy into the biological one – becomes the sufficient requirement for clasifying someone as Muslim.

      I. But I do agree we are facing one branch of Islam in which persistent use of terrorism is one of its core modus operandi. I’d be more positive about the article if it didn’t risk annoying genuinely moderate Muslims, like those in Indonesia, which I think is not about minimising offence, but sheer self-protection. Will they continue to speciate towards secularism, if secularists provoke them into speciating towards Wahhabism?

      Theism and theocracy don’t naturally ‘speciate’ towards secularism – that would be contrary to the very sufficient requirement that defines them, i.e. belief in a deity AND its expectations of the subscribers to that belief. Indonesia, by definition (as specified in its Constitution) cannot be secular unless its legislature underwent sufficient changes that among other things would result in the removal of precisely what you mistakengly offer in support of your assertion that the country is ‘pluralistic’, i.e. inclusive of belief – the requirement to identify oneself within a formal set of beliefs, none of which is one’s own. That, love, is one of the sufficient characteristics of tyrrany – compelling one to subscribe oneself to an ideology they wouldn’t of their free will. Fortuitously for you, the communist regimes you referenced do indeed fit with that requirement, i.e. can be described as tyrranical, albeit NOT because of their insistence, on atheism (which is because atheism in itself doesn’t *require* not believing in deities, it merely professess such – that’s a fundamental difference between atheism and religion!). Secularism, on the contrary, requires no such coercion, and thus your last fallacious assertion that it’d be secularists who ‘provoke’ Indonesians to ‘speciate’ towards Wahhabism.

    • Jacques Bensimon says

      I don’t see that your “genus Islam, species Wahhabi” analogy adds anything to the conversation or successfully counters anything the author said. The fact is that within self-professed members of the religion called Islam there exists a subset (whose members are not necessarily limited to a particular branch of the faith) who believe that Islam must and will one day rule the world (Islamists), a subset of those (Islamist extremists) who believe that this domination must be brought about by violent means and who support (if not materially then at least philosophically) the further subset (Islamist terrorists) who actually engage in violent terrorism in a (demented and doomed) effort to bring about the vision of the larger Islamist subset. I won’t get into the arguments about the relative sizes of these various subsets (surveys aside, the educational level in most of the Muslim world and simple logic tell us they must be significant), but the author rightly points out the utter absurdity of the persistent and immediate instinct in some to magically pluck every author of terrorist carnage out from three levels deep in the above Islamist set structure all the way not only to “not Muslim” but to “having no religion at all”. Being atheist and therefore meeting the latter description (in fact definition), I should be offended.

  4. Mark Perew says

    If a religious person does a good deed in the name of their religion, do we praise them for being an acceptable adherent to that religion or do we praise them for being a good example of what it means to be a human being? It would seem that we do more of the latter than the former. Was Desmond Tutu praised for being a good Anglican or for being a good person? Was Jimmy Carter praised for being a good Baptist or for being a good person?

    How hard is it to apply the same standard when someone does evil?

    • “How hard is it to apply the same standard when someone does evil?”
      One’s first reaction to this might be “define evil…”.
      Regardless, this question misses the point, which is about the dissociating of the act of ‘evil’ from the (rather obvious) ideological motivation behind it.
      Coming back to the ‘define’ challenge, I’d be prepared to bet that the perpetrator believed his actions were the exact *opposite* of evil. In his mind, he was likely executing an act for the good of the caliphate.
      Your proposed ‘standard’ might be a relevant one in some contexts. Not in this one, however.

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  6. Santoculto says

    Thanks schizophrenia genes!!

    Well distributed throughout human–kind!

    And some people still ask why full-blown schizophrenia persist among us.

    Maybe because we have 90% of humans who are a variety of partial-psychotic people, specially capable to believe in self-evident bizarre things

    ”Ideology” and ”religion” are dizygotic twins.

    the difference is that the first born ”with’ higher IQ than the late..

  7. Santoculto says

    She’s not wrong to say ”evil is evil” [in the end, ignorance + stupidity + evilness explain 110% of human problems] but… but….

    the sacred book of her belief system say ”infidels must be killed”

    Islam is universalistic, expansionist and authoritarian, just like nazism and international socialism.

    and essentially psychotic, like almost human belief systems.

    Almost human belief systems have their good points but the essence, the roots of them are already intoxicated with psychotic beliefs.

  8. Santoculto says

    Muslims feel like christians to the amerindian beliefs.

    Other great confusion is

    belief system versus value system

    It’s not the same thing.

    I have a profile where my values overpass in self-relevance my beliefs. Values are or can be ”moral facts”. Beliefs evidently not.

  9. Santoculto says

    Muslim”s” [on avg, or not] feel that post-modern westerners are savage as christians believed about amerindians.

  10. abellwordpress says

    I, for one, didn’t read the tweet as a “defensive statement.” It was simply a statement that people do evil things in the name of all kinds of philosophies (or none at all). To me it suggested that others simply acknowledge this fact.

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