Friday, December 11, 2015

The Basis for the War of Terror

I began writing Kill Zone on 9/12/01 and finished about six years later. The book is a young adult romantic adventure about the ultimate result of unfettered hatred. I was incensed by the carnage of 9/11/01--it took a long time to get the venom out of the novel, at least enough to get it published. Chapter 33 explains the reasons for radical Islamic terror against the West. Although the novel is fiction, I believe it accurately depicts the motivation behind radicalization. The text of Chapter 33 is provided below; I hope it helps others understand the problem.
The General let the silence linger, and then settled back into his chair. “Alright then, the rest of you can go, but I want the religious advisers to stay.”
After the room cleared, he swiveled toward the advisers. “I’ve often wondered, but never fully understood, why radical Muslims hate the West. Why do they feel so compelled to attack? Why the hatred and killing? What’s the real basis for their War of Terror?”

The General’s question about the Muslim’s source of hatred was open-ended, but the lead Cleric folded his hands on the table and leaned forward, signaling his acceptance of the challenge. “The reasons Islamists choose war are many, General, and probably cannot be fully understood from an American cultural perspective. I will try to explain, but you must first understand the Qur’an does not present an overarching story, as the Christian Bible does. Instead, the Qur’an is organized from long verses to short verses that stipulate how the followers of Islam should conduct their lives. Without a contextual narrative, followers who choose violence in the name of Islam can easily claim they are acting in accordance with their faith. They pick and choose the verses that satisfy their need at the moment, without regard for the others. The same could be done with the Christian Bible if one disregards the overall narrative.
“Also understand Islamists take the words and deeds of the prophet Mohammad as an example of what Islam should be, just as Christians look to the life of Christ for guidance. Mohammad was a warrior; Christ was not. Mohammad conquered by force and met violence with violence—he did not turn the other cheek—whereas Christianity spreads the message of forgiveness even unto death. The different personalities of the two leaders explain much as to why there is more violence in Islam than in Christianity.
“With that overall background, then there are four, perhaps five, fundamental issues that have developed in the Muslim mind over time. The first is control. Until this war, Muslim nations had little direct control over the West, and control is important to them. Yes, I understand they have had some influence through oil pricing, but what I’m talking about goes much deeper than that. From the bottom up, you need to understand how vital this issue is.”
The cleric paused briefly to gather his thoughts. “Start by understanding that Muslim men hold all power in the marriage and that Shiite marriages are temporary marriages, a mut'a, a contract that can be entered into for a set time between one day and ninety-nine years. A woman entering the mut'a is paid a set amount of money, and according to some Shiite traditions, a man performing four mut'as is secured a place in paradise. Further, a man may divorce a wife simply by saying, ‘I divorce thee’ three times before witnesses prior to registering the decree in court, but the process for divorce is much more difficult for a woman.”
The General cocked his head and his eyes narrowed. “I didn’t think a Muslim woman had a choice in divorce.”
The Cleric smiled. “In some communities it is virtually impossible for a woman to divorce without her husband’s consent. But my point to you concerns the absolute control Muslim men exercise over their women and families, a precept that extends through their social hierarchy and into their political life. Control is hammered into these people by the mandatory exercise of religion, a concept not at all understood in the West. Where, when and how often a man prays is specified and enforced. Everything is controlled, both within the family and outside it.”
“Okay, but why is that reason to start a war?”
“We have not yet addressed the reasons, General. The information is additional background for your understanding. The second critical issue you need to understand is ‘honor’, but it is a different view of honor than defined in Western terms. Muslims live and die by ‘family honor.’ A Muslim man is even entitled to kill for the honor of his family. These are the so-called ‘honor killings’ you hear about.”
The General leaned forward, clasped his hands together, and placed them on the edge of the table. “Like the one in New York, where the abused wife filed for divorce and the husband decapitated her. As I understand it, the husband felt a special need to control his wife because his business was failing.”
The Cleric nodded. “Indeed so. Such stories bring shame on Muslims in general. Nevertheless, the stories illustrate the point I’m trying to make. In a Muslim family, if a woman brings shame to the family, through allegations of premarital or extramarital sex, by refusing an arranged marriage, or by attempting to obtain a divorce, her male relatives are bound by duty and culture to murder her. The problem of ‘honor killings’ is not a problem of morality, or of ensuring that women maintain their own personal virtue. Instead, it is a problem of domination, power and hatred of women who, in these instances, are viewed as nothing more than servants to the family, both physically and symbolically.”
“You’re talking about tradition?”
“Yes, exactly. The murder of females in the Middle East is an ancient tradition. Even prior to the arrival of Islam in 622 A.D., Arabs occasionally buried infant daughters to avoid the possibility they would later bring shame to the family, and that practice still occurs among Bedouins, who consider girls most likely to sully the family honor.
“Another example that might help you understand honor in a Muslim’s life is that all sexual encounters, including rape and incest, are blamed exclusively on the woman. Men are presumed innocent. In all cases, the woman must have tempted him into raping her or enticed him into having an affair. Some even believe that a woman who does not wear a burka invites rape. A woman is expected to protect her honor, even at the cost of her life and, if she survives a violent rape, she is condemned for her ‘mistake’ and might be brutally killed by her family.”
The General shook his head in near disbelief. “Seems a little harsh.”
“Yes, perhaps a little. Honor concepts are also behind the practice of female circumcision, and that practice is integrated into the Muslim religion by some followers. What the Arabic actually says is circumcision is obligatory, for every male and female, by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, and by cutting out the clitoris of the female. This is called HufaaD. Shafi’i law requires circumcision of girls by excision of the clitoris. This is mandatory and is widely practiced in Egypt, where the Shafi’i school of Sunni law is followed.”
The General’s disgusted look projected his inner feelings. “Clearly the West understands male circumcision, a Hebrew tradition from the same ancient basis, but female circumcision is harder to fathom. In fact, the whole concept that man can, in the name of religion, ‘surgically improve’ the body that God created is hard for some Westerners to swallow.”
“Yes, General, I understand. This is hard for many nations, but I mention it here only to illustrate how far Muslims will go to protect what they see as their honor. Even to disfiguring their children to prevent a ‘possible’ breach of honor in the future.
“As with control, the concepts associated with ‘honor’ in daily life can extend to a Muslim’s public and political life. When a Muslim loses honor, he can become like an animal exhibiting ‘uncontrollable rage’, yet not be held accountable for what he does in that state. It is the equivalent of ‘innocent by reason of insanity’ in America.”
The cleric slowly stroked his long white beard, giving the General time to assimilate the concepts. “Consider then that Muslims may well view actions of the West, whether to embarrass Muslim nations or to mock their God, in whatever way they define it at the moment, from cartoons of Muhammad to rumors of mistreatment of one of their Holy Books, a loss of honor. Perhaps then you will understand their reactions of rage and destruction.”
The General became serious. “This concept, their concept of honor…that can bring them to war?”
“Indeed it can, General, and has, but more issues might be in play. A third concept you need to consider, to understand the Muslim mind, is ‘situational honesty.’ For example, one Shiite innovation is the use of pragmatic dissimulation, the denial of faith in public while maintaining it in private.”
The General looked the Cleric in the eyes. “Excuse me for interrupting, but that’s another difficult concept for the West because it’s exactly opposite Christian beliefs. Christians believe a man should worship and do good deeds in private, unseen by others, and not live a hypocritical life—that his public and private life should be equivalent.”
The Cleric nodded. “You are correct, but understanding pragmatic dissimulation will give you insight into the reason Mohammed Atta chose to spend his last night on earth receiving lap dances instead of communing with his God in prayer. Absolute morality is not a concept understood by Muslims, and there is significant historical backing for this. For example, Muhammad himself clearly condoned dishonesty, as well as murder when it suited his purposes.
“Muslim’s believe it is allowable to tell a falsehood to save one’s life, to accomplish peace or reconciliation, to persuade a woman, or on the occasion of a journey or expedition. Because of this, treaties can mean nothing to them. Muhammad also treated truth and deception according his own style of situational ethics, condoning lying to further his goals. From this you can understand the reasons the Iranians were so adamant they were not developing nuclear weapons, when everyone knew they were.”
Slowly rubbing his chin, the General added, “Probably the thinking behind the adage, ‘Never trust an Arab.’”
“Perhaps so. You just need to know, and understand.” The Cleric paused again, knowing the information he’d provide next would be very hard for the General to accept. “The fourth concept, sir, is the fear of being wrong. Being wrong is like losing honor. It is not the same in the West. Here, you admit your mistakes and move on, but in Muslim nations, being wrong can lead to loss of honor and outrage. If the West is seen as challenging their beliefs, their customs or literally anything at all they consider Muslim, then that is a challenge to their being right. They will react, sometimes violently.
“This is part of the reason many Muslims do not integrate into other cultures. For those who follow Islam, Sharia Law—which is based on the Qur'an, Hadith and centuries of debate, interpretation and precedent—is the only legal framework that can control public and some private aspects of life. Unfortunately, some concepts presented by Sharia conflict with laws that provide for individual freedoms. For examples, under Sharia, worship of any other god except Allah can be punishable by death, as can adultery and homosexuality. Clearly, if the laws followed by the West are right, then Sharia is wrong.
“Finally, General, relative to the war, there is the most easily understood reason of all, the reason the West most generally considers the basis for the War of Terror, although it is not the whole story, as I have said. That would be that you are not Muslim. That alone is a problem for many Muslims, and it goes to the heart of their being right.
“If Christianity is correct, then they are wrong. If the Hindus are right, then they are wrong. If any other religion is right, then they are wrong. You get the picture. That is the reason this war is global, but this concept goes even deeper. If the Sunnis are right, then the Shiites are wrong. You see, General, they lose honor if they are wrong, and they will fight to be declared right, so the war could go on indefinitely, not only between Muslims and the West, but between Muslims and Muslims.
“And then you must add one final element. Muslims are ‘justified’ in killing those who cannot be converted, and there is a reward in heaven for those who martyr themselves in that way. Not only do their traditions, which are older than Islam, make them prone to war, but the religion condones forcing Islam on others, and rewards it.”
The General took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Pretty damn depressing, almost a hopeless picture, like there’s no way out until every last person on one side or the other is dead.”
“Very depressing, indeed. This war is as old as recorded time and it may continue forever. I hope you now see, General, that many complex issues are at play. Perhaps you would better understand the Muslim’s War of Terror if the name were changed to ‘The Muslim Culture Wars.’”
The General shook his head while looking down at his feet. “But you are here, on my staff. Therefore, not all Muslims believe these things are worth dying for or going to war. Why don’t more Muslims stand up and be counted, as you have? Why are Western setbacks so vigorously celebrated by Muslims worldwide?”
“Yes. Why? I believe there are many reasons. Some believe the Islamists are winning, that there will come a time when the entire globe is Muslim. At that time, all people will be united under Muslim law, and they strongly support such an outcome, even if achieved by radical tactics. Others simply follow without thinking, as did the followers of Jim Jones. Those with the mentality of sheep are at the mercy of the wolf.
“Still others have succumbed to a culture of hatred, brainwashing and fear, a culture that may never be completely eliminated. Generations of young Muslims have been schooled in that culture. The textbooks they read, the television and movies they watch and the music they hear, all carry messages of hatred of the West.
“The objective of such teaching is to instill the notion that the West in general, and Jews in particular, are evil, and that it is the duty of all true Muslims to exterminate that evil. They are taught to hate from the time they first enter school, and they will continue to hate until they die, or are victorious. Older Muslims either have accepted the propaganda or do not speak up at all because they fear the young, and the radicals who teach them.”
The elder adviser stopped for a moment, and then leaned forward to emphasize his final point, his words shaking the General to his core. “And make no mistake, General, the same message of hatred and intolerance fuels the domestic terrorism you face in this country. Muslim converts have been recruited within your prisons and some American radical mosques for years. Those converts have willingly accepted radical and violent views of Islam. They thrive on hatred and are eager to destroy you from within, even without the benefit of the cultural heritage driving the true believers.”
Kill Zone can be found at http://www.amazon.com/James-L.-Hatch/e/B005CQB6E6. The follow-on novel, Aftermath Horizon, can be found at http://www.lulu.com/shop/james-l-hatch/aftermath-horizon/paperback/product-22421562.html. Aftermath Horizon is a young adult fiction romantic adventure about recovering a world destroyed by terrorism.

Thanks for reading!

James L. Hatch


Tina Donahue said...

When people are powerless economically and emotionally, it's understandable when they react with violence. We all would. If the CIA were to come into California, where I live, and assassinate our government leaders and try to put their version of what our government should be in place, you bet people here would react violently.

The US needs to stop meddling overseas in the name of oil. Not freedom. Oil for the Koch brothers, war for Cheney's Halliburton. Our soldiers are dying for them and oil, resources, profits, not any lofty principles.

As to Christianity being more 'gentle' and 'forgiving' than others' faiths, I'll try to remember that when Planned Parenthood locations are burned to the ground, bombed, the women seeking healthcare screamed at and humiliated by strangers who don't give a fig about being Christian, yet who purport to be.

I'll also try to remember it when Cruz, Trump, and Rubio call gays less than human and whip up hate against women, gays, people of color, anyone other than a good Christian (you know who they are - they're the ones who bomb Planned Parenthood and murder doctors who perform abortions, which are legal BTW).

The US calling the ME barbarians is the pot calling the kettle black. People of color who died during the civil rights movement in this country, Japanese interned at Manzanar during WWII, gays killed in gay-bashing incidents, transgenders killed during hate crimes, blacks murdered by out-of-control police officers, women raped daily by thugs, children murdered by gun violence (so the NRA can protect gun manufacturers profits) can attest to that.

It's time we clean up our own mess in this country and stop meddling with others in the name of the Koch brothers profits and Cheney's profit with Halliburton.

jean hart stewart said...

Wow, Tina, you said it so well I'll simply agree with you on every point. And James, your column was expertly done, if terrifying.

James L. Hatch said...

Well, Tina and Jean. I usually agree...but not this time. I see you have a great deal of anger and some is justified; however, progress has been made on almost all those fronts without the terrorism the entire world (not just the USA) is experiencing today (even the oil issue has been addressed by private sector advanced technology). At some point, even the most avowed liberal will have to stop and read the Koran...because that book calls for the death of liberals as well, especially the GBLT community, Jews, and Christians (no one is exempt except specific Muslims). Recent surveys show great support among Muslim communities for terror. That is a problem for us all. If terror is the answer, then we will all be drawn into this. It's not a matter of the pot calling the kettle black, it's a matter of survival.

Tina Donahue said...

James -

In listening to 'Christian' politicians, they'd like to get rid of gays, women who have abortions, anyone who doesn't look/think/believe like them. Scary stuff. Most of them quote the Old Testament. Hardly a live and let live document that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Anyone who studies history will recall what Eisenhower said about the MIC. How right he was.

We're in the ME because of oil. If Saudi Arabia had nothing to offer the world except, say, asparagus, we wouldn't be there. The same goes for America's support of Israel. The corporations need an ally in the ME because of the oil. If the oil weren't necessary, you can bet they'd tell Israel to pound sand.

This isn't about religion. It's never been about religion. It's about oil. Power. Profits.

Noam Chomsky wrote that the one thing no one ever addresses in this ME/terrorist mess is why the individuals are reacting as they are. What happened to radicalize them? Bombing their homelands, killing their leaders to put ones we want in there (for the corporations and oil), invading their countries then leaving them a hot mess (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc), killing their families, impoverishing them is the root cause.

We have been at war (undeclared) continually since the 50s. We've never won. We simply make things worse that creates another conflict.

Scapegoating someone else's religion won't fix this.

If you honestly believe that the corporations are trying to do something about the oil problem (other than making a profit) and are turning to other sources (solar, let's say), I suggest you see the movie Tucker. Based on a true story about a man who wanted to make autos safer for Americans. The corporations buried him.

And no, I'm not angry, I'm simply not blind to the way the world works.

James L. Hatch said...

Actually, the conflict with Islam predates oil discovery in the ME. It IS about religion, although oil did play a part in the past 50 years. With fracking, oil is not so important now (which is the reason oil prices have decreased lately). William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898) was Prime Minister of Great Britain four times: 1868–74, 1880–85, 1886 and 1892–94. He called the Qur’an an “accursed book” and once held it up during a session of Parliament, declaring: “So long as there is this book there will be no peace in the world.” He was right then, and he is right now. We are in the religious war of our time. It won't end until moderate Muslims stand up and be counted, but only a very few are doing so at this time. That's the reason I wrote "Kill Zone", but like all my novels, I haven't sold many. Bummer.

Tina Donahue said...

The issue of religion may be important to those who live in the ME. Not everyone, mind you. Nothing captures 100% of people's hearts and minds. That said, religion isn't what drives terrorism or US interests. Our wars aren't fought for some lofty principle (eg: let's bring freedom to that part of the world). They're fought for oil, resources. Their terrorism isn't to convert everyone. It's for power. For some, it's probably to regain the power they've lost from everyone invading their territories.

From what I've read, oil is so low because the Saudis are pumping past capacity because they want to destroy the US fracking industry so they're, again, the only players. They're doing a bang up job. Lots of layoffs in the industry since the corporations can't make a profit. Also, fracking is causing earthquakes in Oklahoma and poisoning well water, plus changing our climate. Time for oil to go and another energy source to come to the forefront. Preferably one from our shores, not another country's.

Anyone could hold up the Old Testament and point out its cruelty, misogyny, crazy beliefs and what not, just as Gladstone did with another religion. What the people in the ME want to believe is up to them, not us.

Imagine this country with another energy source, home produced, not oil. And that we had never invaded a foreign land, bombed it, killed innocents (collateral damage) on the pretense of bringing democracy when we were actually seeking oil. In that scenario, where we hadn't done anything to those people, do you honestly believe they'd care what we believed over here? Sure, there would be a few psychopaths, like in our country, that want world domination. But do you honestly believe that those people, as a whole, would care what we do or believe in if we had always left them alone?

No matter where humans come from, they're still basically the same. They want enough to eat, a safe place to live, a future for their children. Religion doesn't trump that. People are radicalized because they have nothing to lose because someone's already taken it from them.

No one's more dangerous than a person who feels they have no power over their own life.

As to your sales - I'd say most of us are in the same boat. It's tough selling books, especially with the lousy economy. Discretionary income isn't what it used to be. And when the purse strings are tight, entertainment (books) are the first to go.

James L. Hatch said...