After the deluded Dylann Storm Roof shot nine Black Christians in hopes of starting a race war across America, I began again asking what drives those like him to such an extreme act. To spur my writing, I started to search the web for other people’s thoughts on extremism. As I searched these articles, it occurred to me that we are all like Dylan Roof (except for the grace of God). We all want to bend the world to fit ourselves. We all have the tendency to try and make the world about ourselves. However, not all of us remember or recognize our own tendencies. In fact (if the sampling of articles that I found provide an indication), a number of us assume the position of a god. More specifically, it seems that liberals egocentrically forget failures and assign the role of “evil” to others. In contraposition to the liberal stance,
To illustrate this tendency, please consider the following three liberal articles and three reasonable sources of information on reasons for joining extremist groups.
Liberal Explanations for Extremism Refuted
Liberal Case #1: The Anti-Religious Opinion
The Huffington Post, the bastion of tolerance of anything outside of the American mainstream, published an article by Michelle Roya Rad that provided the following list of attitudes she considers to cause religious extremism:
- They have a sense of absolutism: They have a distorted, nonconstructive and irrational thought that the truth, moral or aesthetic values are absolute, universal, set and unchangeable. They do not believe in change and diversity and are usually very low in their tolerance level.
- They have a sense of righteousness: They usually think that they know the truth and no one else does. Their truth is very limited and based on outdated, contaminated and one-sided information. They usually don’t even have enough knowledge about their own religion and only know the surface part.
- They do confirmation bias: This is where one only brings in information that fits his thought process and dismisses anything else. Any other information, no matter how historically, scientifically and logically valid, will be disregarded.
- They have a sense of knowing an ultimate meaning: They have a sense of a black and white thinking where the white is a limited definition of how life “should” be for all of us. There is no flexibility, no adaptability and no objectivity. You are either into this small and specific white zone or you are “the other.”
- They dehumanize whoever does not fit their view: They put other people’s views inferior to theirs and dehumanize people whose views do not fit theirs. This gives them a sense that they have the right to kill, harm and destroy others. They also do the same to out-groups.
- They idealize historic figures or stories: Such people usually idealize some figures in their belief system and stories attached to the past and want to fit the present and the future into that idealization.
- They have an utter certainty that they are right: The objective mind of a rational person knows that at any time, there are so many things he does not know. But an extremist does not have such view and holds a distorted thought that he knows all the answers and has found the “truth” which is the only truth.
- They have a sense of unwillingness to compromise: For such individuals, there is only one way and that is what matches their definition of truth. They are not willing to find common grounds with other people and cannot find win-win positions.
- They have too much focus on the life after death: A religious extremist has too little focus on the importance of this life and what makes him feel fulfilled in it and is too attached to the concept of a “great” afterlife.
- They have many psychological defenses: Such individuals have formed a number of psychological defenses so none of their internal feelings would be challenged.
Note that she refers to the extremist as “they” throughout the list. From this, we might infer that she doesn’t see any commonality between extremists and herself. She does this despite the second item on the list defines her version of the truth (which she stands behind enough to publish). Naturally, in keeping with the third item on the list, she would reject this. Then, as indicated by the fourth and fifth items, she claims truth as her own and assigns the dehumanizing role of “them.” Starting with item six and ending with the last, her list seems to be crafted to entrap the traditionally (especially the Christian) religious. Considering the fact that professors of psychology surveyed as the least religious among all fields, the last half of her list may have been her strongest attempt to distance herself from the subject of her article.
Clearly, Ms. Rad sees religious people as potentially irrational (#7), stupid (#2), and closed minded (#3). In contrast, atheists (purportedly like her) would supposedly be the epitome of rationality.
With all of this in mind, what would her response be to the extremist acts of Craig Hicks, who murdered three and posted an anti-theistic rant to Facebook?
The Case Against the Anti-Religious Opinion: The Murder of 3 Muslims by an anti-religious Zealot
On 26 March 2012, Craig Hicks posted the following quote from Richard Dawkins to Facebook:
“My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the ‘Day of Prayer’ in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say ‘Enough!’ Let out tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.” — Richard Dawkins
From there, Mr. Hicks went to kill three Muslim neighbors that he had disputed with regarding parking spaces. Hence dies the myth of the rational atheist as communicated by HuffPo.
Liberal Case #2: The Politically-Correct Opinion
This next case will involve two articles from Slate that illustrate how liberals try to subjugate rights to the demands of political correctness.
Cohen’s Attempt to Disarm His Opposition
In a 12 February 2015 Slate article by David S. Cohen on the difficulties of working as an abortion clinic employee, the author defines “extremism” for those who disagree with the practice of abortion: extremism involves holding signs. Later in the article, the printing of pamphlets and fliers becomes a central topic, thereby suggesting that the free-speech rights of the opponents of abortion should be curtailed in order that abortion clinic employees might do their work without harassment.
This assumption that an opposing group should surrender its free speech (or any other God-given) rights stands as the reason that I mention this first Slate article. Unlike Cohen, I expect all sides of this debate to retain their opinions and their rights.
Saletan’s Attempt to Muddy the Water
A 31 August 2011 Slate article by William Saletan quotes the questions and results of a 2011 Pew Research survey:
One question asks: “How much support for extremism, if any, is there among Muslims living in the U.S.?” Among all U.S. Muslims, 21 percent say there’s a great deal or a fair amount of support. Among native-born U.S. Muslims, the number is 32 percent. Among black native-born Muslims, it’s 40 percent.
Another question asks: “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of al-Qaida?” Among all U.S. Muslims, 5 percent report a favorable view. Among native-born U.S. Muslims, the number is 10 percent. Among black native-born Muslims, it’s 11 percent.
A third question asks: “Some people think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Other people believe that, no matter what the reason, this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that this kind of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified?” Among all U.S. Muslims, 8 percent say suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified. Among native-born U.S. Muslims, the number is 11 percent. Among black native-born Muslims, it’s 16 percent.
Despite having cited these results of the Pew survey on the support for extremism, Mr. Saletan then undercuts the argument that he seemed to have made (that native-born Black Muslims should receive more precautionary attention) by pointing out that attacks on America between 2001 and 2011 involved foriegn-born Muslims (shoe bomber Richard Reid, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and recruiting station shooter Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad). Oddly, Saletan then rails against the words of Palin, Gingrich, Lazio, and King regarding their opinions on a “Ground-Zero” mosque and calls these words “discrimination.”
Based on these two articles, several things seem painfully obvious. First, liberals (or at least liberal authors at Salon) have no respect for any view but their own. Second, these same people (despite their complaints about discrimination by others) have no compunction to preserve freedom of speech (a right that they would reserve for themselves alone). Third, these people suppose that certain races (in Saletan’s case, Blacks) and certain religions (by Saletan, Muslims) need protection while others obviously deserve persecution.
To those that would institute a society that silences one side and favors another, I can only rest on my Christian faith where the world receives an invitation (John 3:16), whoever wants to come finds a welcome (Revelation 22:17), where we can choose (Joshua 24:15; Jeremiah 29:13; and Matthew 7:7), and where we can be called into a relationship (John 6:44).
The Case Against the Politically-Correct Opinion: The Murder of Four Americans
In an 18 September 2014 Daily Mail article and a 16 September 2014 CNN article, the tale of Ali Muhammad Brown’s murder of four Americans for only being American unfolds.
The American-born Islamist Ali Muhammad Brown admitted to killing Leroy Henderson in Seattle in April as Henderson walked from work to home at night at the end of April 2013. He contacted Ahmed Said and Dwone Anderson-Young via a social media site popular with gay men and murdered the two in a park in Seattle on June 1. During the early morning hours of 25 June 2014, police found the body of Brendan Tevlin in his parked SUV at the corner of Ridgeway Avenue and Northfield Avenue in West Orange, New Jersey. On 28 July, police arrested Muhammad Brown for robbery in West Orange, New Jersey. On 20 August, Muhammad Brown confessed to murdering Brendan Tevlin and the three other Americans only because of his need to have “vengeance for the actions of the United States in the Middle East.”
The fact that Brown is Muslim has no bearing on his guilt. The ballistics discovered by police and his confession prove his guilt.
Realistic Reasons for Extremism Provided
David Gletty on Matt Patrick Radio Show
Shortly after 6:00 a.m. on 23 June 2015, David Gletty appeared on the Matt Patrick Radio Show on AM740 in Houston. As an FBI informant who had infiltrated White supremacist groups, Gletty blamed the desire to join extremist groups pretty much matched the reasons for joining gangs:
“Reasons vary, but the most common reason comes from a broken family. It may be a divorce, a parent leaving, a parent going to jail, or a parent with drug problems.”
A Youth-Support Organization Names the Reasons for Joining Gangs
Middle Earth, an organization that seeks to meet the need of urban youth, summarizes the attraction of gangs as follows:
- A sense of belonging, acceptance and loyalty. Gangs may offer a sense of identity to their members and a way to gain attention or status. Kids who do not have strong ties to their families, communities, schools or places of worship may turn to gangs for companionship and as a substitute family.
- Companionship, training, excitement, and activities. Gang members, recruiters and the media glamorize the gang lifestyle. They prey on children who lack a positive support system at home.
- A sense of self-worth and status. Some are drawn by parties, girls or drugs. Others feel they will receive more respect as a gang member and are seeking power.
- The need for physical safety and protection. In neighborhoods and areas where gangs are present, kids sometimes feel, or are told, that belonging to a gang will provide protection from other gangs.
- Peer pressure. If friends or family members are in a gang, kids may be pressured to join a gang. Some youth grow up in a neighborhood where gangs are almost a way of life.
- Financial gain.Being in a gang is often seen as a way to obtain money or possessions.
- Failure to realize what being in a gang means. Kids often do not fully understand the danger, risks and legal problems associated with being in a gang. If they don’t have alternative activities and have too much unsupervised free time, they are at risk.
Prager University Video on Why Do People Become Islamic Extremists
In the following video, Haroon Ullah, a senior State Department advisor and a foreign policy professor at Georgetown University, shares what he discovered while living in Pakistan:
“What drives someone to become a religious extremist, even to the point of becoming a suicide bomber? Like most people, I assumed that there were two overriding answers:
The poverty line goes like this: grinding poverty from which there appears to be no escape fosters seething resentment against who those who have more. If your choice is to die a martyr or die a beggar, martyrdom is the clear winner.
The ignorance line goes like this: the poor have no chance to get a decent education and thus are susceptible to easy manipulation. Clever people play on their prejudices and superstitions. Once the extremist gets this ignorant poor person in his grasp, indoctrination is easy.
Since there’s plenty of poverty and plenty of ignorance around the world, that’s a lot of people to draw from. This is how the source of terrorism is explained.
Then I went to Pakistan and actually lived in the world from which the extremists recruit and I found something much different than I expected. Poverty had little to do with who became an extremist; lack of education, even less.
Many of those that I met who subscribe to religious extremism — and are prepared to murder and die for their cause — are from the middle class and many had a university education. These are not poor people and these are not uneducated people. They are well fed and well read. So, if poverty and ignorance don’t drive people to extremism, what does?
One is a desire for meaning and order. Places like Pakistan are submerged in chaos and corruption. Islamists promise clear cut solutions to every problem: here’s how things will change if you follow these rules and only these rules. Another is a desire for change. The old corrupt order, the narrative goes, must be overthrown and that can only happen through violent action. Again, it is Islamists that step in — with a promise to create a new form of government. Then throw in a strong sense of victimhood — we are not responsible for the sorry state of our country; others have brought us down — and you have a toxic brew that many willingly imbibe.
These, of course, are the same eas answers that tyrants and demagogues — from Lenin to Mussolini to Hitler to bin Laden — have always offered to their followers.
I saw this played out one day while living in Pakistan. After one of the many assassnations of a major figure there, I was sitting with two middle class parents. The father owned a small business and the mother was a nurse. They had given their son a good life. He wanted for nothing.
They told me that during dinner with the family a few days earlier, their son had noted how the person who was murdered ‘deserved to die.’ Why? Because he had spoken out on behalf of religious minorities. They were shocked. How could their son, who had been educated and well raised, think that? This story is all too typical.
So what can we do about this extremism?
The first step is to get off this false narrative that this is first and foremost a poverty or education issue. The second is to take on the narrative of the extremist groups. They promise a better way, but what in fact do they deliver? The answer is always: more death, more suffering, and more poverty. In other words, young people need to see these extremist groups for what they are. Only then will recruitment numbers begin to go down. Third, the media have to stop treating extremists as freedom fighters, a narrative that is all too common in places like Pakistan. Fourth, teachers and parents cannot assume that just because they reject religious extremism, their children and students will, too. Middle class parents and teachers have to be viligant in installing moderate, pluralist values in their children. Fifth, politicians have to stop blaming their countries’ problems on the West and have to confront the endemic corruption that destroys their countries (like Pakistan) from within. Sixth, and probably most important, Islamic religious figures have to stop looking the other way, or worse, glorifying so-called ‘martyrs’ — Muslims who murder innocent people — almost always other Muslims — in the name of Islam. Muslim religious leaders must promise these murderers eternal damnation, not some sort of twisted heavenly bliss.
The people of Pakistan and other Muslim majority countries have real grievances, but extremism only makes things worse: always and everywhere.
It’s not poverty and misery that creates religious extremism. It is religious extremism that creates poverty, and misery, and death.
I’m Haroon Ullah, adjunct professor at the Georgetown University School of Foriegn Service for Prager University.”