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On the Night of Power, in Mosul

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — figurative self-destruction by ISIS at the Nuri Mosque in Mosul ]
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Will McCants comes closest to my own sense of the business with his invocation of symbolism and his words “self-inflicted decline” — this is an ouroboric moment, the (yes, self-inflicted) death of the birthplace of ISIS, a homecoming with a vengeance.

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ISIS denies responsibility:

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Indeed, the Atlantic has a piece titled Who Blew Up Mosul’s Al-Nuri Mosque? — but points out that ISIS might prefer its founding edifice destroyed to its certain capture and propaganda use against it:

New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi notes ISIS has not shied away from using mosques for battle purposes, and suggests its destruction could be aimed at preventing coalition forces from taking control of it themselves — a move that could be of symbolic importance given the landmark’s role in the self-proclaimed caliphate’s founding.

And there we go again — “the self-proclaimed caliphate” — ouroboric from start to finish.

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All this takes place on, of all nights, the Night of Power!

More from the Forgiveness Chronicles

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — picking up from Some recent words from the Forgiveness Chronicles ]
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Once again, I am amazed at the sheer Christianity to be found in Coptic responses to utterly horrific persecution.

Fr Boules George (left) and Bishop Angaelos (right)

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It was Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, who delivered the remarkable sermon on forgiveness that I posted in my earlier report from the Forgiveness Chronicles..

It was also Angaelos who rebuked the Hungarian PM for saying refugee immigration should be limited to Christians:

Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims

Angaelos’ response:

As a Christian I could never justify a policy which only supported ‘our own’. The distinction should be based on people’s need, not their religion.

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And here is Angaelos again:

Bishop Angaelos to the Terrorists: ‘You Are Loved’
By His Grace Bishop Angaelos on recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and elsewhere

Once again, we find ourselves experiencing pain before which words seem insufficient.

I have previously addressed victims of terrorist acts; I have addressed their families; I have even addressed those who may have had an opportunity, even in some small way, to advocate for or support those most vulnerable.

This time, however, I feel a need to address those who perpetrate these crimes.

You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved.

You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.

Transformation is core to the Christian message, for throughout history we have seen many transformed from being those who persecuted Christ himself and Christians to those who went on to live with grace. We believe in transformation because, on a daily basis, we are personally transformed from a life of human weakness and sinfulness to a life of power and righteousness. We believe in transformation because the whole message of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is to take humanity from the bonds of sin and death to a liberation in goodness and everlasting life. Our world is certainly suffering from the brokenness of our humanity, but it is our responsibility, personally and collectively, to encourage and inspire ourselves and all those whom we meet along our path to a life of virtue and holiness and the love and forgiveness of all.

This, of course, is far from the reaction that many may have expected, but the Christian message is just that: to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.

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What is increasingly obvious is that many of these attacks come about due to a loss of the meaning and comprehension of the sanctity of life, our own or that of others; so join me in praying for the brokenness of our world that causes parents to lose their children, children to lose their parents and humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.

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I have long been prepping a book about religious violence, and in particular the way in which it can be triggered and viewed as sanctioned by the words of scriptures which elsewhere encourage peace, to be titled Landmines in the Garden — the garden being Pardes, Paradise..

Now that the specifically eschatological element of ISIS has been laid out in detail by WIll McCants in his brilliant The ISIS Apocalypse, however, I have felt a shift in emphasis, and the book as I now perceive it will view religious violence — and indeed other violence such as that which drove Dylann Roof to his Charleston killings — through th specific lense of forgiveness and love, as exemplified by Bishop Angaelos, and for the matter, the members of the Charleston congregation who testified to their forgiveness of Roof at his trial.

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To accompany Bishop Angaelos’ words, here’s a Coptic priest from Cairo, Fr. Boules George delivering a recent and no less remarkable sermon:

A Message to Those Who Kill Us

What will we say to them?

THANK YOU

The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.

We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey.

We thank you because you gave to us to fulfill what Christ said to us: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We were lambs; our only weapons: our faith and the church we pray in. I carry no weapon in my hand. We are so grateful that you helped us fulfill this saying of Christ.

O Florida, Florida!

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — with application to paras from JM Berger & WIll McCants ]
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Two from Florida, both yesterday!

Really!

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The kid who converts from Neo-Nazi to Islam and then kills his disrespectful roomies makes for a brilliant & provocative case study, becaause it so confounds our usual expectations.

Consider. We are used to the idea of otherwise unexceptional people joining extremist groups, religious or political — we term the process “radicalization”. And under the banner of “countering violent extremism” we encourage people to leave violent extremist groups and fade back into the normal fabric of society — some become anti-extremist messengers, Kerry Noble and Maajid Nawaz being well known examples. And both coming and going, there’s the little matter of messaging — messaging for radicaliziation, messaging for deradicalization.

But converting from a far-right political ideology to militant Islam? What kind of process us that, and what kind of messaging is involved, or called for?

I want to focus in on this poor dumb kid Devon Arthurs because he offers an almost too-good-to-be-true instance of two significant ideas from two of our finest analysts.

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Let’s take Will McCants first.

McCants’ point is that every jihadist (and every extremist, by extension) is subject to a wide mix of drives, some more potent than others, but none of which should be viewed as the exclusive “explanation” for radicalization. As he writes in a gobbit that is now pinned to the top of his twitter-feed:

The disappoint stems from the desire to attribute the jihadist phenomenon to a single cause rather than to several causes that work in tandem to produce it. To my mind, the most salient are these: a religious heritage that lauds fighting abroad to establish states and to protect one’s fellow Muslims; ultraconservative religious ideas and networks exploited by militant recruiters; peer pressure (if you know someone involved, you’re more likely to get involved); fear of religious persecution; poor governance (not type of government); youth unemployment or underemployment in large cities; and civil war. All of these factors are more at play in the Arab world now than at any other time in recent memory, which is fueling a jihadist resurgence around the world.

If anyone elevates one of those factors above the others to diagnose the problem, you can be certain the resulting prescription will not work. It may even backfire, leading to more jihadist recruitment, not less.

That’s the general case: but you could hardly have a better instance of how sui generis the process is than our case of the young Neo-Nazi turned Muslim.

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Things get even more interesting, however, when we see how this case fits with a point JM Berger has been at pains to meke recently. In Extremist Construction of Identity: How Escalating Demands for Legitimacy Shape and Define In-Group and Out-Group Dynamics, JM expresses his growing sense that extremism should be studied as a category unto itself — that we should not limit our studies to such brands as “Islamic extremism” or “Right Wing extremism”. He writes:

More broadly, this paper is a first step in developing and testing the hypothesis that extremist group radicalisation represents an identifiable process that can be understood as distinct from the contents of a movement’s ideology. That is not to say that the content of an ideology is meaningless or unimportant. Rather, this research seeks to explore whether universal processes of radicalisation provide a more useful window into why identity-based extremist movements form in the first place and how they evolve toward violence.

In the case of Devon Arthurs we have someone who doesn’t only espouse one extremism, but two, in rapid succession. And thus it is plausible to say that it is not Nazism, nor violent extremist Islam, that attracts him, but extremism as such.

Thinking through our ideas about narratives in radicalization and derad with Arthurs as our instance, raises all sorts of questions: what messaging if any do the Neo-Nazis and Jihadists have in common? What message allows someone to slip from one camp in to the other? And what messaging would be an effectove counterbalance not to one ideology or the other, but to the general propensity for extremism?

All in all, this kid makes for a fabulous case study in the ease with which our assumptions can deceive us.

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Sources:

  • CBS News, Cops: Florida man kills neo-Nazi roommates over Islam disrespect
  • RawStory, FBI busts ‘Atomwaffen’ Neo-Nazi in Florida for making explosives
  • Addendum requested: McCants on Gesture

    Thursday, May 18th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — vexed questions — to bow or not to bow, hold hands, smooch, that funny handshake, dance moves, veil ]
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    WIll McCants has lined up his “friendly advice for the poor speechwriter tasked with crafting Trump’s upcoming speech on Islam” in a Politico piece titled Trump Is Giving a Speech About Islam. What Could Go Wrong? The next word, opening McCants’ sub-head? Plenty.

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    Thing is, gestures speak loud as words. Here are some of the slippery issues McCants might like to address in terms of gesture.

    Bow:

    There’s the question of bowing. President Obama may or may not have bowed, or leaned over to give a double-handed handshake. It’s a founding principle that America doesn’t feel deferential to monarchy, and Obama reportedly didn’t bow to Queen Elizabeth when he met her..

    Here’s Bill O’Reilly:

    If it were me, I wouldn’t hold his hand, I wouldn’t smooch him, I wouldn’t bow, I’d say “Hey, how ya doin’, King..”

    Holding hands:

    George W Bush holds hands, Chris Matthews and Jon Stweart riff..

    Kiss-kiss, aka smooch:

    Wolf Blitzer has this one:

    Dancing with drawn sword:

    Whoda thunkit? This one is truly remarkable, from my Eurocentric perspective…

    That no less remarkable handshake:

    Veil:

    And then there’s one for the women in Trump’s entourage, Melania and Ivanka to be precise. To veil or not to veil?

    Here’s Michelle Obama:

    If there is humor in much of the above, it is the humor of contrast with expectation..

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    Salaam:

    Without getting into the details of who greets whom, who goes first and who responds, and in what words, all of which is proper for a Muslim to discuss, I can at least say that the Quran is deeply invested in courtesy of a kind that diplomats would file under “protocol” — as we see in Sura 4 verse 86:

    When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.

    Hamas and the Case of the Missing Hadith

    Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — by analogy with the curious incident of the dog in the night-time ]
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    From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s story, Silver Blaze, in the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes:

    Inspector Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

    Sherlock HHolmes: “That was the curious incident.”

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    There have been reports for some time that Hamas was preparing a revision of its original Charter, and now the Hamas Document of general Principles & Policies is with us:

    The full text is here.

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    ‘There’s commentary aplenty elsewhere —

  • Juan Cole, Hamas in new charter accepts 1967 borders for Palestinian state
  • Gatetone Institute, Hamas in new charter accepts 1967 borders for Palestinian state
  • Al-Monitor, What will Hamas charter change mean for Israel?
  • The Guardian, Hamas presents new charter accepting a Palestine based on 1967 borders
  • Middle East Eye, Hamas recognises PLO as ‘national framework’ for Palestinians
  • Al-Jazeera, Hamas accepts Palestinian state with 1967 borders
  • Brookings, Is Hamas re-branding to orient towards Egypt?
  • — I have just one point to make.. which I don’t believe any of thre above so much as mention..
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    The original 1988 Hamas Charter contains an explicitly apocalyptic hadith in Article Seven:

    the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

    “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

    That hadoth is no longer present in the new Document of General Principles & Policies.

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    The most extensive account of the gharqad tree I’ve seen is in Anne Marie Oliver & Paul Steinberg, The Road to Martyr’s Square..

    the bizarre tree called the Gharqad, traditionally believed to speak in oracles and said to grow in the graveyards of Mecca

    Their account is fascinating, well wporth reaing in full — see pp 19-24 at this link for convenience.

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    I amn uncertain whether Hamas has officially stated that the new Document of Principles replaces the original Charter, although that’s the impression one gathers from the rumors preceding its publication — but to the extent that it does, it is significant that the dog no longer barks, the Gharqad tree hadith no longer features in the new text.

    Significantly omitting the hadith, the new Document lacks the specifically apocalyptic, end times claim present in the Charter. The hadoth, of course, continues to exist — bin Laden was another who used to quote it –mbut at least in its central doctrinal document, Hamas seems to have shited from an explicitly apoca;lyptic Islamism to a more general position opposing the “Zionist entity”.

    To the extent that that’s a noteworthy shift, it’s at least a rhetorical de-escalation.

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    I look forward to any comments on this omission from Richard Landes, Will McCants, Jean-Pierre Filiu, Matthew Levitt, Aaron Zelin, Ibn Siqilli, Tim Furnish, Anne Marie Oliver, Paul Steinberg and others..


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