It has been a long and busy week for Daesh (so-called Islamic State) terrorists. Three terror attacks were organized or at least inspired by them. On June 28th, not even a week ago, there was a deadly shooting and bombing spree at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul leaving forty-five dead and forty-nine injured. Thirteen people have since been charged.
Then, another attack came last Friday in Dhaka, a bakery was stormed by terrorists whom ‘Daesh’ claimed were their own. Twenty people died, according to news reports in most gruesome ways. The hostage situation lasted twelve hours.
Finally, a day later, the attack on Baghdad. Its death toll was the highest at one hundred and twenty-five but sadly, so is the desensitization towards such acts in Iraq. This bit of news received the least attention, even compared the aforementioned first two.
Why did the attacks come now? Possibly as a smug statement to the Muslim world who are about to finish the fasting month and celebrate Eid. The fact that many foreigners were targeted in the first two attacks showed that Daesh, whoever is behind it, is intent on incurring maximum damage to human relations. The Muslim response so far, akin to a dancing monkey waiting for the organ grinder, is simply to cry ‘this is not Islam’ whenever these atrocities happen and go quiet when it has blown over. Not very effective, if you ask me.
I try to ask myself, why would young Muslims allow themselves to be drawn to Jihadism? Jihadism, the most extreme form of Islamofascism (the oppressive strain within the Islamic tradition), is incredibly self-destructive. Why would people with their lives ahead of them allow themselves to be sucked into this abyss of hate and end their lives prematurely?
I believe it is because Jihadism gave them a life purpose. Yes, it is no doubt a perverted life purpose from islam, in my understanding. Yes, it is evil and should ring warning bells in one’s mind. But it is something Traditional Islam failed to give them – A clear life purpose.
What is this life purpose? It is no different from the vision of the Islamofascist. That the true polity of Islam is an ‘Islamic state’ where ‘God’s laws’ reign supreme. These youths were fed with countless hours of rhetoric telling them how Islam is oppressed and how the ‘infidels’ are conspiring against them. The only way is for them to give their lives to ‘Islam’ and become martyrs. Paradise and everlasting bliss would become theirs. Traditional Islamic education, as anachronistic as it is, did not equip them with critical thinking to question these hate propagandists either. As far as they were concerned, this is Islam speaking to them.
Is this rhetoric correct? Absolutely not. This martyrdom lie is the rhetoric of the Kharijis and the Hashashins (from which the word ‘Assassins’ come). They are of marginal deviant sects relative to Traditional Islam although, it has to be said that Traditional Islam reveres its martyrs. It does not, however, extol terrorists. For the most part, Traditional Islam has eschewed terrorism. It needs to reform its discourse on martyrdom but that’s another matter. The Quran on the other hand is very vocally against self-destruction. It actually promotes the opposite, self-evolution (tazkiyatun nafs) as a central doctrine.
The point now is, where has Islam failed these Jihadists? In giving them a life purpose. The practiceof Traditional Islam is a performative one. It teaches its adherents to perform prayers, Ramadhan fasting, the Hajj in Makkah. These are the main practices. Next, comes marital duties and how to behave as a husband or wife (the husband has a lot less to worry about, believe me). And that’s basically it. There is very little else. Ask any revert what his ‘Islamic class’ told him about his social vision and how to think critically and you will see how shallow their experience of the religion is.
What about social duties? The Muslim, according to my understanding of the Quran, must be a pillar of his society. He must be foremost in the establishment of justice. The Quran uses very severe language for this purpose (Chapter 4 Verse 135 and Chapter 5 Verse 8) to tell the Muslim how indispensable it is. He must be like Musa who opposed Firaun, the main narrative of the Quran. This is not an appendix to his religious duties, it is his religious duty!
Islam, as I understand, does give a lofty ideal for every human being to look up to. It is way beyond any religious ritualistic performance. It is rather the perfection of the self by making society whole. Each individual must actualize his potential to become a part of the wider human nation. Unfortunately, the Islam we see today is little more than a cultural performance and social engineering. This is why these Jihadi youths were duped into ‘dying for Allah’. The evil propagandists gave them what Muslims could not. Unless we reform our experience of Islam, we will always fight a losing battle to them.