By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
“We can all sigh a breath of relief and sleep better knowing British Muslims are more likely to be harbouring aspirations for their children to continue in the tradition of making positive contributions to British society than harbouring plots to destroy British values, perhaps a moment of national self-reflection is needed. What have we done to fuel the feeling of alienation that can quite often lead to violent extremism, and what can we do to foster better community cohesion,” wrote Saeida Rouass, a Project Manager at the Quilliam Foundation in The Independent on December 4.
The article by Rouass highlighted a new report by Policy Exchange that surveyed British Muslims. It found that few supported (only 2-4%” the Muslim Council of Britain, which often claims to “speak on behalf of” Muslims. “Two concerns emerging from the report are that 26 per cent deny the existence of extremism. Conspiracy theories seem to resonate more with British Muslims than other groups.”
Surveying Muslims in the UK and other Western countries is an old pastime. “What they think,” is a constant headline. In April The Guardian noted “half of all British Muslims think homosexuality should be illegal.” The vast majority don’t support terror. “4% said they sympathised with people who took part in suicide bombings (1% said they completely sympathised and 3% said they sympathised to some extent), and 4% said they sympathised with people who committed terrorist actions as a form of political protest generally.” The survey claimed “39% agreed that ‘wives should always obey their husbands'” and contrasted that with only 5% of the general population of the UK who think the same.
The general trend of these surveys is to tell the public that basically no one actually supports “extremism,” but that also large numbers don’t think it exists. In general some of the larger worldview perceptions are in themselves “extreme” compared to regular life in a Europe where things such as gay rights are accepted.
But another article titled ‘what makes a young British woman turn to Salafism,’ is more insightful when it comes to looking at preventing or even discussing the reality behind Islamist extremism. To find out why women would start wearing full face covering niqab and ostensibly subjugate themselves in a society where they supposedly had plenty of freedom, the author went undercover and spent long amounts of time with women who had become “salafists.” She found that “All seemed well-equipped to make a rational decision: the vast majority were either current or former students, or else actively planning to go to college or university.”
The article found that the women embraced the “extreme” worldview because they wanted rules in their life and an authentic purpose. “They may be harsh in a 21st-century context, but they leave no room for doubt. And that’s the attraction: complete and utter certainty. Having such a clear sense of purpose in life was undoubtedly fulfilling for the women I interviewed. ‘Subhanallah [glory to God]!’ said Maryam, a university student in her mid-twenties. ‘I feel more at peace and tranquil, in that I am trying my utmost to implement the religion because I have evidence to support me.'”
This is the real secret behind Islamist extremism and the one that surveys don’t reflect. “Extremism” is an independent choice for college educated, empowered women, and it is a natural choice for fully integrated men. “What have we done to fuel the feeling of alienation that can quite often lead to violent extremism,” asked Rouass. But it’s not alienation that leads to extremism, it’s integration. Many of the most brutal members of ISIS who boasted on Twitter about “killing the kuffar” and selling slaves were converts. There was the Australian jihadist Abdullah Elmir who vowed to fly the ISIS flag over the palace in London. Remember Abdullah al-Australi, the convert who vowed a “string of bombings”? Then there was Abu Rumasayah, a convert from the UK who is suspected of ISIS crimes.
Almost all ISIS members are in a sense converts, either from their own secular or moderate Muslim upbringing, or from being non-Muslims to extremism. The Bangladesh ISIS members, who reveled in torturing their victims, were sons of the elites and the wealthy.
Almost every woman who wears a “burka” in Europe is either a full convert to Islam or someone who grew up in a secular or mixed household. They aren’t “alienated” in the sense that they are poor minorities who grow up on the margins of society, they are alienated from the everyday secular society they come to despise. They are alienated the way Hitler’s loyal followers were alienated by the Weimar Republic. It wasn’t because they were men on the margins, it is because they were men at the center who wanted to control the center and impose a zealous worldview.
Islamism appeals to Europeans, converts and third generation members of immigrant families, because society does not provide simple answers to life’s questions. There is a searching that happens in a bourgeois life. When one is born middle class or upper class there is time to read and relax, and eventually somewhere online one finds the “answer” and the answer for a handful of people is ISIS or something like it. Mass murder terror is entirely a product of bourgeois life. The very nature of wanting to exterminate one’s fellow citizens and imagining oneself as the judge and jury of those people appeals to frustrated elites. In their own secular European society they aren’t permitted to be the new Auschwitz commandant, but ISIS provided them that ability in Syria and Iraq. It advertised Jihad and mass murder the way one might advertise a kind of psychotic vacation. Come to the Middle East where you can do whatever you want. Foreign jihadists were promised the first pick among the “slaves” and “booty.” German jihadists, the kind of people who would have been neo-Nazis at home and ISIS-nazis abroad, proudly boasted on Facebook of selling people.
If you want to find potential extremists you are more likely to find them in a coffee house next to an elite university in Europe, than you will in a downtrodden part of town. An employee of an intelligence agency in Germany was even unmasked as an extremist. One must understand that extremism appeals to people the way Nazism and Stalinism appealed to them. The way football hooliganism appeals to them. Humans seek fulfillment in life. They don’t want complicated answers. Many of them are natural born bullies, predators, psychopaths and sadists. Given the menu of jihadism in which they are promised the right to murder, the right to rape, the right to decide the fate of others, the potential pyschopath will join. The adherents of mass-murder beliefs in Europe are the same people who worked as bouncers and loved driving fast cars and were petty criminals, most enjoyed a decent standard of living and could afford to jet off to a foreign country.
There is almost no alienation at the root cause of terror and extremism. It is alienation from a secular society that has no answers and doesn’t provide adolescent males and men in their twenties an outlet to their aggression and natural bullying instincts. In a culture that promises men an existence where chauvinism is frowned upon, where they are told there is no nationalism, no national awakening, some men will gravitate towards religion. Some women will gravitate toward it. Educated women make up the majority of jihadist-brides and also converts to the most extreme forms of Islamism. Just like educated women flocked to extremists such as Carlos the Jackal or the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin, women are like their male counterparts, they want extreme answers. For the men the extreme answer is rape and murder. For some women it is slavery, to serve men and obey.
Why is this surprising. The same people that are not surprised that sadomasochism brings in hundreds of millions to the porn industry are apparently surprised some women choose burkas and Jihad. Why are you surprised. Read any self-description by a female porn star of why they wanted to be in fetish porn and being beaten and tied up on camera in BDSM and and then ask yourself again, are you surprised that another woman wanted to put on a burka. What’s the essential difference? Free choice is involved in both. Degradation as well as some point.
And then ask yourself about the men who enjoy watching women be abused on camera and ask why there are male jihadists. One study claimed that 70% of the male tourists in Thailand were sex tourists, and that there were 200,000 women working in sex tourism to please these millions of men. So millions of men are going to just one country to seek out sex, some of those men are going after underage girls. Then multiply that by the other sex tourism destinations. And then ask about the 50,000 men who joined ISIS as volunteers.
Yes, ISIS sold women into sex slavery. But sex slavery exists in New York City as well. We don’t ask too many questions about the extremism that leads middle aged men to fly half-way around the world to rape 13 year olds, but we ask and survey a lot about what causes a 20 year old to go to Mosul to rape and murder people, or causes them to want to slaughter priests in France.
When you look deeper you’ll find the cause of extremism is right in front of us. It’s not alienation. It’s part of society. It’s not so fringe. And it’s not possible to survey for it because so much of it involves conversion and people who change. Most people won’t say “I’m a jihadist,” but the man who today is on the journey to mass murder is still on that journey and no survey will find him and all his friends.