The Equal And Opposite Reaction
Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. So it you push on a wall, the wall pushes back on you. This natural principle of the balance of forces seems to apply in the human and economic spheres in a somewhat modified form. If someone yells at you it is not uncommon for the equal and opposite reaction to be that you tell back at them. And similarly if someone smiles at you, normally we smile back at them. However unlike brick walls we have choices and so this is only approximate. We can turn the other cheek if someone insults us or yells at us, or we can be grumpy and not smile back when we are met with a cheery hello. However it generally costs us some energy to do this. So if equal and opposite reactions are standard even in human conduct we should expect them to show up regularly in economic and political life and with some degree of predictability. When the USA was attacked by terrorists, few expected it to simply turn the other cheek on one hand, or nuke Afghanistan on the other. Rather an equal and opposite reaction was expected and was more or less achieved (the Northern Alliance has captured Kabul as I write).
The equal and opposite reaction can be delayed. I was a late developer at school and for a long while I was the smallest boy in my entire grade and was bullied by the larger boys. When I did finally grow six inches over one summer holiday I came back as mad as a hornet and spent a term or two getting even with the bullies. I even broke chairs over their heads! (I was not yet a Christian). If you have been oppressed, when you finally get the power to get even, you do! My teenage personal fury will pale into insignificance compared to the fury of the poorer Islamic nations if they get hold of the means to get even. These means of getting even may include weapons of mass destruction.
Islam is a religion of justice rather than a religion of forgiveness. In a search of the Koran I could find no mention of humans being obliged to forgive one another though mechanisms for peace-making do exist. Islam tends to be about scrupulous fairness and exact retribution. Thus it has enormous appeal to the economically oppressed because it does not ask them to forgive their oppressors and promises a God who will wreak vengeance upon those who exploit them. It also is intellectually less baffling than Christianity. Islam has a simple monotheistic God, a total prohibition on idolatry and no cross and few paradoxes.. Islam is fair, logical, simple and straightforward. However it fails to bring eternal life, emotional renewal or personal grace and knows nothing of the Holy Spirit. Islam takes much of the inner complexity out of spirituality and avoids the mysteries of grace. However it is these mysteries of grace that contain the truth and power of Christianity.
This lack of grace and emphasis on justice and retribution make Islam a religion of contention in an unjust world. Every injustice must be compensated for and compensated completely and fairly. In Jerusalem every Palestinian that is shot must be avenged and so the war goes on eye for eye and tooth for tooth until everyone is blind and toothless. It can also work as a form of restraint. Thus Osama Bin Laden claims to have nuclear weapons but says he is only willing to use them if the USA uses such weapons against him. His Islamic sense of justice will only allow him to deploy nuclear weapons in an equal and opposite reaction. This moderating influence is less common and is at best fragile.
The desire for a balanced sheet is much stronger and fuels Muslim hatred in Indonesia against Chinese , in Africa against Christians, in Bosnia against Serbs and so on. With the notable exception of Northern Ireland nearly every major conflict in the world today is being fuelled by this Islamic desire for exact retribution. While logical it is also illogical and dysfunctional. The cost of achieving justice is far greater than the cost of ignoring the original offense. Despite its intellectual rigor, sound logic and deep fervor fundamentalist Islam simply does not work in the real world that is full of sinful people and unjust situations. Grace, though puzzling at first, makes for a far better world.
When God says “For my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” the context of the passage (Isaiah 55:7-9) is the replacement of the ethic of exact retribution with one of pardon and of grace. Christianity is a higher, better, and more spiritual philosophy than Islam although Islam seems simpler and fairer in many ways. Christianity offers forgiveness as a way out of conflict, even conflict with God.
Unjust trade has plundered the developing nations and those that are Islamic have a very negative balance sheet when it comes to economic justice. For them there will be a tremendous psychological need to redress this. The obvious way to address the lack of justice is through jihad and in some cases through terrorism as a form of jihad. The problem is that jihad is not working. Iraq was defeated, Afghanistan is crumbling, the Muslims always lose. The deep logic of Islam (which invented algebra and Arabic numerals) will create and has created a deep crisis about this lack of victory in achieving justice. The logical inconsistency of poor Islamic nations and rich “Christian” ones is being explained in many mosques as being due to a lack of proper Islamic worship. The mosques teach that if Muslims get more and more fervent and fundamentalist then they will prevail. The collapse of the Taliban will put a partial end to that line of logic. The Taliban were as fundamentalist as it is possible to be and died martyrs and still lost. People of perception in Islam will note that every attempt to press Islam to its logical conclusions has failed to deliver results. Allah has not showed up even for his faithful. Perhaps the failure of Islam will be so evident that some will abandon it. More likely is a sustained round of re-interpretation much as cults indulge in when an end time prophecy fails. Islam is set for a time of deep religious crisis and such turbulent times can also easily become violent ones.
Violence is cheap. Its as cheap as a $2 box cutter in New York or a $40 used automatic rifle in Africa that you can rent by the day, a $3 Chinese landmine that can blow up a tank, or a dollars worth of petrol in a old Coke bottle, and as cheap as $5 machete that hacks a hundred people to death in Rwanda. Apparently you can get an anthrax starter kit for $50. Never before in the history of mankind has violence been so cheap and major systems so centralized and vulnerable. Even the poorest of nations can develop biological weapons or support armed terrorists. While the expensive weapons still win in conventional military maneuvers and a person with an M-16 is no match for tank, who says the tanks is going to be anywhere near the terrorist with the M-16? When the IRA lobbed mortar rounds onto Heathrow airport a few years ago – where were the F-16’s and the tanks? Fortunately it was little more than nuisance value.
Far more people are killed by cheap violence like mortars, handguns and machetes than are killed by high tech violence like cruise missiles. And because cheap violence can still be very deadly and spectacular it can have just as much psychological impact. When the Abu Sayaf beheads a captive with a bolo and sends the decapitated head to the President of the Philippines that has huge impact. A few hundred media savvy terrorists who carry out strategic violence and random bombings can paralyze entire nations.
The equal and opposite reaction, when it arrives, will be very hard to contain, and very expensive to contain. We have already seen how $20 worth of box-cutters required a $40 billion response! While such a high ratio may not always hold it will be hundreds and thousands of times more expensive to contain terrorism than to commit it. Nations without sophisticated surveillance equipment will be easy targets for cheap violence. Even if such equipment is installed in airports, convention centers and strategic buildings it may be bypassed, or the terrorists may simply bomb churches instead.
The cost of continuing with economic injustice will spiral out of control once the backlash begins. Unfortunately it may take entire societies with it. It is far better to begin the process of just trade and fair and equal business relations so that the developed nations can put more hope in business and industry than in terrorists and bombs.
The Process Of Radicalization
We will move on to consider some of the ways in which radical terrorists are being produced and how the equal and opposite reaction is developing.
How “Peaceful” Jihad Became Radicalized And Militarized By The Wahhabi Sect.
The equal and opposite reaction of Muslims to Western economic trade will come first from those most offended – the “Muslim fundamentalists”. Those that the media calls “Muslim fundamentalists” are often Wahhabi’s, an informal grouping (not actually a true sect of Islam) that follow the strict pietism of the Hanbali school of Islamic law. The name Wahhabi comes from the name of the founder Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, a reformer influenced by the writings of the 13th-14th century pietist theologian Ibn Taymiyah (of the strict Hanbali school). Wahhabism is quite similar in many respects to many Christian fundamentalist groups. The Wahhabi doctrine espouses a return to simple, pure Islam untainted by idolatry and the world. It takes perhaps the most literal interpretation of the Koran and seeks its application to all aspects of daily life. The Wahhabis strive to create the perfect Theo-centric and just society that is perfectly obedient to the Koran. It does not accommodate easily to modern life and is steadfastly opposed to pornography or indecency of any sort. Tending to legalism and insularity they set up special schools called madrasas that teach mainly the Koran plus basic Science and a few other subjects. These schools provide free education to many poor Muslims that could not otherwise afford it. Wahhabism is most evident in Saudi Arabia and has been allied with the Saud dynasty since its inception. It is also strong in Oman and Yemen. Osama Bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia and is a Wahhabi as were many of the hijackers in the September 11th attacks. The Abu Sayaf are trained by Osama Bin Laden’s brother and other Al-Qaeda members and are largely Wahhabi in orientation.
The original purpose of the Wahhabi’s was the capture of the Holy Cities such as Mecca and Medina from the Turks and in this they were eventually successful. To justify this they redefined the Muslim doctrine of jihad from what we might call evangelism and apologetics to a much more aggressive and militarized version that espoused ejecting the (to their mind) worldly and compromised Turkish Muslims from Mecca. [The Turkish armies were noted for commercial shrewdness, bribery, corruption, drunkenness, rape and pillage] With a strong belief in Judgment Day and a deep contempt for worldliness the Wahhabi’s now tend to see the Western world and in particular the USA as the Great Satan that will be brought to judgment while the piety of the righteous Wahhabi’s delivers them on the Day of Wrath. Jihad is thus the military expression of the wrath of Allah against the Great Satan and an assertion of God’s Will and perhaps an extension of the “realm of submission” to Allah, or as we would say “growing the Kingdom”. Jihad in this context is not so different from John Calvin’s use of military force in Geneva or the Anabaptist armies of the early Reformation. This missionary zeal has great appeal to those who want to know where right and wrong lie and who wish to find some explanation for their poverty and oppression. While their logic is a severe logic it is appealing and consistent and not unlike that of some Christian groups.
Extreme pietism always tends to produce a dysfunctional triumph of doctrine and vision over common sense and logic. It truly believes in Excalibur and the Holy Grail and that the virtue of Galahad will make him stronger than a thousand sinners. This is simply untrue, but it has huge appeal. Unfortunately Galahad on his charger is no match for a machine gun wielded by a drunken sinner. The romantic dream of pietism is constantly shattered by brutal reality. As one cynic has observed “God tends to be on the side of the big battalions”. Pietism makes the massive error of thinking that God governs the world on the basis of virtue alone and allots His resources and blessings (including military victories) to those who are most righteous. This is codswallop. If God allocated resources according to our virtue we would all be up to our necks in mud. None of us is sufficiently virtuous to earn a single cent from God - for we are all sinners (Romans 2 and 3). God’s governance of the Universe is primarily based on His own sovereign will not on our personal piety. He has plans for us before we were born and before we have done anything right or wrong (Romans 9). Beyond this God tends to govern through justice and wisdom, which are very different from fervor and piety. The Pharisees were fervent and pious, but they were not just or wise with the wisdom of God, or they would not have crucified Jesus Christ. Having a zeal for the holy is good and is commended in Scripture, but it is insufficient in itself.
The Wahhabis are like the Jews of Romans 10 who “have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge” and are thus lost in their piety. We need to pray that they will find Christ and be filled with the love of God and of their neighbor and that they will go on to live lives of deep wisdom, discernment, justice, mercy and truth.
When Nothing Is Sacred Any More.
How does an extreme pietist react when the Great Satan is violating that which he or she considers holy? When American bases are in Saudi Arabia the land of the Holy Cities and when Jerusalem (the second most Holy City) is under control of the Jews backed by the USA? Think of how you would react, as an evangelical, if a gigantic pornographic billboard was put up just across the road from your church. That intense anger that you might feel, that sense of personal affront and violation, is just how many Muslims feel about American cinema and lifestyle and about Western cultural imperialism. Combine this sense of personal affront and violation with the militarized doctrine of jihad and hat would you do? Burn down the billboard? Probably. Well some Muslim fundamentalists would not mind burning down the USA.
When Your Culture, Companies and Institutions Are Not Valued.
In developing nations there is the strong feeling that world trade and foreign investors are not valuing their culture, companies and institutions. This applies especially to the IMF and the WTO. After the Asian economic crisis the IMF imposed strict measures that forbad government bailouts of major companies. There was to be no preserving of sacred cows. Yet in the wake of September 11th there is little comment about the government bailouts of the airline industries in the West, bailouts that would not have been permitted to Indonesia, Korea or Thailand. To Asians the dichotomy is clear. Third World institutions must be allowed to go under while First World institutions and culture must be preserved. Even the incredibly right wing and pro-globalization Far Eastern Economic Review fired a shot across the bows on this issue in its Nov. 8 2001 editorial about the SwissAir rescue saying “But today, the principle of managing risk appears to have been stood on its head, arguably by some of the same commentators who had lectured Asia not too long ago about economic prudence. Now it seems there really are companies too big and too important to let fail”.
Thus the economic rationalism of neo-liberal schools of economics are being applied ruthlessly to the weaker nations but inconsistently in the developed nations. The IMF ignores the multi-trillion dollar public indebtedness of the USA while the economies of heavily indebted developing nations are being brutally restructured with policies in Russia that Academician Oleg Bogomolov has described as “simply ruinous” in his recent paper The Global Economy At Serious Risk: Looking For Solutions.
Economic inconsistency is compounded with vast cultural ignorance. Even the right-wing media have admitted, “the USA has lost the propaganda war”. The truth is the USA tends to devalue non-European cultures and that American business in particular is blithely ignorant and culturally insensitive when it comes to Islam. Being culturally sensitive is just being polite and well mannered to the other person. Respecting someone does not imply that you necessarily agree with them or subscribe to their doctrines. I will never be anything except a born-again Christian however I would not offer a Muslim a pork chop or a glass of alcohol. That is just decent human behavior. Now cultural sensitivity and understanding is a lot deeper than pork chops and Sabbaths. It means trying to grasp the other person’s perspective. It also means not automatically discounting their practices as inefficient, primitive or sub-standard. However the ultimate form of being discounted is to be seen as having less value as a human being.
When Your Life And Labor Is Cheap.
The impression is repeatedly given in the media that American lives are more valuable than other lives. That one American is worth perhaps 10,000 Iraqis. That Americans must not be allowed to die in war but rather the enemy should be wiped out, in large numbers, as mechanically and efficiently as possible because Third World people, particularly Muslims and Africans are quite disposable. This impression rankles those of other nations very deeply indeed. It is also given substance by wages and conditions they know that no Westerner would endure. Educated professionals with Ph.D’s are paid $10 or $20 a day while Americans with the same skills and education, and sometimes even in the same organization, are paid $200 a day. It does not take a genius to see where this will lead. In terms of equal and opposite reactions if you devalue my life, then I will devalue yours. Recently one Muslim cleric in Afghanistan said that “one Muslim was worth more than all sinners and especially Americans”.
When Your Country Is Made Unstable, Corrupt And Unjust.
IMF interventions, in most cases have made the country at least temporarily unstable and in Indonesia led to widespread rioting and starvation. US intelligence intervention tends to support corrupt governments and dictatorships that are amenable to US interests. Finally the more ruthless and exploitative multi-nationals such as Nike and some agribusiness firms such as Monsanto are manifestly unjust. Little distinction is made in the mind of the citizens of the developing world between these three flavors of exploitation. They are all Western are all bad, are making their society unstable, corrupt and unjust. The US dollar is so strong compared to most Third World currencies that it becomes a corrupting influence. Any way to “get dollars” – that is UD dollars, become legitimized. In fact you can fairly accurately pin-point the more corrupt sectors in a developing nation by simply asking “which sectors come most in contact with US dollars”. The economic power of the USA is so overwhelming that it twists and distorts the economies of small nations – often into quite unhealthy configurations. Non-one likes living in chaos and corruption, no-one likes an unpredictable economy and riots and starvation. When this comes from without, from foreigners who impose their wills, it is deeply resented and becomes a factor in the equal and opposite reaction.
When There Is A Huge Gap Between The Rich And The Poor.
Developing nations typically have a very wealthy elite and a huge poverty stricken underclass. This gap is growing both within nations and between nations. Globally the top 20% of people control 86% of the wealth while the bottom 20% control just 1% of the wealth. That’s a ratio of 86:1 between the rich and the poor. Within a single developing country the ratio tends to be around 30:1 between the top 20% or so and the bottom 20%. The ratios between the generals, politicians and businessmen and the destitute beggars is even greater. Jim Wallis, in his book “The Soul of Politics” comments on the way poor and rich seem to live side by side and how the poor black neighborhood where he works is only 6 blocks from the White House. Where I live in Manila I am five minutes walk from two senators, and five minutes walk from shanty towns made of corrugated iron that are without water or basic sanitation, ten minutes walk in the other direction is the Muslim settlement of Culiat which is deemed to be so unsafe that taxi drivers will not go there. This proximity of rich and poor has an immense psychological impact on many people. It shocks Western visitors to Third World nations and in those nations makes the poor resentful and envious and tends to contribute to their feeling trapped and helpless.
When Earthly Hope Seems Impossible.
This combination of chaos and inequality make a mockery of any earthly hopes held by the poor. Even if they had a little success the economic instability would soon see it dissipated or injustice would sweep it away. As Scripture says: (Proverbs 13:23 NRSV) The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice. This smashing of earthly hopes leaves one hope intact – entering Paradise as a martyr by dying in battle in a jihad.
When A Fundamentalist Religion Gives You An Explanation.
Fundamentalist religions of all shapes and sizes have very consistent and virtually identical explanations of why their adherents are suffering or poor. It is the fault of the Great Satan who controls the Big System that crushes the good little people who are devoted to God. The people “out there” are all bad and the people “in here’ are all good. If you are faithful the Holy God will crush the Great Satan and the Big System will go up in flames like Sodom and Gomorrah. Now I DO believe something very like that - but the difference between what I believe, and what Muslim fundamentalists believe, is crucial. I do not believe that the good people are of a certain race or color or are easily identified by national or even by organizational or denominational boundaries.
Viktor Frankl the Jewish psychiatrist who spent many years in Nazi concentration camps had this to say “From all this we may learn that there are only two races of men in the world, but only these two – the “race” of the decent man and the “race” of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they interpenetrate into all groups of society. No group is of “pure race” and therefore one occasionally found a decent fellow among the camp guards.” Somewhere else he says ”thus the line between good and evil does not go between this group or that group, but straight through the middle of the human heart”
The good people theologically speaking are primarily born-again Christians who show the fruit of repentance in good deeds. They are not defined by Anglican or Baptist boundaries but are characterized by the life of God being present in the person. Some of the wickedest people on earth have been good churchgoers and some of the best such as John the Baptist have lived largely outside of the conventional ecclesiastical system. Whether one belongs to this system or that or do not belong to any system at all is of no great importance. What matters is the knowledge of Christ, the love of God, the life of God and the doing of good deeds.
The love of God and the love of a religious system are different. The love of a religious system can trap people. I call this the “Russian Doll Trap” because it is like those Russian dolls where the big doll contains a smaller doll that contains a yet smaller doll and so forth. In this trap the believer thinks God is the large doll, then his religion as the next doll down, then within that layer lies his denomination or sect, then the next doll is his church with its hierarchy and his pastor, priest or imam, then finally, in the center, as the smallest doll of all, is himself. If he obeys the church and loves that then, his logic tells him, his church belongs to the right denomination, in the right religion, which in turn serves God. By being “in the right place” all the problems are solved. He serves the right church in the right denomination in the right religion of the righteous God. He is OK. (The problem is that righteousness is not so easily allocated, it is personal, not a product of where we belong.) So the difficult task of loving an invisible God with clear and high demands is turned into the somewhat more tangible task of loving a church, denomination, holy book or religious system. These things should still be loved, but as secondary loves not primary loves. The primary loves are to be God, neighbor and self.
It is easy to lose out on one of these primary forms of love. It is easy to neglect God, despise our neighbor and hate ourselves. For people caught up in fundamentalist Islam the love of self is lost almost totally so that suicide missions are contemplated. Religion without proper self-respect becomes not saintly but bizarre. I will explore this further later on.
Without getting too lost in theology the point is this – that fundamentalist Muslims have a well–defined enemy, it is external to their religion, and it is us. It may be just an error in logic but it may well prove to be a very deadly error in logic. People who are suffering are given an enemy that has a face – our faces. They have an easy enemy that has a geographical location and meets in certain sorts of buildings. This fanatical and erroneous explanation lacks sophistication and truth but makes up for it with intensity and believability. Especially when unjust trade gives them every reason to believe it.
When A Fundamentalist Religion Gives You A Caring Community.
The mosque is the center of Islamic community and is frequently a caring community that is absolutely essential to the personal survival of the poor. Your friends in the mosque will bring you food, help you, lend interest free short-term loans to you and so on. The times of joy and feasting, celebrations, marriages and deaths all tend to involve the mosque. Five times a day the Muslim hears from the imam calling him or her to pray towards Mecca. The connection between mosque and Muslim is close and personal as is the concept of Muslim brotherhood.
Place yourself in the position of a poor Muslim in Afghanistan. Islam and the mosque provide food, shelter, friendship and finance. The “Christians” (and to them all Westerners are Christians) provide bombs, poverty and pornography. What would any sane person choose? Those involved in Muslim evangelism say that the claims of Christ will not be deeply heard by Muslims until we can provide them with a community equal to or better than the community that they currently belong to. Since Christians have failed to provide Muslims with viable Christian communities of practical love and friendship that demonstrate the gospel like the church in Acts the Muslims are staying in the mosque. And the mosque, when controlled by fundamentalist Imams is a place where the Great Satan is identified, Judgment Day is preached and terrorists are recruited. The mosque is the place where they are taught to kill.
When A Fundamentalist Religion Gives You A Free Education.
Next to the mosque in importance in the radicalization of Muslims is the maddarissa or Islamic school. Here is what Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, had to say about these Islamic schools in her essay “The Radicalisation of Pakistani Civil Society”:
The great religion of Islam is done a disservice by rulers like Mullah Omar (head of the Taliban). He, apparently, studied in a Karachi Maddarissa. Pakistani madarissas have a doctrinaire curriculum. Their graduates are singularly focussed on the sectarian nature of their studies. Independent thinking is prohibited. This prevents students' access to a varied body of research and denies them the ability to assimilate knowledge beyond what is taught as rote. This education by rote, obediently accepted without question, is a form of brainwashing. The graduates are incapable of independent thinking or decision-making. They are pre-programmed. [Just to be confusing there are numerous English spellings of the Arabic word. spellings that I have come across madarissa, maddarissa, and madrassa.]
These madarissas are free and this is an important factor for the poor. They are also strict, responsible, and unworldly. They are only taught things that agree with a conservative interpretation of the Muslim faith and they are taught by rote and by memorization. They are not taught to think deeply or critically about life or religion. Conformity takes precedence over truth. Of course this can happen in any type of school, secular, Marxist, Christian or Muslim. It is not necessarily a function of a particular religion but of an approach to socialization of youth. However it is an approach that suits fundamentalism of all types very well and produces serviceable recruits for further radicalization, and in extreme cases for becoming suicide bombers or terrorists.
When A Fundamentalist Religion Gives You A New Self That Feels Good.
Steve Hassan, in his illuminating book “Combating Cult Mind Control” shows how cults impose a second “cult self” over the person’s true self. On the surface is the adapted self, the conformed and regimented and controlled cult self. Deep down and often buried is the true self. The cult self is derived, it does not have life of its own and so tends to be wooden, or fake or “plastic” or rigid, a sort of imitation self that looks like everyone else in the cult but which lacks deep authenticity and true life. The true self is still there and from time to time erupts as when two terrorists went to strip club and got drunk (both forbidden in Islam) the night before their hijacking mission. The desire for ‘some life” was there and the thought that their martyrdom would send them straight to Paradise and make their sin forgivable was probably factored in.
The “cult self” initially feels very good because it lacks complexity, mystery or doubt. It is unambiguous and gets a great deal on initial reinforcement from the group as it is formed. On the other hand assertion of the “real self” is uniformly seen as sin or rebellion and punished severely. Rebellion can be something as simple as listening to music or a woman showing her face in public. In extreme cases the cult self is also a survival mechanism. If the penalty for listening to music is death – then you turn off the radio! Gradually you learn to adapt to a life without the radio and a music-less life becomes part of you, or at least part of your cult self.
The “cult self” controls the person through a complex set of fears and prohibitions. Some of these include: “The world is evil, only in here is safe.” “The other denominations are all compromised and of the Devil and will only tell you lies.” “This is the only place with the truth.” “We are the cutting edge of God’s work and our leader is specially anointed by God.” And “If you do X God will punish you and you will go mad/die/lose your salvation.” The gradual expansion of X from biblical categories (such as murder or adultery) to cult categories such as reading a newspaper goes unnoticed by many people until it is too late. The cult self is very real and very powerful and people under its influence can become missionaries or even become terrorists.
When A Fundamentalist Religion Says The Enemy Is Without Human Value.
Because fundamentalist Islam says all good is within their group, and all evil is outside the group, and by corollary all that is outside is evil - then that which is outside has no redeeming features. Those outside Islam are perceived as children of the Devil to be destroyed mercilessly for their oppression of Muslims. The motto of the Inquisition regarding heretics was “kill them all and let God sort them out” and some of this medieval mentality permeates the more extreme sectors of fundamentalist Islam.
Strangely this is the equal and opposite reaction to the devaluing of human life by global corporations – that I wrote of earlier in this chapter. If we want Muslims to stop killing non-Muslims then we need to get the extremists to see that non-Muslims can be decent human beings of value and worth. If our firms, that represent us overseas, do not behave decently, then the job is made doubly difficult and the stereotype is reinforced.
When A Fundamentalist Religion Selects You To Strike At The Enemy.
Hassan lives in poverty in Saudi Arabia, and is educated in a maddarissa, at the age of 19 he loses his job and later his girlfriend. He turns to his fundamentalist imam for counsel. What should he do with his life? He receives the advice “This was all part of the will of Allah whose plans are inscrutable, perhaps he is pruning your life so that you can serve him more fully.” Many conversations later Hassan is told: “There is a great need for warriors to be involved in jihad, I know you are specially chosen for this, would you like to go into training? Hassan travels overseas for the first time in his life; he is treated as a person of some worth, and enters a tough but fairly boring training regime in Afghanistan. He is free to leave if he wants. This is not that important. He is just being watched and given basic military training and lessons in memorizing the Koran. He has, for the first time in years, a sense of mission and a feeling of significance. “This is good” he says to himself “I made the right choice in serving Allah, I am glad I was fired from that boring job and lost my girlfriend, now I have real meaning in life, I don’t want to go back to living for material things like buying a motorbike ever again.”
After a while Hassan becomes involved in real missions, perhaps first as a courier and then later in more important roles. Finally Hassan is sent along the network to a Hamas training camp for suicide bombers and is shown how to be calm and cool, to shave his beard, to be perfectly normal until he is at the target and can activate the button that detonates 10kg of high explosive. He is told that when the bomb explodes he will feel no pain but go instantly to Paradise as a martyr.
When You Die Killing The Enemy You Go To Paradise.
Why does a Muslim terrorist want to kill us? Because he wants to go to Heaven, or more correctly - to Paradise. Getting to heaven by killing your enemies is not a very Christian concept and so I will explain it a little.
In the Koran in “The Chapter of Mohamed, Also Called Fight (XLVII Medina) it says “When you meet those who misbelieve then strike off their heads and bind fast their bonds!…and Allah may try some of you by the others (those not conquered). And those who are slain in Allah’s cause, their works shall not go wrong; He will guide them and set right their mind; and will make them enter into Paradise which He has told them of.” (I am using a rather old English translation of the Koran.) Elsewhere Paradise is described as a place of perfect peace - “the land beneath which rivers flow”, full of fruits, rivers of pure water, milk and wine, with silver and gold plates, thrones, luxury and wives. Contrary to the popular media I have found many references in the Koran to both men and women entering Paradise though it does seem a rather male idyll.
Martyrdom is thus a short-cut to sanctification, a way of instant perfection and the fastest route to comfort and luxury for those denied such things all their life. This is not a Christian concept. The Bible does not say anything like “martyred Christians go straight to heaven”. Martyrs do indeed have a special place of sorts and a special reward; and precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints. That much is true. But absolution for sins comes only through faith in the cross of Christ, not by attaching 10kgs of C4 high explosive to your body and detonating it in a crowded shopping mall in Jerusalem. Forgiveness comes through faith not through works; works are the fruit of repentance, and they come later – after justification. For Christians, works are the predestined expression of the indwelling new life in Christ and His work of grace in us through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10).
In contrast to Christianity, Muslim martyrdom is a certain promise of otherwise uncertain forgiveness and a sure road to Paradise, luxury and bliss. Thus it is very appealing to the poor and the wretched.
When A Greedy System Oppresses A Crazy Religion Then War Is Inevitable
This process of radicalization that we have examined in the past four chapters boils down to this – when a ruthless and greedy market system oppresses a coldly logical but crazy religious system then war is inevitable. Both the market and the terrorists must be brought to see the errors of their ways. I believe only the Kingdom can do that. Only the Kingdom can preach Christ to the Muslims and justice and restraint to the Market. Only the Kingdom has the values, power and perspective to change the situation for the good.
Both the internal logic of neo-liberal economics and the internal logic of Islam are seriously flawed, inconsistent and self-reinforcing. Both are producing death and injustice. Only the truth of Kingdom logic can bring the world back into balance and it is imperative that it does.
Prosperity has not shown up for Muslims as a result of fanatically following Allah. Neither has it showed up for the market by fanatically following “simply ruinous” IMF prescriptions. Prosperity will flow from God through wisdom and the Protestant work ethic. If the world wants real prosperity it will not find it in Islam neither will it find it in ruthless free market practices and lawless trade. It will only be found by following God’s kingdom prescriptions and building peace. That leads us to the next section.