Friday Ephemera
Puny Humans (2)

Root Causes, Then and Now

Further to comments on how stating the obvious can scandalise PC sensitivities, this seems relevant. Andrew Bostom comments on the firing of jihad terrorism specialist, Stephen Coughlin, and notes the contrast with America’s first encounter with the jihad phenomenon, some two hundred years earlier.   

Bill Gertz, Washington Times national security columnist, reports that the Pentagon has fired Stephen Coughlin, its most knowledgeable specialist on Islamic Law and jihad terrorism. As Gertz observed aptly, the Pentagon thus ended the career of its most effective analyst attempting to prepare the military to wage ideological war against jihadism.

This past September, 2007, I lectured with Mr. Coughlin, a US Army Reserves Major, at The Naval War College, and witnessed his brilliant, tour de force presentation which elucidated the reliance of contemporary jihadism on Islamic Law. Coughlin demonstrated meticulously that Jihad fi Sabil Allah - “Jihad in the cause of Allah,” is the animating principle which underlies the threat of global jihad terrorism, and how this understanding should form the basis for rational, effective threat development assessment, and war planning. That Coughlin’s analyses would even be considered “controversial,” or worse still lead eventually to his firing… is pathognomonic of the intellectual and moral rot plaguing our efforts to combat global jihadism…

Coughlin’s reasoned conclusions simply update and complement, exquisitely, what serious scholars of jihad have long argued about revivalist movements throughout Islamic history. For example, forty years ago (in 1967), John Ralph Willis observed regarding the 19th century jihadist movements in West Africa, specifically, and such historical movements in general,

The jihad… is essentially an instrument of revival, employed for the purpose of extending the frontiers of Islam and leading the faithful back to [its] roots.

…In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain, respectively, met in London with the Tripolitan Ambassador to Britain, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. These future American presidents were attempting to negotiate a peace treaty which would spare the United States the ravages of jihad piracy—murder, enslavement (with ransoming for redemption), and expropriation of valuable commercial assets - emanating from the Barbary States (modern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya). During their discussions, they questioned Ambassador Adja as to the source of the unprovoked animus directed at the nascent United States republic. Jefferson and Adams, in their subsequent report to the Continental Congress, recorded the Tripolitan Ambassador’s justification:

… that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their [Qur’an], that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Stephen Coughlin understands and enunciates what was stated openly to then Ambassadors John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - and what they apparently understood - by the Tripolitan Ambassador Adja. During his September 2007 presentation… Coughlin updated this timeless Islamic formulation into its modern context:

If the enemy in the War on Terror states that he fights jihad in furtherance of Islamic causes that include the imposition of Shari’a law and the re-establishment of the Caliphate; And Islamic law on jihad exists and is available in English; Then professionals with WOT responsibilities have an affirmative, personal, professional duty to know the enemy that includes all the knowable facts associated with the law of jihad.

Stephen Coughlin has been fired for reminding his peers of this basic obligation.

The whole thing.

As former jihadist Tawfik Hamid has repeatedly pointed out,

Without confronting the ideological roots of radical Islam it will be impossible to combat it... It is vital to grasp that traditional and even mainstream Islamic teaching accepts and promotes violence… The grave predicament we face in the Islamic world is the virtual lack of approved, theologically rigorous interpretations of Islam that clearly challenge the abusive aspects of Sharia. Unlike Salafism, more liberal branches of Islam typically do not provide the essential theological base to nullify the cruel proclamations of their Salafist counterparts.

It is ironic and discouraging that many non-Muslim, Western intellectuals have become obstacles to reforming Islam… They find socioeconomic or political excuses for Islamist terrorism… If the problem is not one of religious beliefs, it leaves one to wonder why Christians who live among Muslims under identical circumstances refrain from contributing to wide-scale, systematic campaigns of terror... All of this makes the efforts of Muslim reformers more difficult. When Westerners make politically correct excuses for Islamism, it actually endangers the lives of reformers and in many cases has the effect of suppressing their voices.

And yet there are those, among them the incorrigible Seumas Milne, Madeleine Bunting and Karen Armstrong, whose lists of “root causes” include almost anything except the obvious, of which we must not speak.

Andrew Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad and The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism.

Related. And. Also.


Brad in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada


"... anything except the obvious, of which me must not speak."

Yep. That about sums it up.


The idea that we could successfully negotiate with jihadists if only we would endeavour to get a "better understanding of how they think" is a profound, imperious conceit. It's a joke, really. A jihadist is not some conflicted, rosy-lipped 14 year old waiting for a gentle hand on the head from a self-absorbed westerner; he is someone possessed by an excelling certainty about the appropriateness of his approach.

Bless him. We need to show some respect by being better listeners. It's a bit funny, in the way that someone holding a pistol to his own temple might describe the epic lead-up to that moment as being, in the specific context of its impending denouement, "funny", that what Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja told Thomas Jefferson and John Adams some two hundred and twenty years ago -- that all who don't acknowledge the primacy of Mohammad are sinners, that the justification for assailing non-believers will forever be solidly rooted in the words of the world's one true prophet, and that Muslims killed in the endeavour will go to paradise -- is now being reiterated on western soil -- Finsbury Park Mosque, for example -- all these years later.

Also funny? How it's now -- recently -- proscribed behaviour for a public figure in the west -- a public official, for example -- to factually point out, in our own commons, that the root cause of a...certain approach to living is being loudly and insistedly enunciated by it's own adherents. This would be racism, or something.

When you throw in the seething, ramped-up, deeply-subsumed domestic political argument that our comeuppance is long-overdue anyway, well, I bet even our self-announced opponents are having a good laugh, albeit not one that we could even remotely recognize as such.

It's long overdue. While it might be hard to find humour in, oh, I don't know, the dead-pan fratricidal urges of a Madeleine Bunting, especially once you've fully absorbed, against your will, the real politik force of the ineffable brothers and sisters and publishers who prop up such views, we *do* have the technology. Take it, Noel:



Yes, it is quite funny, in that very particular, and not exactly joyful, sense.

As touched on in the comments here,

and here,

far too many people allege “root causes” that are ahistorical, tendentious and factually unreliable; they simply ignore the theological and historical lineage of jihad and the stated motives of those who perpetrate it. (To mention this well-documented lineage and its roots, or even use the term jihad, is to invite wrongheaded disapproval and accusations of nefarious intent.) And there’s something darkly hilarious about the Socialist Worker championing the “stunning victories” of Hamas and praising Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for his “kindness” and “determination”, before construing his indiscriminately murderous fervour as “the new anti-imperialist ideology.”

I still hear people eerily asserting “it’s all about Iraq” or “it’s all about oil” or about colonialism, ‘imperialism’, racism, ‘Islamophobia’ - whatever suits their own political disposition. (The vanity is staggering.) But if it’s about Iraq, it’s also about Afghanistan and the Philippines, and Somalia and Sudan, and Algeria and Turkey, and France and Qatar, and Nigeria and Russia, and Ethiopia and Mauritania, and Yemen and Germany, and Saudi Arabia and Canada, and Belgium and India, and Thailand and Spain. And what is the one obvious commonality in all of these instances? Is it the one of which we must not speak? Is it the teaching of jihad and Islamic supremacism, based explicitly on the deranged and spiteful ravings of a long-dead desert pirate?

irwin daisy

Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddaafi - “Our confrontation with America used to be like confronting a fortress from outside. Today, we have found a loophole to enter the fortress and confront it from within.”

The same theme is emphasized by a comment made by a Muslim to Archbishop Giuseppe Bernardini of Izmir. - “Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you; thanks to our (Islamic) religious laws we will dominate you.”

In 1974, former Algerian President Houari Boumedienne warned Europe in a speech at the U.N.: "One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. They will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory."

In an analysis of the Koran, the Sira, and the Hadith, only 17% of the Islamic trilogy deals with the words of Allah. The remaining 83% refers to the words and deeds of Mohammed. Of all of the references to "hell" in the trilogy, 6% are for moral failings, while 94% are for the transgression of disagreeing with Mohammed. Statistical analysis of the trilogy revealed that 97% of references to "jihad" relate to war and a mere 3% to the concept of "inner struggle."

In Quran 9:5 Allah tells the Muslims that after the four sacred months (Rajab, Zulqad, ZulHajj, Muharram) have passed, slay (fight and kill) the pagans wherever they are found.

One of Islam's foremost scholars, Ibn Kathir, writes that this means, the earth in general. That means this verse is not meant only for the Meccans pagans; it applicable all around the globe, even today.

Quran 9:29 says (unambiguously): Fight those who do not believe in Allah, or in the last Day, or in the halal food. Unbelieving people of the Book (Jews and Christians) pay jizya tax with submission (humiliation); if they do not pay jizya tax or convert to Islam then kill them.

To combat this, we have a standard western response, best summed up in an aphorism: "In a mulitcultural (socialist) society facts are not permitted. Facts have certain value and can make people unequal. For that reason there shall be no facts."



Ah, but however clearly and often such things are stated, those who wish us harm must be portrayed as purely reactive and otherwise devoid of agency. That way, one can project whatever motives suit one’s own political disposition. The Great List of Western Shame and Provocation™ has been wheeled out many times by Milnes and Pilgers everywhere as if it were some self-evident explanation for Islamist ambition and jihadists’ gruesome tactical choices; but the assumptions in such lists are often remarkable and perverse. For some, the fault simply *must* be ours and nothing can be allowed to get in the way of that conclusion.

But here’s the thing, or one of the things, anyway.

Suppose you accept that usurping Saddam and liberating Afghanistan from the Taliban – thus allowing almost four million exiled Muslims to return to their homes – was “inflammatory” and “provocative”. Suppose you accept that overthrowing psychopaths and religious fantasists was indeed a “recruiting sergeant” for extremism and did contribute causally to the subsequent murder of London tube passengers, or passengers in Madrid. Well, what then? Does religious indignation and collective delusion make mass murder acceptable?

Asserting these things as contributory factors does not prove that such efforts, however bungled, were wrong or deserving of random, murderous retribution. Nor does it prove that the reactions of various fantasists, theocrats and totalitarians were in any way justified or defensible. In fact, the immorality of theocracy and totalitarianism - and of Islamism generally – rarely features in the arguments of those who talk most loudly about “root causes”. And where does the blaming of Bush, Blair, Western “imperialism” or whatever leave the majority of Afghanis and Iraqis – mostly Muslims - who did *not* wish to live under the tender mercies of the Taliban, or under the rule of Saddam and his Baathist thugs? What of them? How much is the blaming and discomfiture of the West worth?

The Phantom

David, if I may point out another obvious fact which may not be stated, even among Conservatives: The Left is not on our side. By which I mean the Left as a political movement is dedicated to the destruction of Western individualism, freedom and democracy. We are their enemy, just as we are the enemy of the jihadists.

Once you start taking the environmentalists, socialists, feminists et al at their word, you find that they really really REALLY want your White, middle class ass in a concentration camp. Just like the jihadists, they come right out and say it all the time. People are imbeciles and must be controlled, otherwise they will destroy the planet/country/whatever.

The Left want a centrally controlled dictatorship, so they can make sure you sort your recycling properly, are nice to the Brown people, stop going to church and will finally stop wasting your after tax income on beer and popcorn. Or they shoot you.

Once you take them at their word, all these idiotic PCisms make perfect sense. They will say any lie, do anything and make a deal with anyone they think will further their purpose.


I agree with all the above comments, but wish to add another dimension to Islamism. This is that we must be aware that Islamism is first and foremost a social and political ideology, developed in the 7th c, as an economic and political reaction to the Byzantine expansion of agricultural settlements into nomadic pastoral land bases.

It originated as a militant economic nativist movement to preserve a primitive economy (nomadic pastoralism), but, moving it into a religion has effectively removed its axioms from debate. We mustn't ignore its social and political infrastructure, which is based on a primitive TRIBAL economic mode.

The breaking point for Islam and its transition into Islamism (fascism)was the post WWII movt of the Arab lands into industrialism. The 'cancer' was their inability and refusal to change their political structure from tribal to civic.

Tribal privileges you, economically and politically, by virtue of your kin relations. A tribal society will even have one tribe as dominant; the rest are submissive. This won't work in an industrial system, which requires a civic mode that enables a middle class.

Rejecting this civic mode and democracy - has led to Islamic fascism. Our multicultural idiocy, accepting their tribalism, has assisted this devt of fascism. We must instead, reject Islamic political and social structures as incompatible with a modern world.



You simply have to dump professionals who are lost in a sea of detail. Can*t see things clearly.

Jihadists, [the Saudi $Billionair Bin Laden contracting family], simply offer a mat and a daily meal to young men suffering the pains of poverty and ignorance.

There is no universal school system in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The Taliban destroy schools and slay teachers simply because an educated young mind may understand fair government and personal rights and freedoms. Ability to read does not equal *educated*.

The educated in Iran are the Mullah*s main headache today.

Mosques are the preferred venue where young minds are rote trained to hate with gusto and where there are no distractions about fair government and human rights.

Scholar and leader, Winston Churchill*s papers on fundamentalist Islam, circa 1800s, read like they are current today. This is nothing new.

Afghanistan and the middle east is a long term project for us because education must be expanded and the mature population must be trained to provide reliable long term security.

If Nato troops leave, the people will revert to poverty stricken poppy farmers under the thumb of the Taliban.

With vast Oil and drugs income, the jihadists will flourish and spread exponentially.

How we plan to expand schools in Pakistan is the next challenge.= TG


TG- education isn't enough. You have to also enable the development of a middle class.

A middle class is a group whose economic and political authority isn't decided by kinship connections (tribalism) but by their own hard work, knowledge, etc. If the Islamic nations retain a tribal political structure where economic and political power is only given to those In The Top Tribal Family - then, all the education in the schools won't help the young people who aren't members of those elite families.

My point is that the Islamic nations have to move out of tribalism as an economic and political mode; that's not easy because Islam as an ideology is tribal. And it's been frozen as an ideology because it's been redefined as a religion rather than an ideology open to debate and change.

And we in the West have to rigorously reject multiculturalism, have to reject identity politics and have to insist on our devt of a civic society, a middle class, and our rule of law. Immigrants must assimilate to our normative standards.

irwin daisy


Fascist Islam is a complete way of life. The state and the religion are the same. Islam dictates everything a Muslim does, says, and believes. Encompassing shariah, it is also law. It is totalitarian, imperialist and there are no individual freedoms. To state that this is a recent phenomenon is not historical accurate or correct.


irwin daisy - I disagree; I think that fascist Islam is a post WWI and II phenomenon.

Certainly the infrastructure of its movement into fascism was there within the Islamic ideology. Islam was an ideology that set up a social, economic and political infrastructure based around a primitive economic mode of subsistence agriculture and pastoral nomadism - and entrenched this ideology by defining it as a religion rather than an economic-political mode.

This meant that Muslims couldn't change their mode of life, and when industrialism moved in with the discovery of oil and the mechanical age, the Arab States didn't change their political infrastructure. This repression of their population within tribalism rather than allowing them to move into a middle class within industrialism - led to fascism.

Fascism is an ideology that posits an innate national essentialism of purity, a purity that must be expressed universally.

My point is that Islam, operating within a peasant no-growth economy, could remain in its dead-end 'no-change' status, and did, for quite some time. However, it is, as an ideology confined by defining it as a religion, unable to change without great trauma. Therefore, when its people are confronted with other people and economies, it moves rapidly into fascism.

The 'trick' will be to deconstruct the frozen nature of this ideology by two tactics. One is to enable and insist on democracy and a middle class economy. They can't last too long on oil, and the Arab States know this; they know they have to educate their population and move into a middle class economy.

The other tactic is also western induced. We must reject multiculturalism in the West; we must reject their moving the ideology into the West. We have our own normative standards; we run a civic not tribal society; we have our own rule of law. None of this must be compromised. Immigrants must assimilate to us.


"Once you start taking the environmentalists, socialists, feminists et al at their word, you find that they really really REALLY want your White, middle class ass in a concentration camp."

I see that the Small Dead Animals have arrived.

David, take it from me: I don't want to see your ass, or indeed any other part of you, in a concentration camp. We clear on that? : )


Dawg: Don't go insulting Kate -- we could end up in a nasty dispute that will risk damaging David's enormous collection of sno-globes. /:>)>

ET, Islamism -- fascism, as you noted -- may ultimately be a byproduct of a primitive tribalism, but I wonder if this isn't already understood -- albeit at an almost primal, and not necessarily enunciated or examined level -- by westerners, largely through the agency of the pronouncements of Islamists themselves. And whatever the origins of Islam might be, our own current retreat is, IMO, a far more pressing and serious issue; the most common argument used by western supporters of Islam, native and imported, is that any reference to Islam as, say, a form of primitive tribalism at odds with modern industrial civilization, is somehow fundamentally racist, or is evidence of cultural hegemony, or narrow-mindedness. This conundrum, wherein we have functionally proscribed any mention by western public figures, particularly functionaries, of the nature of primitive tribalism you referred to doesn't obviate the validity of the terms you use, but it does suggest that, inasmuch as we have more control over our own culture than we do over Islam -- one would hope -- the most obvious solution would involve *us* allowing, in more-public discourse,the sort of analysis you have provided here and elsewhere.

I'm also not sure that tribalism itself is *the* problem, because my own belief -- one which borders, at times, on understanding -- is that our own ineffectualness in dealing with radical Islamism-creep is a a direct result of our own *lack* of any sense that we are a tribe. At the best of times I feel I am part of a tribe of sorts, one that includes people of any race or background who support enlightenment values, including free speech. I also see, in a George Romero-esque way, that a powerful group -- let's just call them collectivists -- are part of a different tribe that happily reaches out to co-opt the force of Islamists. If that sounds outlandish, I suggest you rummage through the archives here and look for links to The Guardian's Madeleine Bunting and Seamus Milne, for example. Or George Galloway. Or...

Finally, ET, I'd like to preemptively acknowledge that I might be abusing the term "tribe". Suggestions of alternate words are welcome.


EBD - yes, you are changing the meaning of the term 'tribe' and effectively, making it irrelevant, ie, without meaning. You mean, by 'tribe' merely an open collection of like-minded people. That's a group not a tribe. Remember, it's open to anyone who shares your views. Anyone can leave, anyone can enter; the connection is the thoughts. That's not a tribe!

By 'tribe' I mean a particular mode of social, economic and political organization that establishes authority and social power in all of these areas, by your kinship connections. This is a CLOSED group, with membership defined by hereditary filiations. Blood links, so to speak. Not thought. Blood. It's hereditary. You can't leave; you enter only by marriage and it's usually patrilineal.

Tribalism functions in non-industrial economies where the stability of the society is maintained by having control of 'capital' (eg herds of cattle, land) held within a single bloodline or tribe. This effectively settles the capital in one authority and removes next-generation or even current fighting over capital.

However, when your economy changes from steady-state agriculture to expanding surplus production and market dissemination, if the society uses the old tribal structure, which puts all economic and political authority in one Family - this actually impoverishes the economy because only one Clan/Family/Tribe has wealth and authority and the rest of the population are barred from full participation.

Furthermore, an industrial economy requires independent enterpreneurs, flexible entrepreneurial businesses, and smaller, highly mobile family units. This is the opposite of the Extended Family networks of the Tribe.

So, I think that we have to consider the problems in the Islamic countries that are refusing to move out of tribalism, and refusing to develop that mobile middle class that is the basis of an industrial economy.

Most certainly, we have to consider our own naive and ignorant multiculturalism that thinks that all beliefs and behaviour are equivalent in functionality; and that betrays a profound ignorance of the integral 'fit' between economic modes and beliefs (ie, tribalism is great in non-industrial small population agriculturalism but disastrous in industrial large populations). We have to get rid of naive multiculturalism.


I just checked the full OED, and Webster's IIId, and both EBD's and ET's use of the word "tribe" are denotationally correct, although in different senses. I recommend the use of noun-modifiers ;-)

On the other hand, "tribalism" is probably a bad thing in general, as most "-ism"s are. And, of course, "tribalismists" are right out.


Blast, I should have been more clear in that last comment. The reason that "tribalismists" are right out is the same reason that all "foo-ismists" are, namely, that they are all denotationally promoters of their Foo-variety of utopia, and no variety of utopia works.

Hey, what can I say, I'm the guy in the protest march who is carrying the placard that says, "Death to Utopianismists". (Can I still say that?)


Dr Dawg,

“David, take it from me: I don't want to see your ass, or indeed any other part of you, in a concentration camp. We clear on that?”

Quite clear. I’ll sleep easier tonight.

irwin daisy

Muhammad's mission was to forcefully unite the tribes under his constructed ideological banner ('the one true religion' and "most pure") and ultimately create a super tribe - the Ummah and one world Islamic government - the Caliphate. He started out by slaughtering many of his own kin folk and in so-doing, forged terror as a useful tool. The tool of terror is meant to be used until the whole world is for Allah and his messenger. "I've been made victorious through terror." Mo said.

"I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah..." (Muslim 1:33)

Sura (9:29) "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." Suras 9 and 5 are the last "revelations" that Muhammad handed down.

Sura (9:5) "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them..." Prayer and charity are among the Five Pillars of Islam, as salat and zakat. See below.

"Fascism is an ideology that posits an innate national essentialism of purity, a purity that must be expressed universally."

The ideology of Islam, precisely.

"I see that the Small Dead Animals have arrived."

Why, if I'm not mistaken, that's exactly where you found David's site, Dawg.


Irwin and ET,

The following item, from today’s ephemera links, may be of interest. Scroll down for Andrew Bostom’s detailed riposte to Matthias Küntzel’s claims that Islamism and aggressive jihad are modern phenomena.

For a wealth of supporting material, Bostom’s Legacy of Jihad is strongly recommended.

More here:

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