Betsy Speicher

Terrorists are Motivated by their Religious Ideology

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The following letter was sent to USA Today on July 19, 2007.

Terrorists are Motivated by their Religious Ideology

Re "Prevent terrorism by taking care of the poor" (Letters, July 18, 2007)

Islamic terrorists are motivated by their religious ideology, not by any legitimate grievances over "poverty and oppression around the world."

If the terrorists and their leaders had any real interest in overcoming poverty and ending oppression they would be advocating--and fighting for--the establishment of capitalism and the protection of individual rights in their own countries and around the globe.

The Islamists are not interested in freedom or earthly wealth, which they openly despise. Their goal, as they readily admit, is world domination under Islamic law--hardly a recipe for prosperity. Oppression and poverty is not what these fanatics are fighting against--it is what they are fighting to bring about.

David Holcberg

Copyright © 2007 Ayn Rand® Institute. All rights reserved.

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The following letter was sent to USA Today on July 19, 2007.

Terrorists are Motivated by their Religious Ideology

Re "Prevent terrorism by taking care of the poor" (Letters, July 18, 2007)

Islamic terrorists are motivated by their religious ideology, not by any legitimate grievances over "poverty and oppression around the world."

If the terrorists and their leaders had any real interest in overcoming poverty and ending oppression they would be advocating--and fighting for--the establishment of capitalism and the protection of individual rights in their own countries and around the globe.

The Islamists are not interested in freedom or earthly wealth, which they openly despise. Their goal, as they readily admit, is world domination under Islamic law--hardly a recipe for prosperity. Oppression and poverty is not what these fanatics are fighting against--it is what they are fighting to bring about.

David Holcberg

Copyright © 2007 Ayn Rand® Institute. All rights reserved.

That's a view which is problematic in terms of why terrorists fight and the ability of non capitalist liberation movements to affect a positive change in conditions but is correct in the end result, or rather the result during the height of, Islamist liberation movements like Hamas in Palestine.

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That's a view which is problematic in terms of why terrorists fight and the ability of non capitalist liberation movements to affect a positive change in conditions but is correct in the end result, or rather the result during the height of, Islamist liberation movements like Hamas in Palestine.

What reasons do you have for your disagreements? Also, it is not clear to me as to what you are referring to. What do you mean by "non capitalist liberation movements" and how do they "affect a positive change in conditions?"

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''''''' height of, Islamist liberation movements like Hamas in Palestine.

Liberation????

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''''''' height of, Islamist liberation movements like Hamas in Palestine.

Liberation????

Dictionary.com lists the meaning of "Liberation" as

lib·er·ate

tr.v. lib·er·at·ed, lib·er·at·ing, lib·er·ates

1. To set free, as from oppression, confinement, or foreign control.

Many Islamist groups see themselves as fighting a foreign occupier, be it Russia, Israel, America, India etc and therefore use the term "Liberation" often. The term is not limited to Life, Liberty, and Happiness; it can be used just as correctly to refer to anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and other such causes. In this case its about liberating "Muslim Land" from non Muslims.

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Many Islamist groups see themselves as fighting a foreign occupier, be it Russia, Israel, America, India etc and therefore use the term "Liberation" often. The term is not limited to Life, Liberty, and Happiness; it can be used just as correctly to refer to anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and other such causes. In this case its about liberating "Muslim Land" from non Muslims.

I see. They want to "liberate" them from non-Muslim ideas like individual rights so that they can have Muslim institutions like Sharia law.

Freedom is slavery.

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What reasons do you have for your disagreements? Also, it is not clear to me as to what you are referring to. What do you mean by "non capitalist liberation movements" and how do they "affect a positive change in conditions?"

In terms of the motivation of terrorists the article overly stresses the religious dimension. Terrorism has been done by many people in history, many of them for non religious reasons like poverty, alienation, bad education, revenge, lack of hope and other causes. To look at the example of all examples, Palestine you'll notice most of the violence emanates from the Gaza Strip which also happens to be the poor, underdeveloped and in its history the neglected part of the national territory. The West Bank on the other hand has been historically better behaved, it is also better off than the Strip. Terrorism in the Middle East follows non religious conditions as well as religious ones, to define the motivation as religious exclusively is myopic.

As for bringing about positive developments history works in parts and over time. The racist, religious, homophobic, slave holding and misogynistic state of nineteenth century America was an improvement over British rule in giving some the vote and paving the way for general increased prosperity but was not morally perfect. The socialist nationalism and capitalist nationalism of the first hundred years of Zionism was not perfect but was superior to life in the Pale in allowing Jews to own farms, factories, attend school and function as a refuge. The next evolution of Palestinian society does not need to be perfect to bring about positive changes. Hamas is a regressive influence in Palestine but a progressive influence does not need to be morally perfect to do good, it just has to do better.

That's my opinion at this point but its evolved significantly over the years and will continue.

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I see. They want to "liberate" them from non-Muslim ideas like individual rights so that they can have Muslim institutions like Sharia law.

Freedom is slavery.

Again, partly right. The idea that Sharia law is the result of these Liberations is correct. The idea that the goal, up to the Iraq fiasco anyway, was to overturn individual rights is incorrect in every case I know. From the Israeli occupation of the GS and WB, the Muslims fighting Soviets in Afghanistan to the fight in Chechnya they were fighting nationalists who wanted them as second class "citizens" or communist rule. In all cases not fighting their individual rights in the name of Sharia.

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''''''' height of, Islamist liberation movements like Hamas in Palestine.

Liberation????

Dictionary.com lists the meaning of "Liberation" as

lib·er·ate

tr.v. lib·er·at·ed, lib·er·at·ing, lib·er·ates

1. To set free, as from oppression, confinement, or foreign control.

Many Islamist groups see themselves as fighting a foreign occupier, be it Russia, Israel, America, India etc and therefore use the term "Liberation" often. The term is not limited to Life, Liberty, and Happiness; it can be used just as correctly to refer to anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and other such causes. In this case its about liberating "Muslim Land" from non Muslims.

When using a concept that has philosophic import, one cannot just take at face value how other groups "see themselves." Using words in such a manner is subjectivist. Historically, many totalitarian movements have appropriated terms such as 'freedom' and 'liberation' so that they can claim similarity to movements that establish individual rights. Marx was infamous for using words in this manner. The logical fallacy is called equivocation: changing the meaning of a concept in the middle of a discussion without recognizing that such a change has occurred. It also involves the fallacy of the "package deal": putting together opposite referents under one concept so that the mind cannot distinguish among the referents. Allowing the application of the term 'liberation' to Islamic groups that want to establish dictatorships or theocracies continues the trend that Marx was the archetype.

You cannot simply cite dictionary definitions unless you can demonstrate the objective application of the idea to reality. According to your citation, my mind is "liberated" when I take LSD, my body is "liberated" if I live off welfare handouts, astronauts are "liberated" from gravity, etc, etc. One can use words in a metaphorical sense, but then one must make it clear that you are doing so.

Since you are "not an Oist" you need to be aware that Objectivism uses concepts with definitions that apply to reality, are derived within a particular context from specific referents, and cannot logically be applied to referents that oppose the original context. Liberation from dicatatorship is not the same as liberation from freedom. One does not liberate "Muslim Land" anymore than New York land was liberated from British land. Exactly what does the land do with such liberation? Ask yourself, what does using the term "liberation" in the manner you do accomplish? It negates the distinction between action to achieve freedom and action to achieve control. You grant to the Islamists what they have not earned, and take away from the victims what they deserve.

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Again, partly right. The idea that Sharia law is the result of these Liberations is correct. The idea that the goal, up to the Iraq fiasco anyway, was to overturn individual rights is incorrect in every case I know. From the Israeli occupation of the GS and WB, the Muslims fighting Soviets in Afghanistan to the fight in Chechnya they were fighting nationalists who wanted them as second class "citizens" or communist rule. In all cases not fighting their individual rights in the name of Sharia.
I just finished reading Khaled Hosseini's book "The Kite Runner" and I think it's instructive in this context.

You have it exactly backwards: Shari'a Law was the intent of the Taliban, those "Liberating" Afhanistan from the Mujehaddin warlords, who "Liberated" it from Russia. Used in that sense, "Liberation" could only mean "Seizure," as in: "The Russians seized Afghanistan from the absent king, by means of a puppet government and a wall of force." And so on.

The Afghans speak with bitter irony of their having danced in the streets when the Talibani rumbled into Kabul, having finally driven the feuding warlords and Russian-supported Leftists out of town. The Afghans were tired of the constant threat of death from missles, sniper fire, and the ever-present land mines that left a huge part of the population from young to old with missing limbs and missing family members. But that joy was short-lived, as the Taliban, once established, took to roaming the streets in red pickup trucks, beating or executing any man without an adequate (as they judged) beard, or woman without adequate covering, or any Hazarah, that is a Mongolian ethnic Shi'a. Executions of those accused of minor to major infractions of Shari'a law was shortly made a fixture of soccer games, occuring at half-time, as men, women, and children were stoned to death in front of the crowd.

The Afghans may have briefly believed they had been "liberated," but that was never the intent of the Taliban. Their intent was to establish the most repressive Shari'a law that ever existed. In fact, the concept of "freedom" in Islam means "freedom to submit to the will of Allah." Period. Full stop. It means dictatorship by a benevolent Muslim despot. It means subjugation to every shura, every pronouncement of the ruling clerics. It means slavery. That some in the Middle East have chosen to moderate that and allow some measure of freedom is the anomaly, the inconsistency.

In none of those cases would the term "Liberation" apply, if the term is to mean anything at all. "Liberty," is a concept that holds individual rights as a foundation of that liberty. The government protects individuals from the government those who would use force against them, not the government and its dicta against the individual. Every example you cite of "Liberation," "fighting a foreign occupier" you call it, is one of thug against thug. Dismissing the "Iraq fiasco," you pick the one instance among all of those cited that, as misguidedly as it was conceived and carried out, was an actual attempt to "liberate," in the actual meaning of the term.

The other cases cited, Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, in particular, cavalierly ignored is who initiated force against whom. It is too long a history to recount here, but the Palestinians would be the "Nationalists" you describe, preferring to either obliterate all non-Muslims from the land, or, at the least, render them "dhimmi" status, as 2nd-class citizens of a state far below that to which the Arabs in Gaza and WB have been afforded, as members of Parliament, civic leaders, and equal trading partners, when they did not resort to violence. As Yaron Brook pointed out a few years ago, if individual rights and the rule of law were observed and enforced throughout the Middle East, it would really be immaterial who "ruled" which land area. In a truly free society, where all individuals rights are respected and protected, borders wouldn't matter. Borders are there, as a concept more than a physical detail these days, to defend against those who don't respect the rights of others and would take by force that which they can't obtain on their own. Read Robert Spencer, or any other honest journalist of your choice, for the details of dhimmi status in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or the historical societies in which Islam held the reins of power, for the opposite of that freedom.

The absolute nonsense of redefining freedom out of "Liberty," as Paul's Here, Betsy, and others have pointed out, is taking an implicit stand against proper concept formation and has no place in a rational discussion. In order to have a debate, as Ayn Rand pointed out, one must define ones terms, or the discussion is a meaningless trading of slogans. To abdicate that responsibility, to allow a random sampling of current abuses of that term to be taken as a given, is a disservice to ones self, since one can't pose a reasonable question or hope to get a reasonable answer if the question itself is invalid or indecipherable.

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In terms of the motivation of terrorists the article overly stresses the religious dimension. Terrorism has been done by many people in history, many of them for non religious reasons like poverty, alienation, bad education, revenge, lack of hope and other causes. To look at the example of all examples, Palestine you'll notice most of the violence emanates from the Gaza Strip which also happens to be the poor, underdeveloped and in its history the neglected part of the national territory. The West Bank on the other hand has been historically better behaved, it is also better off than the Strip. Terrorism in the Middle East follows non religious conditions as well as religious ones, to define the motivation as religious exclusively is myopic.

That might be true in cases of terrorism, but I whole heatedly believe that the situation is the exact opposite. Terrorism and the corrupted Palestinian government has created poverty.

From http://www.palestinefacts.org

Since its creation in 1994, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has presided over the collapse of the Palestinian economy. He was given billions in aid, and squandered what he and his cronies didn't steal. With GDP down nearly 70 percent, Palestinians have seen their collective national net worth reduced by more than two thirds. Virtually nothing remains of a once reasonably vibrant private sector. Corruption exists on a scale that even the normally approving Europeans cannot abide. Public infrastructure has disintegrated. Public health standards, in 1993 the highest in the Arab world, are among the lowest. And the disastrously self-destructive terrorist war against Israel that Arafat started in September 2000, has reduced Palestinians to the most desperate conditions they have seen since the creation of Israel in 1948.
In addition to outright theft or misappropriation of funds, there is also faulty administration and a bloated public payroll. One of the chief consumers of funds in the chronically deficit-ridden Palestinian budget is the "police force" that exceeds 2% of the population, a size far above the limits imposed by the Oslo agreements, a force that is armed with weapons that are illegal under those agreements. Notwithstanding the large size and excessive armament of the force, it has not created the security environment that was its raison d'etre. In fact, the Palestinian police -- really Arafat's army -- are implicated in terrorism against Israel.

With a corrupted government that puts taxes solely in the hands of corrupted terrorist organizations and a military to strike at Israel, plus the misuse of resources, its no wonder they are in deep poverty!

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In terms of the motivation of terrorists the article overly stresses the religious dimension. Terrorism has been done by many people in history, many of them for non religious reasons like poverty, alienation, bad education, revenge, lack of hope and other causes. To look at the example of all examples, Palestine you'll notice most of the violence emanates from the Gaza Strip which also happens to be the poor, underdeveloped and in its history the neglected part of the national territory. The West Bank on the other hand has been historically better behaved, it is also better off than the Strip. Terrorism in the Middle East follows non religious conditions as well as religious ones, to define the motivation as religious exclusively is myopic.

That might be true in cases of terrorism, but I whole heatedly believe that the situation is the exact opposite. Terrorism and the corrupted Palestinian government has created poverty.

From http://www.palestinefacts.org

Since its creation in 1994, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has presided over the collapse of the Palestinian economy. He was given billions in aid, and squandered what he and his cronies didn't steal. With GDP down nearly 70 percent, Palestinians have seen their collective national net worth reduced by more than two thirds. Virtually nothing remains of a once reasonably vibrant private sector. Corruption exists on a scale that even the normally approving Europeans cannot abide. Public infrastructure has disintegrated. Public health standards, in 1993 the highest in the Arab world, are among the lowest. And the disastrously self-destructive terrorist war against Israel that Arafat started in September 2000, has reduced Palestinians to the most desperate conditions they have seen since the creation of Israel in 1948.
In addition to outright theft or misappropriation of funds, there is also faulty administration and a bloated public payroll. One of the chief consumers of funds in the chronically deficit-ridden Palestinian budget is the "police force" that exceeds 2% of the population, a size far above the limits imposed by the Oslo agreements, a force that is armed with weapons that are illegal under those agreements. Notwithstanding the large size and excessive armament of the force, it has not created the security environment that was its raison d'etre. In fact, the Palestinian police -- really Arafat's army -- are implicated in terrorism against Israel.

With a corrupted government that puts taxes solely in the hands of corrupted terrorist organizations and a military to strike at Israel, plus the misuse of resources, its no wonder they are in deep poverty!

I don't understand a key comment you made, " That might be true in cases of terrorism, but I whole heatedly believe that the situation is the exact opposite." so I may be far off here. I think what you said is that PA corruption, the current conflict over leadership, gross incompetence in dealing with nationalized industry and the conflict with Israel have caused massive poverty. I agree.

You may or may not have agreed with me on poverty being a major contributer to terrorism and you did not address the differences between the WB and GS in terms of poverty and terror. Did you agree with me or no...?

The issue as you know is significant as speaking in terms of a "broken society" or a "terror state" primarily affects the solution to the conflict.

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The issue as you know is significant as speaking in terms of a "broken society" or a "terror state" primarily affects the solution to the conflict.

Why would that be? If a man has thrown out his rational mind and is acting like a wild animal, his would-be victims should care less about the cause. To a non-altruist, his primary concern is his own life, not being nice to the man-as-wild-animal. An attacker bent on destruction simply needs to be destroyed, whether the cause is his religion or self-imposed poverty as a result of socialism or whatever combinations are at work.

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Poverty does not cause terrorism. Millions of people all over the world have been in poverty and not engaged in terrorism. Honest people who want to escape poverty can follow any number of civilized means to do that. Terrorism requires an unsually evil disregard for human life, which the suicide bombers feel even towards themselves. They are Muslem religious fanatics. Bin Laden is (or was) extremely wealthy and so are his henchmen. The hijackers who destroyed the people in the planes, the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon, were trained pilots who lived middle class lives and who could have earned an above average living if they had bothered to learn how to land instead of being obsessed with killing themselves and as many others as they could. They preferred to pursue unlimited virgins in an afterlife in accordance with their mystical beliefs. None of this was caused by poverty. It came from the contents of their minds. So does the terrorism against Israel by people who could easily achieve better lives by emulating Israel insteady of trying to destroy it.

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You may or may not have agreed with me on poverty being a major contributer to terrorism and you did not address the differences between the WB and GS in terms of poverty and terror. Did you agree with me or no...?

The issue as you know is significant as speaking in terms of a "broken society" or a "terror state" primarily affects the solution to the conflict.

Where do you get this 'poverty' stuff? As has been pointed out, the motives have never been about poverty. They have been explicit. Convert, submit, or die.

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You may or may not have agreed with me on poverty being a major contributer to terrorism and you did not address the differences between the WB and GS in terms of poverty and terror. Did you agree with me or no...?

The issue as you know is significant as speaking in terms of a "broken society" or a "terror state" primarily affects the solution to the conflict.

Arnold and EVW have answered this but I just want to be explicit as well:

No. Poverty is not "a major contributer to terrorism." Terrorism is a major contributor to poverty. Or, without mincing words: Unprovoked firing of missles into Israel, walking suicide bombs into pizzerias at rush hour, causing death and destruction with civilian targets of a non-aggressor as your goal (see "terrorism"), provokes and inevitably results in retaliatory destruction, but, more importantly, the destruction of goodwill and cutoff of any normal economic relations.

THAT is what has caused the alleged poverty in Gaza. During the period in which the Israeli government ran Gaza and the West Bank (pre-Oslo), there was peace and reciprocal economic activity -- trade, workers moving back and forth across the borders, people to buy and sell goods, etc. Israelis and Palestinian Arabs maintained generally friendly relations. The economic state of Gaza was far better then than it has been ever since. The Islamists, Hamas, Hizbollah, and Al Fatah, have all put their Islamist agenda -- the total elimination of the State of Israel -- as their top priority and have given absolutely NO concern to peaceful trade or any other necessity of economic viability. They look for foreign aid and other handouts, but Gaza is falling apart because of the murderous, genocidal monomania of the Islamists.

Poverty is the effect, not the cause.

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The primitivism of the Arabs causes their own poverty. Additional destruction makes it worse, but the attacks have not lowered Israel's material well-being anywhere near the level of the primitivists.

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Many Islamist groups see themselves as fighting a foreign occupier, be it Russia, Israel, America, India etc and therefore use the term "Liberation" often. The term is not limited to Life, Liberty, and Happiness; it can be used just as correctly to refer to anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and other such causes. In this case its about liberating "Muslim Land" from non Muslims.

Islamist hatred of the West is based on their concept of “enmity” towards infidels and the obligation of jihad to spread submission to Allah. They are not merely interested in “liberating” their own countries from non-Muslims; their mission is to bring Sharia law to the world. Consider Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa against author of The Satanic Verses, Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie; or the death threats against Danish cartoonists who criticized Muhammad; or Hamas using a Mickey Mouse clone to indoctrinate Muslim kids to "[lay] the foundation for a world led by Islamists"; or recently, the protests of Muslims against Wikipedia for allowing images of Muhammad. Islamists fight to submit individual rights to Muslim law and tradition. Their violent jihad does not need to be provoked by the presence of foreigners; they consider it to be a duty and even as proof of love for their god.

You have to keep separate statements made by Islamists to the West, which are aimed at demoralizing us and making us feel guilty, and their personal beliefs, which are the direct cause of the terrible poverty and oppression in their cultures.

Before you posted here, you commented in my thread reviewing The Al Qaeda Reader. I think the book would be very helpful to you, since you have some very common and tragic misunderstandings of what the war is about and what's at stake.

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