Saturday, May 13, 2006

Convert or Die II

Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, the chap who drove an SUV into a crowd of students at the University of North Carolina, has written a series of letters to the student newspaper. Find the links to the PDFs, here at Jihad Watch. These letters reveal that this would-be murderer is perfectly sane and in no way under-privileged; while he writes like a young man who has spent a little too much time in the books, he is above average in intelligence and learning for his age, he fancies himself a philosopher, and shows no remorse for his act, since he feels fully justified - as demonstrated by his many chapter and verse references to the Koran - in having tried to kill infidels.

Among the quotes that Robert Spencer has lifted from the letters, we find:
Due to my religious motivation for the attack, I feel no remorse and am proud to have carried it out in service of and in obedience of Allah.

Considering that I injured several people both physically and psychologically, who were also American taxpayers, I feel that I succeeded in obeying Allah's commandment to fight against the enemies of His followers.

Since I acted only in obedience and reverence of Allah, I could never be sorry for hurting the victims, unless Allah wanted me to be sorry -- which I don't believe is the case, to my knowledge.
But the queer thing about these letters is that they demonstrate a young man, who has spent most of his life in the United States, showing his facility with western modes of thought that almost verge on nihilism; one might call him that, if not for the fact that he is not a nihilist precisely because of his belief in a putative god and his Jihad.

I only read the first letter in full; it is an attempt to prove the existence of God:
it seems that all I can know to be true is "being," viz. existence of myself and existence of whatever has created myself at the time intervals which I write at. I don't know for certain that my experiences, viz. sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell, really happen to be derived from sources beyond my imagination or if they are all merely things which I imagine involuntarily. This is based on the notion that experience itself may only be a figment of the imagination, and therefore not a reality. In contrast, "being" must necessarily be a real thing or force, because it remains constant and precedes all events in time. That is to say, before anything could have ever happened in the universe as we know it, there had to first exist "being" viz. something true and constant from time negative infinity... the objects of our experiences cannot be conclusively defined as real since they may only exist within our minds and therefore not in some external corporeal world.
Well then, I guess that may make it easier to think about killing people.

What we have here is evidence of a scary phenomenon. A young man, reasonably well-educated in the west, capable of carrying on a philosophical discourse like an undergraduate with intellectual inclinations, finding an answer for the sense of alienation and resentment so commong among young people. But this outlet is not the usual romanticism or nihilism. No, he has found a faith that allows him to kill. He quotes the Koran as calling for the "release [of] anger and rage from Allah's followers' hearts" (9:14-15).
Spencer asks, "is he misinterpreting the Qur'an? Here's 9:14-15"
Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers, and still the indignation of their hearts.
Deadlier yet than a literalist Islam may be the mixing of alienated western youth and Islam.


Unknown said...

Don't forget the unibomber.

I think that this young man is just crazy.

Unknown said...

Or is it unabomber?

MeaninglessHotAir said...


Yes, the unabomber was crazy and dangerous. Had there been several cells of unabombers scattered across the land I would have been really worried. I mean, just think, hundreds of those guys!

By contrast, here we have over a billion crazy people who potentially hear a voice we can't hear telling them to kill us.

Let's try to keep a little perspective.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Hypothesis (Marx): Crime (and by extension violence) is caused by poverty.

Fact: There is lots of crime in rich areas committed by rich people. If one traces the location of terrorist attack, one sees a very clear geo-spatial pattern laid out clearly somewhere on Gates of Vienna: it encircles the Muslim world on every side. The poorest countries in Central America and Africa are sometimes the safest (and sometimes not). Crime is rather uncorrelated with poverty.

If we can agree that this hypothesis has been tested and is wrong, we can then ask: why the tenacious belief in an obvious falsehood?

When I perceive people believing adamantly in something that apparently isn't there, I am ineluctably drawn to the conclusion that religion is involved. Moreover, where there is religion, there is need for that belief. So, why do people need this belief?

I presume that it is because it is ultimately comforting. The history of the latter Twentieth Century shows the most remarkable and encouraging fact: poverty can be alleviated across vast swaths of the Earth, perhaps the whole thing. Can, and is being alleviated. Poverty is a solvable problem.

Unlike terrorism.

truepeers said...

why the tenacious belief in an obvious falsehood

-because some people cannot face the future without such.

here is another interesting post from Jihad Watch. It begins by quoting from a news report:

"BERLIN (AFP) - US President George W. Bush said in an interview with a German newspaper that he unwittingly caused fears in the Muslim world.

""We must understand words mean things to different people," Bush said in Bild, according to an English transcript released by the White House....

""There needs to be more understanding between the Muslim world and the Western world. There needs to be a better understanding of the true beliefs of their respective religions."...

""I take great comfort in knowing that the true Muslim -- Islam, itself, is a peaceful religion, and those who adhere to Islam are people that respect the rights of others.

""And there's common values in the great religions. And what we cannot allow to happen is for these totalitarians, these Islamic extremists to distort a great religion and define the nature of that religion.""

I see nothing wrong with SPencer's reply:

"We cannot allow it? It's already happening, Mr. President. Whether or not it's actually a distortion of Islam, it's undoubtedly a very widespread view of the religion. It's too late to refuse to allow this to happen.

It would be refreshing if someone somewhere would come up with some evidence for the oft-repeated assertions that Bush here repeats yet again. I have asked here many times, to no avail. But I'll try again: one more time I am asking for anyone of good will to show me. Send me examples of Islamic religious scholars rejecting, on Islamic grounds, jihad violence against non-Muslims; rejecting the idea that Sharia law should be instituted in the Muslim and non-Muslim world; and teaching the idea that non-Muslims and Muslims should live together indefinitely as equals. Send me rejections of the ideas that women should not enjoy full equality of rights with men. Send me information that shows that those who write such rejections are not lone voices crying in the wilderness, with the wolves of Islamic orthodoxy ready to pounce upon them, but that they represent broad traditions within Islam and have large followings."

Luther said...


I know you are not holding your breath. Good thing.

I admit to being generally depressed about the state of the world at the present time.

It seems almost inevitable that Western Civ and culture will no longer continue as the instigator and guarantor of individual freedom and rights. Our very success has led to the forces that will see to our expiry.

It will be our inclusiveness, as stated by GWB in your excerpt, that will be our downfall.

I do not see myself as a racist nor bigot. And, even as a non-believer, I understand that this country was, from its very beginnings, founded on the precepts of religious freedom. I have put my life on the line to defend that precept, and would do so again if called.

But yet... and here is the conundrum for me. I do not see how we can allow the Islamic religion to influence, in any way, shape or form, the way this country goes about its business. And, understand, I am not speaking of individuals. I am speaking of ideals and beliefs.

The dichotomy, in this particular instance, between "freedom and religion" would appear to be insurmountable.

I can offer no generally acceptable solutions.

truepeers said...

Luther, the solution as I see it is that Islam, whatever it might be in some full and presently unrealized sense, is not acceptable in its present, most common, forms. It must change itself or fight the world for its survival. If the latter, i think, in the long run, it will lose. But yes, we are a long way yet from being prepared for that fight, so maybe politicians like BUsh have no choice but to mouth wishful thinking.

As for western culture, I too have doubts about its future, when I see how nihilistic so many young poeple are (and having had personal experience along these lines). But I have snapped out of it to some degree, not everyone is going childless, and so maybe there is a revival of conservative, family values coming - of course it already exists in some families. Whether western culture is part of a continuum that survives the specific societies that are its temporary hosts, is a question I am grappling with and I think it is just that to some degree. But will western culture survive in countries that are no longer predominantly white - as North AMerica will soon be unless there is a radical shift in immigration policy? I think the culture will survive in some sense. And yet, it will be a different kind of culture among people who don't have a sense of a family or racial connection to the places of origin of western culture. Even if Christianity prospers, Christianity is far from being the only force in western culture to which people must feel some connection to fully embrace the several different components of western cultural history.

In any case, the success of western culture remains in significant degree unrivalled. The East Asians realize they have to adopt certain western values in order to prosper in the economic order. So, I see western and eastern cultures growing together and changing both in ways we cannot yet foresee.

Luther said...

But there's the nub..

"It must change itself or fight the world for its survival"

At this point in time where and/or what are the incentive's for that change. We have nothing to offer them that they wish to have. Speaking, naturally, of the religious, government and military leaders.

Those above who are against our culture appear to be succeeding in their offensive. Not in large or dramatic ways (with exceptions), as yet, but in the slow but sure insidiousness of water wearing on stone.

But in a broader sense I'm not speaking of the nihilists, or the leaders. I'm speaking of the broad majority of Muslim's who attempt to do nothing more than live by their beliefs. The basic problem, as I see it, is that those beliefs are, for the most part, incompatible with the freedoms we enjoy. If we cannot reach and communicate with those masses, which at present we can not, the future appears rather bleak.

"Whether western culture is part of a continuum that survives the specific societies that are its temporary hosts"

Excellent question. An observable answer may be far in the future. Talking out of my butt here, but does it require a sort of hive mind or gestalt, if you will, to reach the critical mass necessary for freedom to flourish? A large number of other conditions are required, of course, which would include people being able to openly discuss differences in ways of living and viewing the world, without being labeled an apostate and put to death.

truepeers said...

I don't know how we are going to speak to the Muslim masses; but it is not strictly true that we have no conversation with them - they watch Hollywood movies and, increasingly, satellite tv channels, not that this is enough to be happy about. Certainly we need to expand this conversation and the hope that can motivate us is the same behind our faith in freedom: over the long run, human history clearly moves in the direction of greater freedom and this is a universal - and not only, as may be most obvious, western - truth. When human language first emerged there was, presumably, only one word, one degree of freedom in the first cultural system. And for thousands of years, people were ruled according to the dictates of a uniquely correct ritual system, as to some degree Muslims still are (though not to the same limited degree as their more primitive pagan forebears). And since the first word, everywhere there has evolved many times more degrees of freedom in all surviving cultures.

What motivates any of us to increase the degrees of freedom in our system is a pressing realization of the necessity for freedom - fear and hope - a realization that comes from properly grasping that if the system cannot expand its freedom, the alternative will be death and destruction at the hands of our fellows. People don't always make the right choice, especially when they believe martyrdom will be rewarded in the next life, but in the long run they do, or they die out. It's not beyond hope that today's Muslims can re-learn this truth as can anyone else, though it will take a lot of courage and help from outside to stand up to those who lead them, those who will often choose death and destruction because of their attachment to a resentful faith.

Not everyone willingly goes down with a sinking ship. The instinct for self-preservation, the love for one's children, mitigates against it, even amidst the cruellest faith.