Permanent Jihad, Continued

Permanent Jihad, Continued November 15, 2015

I dearly wish I had not been right.

Back in early September, I did a post at this blog about potential terrorism in France and other European countries, under the title of The Age of Permanent Jihad. I wrote that

The point is not just that many younger French Muslims are increasingly radicalized, but that they potentially have increased access to really dangerous heavy weapons, including automatic rifles, missiles, and even anti-tank armaments like Milan missiles. These are flowing into Europe from nearby battlefronts – in the Balkans, Libya and elsewhere …. The [French] army has made contingency plans for the “reappropriation of national territory”, meaning to win back control of neighborhoods where the population become hostile to the security forces and where guns are easily obtainable. And “guns” in this case means Kalashnikovs, possibly backed up by missiles.

At the time, the projection seemed grim, and one journal turned down a related piece I wrote on the grounds of its fantastic nature. And then we have the horrific French news from the past two days, with all those automatic weapons on the streets of Paris.

And presumably, London next.

In no particular order, here are some points arising from Friday’s events:

1. Matters would have been even worse if the attackers had achieved what was apparently the main component of the attack, namely the planned multiple-suicide bombings at the international football game. One bomb inside the stadium to create a panic, then two more bombers to meet fleeing fans at the exits. It’s an obvious enough tactic, that different groups have been flirting with for years. I first encountered the idea as a hypothetical nightmare for security agencies some forty years ago, in the context of crowded department stores and Christmas shopping.

What do you do when you hear or see something terrifying? You run in the opposite direction, and (as you then discover) into the zone of greatest danger. If the tactic had succeeded in Paris on Friday, it could have added hundreds (at least) more fatalities. Trust me, ISIS/Daesh will try and repeat the plan until they finally get it right.

So what are the implications? Assume you know that groups are planning a two-pronged attack like that against a sporting event, whether in the US or Europe. What do you do? The days of full body searches at football stadiums might not be far removed. And also for Christmas shoppers?

Oh, and please note that two of the suicide attackers were outside the stadium, so would not have been picked up by even the most thorough and professional searches of fans entering. Their job was to remain there until the crowds flooded out.

Dare I suggest that this is, by far, the biggest practical lesson from Black Friday that nobody seems to be paying attention to?

2. This is absolutely NOT intended as a comment on US gun debates, but here is an irony. Regular firearms are very difficult to obtain or hold legally in most of Europe. Military ordnance, though, including automatic rifles, easily crosses Europe’s eastern borders, mainly from the Balkans. There is no reason why missiles and anti-tank weapons should not follow. These weapons used to come in via protected diplomatic bags of various embassies, but now, there is no need for such subterfuge: just throw them in the back of the truck. Once the weapons cross the borders, the Schengen policy of free movement within the European Union means they can reach the soil of any signatory country (stressing the latter). You want a handgun? Completely illegal! But how about a nice fully auto assault rifle instead?

One key question: is there any way whatever of removing those weapons from the streets of western Europe? Just look at one hotspot, the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, and ask how many weapons are floating around there? And then extend the question to comparable areas of Paris, Rome, Vienna, Madrid, London, Bradford, Malmö, Eindhoven …

3. Before the mourning even ends, these “Friday the Thirteenth” events will have enormous political consequences – like it or not. Most significant, they should put a quick end to Europe’s continuing debates over the mass admission of immigrants and refugees. The resulting political reaction will immensely benefit nativist and xenophobic parties, and maybe bring down some governments. We are going to hear a very great deal about the terrorist in this incident who actually did enter Europe as part of the refugee flood into Greece and the Balkans. He will be Exhibit A for anti-immigrant campaigners. And just try now convincing east European countries like Poland or Slovakia that they really must expand their Muslim populations, to be just like Germany and France.

I hate to say it, but Schengen’s days are likely numbered.

4. Speaking of ironies…. We’ll probably never know for sure, but my guess is that one accomplice (?) of this latest terror event will also be its main beneficiary. Maybe more than an accomplice.

From the start of the Syrian crisis, the Assad regime has deliberately and repeatedly favored the growth of the extreme Islamist opposition in order to discredit moderates, and that primarily meant building up ISIS/Daesh. We are now at the stage where Western countries are happy to attack ISIS, but not yet to form the overt alliance with Assad that is the logical next step. (Russia, of course, is a long term ally and sponsor). The worse ISIS looks and behaves globally, the more willing countries are to go the whole hog and support Assad’s government.

I have not a shred of doubt that ISIS/Daesh organized and carried out these latest attacks, but the Syrian government might well have offered covert assistance, because it was so much in their interests to do so. That government has long had a potent intelligence presence in France, and they have used proxies to carry out terror attacks on French soil. (Witness the Paris bomb campaigns of 1986, and others more recently). And if the Syrian mukhabarat knew about the planned attacks in advance , they certainly were not letting on.

For the French at least, the Paris attacks are the last straw. In consequence, France, and presumably other European countries, will now be doing exactly what they swore a few years ago that they would never do, namely to tolerate the Assad regime, and even to support it militarily. Against all odds and predictions from c.2011, Assad’s government will survive and flourish, whether or not he personally is part of it.

So who is the main beneficiary of the attacks? Cui bono?

So we would have an operation with some sponsors trying to use it for one cause, and others seeking a diametrically opposite outcome? Sounds like plenty of other precedents in the history of terrorism over the past century or so.

My previous column ended thus:

Is the militant jihadi tradition really here to stay as a fundamental and growing part of Islam? And if so, does the West have to learn to live with a permanent threat of lethal terrorism on its own soil? Surely, such a fact would have enormous political consequences, for European nations, but also the US. This might be a good time to think: what would those consequences be? Are we looking at the key domestic political divisions of the 2020s?

Still, it seems to me, a good question.

One addendum.

My home country of Wales is home to one of the oldest Muslim communities in Western Europe. The head of the Muslim Council of Wales is Saleem Kidwai, whose views on ISIS/Daesh and the terrorists are very close to mine. Basically, he says, they are not human beings. He is also right when he says they betray the faith: “Your acts define your faith not your words.” Where I disagree is with any claim that those movements somehow stand outside Islam altogether. They represent a loathsome version of Islam, but it really is a strand of that tradition.



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  • Chappie

    Trying to heat Europe in the winter has some unintended consequences.

    Competing Gas Pipelines Are Fueling The Syrian War & Migrant Crisis

  • Asemodevs

    They are reaping the consequences of their Union.

  • John Turner

    Great if sobering analysis, Philip.

    The only bit I disagree with is this: “Most significant, they should put a quick end to Europe’s continuing debates over the mass admission of immigrants and refugees.”

    Germany’s stance on the issue matters a great deal, andI think political consensus on a change in policy will be rather elusive. If it were a Union/FDP coalition rather than eine große Koalition, things would be different. But I think the SPD will continue to strongly support Schengen. Major political implications long term, though.

  • philipjenkins

    Fair points, but my impression is that European attitudes are shifting rapidly right now. I think if was the British TELEGRAPH that asked whether Merkel could fall as suddenly as Thatcher did in her time.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    My guess is that the writer has it only half right. ISIS is a false flag operation of our “allies” to provoke the U.S. and Europe into not pulling out of the Mid East internal conflict between the Saudis and Iran (and now Syria). ISIS is attacking Europe’s over indulged peacenik Youth Culture, not its government officials or buildings. Why? So that the Youth Culture doesn’t demand a pull out from the Mid East conflict the way the U.S Youth Culture did in the Viet Nam War. It is unfathomable that the “enemy of our enemies” (Iran, Syria) is sometimes, also our enemy. The Saudis and other nations are threatened with an existential crisis if Iran and Syria prevail. How can they provoke the U.S and Europe not to pull out on them, especially with Obama’s ill-fated withdrawal policy from the Mid East? The only way U.S. and European elites, and their Youth Cultures, are going to legitimize war against Iran and Syria is to be provoked to sustain a war against the evil ISIS. If the U.S. and Europe wanted to stop terrorism they should prosecute the war against Iran and Syria, not necessarily and only against the politically constructed ISIS.

  • philipjenkins

    I see no evidence that ISIS/Daesh is anybody’s false flag operation.

  • Tacitus

    The consequences? You mean the 70 years of peace in Western Europe unparalleled in the last thousand years? A few terrorist attacks, as appalling as they are, are nothing compared to the horrors of outright war that was the reality of European life in the centuries before 1945.

  • hopleyyeaton

    False flag you say? If you turn their flag upside down it looks like three guys doing unspeakable things with sheep.

  • jimbo

    “He is also right when he says they betray the faith:”

    No, he is wrong. ISIS is practicing the Islam of Muhammad. ISIS has more in common with real Islam, Muhammad’s Islam, than Saleem does.

  • Denis E.

    Over at the Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta posted a link to a podcast by Sam Harris who talks about the Paris attacks by ISIS. He is not surprised at all and Harris expects this idiocy to continue well into the future. Why? Harris blames fundamentalist religious adherence to a book (Koran) that is held up to Divine inspiration.

    Nonsense! claims Harris. As an atheist, he discounts all so-called “holy books” as nonsense. If all of this religious fundamentalism would disappear, the world would be a much more sane and safer place to live.

    Of course, religion X would disagree because their holy book is right and religion Y’s is false. As a result, we get ISIS in Islam and (name) in (name).

  • philipjenkins

    You are exactly right about the blessings of peace. As to European union though, isn’t this a matter of degree? You can have European states at peace and engaged in extensive free trade networks without the total merger and loss of national sovereignty implied by European Union. And don’t get me started on the Euro.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Assad giving them tacit support would be a VERY VERY risky maneuver; much of his country is already overrun by ISIS. Not sure I buy he’d make such a cynical move in the hope that it results in more countries backing him. Especially after the Russians have already at least partially stabilized his dictatorship.

  • Andrew Dowling

    All religions evolve; you can’t encapsulate it in a box and have it remain unaffected by history and culture. You think you are practicing Christianity circa 50 AD?

  • Andrew Dowling

    “You can have European states at peace and engaged in extensive free
    trade networks without the total merger and loss of national sovereignty
    implied by European Union”

    Perhaps, but there is no doubt when you have the level of integration required by the EU, that pretty much takes armed conflict off the table.

  • philipjenkins

    And he has what else to lose?
    Since 2011, the regime has repeatedly released its craziest and most extreme prisoners with the specific goal of creating and strengthening the radicals, and discrediting moderates. And it has worked spectacularly.

  • philipjenkins

    Except of course when armed conflict is freely imported, as seems to be happening right now.

  • nikuj

    Hinduism is best practice, they never force people to join Hinduism like other religion…Also Shivlinga ( source of all energy) perfectly matches with Bing bang theory of physics… Cloning, aeroplane, Surrogate mother already present in Hindu mythology…!

    Hindu kings or leaders have NEVER initiated war in history…

  • Warren

    Let’s not draw false equivalences here. As horrific as these attacks are, no sane European would ever trade the conflicts of 2015 for the conflicts of 1915.

  • candide

    Thanks for refusing to claim that ISIS does not represent Islam. Those who claim that Islam is inherently pacific do not know its history. Christians have abandoned many terroristic admonitions in the bible. Muslims do not regard the bible as an historical document from a particular time and place; they regard it as God speaking to man. Therefore it is difficult for moderate Muslims, liberal Muslims, humanitarian Muslims to express their views without being targeted as apostates., My belief is that we cannot choose between good Muslims and bad Muslims, good Shiites and bad Sunnis or vice versa. The entire culture/civilization is primitive and barbaric. We must struggle against it we must be anti-Muslim jihadist, if you will. If we cannot exterminate this pest we must cordon if off and prevent its spread.

  • candide

    There have been plenty of Hindu fanatics who massacre Muslims in India as there have been Muslim fanatics who have massacred Hindus. No religion is free of this but some have abandoned most of this`past barbarism.

  • candide

    Why can we not ally with Assad and Iran to destroy ISIS and then take on Assad and Iran and destroy their regimes? We fought with Stalinism vs. Hitler and then we prepared to battle against the Communists if necessary. There are no permanent friend or enemies, only permanent interests.

  • jimbo

    Andrew Christianity and Islam are different religions with different rules. Islam is a political, martial, economic, and spiritual religion which has rules and requirements across these spectrums. Christianity is a spiritual religion and how to implement it in a physical way has challenged Christians for 2000 years.

    Yes, in some ways I am most definitely practicing the same Christianity as the early Christians. I pray similar prayers, I take communion, honor marriage, am against abortion (yes, the early church was against abortion strongly), take communion, and have the same tenets of faith that they have. I dress differently, eat different foods, and do other cultural things than what they did, but those differences are irrelevant.

    My point about ISIS and the Muslims is that ISIS today is doing almost exactly what Muhammad and the early Muslims did. How do I know? Because his deeds and teachings are recorded in the hadith, quran, and sira. When you compare Muhammad to ISIS you won’t find too many significant differences.

  • BT

    Actually, I’d argue you don’t practice historical Christianity. The version of Christianity represented by the church from AD350 – AD 1500 or so, complete with various levels of atrocity, has been the operating version for a longer period of time than the more grace-filled version you (and I) practice.
    We’re just 500 years further down the road than some of the Islamic cultures are. And we probably are somewhat to blame for that.

  • Guthrum

    President Hollande: We are at war”
    Putin: “We are coming after you. We will not stop”
    President Obama: ” I am not interested in American leadership …or America winning”

  • philipjenkins

    True. But would anyone really suggest that we face a stark up-down choice between total European integration and a return to the halcyon days of 1915 or 1939? There are lots and lots of stages inbetween

  • jimbo

    You missed my point BT. Read it again. And why are you starting from AD350?

    And no, hell no, we are not to blame for Islam being such an evil, screwed up faith. I blame Muhammad.

  • BT

    Didn’t miss it. Just not sure I agree with it. Christianity in some sense is quite similar in terms of the atrocities in our bible and those we have committed since it was written.

    I start from Ad350 since that was roughly Constantine.

    Basically we have a few hundred years of moral development in our faith that Islam hasn’t had time to process yet. They aren’t that different than where we were 600 years ago.

    My perspective is a it different than yours in part because I’ve had good Muslim friends who see things similarly to this.

    Edit: and don’t you think 300-400 years of colonialism has had an impact? Of course the west bears some responsibility for how Islam looks today! How can it not have had any effect? That would beggar belief.

  • SJ

    Mr. Conversational Intolerance towards religious folk on a Christian blog? What next?

    Atheism is deluded. Atheists have the bloodiest hands of all groups in the 20th century. Communism came out of an atheist’s mind and all the early blood thirsty revolutionaries were atheists… I never give atheism a walk on crimes. They’ve racked up quite a body count in the 20th century then try to sidestep it.

    But when you check the facts it is clear…communism sprung from atheism…..atheism has never stood clear of the wreckage of communism because you had to be a serious atheist to even advance in the communist ranks.

    Wiki the ” Society of the Godless ” for the hidden bones.

    The atheist dream of all men not accountable to God? Scary. We just had a huge taste of it in communism so I hope people notice that fact and don’t get fooled by the label switching.

    Labels don’t control people. Hearts do. Hearts contain the motives and ideas that deeds spring from.

  • SJ

    Here’s a bit of the encyclopedia’s description on exactly what ” conversational. intolerance ” is…’s corrective intolerance….

    What an oxymoron….”corrective intolerance”….

    Wiki quote:

    Harris states that he advocates a benign, noncoercive, corrective form of intolerance, distinguishing it from historic religious persecution. He promotes a conversational intolerance, in which personal convictions are scaled against evidence, and where intellectual honesty is demanded equally in religious views and non-religious views.[26] He also believes there is a need to counter inhibitions that prevent the open critique of religious ideas, beliefs, and practices under the auspices of “tolerance”.[27] He has stated on his blog that he has received death threats for some of his views on religion.[28]

    Columnist Madeleine Bunting quotes Harris from his book The End of Faith: “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.” Bunting declares that Harris’s statement “sounds like exactly the kind of argument put forward by those who ran the Inquisition”.[29] Quoting the same passage, theologian Catherine Keller asks, “[c]ould there be a more dangerous proposition than that?” and says that the “anti-tolerance” it represents would “dismantle” the Jeffersonian wall between church and state.[30] Writer Theodore Dalrymple described the passage as “quite possibly the most disgraceful that I have read in a book by a man posing as a rationalist”.[31] A fellow contributor at The Huffington Post, R. J. Eskow, has written a number of columns commenting on Harris’s statements. In one column, Eskow characterized Harris as espousing a “brand of evangelical atheism,” and questioned whether it was a creed of “intolerance.”[32]

    In response to some of the most frequent criticisms of his work—many of which he says are unfair and which misunderstand or distort his true positions—Harris maintains a long and frequently updated post on his personal website where he addresses each claim.[33]

    Ethical to kill people for certain beliefs?

    We usually only kill people in society after they commit certain deeds and have been publicly tried by a jury of their peers.

    I wonder if Sam Harris would be in favor of ” thought police ” and who would train the policemen?

    Bye, bye freedom of speech….you aren’t even allowed to free think any more according to Sam Harris. Your mind is no longer your own….

    It’s a pity Sam’s idea is eminently impracticable even if he was right because you can’t expect all people to respect polite boundaries. Check with any psychologist….a lot of people suffer from mental disorders while others were never reared properly to respect interpersonal boundaries.

    It’s strange a neuroscientist wouldn’t know this but I guess he’s more dedicated to his atheism than some theists are to their religion and he isn’t thinking straight enough to apply common everyday observation to people.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Dr. Jenkins

    Do you believe the report at the following link, indicating that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait fund ISIS is erroneous?

  • Denis E.

    SJ- would you like to comment on the substance of the comment by Harris rather than denouncing Atheism?

  • Denis E.

    It is quite difficult to debate religious apologists who claim that theirs is the only, true way to (goal). In fact, isn’t this exactly the reason why there is so much hate in the world? Ted Cruz, hoping to win the Christian GOP vote, wants only Christian refugees to come into America.

  • Denis E.

    Imagine the damage that religious faith has done to Europe over the centuries. I’m quite sure that God did not approve of any of it.

  • BT

    Isn’t it Rohr that talks about certainty as an early stage we have to get beyond before we can be considered “mature” (whatever that is.)

  • SJ

    I think the world likes to make the word “fundamentalist” into a straw man so it can beat up on Christian ideas.

    I never use the word ” fundamentalism ” or limit any Christian to such a stereotype. The only people I can think of who might match this label are the Westboro Baptists.

    So I don’t like the label. You don’t give the label of a few people to the many. It is deceptive. It’s just the world trying to distort Christian and biblical terms so they can’t understand Jesus Christ.

    Jesus Christ is our ” foundation ” so the closer a person can get to him the better….so the word ” fundamentalist ” is just a misnomer that makes Christians feel bad and if they feel bad they will let their guard down and let the world tinker with their fundamental principles but Christians have their own special ways and principles modeled after Jesus Christ. So we need to stop using worldly labels like ” fundamentalist” that are just used to split Christian unity. It also excites spiritual pride in people. Some Christians thinking they are better than mere
    ” fundamentalists “…. pride in knowledge and self when the only thing a Christian is suppose to be bragging about is that he knows the good Lord Jesus Christ.

    There is a right foundation in this world: Jesus Christ is that foundation and anybody that denies Jesus Christ is an antichrist. In the case of Islam they deny Jesus Christ is the son of God and say he is merely a prophet diverting people away from him.

    It is possible to compare Islam with Christianity it is just most people don’t do it.

    I doubt Harris did a deep comparison between religions because he harps on similarities like all the New Atheists do.

    Believers don’t harp on similarities. We are keenly aware of differences.

    Atheism is mainly confused and demonstrates confusion because it can’t tell religions apart.

    It could be alot of atheists want to be confused or they could have sat down with pen and paper and made their own pros and cons list of the leaders of the major religions and come up with a conclusion. Instead they opted for arguments that blur lines instead of actually systematically examining things.

    I don’t trust anyone who will not allow a person to think for themself. Abuses can occur in society with more frequency when you suppress or try to subvert freethinking and free speech.

    People do vary quite a bit by personality and I am wondering what Harris’ personal issue is. Does he have too much AQ? Or some other underlying motive for suppressing and disrespecting believers that people don’t know about? Is it vanity? Pride? Narcissism? Worldly training? Weak parental relationships? Greed? Sinfulness? A desire to control? A know it all tendency?

    What is Harris’ motive for trying to guide people into identical conclusions as his?

    One of the main differences between a Christian and an atheist is that a Christian submits to the leading of a perfect being while an atheist refuses to submit to anyone but themself and/or the influence of another human being.

    I really do believe in Jesus. He’s always demonstrating he’s more intelligent than everyone else around him in the scriptures and that infuriates the Pharisees and others because they have idols they don’t want to give up. An idol is anything you get attached to and elevate above God and use to block God.

    Early in my days dialoging with atheists I started to study their behavior. Before engaging in an online discussion with a couple of hundred of them I really had very little opinion about them at all except I believed they were wrong on the existence of God question. About a week into the start of my foray into dialoging with atheists and sharing my thoughts one of them mentioned the word ” delusion “. Now some people use it to mean ” false belief “….the politer atheists. But I instantly understood this wasn’t used like that by all of them…A lot of the atheists I spoke with I believe were guilty of armchair psychiatry with no credentials for engaging in it whatsoever. They meant ” delusion ” as a slur on people’s psyche. So from then on I observed the atheists posts also for signs of what was motivating them….a couple it turned out were bipolar, one was on psyche meds, one was bisexual. In another forum several of the atheists had porn addictions and I also ran into two atheists bragging about being into S&M. So I realized there could be underlying motives that unbelievers might be operating from that weren’t necessarily the same as their articulated ones. But online motivation is the hardest thing to ascertain.

    Imagine you took any of the motives or incentives I listed above and tied it to something like AQ? Then we’re no longer dealing with the surface arguments. The arguments are just a smoke screen for other issues and since I feel like Christians as a group are better for letting God help them with their issues there is no reason that I should submit to Sam Harris’ logicizing when he may have his own internal errors and issues he suffers from invalidating his assumed expertise.

    Here’s a study on high AQ.

    As a person who has been accused literally dozens of times by atheists as being insane….I think they need to check themselves out thoroughly before rendering or submitting people they don’t know to psychological diagnoses that they are not qualified to make.

    Jesus Christ did say to examine yourself for a splinter in the eye before telling someone they have a beam in their’s and it’s only rational that I’d expect Sam Harris to undergo a battery of tests from multiple qualified psychiatrists before accepting a word he says except I don’t believe psychiatry has all the answers and I prefer biblical counseling. There are even licensed mental health counselors who prefer biblical counseling as a profession to working as a licensed mental health counselor. The objective to help human beings are the same but the premises and approach behind each is different.

  • jimbo

    No BT you did miss it. You also missed Andrew’s point. All of us have biases and opinions and we need to check our knee jerk reactions before typing.
    Case in point, Andrew referenced Christianity AD 50, to which I replied that yes in many ways I am practicing the same Christianity. Somehow, you foolishly wanted to raise the bar to 350.
    Second point, I commented that Christianity is a spiritual faith and implementing it in a political, physical, world has been a challenge to Christians. Instead of understanding that, you brought confused the faith with the actions of some Christians.
    And again, hell no, the West is NOT responsible for the violence in the Islamic world today. You’re welcome to carry the guilt. People can have mixed motives for doing things but in the context of what this article is talking about, dedicated Muslims obey Muhammad. Their violence is attributed to Islam.

  • BT

    Obviously. If you disagree with him, it’s just because you missed his brilliant point. If I’d only understood it, I’d obviously agree with him

  • BT

    I referenced ad350 with a specific idea in mind. I did notice that your ad50 reference.

    If you talk with someone who runs an NGO in Beirut and Jordan as I have, your perspective on the west’s culpability in this might be different. It matters not if WE feel like we have a role in this. Those in that part of the world do feel that way. That perception is reality.

    So I get your point. What was in my mind was that an AD50 version of Christianity isn’t the “historical” version in the sense that the Constantinian, empire oriented version has dominated things for so much longer and is more closely related in behavioral term to the Islamic right than we really like to admit.

  • Guthrum

    The gate has been opened: demons from hell are roaming the earth. We are in the end times. Pray to Jesus.