50 internationally. Despite the exaggerations, conspiracy theories, and Manichean terms that we tend to associate with religious rhetoric (e.g., 'Crusaders against Islam,’ 'war against Islam,' etc.), the main message is usually centered on discrimination rather than theology. At later stages, though, as individual commitment has already been strengthened, the religious justification for action, and particularly violent action, becomes of greater importance. Even if the “grooming” of earlier phases is successful, either through bottom-up (e.g., self-radicalization through the Internet or among group of friends) or top-down (e.g., with the guidance of a mentor, radical groups' activities aimed at indoctrination) processes, it may encourage some kind of mobilization but it will not necessarily lead to violence or self-sacrifice.45 Individuals are not likely to accept such “high-risk activism” even when the motivation for action is already present.46 Religion therefore becomes instrumental for radical Islam in two ways: justifying violence and introducing rewards for those who choose to take up such action, thus changing the assessment of the involved risk and cost. A practical example of such rhetoric and how it is received is the video statement of Mohammed Siddique Khan, who was one of the four suicide bombers of the London attacks on July 7, 2005. He was the oldest of the group and the assumed ringleader. The text of his statement was as follows: “Our driving motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. “Our religion is Islam—obedience to the one true God, Allah, and following the footsteps of the final prophet and messenger Mohammed...This is how our ethical stances are dictated. “Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. “Until we feel security, you will be our targets. And until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a solider. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.... “I myself, I make du’a[sic] to Allah....to raise me amongst those whom I love like the prophets, the messengers, the martyrs and today’s heroes like our beloved Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Ayman alZawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and all the other 45
House of Commons, Report of the Official Account of the Bombings. 46 Wiktorowicz, Radical Islam Rising.
brothers and sisters that are fighting in the...[sic] of this cause.”47 As in most cases of extremists already determined to take up violent action, the motivation seems to be a “fierce antagonism to perceived injustices by the West and a desire for martyrdom.”48 An interesting aspect of Khan's video, which also points to the instrumentalization of religion by radical Islam, is his focus on “the importance of martyrdom as supreme evidence of religious commitment.”49 By presenting religious justifications for violent jihad in the Quran and the Hadith, radicals provide a significant catalyst for violent mobilization since they introduce a framework in which natural concerns and reservations become irrelevant. Committing violent acts or even killing oneself, which in most cases is not a legitimate act in an individual’s mind, is suddenly presented through a different lens and is glorified. Also by emphasizing the rewards awaiting martyrs in paradise, violent action becomes more than high-risk, high-cost mobilization for a sacred cause; violent action becomes desirable since it involves what one scholar calls 'spiritual selfinterest.' As he explains: “The cornerstone of the culturing process is the initial premise that one must fulfill God's command and follow tawhid or risk individual salvation. For the movement, God's commands include risky activism. Socialized to deeply believe this premise, individuals who internalize the norms are likely to accept high-risk activism. Serving God is the only way to salvation... In fact, for individuals who become 'intellectually affiliated' (i.e. have accepted the movement ideology), deviations from the ideological template will jeopardize their prospect of salvation and thus self-interest. In short, inaction violates self-interest. “Action is indeed influenced by belief in a set of religious values and all the accompanying divine commands, but individuals are still driven by spiritual self-interest.”50 Notions like jihad and tawhid51 have had numerous interpretations and they are not fixed concepts. The interpretations each individual chooses is significantly influenced by how such notions relate to his or her own experiences and concerns. As Ansari explains “[the] understanding of the role of violence...would seem to be shaped in complex and fluid ways. In essence, they would seem to be influenced more by individual and collective experiences and perceptions of the political contexts, both domestic and international, than by acceptance of some reified and homogeneous
House of Commons, Report of the Official Account of the Bombings, 19. 48 Ibid., 26. 49 Ibid., 19. 50 Wiktorowicz, Radical Islam Rising, 200. 51 Tawhid is the Islamic assertion of monotheism and the unity of God, specifically to discount the idolatry and polytheism that was common in Arabia during the life of the Prophet Muhammad
Published on Jul 23, 2010