Too often we fail to keep in the forefront of our minds just why jihadis do what they do. We declare their behavior as "evil," and often let it go, without further thought. We run the risk of failing to realize the role of morality in their actions, which leads too often to statements of amazement along the line of "They actually believe in what they do!"
Of course they believe in what they do, and this is why they are such an aggravation to deal with. We need to keep their "why" in as prominent place in our thinking as their "how." This is a good time to reexamine some characteristics of ethics, ones that apply to us all, and ones that apply to jihadis in particular.
Some facts about ethics in general
Humans tend to do what they do because they have a sense that their actions are "right." These are moral evaluations.
Islamic jihadists do what they do because they are certain that they are morally right. We in the West hold life as the standard of value guiding our actions. Islamic jihadists hold death as the standard of moral value guiding their actions.
Each acts morally, but their moralities are totally different from each other. We say they are "evil." They say that we are evil. Who is right? How do we sort all of this out?
The fact is that each of us acts morally: They for death; us for life. Were the West not beset these days with such profound moral uncertainty, we would act more consistently and effectively on behalf of our morality. Right now, the West is ethically deeply conflicted as well as philosophically, and the conflicts are killing us.
Right now, Islamists act much more morally consistently and with complete moral certainty. They are far better moral practitioners (of their morality) than most in the West these days.
A very few definitions are needed for clarification. Morality is a code of values accepted by choice, and these values guide the purpose and choices of an individual's life. The differences come in what people use for a standard of value and the cardinal values they elect to pursue. A value is what one acts to gain or keep, and virtues are the actions required to gain or keep those values.
Western ethics comes predominantly from Aristotle and Greek philosophy via the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Always competing, always subtractively, have been ethical influences coming from Plato and Judeo-Christian dogma; Kant and Hegel affiliated with non-religious morality that differs precious little from basic religious principles. The amalgam has been deadly.
Still dominant in the West is the holding of life as the standard of value, with each person's life as his purpose. Such a standard and purpose necessitates reason as the supreme value and rationality as the reigning virtue.
Islam, like religious and the Kantian-Hegelian secular versions, is a duty ethics, requiring selfless service to Allah in practice. The ethics of Islam sums up as "Die for Allah." Getting to the alleged after-life by dying in self-sacrificial duty to Allah provides the core of meaning to the Islamist.
Death is the Islamic standard, and it becomes highly attractive, given Islam's constant devaluation of life, one's own life, life on earth, and this "worldly" world. Islam replaces reason with faith and duty:
- Belief without question
- Action without hesitation
- Sacrificial surrender of mind and life to Allah
The promise of Islam bundles all the denied pleasures possible on earth for delivery after martyrdom, when the ultimate sacrifice has been made. The koran and the ahadith spell out the entire recipe and tie it together with some 7th century concepts of "paradise." The promises of paradise are too well known to bear repeating.
Even in the perverted contemporary ethics conflicting the West, the individual remains the smallest social unit. His is to make something of himself, his life, by taking full responsibility for himself. Despite religious promises, he knows that he must maximize his time on earth; "eternal life" comes without wine and virgins. His societies are made up of other individuals like himself who must work cooperatively together.
In Islam, the individual has value only in service to the umma, the ulema, and to Allah. The individual must merge indistinguishably into the collective: His is not to reason why; his is to do AND die. Outside of the collective, he is nothing—no identity, no meaning, and no value.
Islam achieves the longings of the religious and secular collectivists of the West: Theocracy and communism, religion and secular "religion." The intellectual and religious planners and dreamers of the West have not been able to achieve what Islam has been doing successfully for centuries. Concern for self keeps resistance to collectivism flickeringly alive in the West.
Many writers stress what Islamists believe ethically. Why do these beliefs become behaviors? Why do they motivate?
Islamic Ethical Motivation
Ethical beliefs motivate humans very strongly. Everyone needs an ethics, and everyone has one.
Most Western people have only a semi-articulate and implicit idea of just what they hold as a value code. Not so with Islamists. They articulate their values easily and explicitly. Islamic ethics have been honed for centuries and propagate from a vast pool of Islamists who indoctrinate their children. No one growing up in the Islamic world can escape Islamic ethics from the moment of birth on.
What motivates all people ethically is the profound need for the human's mind to sense that he is right for reality. Anyone must feel right for reality and right as a person. Particularly in Islamic culture, shame, honor, and guilt are very big issues, and these are feelings the Islamist must avoid at all costs. They have the positive lure of their ethics and the aversion of their rejection. The recipe ethics of Islam allows him to feel right with Allah, right with the umma, right with his tribe, and that he is a worthwhile person. He also gets a group identity to replace the one he should have had, had Islam not taken it away, and a sense of community. From himself to the global umma, all sing from the same sheet, dictated by Islam.
Keep in mind what Islam has taken from each child who grows up in Islam:
- Islam has taken his sense of reality and replaced it with the fiendish malevolence of an unknowable universe run by terrorizing demon, Allah, who can and does do anything to him and others, beyond anything he can understand. This Islamic shattering of one's budding sense of certainty about reality weakens a child's usual cognitive development, thus softening the child up and paving the way for the Islamic transformation to follow.
- The machinery of the child's naturally inquiring mind has been wrecked by terrorization against his ever questioning Islam to say nothing of retaining independent thinking. All knowledge comes from the koran, he is told, and he knows he will die in complete ignominy if he questions Islam. He replaces his mind with the "mind" of Islam and Islamists (the umma).
- Any personal striving is terrorized out of him and replaced by ethical collectivism. Collectivism ablates his individuality and developing identity. He becomes "a cog in the wheel." Duty replaces choice. Recipes replace rationality. He merges into the collective, awaiting orders.
From the perspective of the Islamists, his Islamic behavior makes him a moral person. Living the dictates of Islam makes him "good." He does well, and he is good. His ethical beliefs and actions find consensual validation and continuous reinforcement in any and every geographical area of the umma. He no longer doubts, no longer even wonders. In a crude sense, he knows who he is, where he belongs, and what his purpose in life is. He knows never to doubt. His is not to reason why: besides, he has lost the will, if not the capacity.
By Islamic standards, the most virulent jihad is good. Jihadism is the ethical life of Islam. The Islamist embraces it right down to the last mitochondrion in the last cell of his body. He could not give up Islam even if he wanted, but he never commits the perditious sin of wanting.
Is Islam Evil?
By objective ethical standards, Islam is evil. Any morality that disvalues life, this world, the human mind, and reason is evil. These are the reasons socialism, fascism, Nazism, Communism, and theocracies are evil, profoundly evil.
Ethics grasped properly must be grasped explicitly and conceptually. To do this, the human mind must grow and develop enough to function efficiently on the conceptual level. A young person enters that stage in adolescence. By then, however, he has absorbed an implicit system of ethics from those around him and from sources as varied as cartoons, video games, Sunday School, and schools. This is some of the never-mentioned "why" behind the Pakistani-derived, young "British" men who were radicalized in Britain's universities. These kids were ready, and the transformers found them easy pickings.
Every person must rework his ethics, from the implicit into the non-contradictory explicit as a cognitive adult, or just live out his life with the implicit and contradictory mish-mash absorbed from childhood.
Islam stresses the need for getting to children early if they are to be made into good Islamists. Thus, very few reach adolescence with enough of their independent faculties intact. Even latency is too late for most Islamic children (Cf: Gaza). Their faculties have been deformed into Islam-serving, self-destructive processes from those they started out with as normal humans, before deformation into Islamic robotery forever.
As the powerful drives so characteristic of adolescence emerge in late pre-adolescence, they are ready to implement Islamic ethics. They enter jihad, with identity, community, and purpose, to become holy warriors, going out to do good.