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Study: Muslim extremists not looking for world domination

(cross-posted from CNN)

By Adam Levine

Muslim extremists are more concerned with defending against foreign intrusion than foisting Islam on the world, according to a new study of extremist texts. The study suggests that a Western approach of claiming extremists are seeking world domination is misdirected, and instead should seek to counteract claims of victimhood.

“Continued claims to the contrary, by both official and unofficial sources, only play into a ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative that benefits the extremist cause. These claims also undermine the credibility of Western voices, because the audience knows that extremist arguments are really about victimage and deliverance,” write the researchers, Jeffry Halverson, R. Bennett Furlow and Steven Corman.

The analysis by Arizona State University’s Center for Strategic Communication looked at how the Quran was used in 2,000 propoganda items from 1998 to 2011, though the majority were from post-2007, that emanated mostly from the Middle East and North Africa. Among the groups analyzed were al Qaeda and al Shabaab, as well as anonymous postings online.

One result that surprised the researchers, the “near absence” of citations from one of the most extreme passages, the “Verse of Swords,” that encourages “all-out war against world domination.”

“Widely regarded as the most militant or violent passage of the Quran, it is treated as a divine call for offensive warfare on a global scale,” the researchers wrote. “It is also regarded as a verse which supersedes over 100 other verses of the Quran that counsel patience, tolerance and forgiveness.”

The study concludes that extremists, at least based on how they quote from the Quran, do not reflect “an aggressive offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor and retribution.”

“The verses frequently utilized by extremists from this surah address subjects such as enduring hardships and the importance of fighting against the unjust unbelievers who oppress men, women and children,” the researchers wrote about the most cited chapter (called a “surah”).

The insights led the researchers to suggest alternative approaches to counteracting the extremist messages, rather than focusing on the fear factor. The Arizona group cites a recent effort by the State Department to counteract al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who said in a 2011 video that “there is no hope to remove the corrupt regimes in Muslim countries except by force. And there is no chance to bring change through peaceful action.” The State Department Digital Outreach Team posted a video intercutting that video, which included Zawahiri daring someone to find a single example to prove Zawahiri wrong, with video of Arab Spring protesters in Egypt.

Halverson, Bennett and Corman also suggest undermining the “champion” image aspired to by extremists.

Extremists use a “deliverance narrative to position themselves as the champion that can deliver the community from evil,” the researchers wrote. “However, as we have argued elsewhere, extremists do little that is champion-like. They have not unseated any apostate rulers, and their victims are overwhelmingly likely to be Muslims.”

The study cites data from the West Point Combating Terrorism Center that estimated al Qaeda militants were 38 times more likely to kill a Muslim than a Westerner, based on data from 2006 to 2008.

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  • Ste

    @zar I liked your post until you started talking about how “they” blanket predjudice, as thats exactly what you are doing there.
    I’m sure there were not pictures of Jews on the news constantly creating violence and killing people because someone said something “their” religion did not like.
    Should Athiests ignore it and say, oh its just a group of hooligans with nothing in common and no purpose, I shall carry on as i am, safely. I may even holiday to this pleasant place, get a nice tan and drink a pina colada without any bother.
    There are other places in the world with issues too, thankfully the media is focussing on these issues, so that help will be on its way.

  • Harrison H.M. Elfrink

    However, it is fair to say that Islamic extremism is a reality and a not-so-happy one at that, but a lot of it is a reaction against heavy handed western foreign policy and neo-colonialism in Muslim countries, and persecution of Muslim minorities in non-Western countries.

  • Pingback: Study: Muslim extremists not looking for world domination | Islamophobia Today eNewspaper()

  • Kafir Harby

    LOL! Yeah yeah, and the fox is not in the henhouse to eat chickens but to play chess with the rooster, right?

  • Sir david

    Z A S
    Nice post ,well said
    Sir David

  • Ibrahim

    @Zakariya Ali Sher, just out of curiosity–what’d you get your MA in?

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Saying that Muslim extremists are not looking for world domination, or even able to achieve such, is not the same as saying they are not dangerous. I point this out because the article, correctly, mentions that Muslim extremists are 38 times more likely to kill Muslims than they are westerners. It’s a crime of opportunity as much as anything. Its much easier for a terrorist to kill a bunch of civilians in a marketplace or small mosque in Kaboul, Mosul or Sana’a. Westerners in those places are few and far between, often given better security and better armed than the local populace. And western governments and mercenaries tend to retaliate for any western death. But few people notice or care when a bunch of Muslims die; at best, our Brothers and Sisters are reduced to mere numbers, statistics.

    I point this out for two reasons. The first is because it proves my point about non-western lives mattering less in the western media. The second is because we Muslims do need to acknowledge that there are murderous psychopaths who are killing our Brothers and Sisters in Afghanistan, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria, in Pakistan, and elsewhere. It’s often easy for those of us living in the relative safety and comfort of the modern west, but its a sad fact of life that our Brothers and Sisters deal with this every day. And while much of the blame can be traced back to the proliferation of Saudi-backed Wahhabism, just as much can be traced back to western backed and inspired terrorist groups and corrupt governments. It is doubtful that the Banu Saud, or ANY Gulf dictatorship, would last very long without US aid.

    Ironically, US pundits got their panties in a knot more over the rise of the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ than the totalitarian fundamentalism espoused by the Gulf monarchs. I have yet to see Egypt or Libya executing people for homosexuality, apostasy or ‘witchcraft.’ But then, the Saudi monarchy and the US government have a mutually beneficial relationship. We get oil and military bases, they get money and military backing to consolidate their power. Indeed, the Saudis alone gain the ability to speak up as if they represent the ‘true’ version of Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood, for all of its flaws, is such a diverse organization that it is still fairly difficult to make any blanket claims about their belief. This is not to say they are saints by any stretch of the imagination, but rather that they are not nearly so dogmatic as the Salafists.

    Which of course brings me to my next point. The Islamophobic media elite have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. I’m not sure this will come as much of a surprise to ANYONE, except maybe the morons who rush out to buy the newest edition of ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam.’ Spencer, Geller and the rest of them are not scholars in the first place. Spencer has published a total of two articles in peer reviewed articles, neither of which has anything to do with Islam. Nor does he speak Arabic (or Turkish, Persian, Urdu, Panjabi, Bangla, kiSwahili, Hausa, Malay, etc), meaning he is incapable of reading any primary sources relating to Islam. He’s just another guy with an MA… which doesn’t make him a scholar. I have an MA, does that mean I can speak out on any topic in existence?

    Without being able to speak the language, without going to the Middle East or other Muslim majority areas to do fieldwork, these people cannot seriously call themselves scholars, nor can they gain much insight into the Muslim world. I can write about what happens in Pakistan too, but without going back there, I will eventually be out of touch. Anyone who works in the social sciences knows that culture changes. Nothing is static. With that in mind, look at where Geller, Spencer and the rest publish their ‘research,’ if we can even use that term. It’s always in popular, mass market paperbacks or on blogs or news talk shows. Never do they put their work in academic, peer reviewed journals where other scholars could critique it. Indeed, they take offense at anyone even questioning their work. Especially Muslims…

    The few of them who do have relevant degrees or background, such as Danielle Pipes, have seemingly faded into the background. Perhaps their narratives just aren’t ‘sexy’ enough for an audience who would rather believe that Kamal Saleem was a terrorist sent to infiltrate the Bible belt, or perhaps their writing is too complicated for the Islamophobic masses to understand. After all, they might use ‘big words’; big in this case meaning more than one or two syllables. In truth, I suspect it has more to do with rampant anti-intellectualism. The Islamophobic masses are bandwagon types. They hate Islam now because it is both popular and socially acceptable. Generations ago they would have directed their hatred against ‘secret Communists,’ Jews, ‘Negroes,’ Catholics, immigrants and the like. In the future, perhaps it will be Chinese (again) or Latinos. But most are not original thinkers. Indeed, they tend to be blanket bigots, objecting to anyone and anything different from them.

    We see this in how they tend to automatically conflate anything and everything ‘Arab’ with Islam… and how pretty much anyone with a slight olive tone to their skin automatically becomes ‘Arab’ in their mind. Geert Wilders and his calls to ban immigration from ‘Muslim countries’ exemplifies this sort of blanket prejudice, but his supporters are surprisingly widespread. Their rationale behind this tends to be quite amusing; every Muslim everywhere is responsible for what any Muslim at any point in time and/or space has done. It’s guilt by association. Therefore, I bear collective guilt and collective responsibility for the actions of Tamerlane, Aurangzeb, and Mehmet II. However, this doesn’t work both ways. Only white Euro-American Christians apparently warrant enough individualization to absolve them of any guilt for the actions of, say, Hitler or Pizarro.

    This of course, culminates with some slight differences in paradigm for the European Islamophobes, who emphasize a mixture of romanticized national culture with a brand of secular humanism that emphasizes a uniquely Western identity (“Muslims oppress gays,” even though as an American I could cite no shortage of homophobic incidents on the part of ‘Westerners’), and American Islamophobes, who tend to emphasize the idea of an explicitly ‘Christian’ nation, albeit one favouring an Anglo-American Protestant ideal. That’s why I always have to chuckle at people like Geert Wilders, who idolizes an old, bald man that had affairs with teenage boys, speaking out a Christian rallies here in the US. Of course, both groups are united in hatred for Islam, and increasingly hatred for ‘progressivism’ and ‘multi-culturalism’ as well.

    Speaking as someone who proudly brands himself both a ‘multi-culturalist’ and a staunch individualist, they can bite my shiny metal ass. Okay, so I actually took that one from Bender on Futurama, but I can assure you that the sentiment is all mine. What it really boils down to is a form of ethnocentrism. The hatred for Liberals is almost entirely over immigration; in both Europe and America, the Islamophobes paint a picture of ‘dirty, dark skinned immigrants’ ready to overrun the country by having tons of children, and of course raping white women. The poster child for this on both sides of the Atlantic has been the Swedish city of Malmö*, which supposedly is home to ‘Muslim no-go zones,’ yet despite their assertions I have never been able to find which neighborhoods these supposedly real areas consist of. I suspect the reason is because once named, independent people like myself would be able to go there and disprove their existence.

    Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that we were hearing the same arguments right here in America. Supposedly blacks were innately ‘inferior’ to whites. Supposedly they were less intelligent and could never assimilate. Supposedly they bred faster, and would outnumber whites. And more to the point, they also supposedly had an ‘unnatural’ attraction to white women. I’m sure we all remember the era of lynchings and segregation; most people like to claim that they didn’t support it, or if they were born too late, that their parents didn’t support it. As I’ve said before, that is what will one day happen to the Islamophobia industry. It might take a couple decades, but one day people will claim to their children that they never read Spencer’s books or protested against the ‘ground zero’ mosque because it will be too embarrassing to claim they ever were a part of it.

    Of course, the fears of a ‘demographic shift’ in the US are even more ridiculous. We Muslims make up at best 1 or 2% of the total population, and Muslims, Arabs and Asians are heavily underrepresented in politics, the media and just about every other field you would care to mention. There are… what… only one or two Muslims who have ever occupied political office in the US. This compared to how many countless evangelicals who announce their faith at every campaign stop. Even if we wanted to take over the US, it would seem that we suck at it.

    * On a side note, it is rather ironic that Malmö would be their city of choice. It does not have the highest number of immigrants in Sweden nor are they all from Muslim majority countries. There are a fair number of Polish, Serb, Magyar, Romanian, Greek and Danish immigrants, not to mention Middle Eastern Christians. However, Skåneland was formerly an ethnically and linguistically Danish enclave, which was subject to forced assimilation policies. The history of Skåneland prior to 1658 is still not taught in public schools. There is even a small separatist group, Stiftelsen Skånsk Framtid.

  • “Also, funny isn’t it, that the ‘counter jihad’, ‘anti-Muslim’ movement and the actual ‘jihadis’ have the same interpretation of the Quran?”

    I always smile at that. They should get a room or something…

  • Geoff Cavendish

    “The idea that Islamic fundamentalism is on the verge of world domination and poses a realistic threat to impose Islamic law in the United States and Europe is pure fantasy. Some radicals may harbor such delusions. Some fearmongers may use such delusions to whip up hysteria. But they are delusions nonetheless” (pp. 244-245).

    Nail, head, hit.

    Also, funny isn’t it, that the ‘counter jihad’, ‘anti-Muslim’ movement and the actual ‘jihadis’ have the same interpretation of the Quran?

  • @Danios

    Yet more evidence that the “counter jihadists” don’t know what they’re talking about, or are out right lying. Unfortunately much of the mainstream in America also wrongfully believe that violent acts by Muslim extremists tend to be motivated by a desire to spread Islam.

    I happened to mention this story on twitter, but it was from a different source. Here’s more on that study,

    Study: Islamist extremists stress self-defense, not world domination

    I first learned about it from Islamophobia Watch,

    Bad news for ‘Islamisation’ scaremongerers – even al-Qaeda doesn’t seek to impose Islam everywhere

  • mindy1

    I hurt you, you hurt me, I hurt you, you hurt me. One side has to stop this cycle 🙁

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