Paris Terror Ringleader Smoked & Drank Alcohol. So?

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Christmas has come early for the regressive left. Reports have landed to suggest Paris terror Ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud was partial to the odd tipple and spliff – because an eyewitness said she was ‘99% sure’ she saw him ‘smoking and drinking’. This proves he was not a Muslim apparently, or at the least, not a sincere one. This is followed by reports that one of the suicide bombers owned a bar, despite alcohol being forbidden in Islam. Depending on your interpretation of course.

This kind of thing is not new. 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and his crew were said to have visited a strip club before they embarked on their suicide mission. The same amateur theologians jumped on this detail to spin their apologist yarn too. As though all that ‘Allahu Akbarring’ was just a bit of a laugh.

Of course, everyone cherry picks their religion. That is actually a good thing. This is why Christians by and large no longer burn witches or admonish those who eat shellfish. Yet would the mainstream dare to claim people refraining from these acts are not truly Christians? Of course not.

It’s also wickedly amusing that those looking to defend Islam point to booze and drugs, rather than the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents as their strongest ‘get out of Islam free card’.

It seems no matter how many times Islamists tell us exactly why they are doing what they are doing, followed by a demonstration of their sincerity, it won’t be enough to shake these people out of their bubble. If you want to make the issue of extremism not only easy, but rewarding on yourself: Just point your finger at anything and everything other than the core, motivating ideology. You’ll render yourself utterly redundant on the topic, but you won’t lose any friends. And the cheap seats will lap it up.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

15 comments

  • As the person who first pointed out Michael White’s tweet on this to you – which I’m guessing prompted this post – I think the answer to your ‘So?’ is – ‘Well, that’s interesting what does it add to our understanding of (some of) these people which might help us to stop them doing this stuff?’.

    Before I go on I should say that I’m absolutely not an apologist for Islam – or for anyone one or anything. I simply want to try to understand what is going on and whether there’s anything we can do about it. The only people I blame for the murders and attacks are the individuals who ordered them, planned them and carried them out. I’m at one with those that the best fate for these individuals is that they should be tried in courts and, if guilty, spend the rest of their lives locked up. Vapourising them with drone launched missiles, or killing them in any way, is exactly what they want and ooesn’t help us to understand them.

    So, as I suggested on Twitter we need to know WHY it is that they believe what they believe. Simply saying ‘because they believe it’ doesn’t get us anywhere, of course. There could be many possible motivations. But at the end of the day they believe what they believe because their brains, like everyone else’s, are believing machines which have been infected by a particularly toxic set of memes which are drawn from the Islamic religion.

    I think it’s vitally important that we understand the psychology driving these behaviours – in particularl the motivations, cognitive biases and group dynamics involved. Our flawed mental processes have driven people to believe and do bizarre and appalling things throughout our history as a species. I think that, in the long run, psychology will enable us to make much more progress than bombs or assassinations (although I happen to believe we need those as well – particularly smart use of counter insurgency tactics to subvert and disrupt their organisation).

    So that’s my answer to your ‘So?’. I could go on, but the fact that booze and no prayer mats were found in the rooms of those who perpetrated last week’s appalling attacks shines a little light on their underlying psychology. That’s all. It doesn’t excuse anything, it does explain anything but it’s relevant and of interest. We need to understand a hell of a lot more and then act in the best way possible to defeat these people.

    • Stephen Knight

      Thank you for your comments Andrew. Like most asking similar questions on this topic, I truly believe you are well-meaning. I’ll address your main points below:

      what does it add to our understanding of (some of) these people which might help us to stop them doing this stuff?’.

      By admitting this is an Islamic problem, specifically Islamism – and making this a mainstream and accepted viewpoint (its nowhere near being one) it gives progressive and liberal Muslims the lexicon they need to distinguish themselves openly from the extremists in their ranks, and their version of Islam from these fundamentalists. Read here. By having this conversation openly and honestly, and popularising the idea that Islamism is to be avoided at all cost – it provides those at risk of radicalisation with a counter-narrative. A reason to believe that they are not any less Muslim for refusing to take a literal interpretation of their scripture. ISIS is winning the war of PR. Online, in print etc. Well-meaning liberals are failing Muslims by refusing to name the problem, and educating on the distinction between Islam and Islamism. And pointing the finger at Islamism wherever they find it – be it fundamentalist violent extremism, or non-violent.

      I’m at one with those that the best fate for these individuals is that they should be tried in courts and, if guilty, spend the rest of their lives locked up. Vapourising them with drone launched missiles, or killing them in any way, is exactly what they want and ooesn’t help us to understand them.

      That’s a lovely sentiment, but entirely at odds with the reality of the situation unfortunately. ISIS have currently slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent people. I assume you are not in favour of military boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq to round them all up? In that case – do we sit back and hope they will turn up to a military checkpoint waving a white flag so they can have their day in court? Or do we use our military capability to weaken their infrastructure and numbers, potentially saving more innocent lives from their butchery, rape and torture? Where we can kill these people, and minimise civilian casualties – we should. Saying what would be ideal is an exercise in make-believe in this situation.

      We understand them just fine. They believe the Qur’an is the literal, unalterable word of the creator. They accept a literal interpretation that commands them to establish a global caliphate, enslave women, carry out acts of holy war and seek martyrdom. They truly consider this to be a noble, moral cause. How do we know this? They tell us. How can we be sure? They prove it every single day. They confirm this in conversation even when they think no-one is listening.

      So, as I suggested on Twitter we need to know WHY it is that they believe what they believe. Simply saying ‘because they believe it’ doesn’t get us anywhere, of course. There could be many possible motivations. But at the end of the day they believe what they believe because their brains, like everyone else’s, are believing machines which have been infected by a particularly toxic set of memes which are drawn from the Islamic religion.

      If you’re keen to understand the ‘why’ they are taken in by this extreme ideology, I would suggest listening to my conversation with Maajid Nawaz. Maajid Nawaz is a Muslim, and former Islamist who spent years in an Egyptian jail cell for promoting Islamist ideology around the world. He knows more than most about the ideological roots of Jihadi behaviour and the reasons for being taken in by it. Needless to say, he holds the ideology of Islamism responsible for Islamist extremism.

      I could go on, but the fact that booze and no prayer mats were found in the rooms of those who perpetrated last week’s appalling attacks shines a little light on their underlying psychology.

      Why? What Islamic purity test have you decided on for 1.6 billion people? ‘Underlying’ psychology? What would someone need to do in order to prove they were motivated solely by Islamist ideology? Also, by implying these were somehow uncommitted Muslims due to booze/no prayer mats – you also fail the reformers trying to root out fundamentalism in their ranks by claiming them as illegitimate for either drinking, not praying around the clock etc.…

      As my article makes clear, there’s a double standard here that doesn’t apply to Christianity. The Pope for instance accepts The Theory Of Evolution. Are we to doubt his sincerity as a Catholic?

      These people genuinely believe the things they say they do. That’s what makes them dangerous.

      • Write on and right on! Bonne chance !

      • Thanks for your thoughts, Stephen.

        The question revolves around what ‘genuinely believe’ really means. All beliefs are constructed, we’re not born with them and, to my mind beliefs, by definition, have no basis in fact. When someone says ‘I believe x’ they are saying ‘Regardless of the lack of any evidence or the possibility of providing any, I say that this is true’. So for someone to claim that they ‘genuinely believe’ something means that they’ve genuinely convinced themselves that something for which there is no evidence is true. To say the Pope sincerely believes in a god is simply to say he has convinced himself on the basis of no tangible evidence whatsoever that the god he has chosen to believe in exists. The more useful question is ‘Why does he believe that?’ – and there are lots of possible answers. All credit to Catholicism for accepting that evolution by natural selection – something for which there is masses of evidence – is a fact, but it’s not actually within the realm of beliefs to they don’t have any choice on the matter.

        So do you think it’s useful – in terms of tackling extremists – to try to understand more about why they believe what they believe or do you think that’s irrelevant and that we know all we need to know?

        And do you think that it’s better that we can get our hands on at least some of them while they’re able to provide useful intelligence, or would you rather see them all obliterated? I’m not suggesting that the former is easy or trivial, so no need to patronise me again on that point. Obliterating all of them is, of course, completely impossible.

    • I have Muslim friends who drink alcohol and don’t pray regularly. Not one of them has blown themselves up or harmed anyone in any way. The same logic goes for Christians who have tattoos and Jews who eat pork. You can’t judge whether someone is truly religious or not by how many religious rules they follow.

      • Agreed, Liz. All I’m really suggesting is that the more we understand about those who are attacking us the better. They are not homogeneous, as your comment points out. They believe different things and believe they believe for a variety of reasons. It’s worth trying to understand these reasons are.. Surely this isn’t a controversial point? Know thine enemy.

  • “They believe the Qur’an is the literal, unalterable word of the creator.”

    Yeah, but:-

    “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah”

    So, just saying, aside from the fags and booze dilemma, why didn’t the guys roll up into Paris on donkeys?

  • It’s also a way to rectify/repent for all your sins. Dying a martyr’s death takes you to heaven automatically. Remember, Islam does not say that you go to heaven simply for believing in god. On the day of judgement your good deeds are weighed against your bad deeds, and if ur bad deeds outweigh your good deeds you’ll burn in hell for a time, even if you happen to be a Muslim. The only guarantee islam gives is that you’ll EVENTUALLY go to heaven for believing in god and accepting mohammed as his messenger. But you could burn for thousands of years before that. So, how do you eliminate that? die a martyr’s death! no scales are needed for the martyr:

    The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The slain are of three types: (the first is) a believing man who fought with his life and his wealth for the sake of Allaah, and when he met the enemy he fought them until he was killed. That is the proud martyr who resides in the tent of Allaah beneath His Throne; the Prophets are no better than him except by virtue of their being Prophets. (The second is) a believing man who committed some sins, but he fought with his life and his wealth for the sake of Allaah, and when he met the enemy he fought until he was killed. His sins are erased, for the sword erases sins, and he will be admitted through whichever of the gates of Paradise he wishes, for it has eight gates, and Hell has seven gates, and some of them are better than others. (The third is) a hypocrite who strove with his life and his wealth, and when he met the enemy he fought for the sake of Allaah and was killed. He will be in Hell, for the sword does not erase hypocrisy.”

    • “It’s also a way to rectify/repent for all your sins. Dying a martyr’s death takes you to heaven automatically.”

      Except that it doesn’t, of course, because none of it is true. They’ve chosen, for whatever reasons, to believe in these fictions. It’s the ‘whatever reasons’ that are important and there are bound to be a variety of reasons. Obviously.

      If anyone is arguing that, as Stephen suggested, what we learned about Abaaoud “proves he was not a Muslim apparently, or at the least, not a sincere one” it’s certainly not me. (Stephen’s statement sounds like straw man, but that’s by the by. There is no doubt in my mind that these individuals are Muslims (which thankfully, proves that I’m not a member of Stephen’s “regressive left”!) or that their minds have accepted that the Koran tells them to which they murder, rape, torture and maim.

      The question to my mind is “So what?”. What does this mindset (because that’s all it is – a set of beliefs based in external reality) tell us about these people and how can it help us to defeat them? Why have they chosen to believe it? Why do there appear to be at least a few chinks in their mental armor and what do they tell us? What does it mean to believe things? How can these beliefs be changed? Are there some amongst them who claim these beliefs in order to enable them to murder, rape, torture and maim (in much the same way that there must be some Catholic priests who took their vows because it provided them opportunities to abuse children)? None of the answers to these questions are straightforward. And if we can’t answer them we’re in trouble.

      I’ve got nothing more to say on this. Have a good war.

      • Stephen Knight

        “If anyone is arguing that, as Stephen suggested, what we learned about Abaaoud “proves he was not a Muslim apparently, or at the least, not a sincere one” it’s certainly not me. (Stephen’s statement sounds like straw man, but that’s by the by”

        The article wasn’t about you, obviously. And it’s not a ‘strawman’. If you want me to point you to the endless apologia of those claiming that these people were not ‘real/true/sincere Muslims’ based on these details, I will. What do you think was the point of reporting on their drinking, if not to call their Islamic credentials into question? Why else would that detail be worthy of reporting? Do we do this with every criminal?

        “The question to my mind is “So what?”. What does this mindset (because that’s all it is – a set of beliefs based in external reality) tell us about these people and how can it help us to defeat them?”

        It tells us that some people can’t be reasoned with. They don’t want anything we can reasonably offer – and for the protection of ourselves, and others, they need to be eliminated. That’s how you defeat them. This is the world we live in.

        “Why have they chosen to believe it? Why do there appear to be at least a few chinks in their mental armor and what do they tell us? What does it mean to believe things? How can these beliefs be changed? Are there some amongst them who claim these beliefs in order to enable them to murder, rape, torture and maim (in much the same way that there must be some Catholic priests who took their vows because it provided them opportunities to abuse children)? None of the answers to these questions are straightforward. And if we can’t answer them we’re in trouble”

        Whilst you’re waxing philosophical on the trivialities of the situation and pretending it’s somehow useful, there’s a huge problem here and now that requires our immediate attention: What do we do about this genocidal death cult? Sitting around and talking about it, whilst being against military action looks a lot like doing precisely nothing to me.

        “I’ve got nothing more to say on this. Have a good war”

        To be fair Andrew, I’m not sure you ever had anything to say on this. No-one’s calling for a war, but pacifism here simply allows bad people to murder, rape and torture as much as they like – no amount of your tautology will change that fact.

        • Really struggling with your line of thinking here, Stephen. “Waxing lyrical on trivialities?” What?

          I’m suggesting the richer our understand of these people and their motivations the more likely it is we’ll be able to defeat them. Do you disagree with that statement? Do you think that all we need to know is that they are inspired by the Koran? If so, what do we do with that information?

          On the practicalities, what do you suggest we do about this genocidal death cult? What action are you taking apart from talking and writing about it? Personally, not being a pacifist by any definition, I’d like to see them all dead but as that’s not a practical proposition, what do you have in mind? We can maybe hope for some long term action from within the Muslim community but that’s not going to help us tackle the immediate threat. I have serious doubts about Cameron’s plans but only because they seem incoherent – without determined, concentrated action on the ground bombing will have little effect. My guess is that the rebels in Cameron’s own party (without whom he wouldn’t have to worry how Labour or other MPs vote) feel the same way.

          My feeling is that you have latched very firmly onto the “regressive left” label and are now seeing regressive lefties under every rock.

          Not everyone who asks questions about motives – which absolutely can’t be as one dimensional as you seem to be suggesting – is an apologist. I disdain the apologists as much as you do (and, for what it’s worth, thought Obama’s statements were incredibly unhelpful, to put it mildly) but that doesn’t get us very far, does it?

  • PS a few examples of practical things I think we can do:

    Pay our taxes and support the professional that are employed to deal with these threats. The portion that’s spent on our excellent intelligence gathering/security services are particularly good value for money in tackling terrorism and insurgency. T
    Introduce ID cards
    Don’t attempt to block attempts to gather more intelligence
    (None of the above are going to be particularly popular but we’re dealing with an asymetric, underground threat which can only be tackled by using counter insurgency tactics and these depend on comprehensive intelligence).
    Support the professionals who are paid to deal with these threats
    Campaign for an end to faith schools in the UK
    Encourage open discussion and understanding of the causes of the threat
    Put MPs on the spot and try ensure they don’t grandstand or ignore professional advice (as they did in 2003)

    • Sorry, but ID card are a useless tool. They just offer a guaranteed way for someone to appear legitimate, whilst having zero effect on those who radicalise the disaffected. Nor are there enough hours in the day to filter or analyse all the “so called” intelligence gathered already. More information just creates bigger haystacks, where targeted intelligence gathering is far more useful.

      Schools yes, but how do you deal with schools in areas with 99% Muslim, Jewish or White children? Start busing them to schools in the non muslim/jewish/white areas?

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