Monday, September 14, 2009

They Hate Us Because We're So Good

It's pretty staggering to me that Americans are so willing to buy off on the absurd notion that foreign terrorists are fighting us because they hate goodness, freedom, prosperity, etc. They prefer the smell of rotten flesh to roses, would rather eat dirt and piss than ice-cream, etc.

Bob Dutko had a guest by the name of Walid Shoebat. He's an ex-Muslim turned Christian. It's the same sort of thing. You know all the starved kids in Iraq, coup's of democratically elected leaders who were replaced by murderous dictators, etc. None of that stuff motivates terrorists. It's the fact that Mohammad teaches that you must slay de-converts.

So far in my research into the Qur'an, which admittedly is limited, I'm unaware of such a teaching. So I emailed Shoebat's organization to ask them where they were getting this. They did offer a text. It's not from the Qur'an, but from hadith. And as far as I can see it is from hadith that is regarded as likely to be an accurate presentation of Mohammad's teaching. Here's the text, which I'll provide in full. My corresponder only provided the red portion:

Narrated Ikrima: Some Zanakiqa (atheists) were brought to Ali; and he burnt them. The news of this event reached Ibn Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Messenger forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Messenger: 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.' (Sahih al-Bukhari 6922)

I spoke with my Muslim friends about this. They are more moderate and take this to be a teaching that only applied to a specific time at the early stages of development when Islam was very vulnerable to military defeat and was under attack. They point to places where Mohammad allowed people to leave the faith and he left them unharmed.

That's one way to look at it I suppose. Obviously not everyone sees it the way my more moderate friends do, which is why some Muslim states do penalize apostates with death. Clearly they can make a rational case that this is Mohammad's teaching.

Despite that, I don't think there is good reason to think that this is what is motivating Muslims. I wrote a response to Shoebat's organization. I have provided that below. Note that they had recommended that I read information from Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, who I reference in my response.

Thanks for that info. I was unaware of that.

On the other hand though I do not agree with your organization in its explanations for the motivations of Islamic violence. I've heard Robert Spencer also on the Bob Dutko Show and likewise he says the same sorts of things. They hate us because we are free and prosperous and wonderful. They have a crazy religion.

The way I see it Muslims are a lot like Christians. They don't know much about their own faith. How many Christians are aware of Deuteronomy 3:6-10? Christians don't know and don't care. When the United States engages in violence we don't look to obscure biblical texts to explain it. The reasons are usually political.

The same is true of people like Osama bin Laden. For instance he wrote what is referred to as his "Letter to America" after 9-11, which you can read here.

He explains what motivates his violence. His top reason is our support of Israel. Whatever side you might take on that issue, it's certainly understandable why he would be angry about that. For instance he probably is aware of the # of Palestinians killed and the massive human rights abuses perpetuated against the Palestinians. You might look here for instance.

He's probably aware that the U.S. and Israel stand pretty much alone against the world in opposing a two state solution, voted on every year at the U.N. It's supported by everyone except the U.S. and Israel and maybe a couple of obscure countries that they get to go along. He's probably aware that the settlements are illegal and a perpetual obstacle to peace. These things would naturally make someone like OBL mad. You may disagree with him on these grievances, but there is no need to look to obscure hadith to understand things. He's naturally going to side with his Muslim brothers on this.

Another reason he cites for his violence is the starvation campaign perpetuated against innocent Iraqi children. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Iraq following the gulf war that had the effect of killing around 1.5 million children. You may think it was the right thing to do. You may place the blame with Saddam more (a dictator the U.S. had installed, which is another grievance OBL refers to). But naturally you wouldn't expect Muslims to see it that way. You wouldn't expect them to think it was worth the starvation of over a million kids to remove a dictator we had installed. Why point to obscure texts that people like OBL don't even talk about and avoid a discussion on the actual reasons that he offers?

I think Shoebat and Spencer are doing a great disservice, not just to Muslims, but also to Americans. The key to resolving violent conflicts is to understand the causes. By pointing to obscure hadith and other irrational reasons you permit America to continue avoid doing what is so difficult yet so necessary. Looking in the mirror. It's understandable that many Muslims become angry and violent when a foreign government imposes harsh dictators on them, as in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, etc. This doesn't justify the terror that OBL engages in, but some of his grievances are legitimate. We should be addressing them regardless of his immoral behavior. Spencer and Shoebat don't want to even acknowledge them, let alone address them. Does this make Americans safe? Is it moral? I think not.

Feel free to respond if you disagree. Thanks for reading this.



Steven Carr said...

You should always listen to people who want to kill you when they say why they want to kill you.

This is pretty basic stuff, and I assume the US Government bases its counter-terrorism on the reality of terrorists minds, rather than a belief that terrorists hate US freedom.

Jon said...

I think it's more that the U.S. bases it's foreign policy on the need to control important natural resources and mobilizes public support by conjuring up absurd reasons so that the real reasons are obscured. Because if the real reasons aren't obscured then the fact that many of the grievances are obviously legitimate would reduce public support for the aggression.