Scott Atran on Why People Become Terrorists

Scott Atran has done some really interesting research on why ordinary people become terrorists.

Academics who study warfare and terrorism typically don't conduct research just kilometers from the front lines of battle. But taking the laboratory to the fight is crucial for figuring out what impels people to make the ultimate sacrifice to, for example, impose Islamic law on others, says Atran, who is affiliated with the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris.

Atran's war zone research over the last few years, and interviews during the last decade with members of various groups engaged in militant jihad (or holy war in the name of Islamic law), give him a gritty perspective on this issue. He rejects popular assumptions that people frequently join up, fight and die for terrorist groups due to mental problems, poverty, brainwashing or savvy recruitment efforts by jihadist organizations.

Instead, he argues, young people adrift in a globalized world find their own way to ISIS, looking to don a social identity that gives their lives significance. Groups of dissatisfied young adult friends around the world ­ often with little knowledge of Islam but yearning for lives of profound meaning and glory ­ typically choose to become volunteers in the Islamic State army in Syria and Iraq, Atran contends. Many of these individuals connect via the internet and social media to form a global community of alienated youth seeking heroic sacrifice, he proposes.

Preliminary experimental evidence suggests that not only global terrorism, but also festering state and ethnic conflicts, revolutions and even human rights movements -- think of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s -- depend on what Atran refers to as devoted actors. These individuals, he argues, will sacrifice themselves, their families and anyone or anything else when a volatile mix of conditions are in play. First, devoted actors adopt values they regard as sacred and nonnegotiable, to be defended at all costs. Then, when they join a like-minded group of nonkin that feels like a family ­ a band of brothers ­ a collective sense of invincibility and special destiny overwhelms feelings of individuality. As members of a tightly bound group that perceives its sacred values under attack, devoted actors will kill and die for each other.

Paper.

EDITED TO ADD (8/13): Related paper, also by Atran.

Posted on August 10, 2016 at 12:20 PM • 88 Comments

Comments

John DittmerAugust 10, 2016 12:46 PM

Sounds a lot like being in the military too. I'm retired Navy so I know a little something about this first-hand. Too bad these youths are mostly being misdirected into something evil. I can tell you from experience, dying when you think it's somehow glorious is easy, it's living for the long run that's hard.

Marcos El MaloAugust 10, 2016 1:20 PM

"What are you rebelling against?"

"What have you got?"

(Quote from a Brando movie, I don't recall which one)

BobbyAugust 10, 2016 2:27 PM

" First, devoted actors adopt values they regard as sacred and nonnegotiable, to be defended at all costs. Then, when they join a like-minded group of nonkin that feels like a family ­ a band of brothers ­ a collective sense of invincibility and special destiny overwhelms feelings of individuality. "

Sounds pretty much military...
Only problem is regarding the "values" : one sides "Freedomfighter" is the other sides "Terrorist".

AlanSAugust 10, 2016 2:59 PM

The Road to ISIS: An unorthodox anthropologist goes face to face with ISIS. Is the payoff worth the peril?:

To some of Atran’s colleagues, like Harvey Whitehouse, a professor of anthropology at the University of Oxford who has written about the importance of communal bonds and studied revolutionaries in Libya, it remains fuzzy where Atran falls. "I think it depends on which day you ask Scott," he says. "I can quote times when he says it’s all about sacred values, then he will say that it’s about relational ties." Whitehouse has worked closely with Swann, the Texas professor, on identity fusion. Swann’s careful elucidation of that theory revolves around the question he poses in one paper’s title: "What makes a group worth dying for?" Though Atran praises identity fusion, Swann, for his part, isn’t convinced that Atran’s research jibes with his own. "It’s not clear to me where sacred values exist in the larger scheme of things, because he’s never bothered to do that work," Swann says. "It’s defined somewhat differently in each paper." The charitable way to account for this is to say that Atran grabs new tools for the task at hand, that he’s not married to a specific system. Or, not as generously, you could decide that he’s short on theoretical consistency.
Quite so. Based on the CA paper Bruce links to, this is a mishmash with little theoretical coherence.

DanielAugust 10, 2016 3:07 PM

What is the difference between "devoted actors" and "religious zealots"? There is nothing new with this paper: 2000 years ago Christians braved being thrown to the beasts of Roman society. Should ISIS prove ultimately victorious these terrorists will become "martyrs" and "heroes of the revolution".

paulAugust 10, 2016 3:34 PM

Also sounds not unlike the various personality/religious cults of the 70s and 80s. Only with fewer drugs and more guns. And internet-based scaling.

Thank you for your ServiceAugust 10, 2016 3:40 PM

This is empirical confirmation of the point David Graeber made. If you're part of the provincial US lumpenproletariat, you have strictly limited options for a meaningful life. You're never going to work for Amnesty International or the ICRC or even the Peace Corps, that's for the dominant class. What you can do is go into the military and get indoctrinated to kill wogs for their own good. Then you get occasional stereotyped ritual obeisance for 'the troops' (that and $4.50 will get you a cup of Starbuck's coffee) - especially if you get your nuts blown off, or your face. They'll wheel you out at ball games and whatnot. You get idiotic bumper-sticker ideals to stand for, such as "Freedom isn't free" or "Duty Honor Country." It's easy to manufacture killers.

ChynaAugust 10, 2016 3:44 PM

How do you define "terrorists"?

Is the US government a "terrorist" organization? They've killed far, FAR more than ISIS ever will, and in fact CONSCIOUSLY created ISIS to sustain the war effort. Who's the terrorist here?

Silly "research" paper.

Strong actors take what they can, weak actors accept what they must. Who gets to be called a terrorist depends on who's propaganda you're watching.

Ross SniderAugust 10, 2016 4:22 PM

@Chyna

> How do you define "terrorists"?

The US definition of terrorism is something like "non-state (civilian) violence that harms United States interests."

If that seems shallow, or convenient, or unsatisfying: it's defined this way specifically as this is a useful tool in geo- and international politics.

CallMeLateForSupperAugust 10, 2016 4:31 PM

@Daniel
"What is the difference between 'devoted actors' and 'religious zealots'?"

The author's devoted actors kill with things that go bang; religious zealots (I mean the doorbell-ringer kind) kill with boredom.

But I understand your point.

England's dreamingAugust 10, 2016 6:54 PM

"Groups of dissatisfied young adult friends around the world often with little knowledge of Islam but yearning for lives of profound meaning and glory"
This is stuff that's been widely known for at least 20 years.

Possible headlines/titles:
"Young people offered no future more likely to self-destruct"
"Terrorism a predictable by-product of neoliberal crony capitalism"
"Kids taught that violence is OK sometimes grow up to think that violence is OK"

It isn't poverty per se, but a lack of opportunities in life combined with a breakdown of social support systems.

TedAugust 10, 2016 7:41 PM

That is a marvelous resource. Not every article in that journal is made available for free (although a reader could recommend the journal to their hometown, university, organizational, etc. librarian for subscription). A very fascinating article I would love to spend time reading is:

Current Anthropology, Imagination, Planning, and Working Memory, The Emergence of Language

”The essence of what brainpower got us is planning, and planning depends on imagination together with the drive for survival. Put simply, imagination involves the ability to form a mental representation of (some aspect of) the world that deviates from the representation of the world as it is conceived to actually be.3 Planning is setting out a course of action that is directed at closing the gap between the world as it is conceived to be and such an imagined world (possibly more compatible with one’s desires). Thus, planning is a type of goal‐directed behavior that minimally involves a comparison between two mental representations of the world. Planning, therefore, requires a working memory (WM) that is sufficient to hold two such representations.”

Ross SniderAugust 10, 2016 8:28 PM

People become terrorists when:

1. they fight for a cause not represented by the military of their country. They often do not feel represented by that military and government - and indeed most come from countries with authoritarian and non-representative governments.

2. they fight for a cause counter to foreign interventionists. In the case of terrorists from the Middle East and North Africa, they may fight to establish local governance absent foreign occupation including in the form of client government.

If a person fights for neither an established and recognized nation nor the interests of a favorite great power, the box they fit into is 'terrorist'. Politically, if their violence is useful to a great power, that great power will 'go to bat' for them at the UN and try to establish them as a unity force or a rebel group or a freedom fighter.

But, as is comparable to the Native Americans, Aboriginals and other tribal people in areas of interest around the world (for wealth, real estate or strategic value), a combination of no manifest political solutions - no manifest military solutions - and no manifest civil solutions will be present for them, and ultimately they will be forgotten except as cultural earmarks and stereotypes in history books.

Denny MackertonAugust 10, 2016 9:29 PM

"Why People Become Terrorists"

one simply, easy, all encompassing answer. Take it from me. I've seen it a thousand times:

they feel bored or depressed by the prospects for employment as they approach graduation from Eton/Cambridge/Harvard/Princeton and thus gratefully receive the invitation for a quiet cup of tea with the professor talent spotting on the side after hours. at which point they have sex on the desk, [possibly with the consent of the soon-to-graduate student] - and personal details are forwarded to the respective new [terrorist] employer

ianfAugust 10, 2016 11:08 PM


@ Denny Mackerton

You do, indeed, sound like you spoke from well-entrenched, cumulative personal experience. What is less clear, were you at the talent spotting/ recruiting, or the soon-to-be-trainee consent-giving end?

ianfAugust 10, 2016 11:39 PM


Re: @ Ross Snyder's very much acute analysis of “People become terrorists when

1. Your deep-seated insights ought to be classified, so as not to accidentally end up in enemy hands. People will "advise" you to change the title to something like really boring, but you should resist that, stick with plain English fully in line with that principle of Keep It Simpleminded, Stupid.

2. Then you should add these theses to your C.V., print that out at Kinko's during the slow hours when there's no one around, and distribute ONLY to pre-vetted potential employers within the Beltway (GAO and the Pentagon's Office of Employment will gladly assist you with such a list, you just need to inquire).

3. With any luck, you'll soon be in a position to arrest the "when" part, do something constructive about terrorism, unlike the endlessly talking eggheads. Because, heck, WHAT DO THEY KNOW, that you don't?

Peter ShenkinAugust 10, 2016 11:43 PM

So he's saying people do it out of idealism. Which is not really a surprise.

BuneAugust 11, 2016 12:24 AM

The one statistic I would like to know is:

How much sex were they getting before they became 'terrorists'?

DBAugust 11, 2016 1:37 AM

At first I read the title as "Scott Adams on Why People Become Terrorists," which would be interesting if eccentric, you must admit.

WaelAugust 11, 2016 1:56 AM

decade with members of various groups engaged in militant jihad (or holy war in the name of Islamic law.

'Jihad' doesn't translate to 'Holly War'... Horrible mistranslation, and given the frequent clarifications about the meaning of the word "Jihad", it's reasonable to surmise that the mistranslation is deliberate. BTW, speaker is Dr. Jamal Badawi...

rAugust 11, 2016 2:08 AM

@Wael,

For the purpose of argument, you should prolly have 'Holly War' corrected.

Where's @Sancho_Panza when you need him, Wael's hatched a plan.


@Sancho_Panza,

Holy War
Holly War
Holly wood
Holy wood

WaelAugust 11, 2016 2:19 AM

@r,

I often misspell that word. I had it in front of me in the blockquote, but I still missspelled it.

Correction: no such word as 'Holy war'.

cd900f63cf8d3df4254bde4f40116fb6e4b89f05

WaelAugust 11, 2016 3:04 AM

@Clive Robinson,

this the link for "readers" ...

I found some slight inaccuracies in the link.

The foundation of the edifice of Islam consists in the verbal testimony of God’s unity and Muhammad’s (SAW) prophethood. Built upon this foundation are the four pillars of Islam with which all of us are familiar, i.e., Salat, Zakat, Saum, and Hajj.

There are five pillars of Islam: The Testimony of Faith, Prayer, Zakat (Support of the Needy), Fasting the Month of Ramadan, The Pilgrimage to Makkah (if resources are available.)

Please note, however, that Iman (or faith) also has two pillars: an unshakable inner conviction in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the struggle in the path of Almighty Allah (SWT).

There are six articles of faith

I shared the linguistic meaning of the word here. I made a mistake saying "Jihad" is a verb... it's actually a noun.

tyrAugust 11, 2016 4:51 AM


Now why would anyone with any ideals at all
take up arms to correct the manifest injustice
they see on display in the world around them?

It is so much easier to tug the forelock as
the mighty ride by grinding the faces of the
poor while they spout platitudes about god
made it this way and god made them do it. If
you keep your knees bent in abject worship to
the sacred cows of any major group you can get
a few scraps from the table while fighting
the other dogs for a bone there.

Some people are not made that way and when you
press them sufficiently you get behaviors that
seem out of place in the placid fantasy world
which is continually reinforced by the media
and most institutions.

In the 1960s the lies of society had become so
egregious and wrong that the response was to
do things differently no matter the personal
cost and to decide that after all of the lies
and falsities of older people that no one over
30 could be trusted to tell the truth about
anything.

So the laws against black people are removed
from the books, but the same mistreatments are
on your TV set every night because the struggle
is not ever over. You have to be the world that
you want to see come into being anything else
is a waste of your time without rewards.

The arms industry and the IC need enemies to keep
their funding, they have taken over the media to
make sure the message of who is the daily enemy
gets heard loud and clearly.If you dig you can
find the links to the origins of every so-called
terrorist gang in addition to the links to most
of the villains who have been stomped out of
existence by the US military.

While all this 'phony jihadi' side show is going
on the same damn fools who think it is a good
idea are pushing themselves into confrontation
with the Rus on their home turf and twisting the
tail of the Chinese tiger. The adults of the
1950s were insane with their paranoias about the
hordes of russian bombers that the Gehlen apparat
manufactured to feed the flames with, The reality
was a blasted countryside full of widows and orphans
trying to rebuild the mess made by the Wehrmacht
of their country. Once the U2 pictures came in
the massive russian bomber fleet evaporated like
a popping soap bubble.

This time around we're being fed massive hordes of
highly trained and motivated middle east fighters.
If you look at ISIS you will see brand new guns in
the hands of teenaged dumbasses. Real dedicated
fighters in the region like the Kurds have worn
and battered old guns that have been used.

Most of the young dumbasses who have perpetrated
criminal activities while claiming some moral hope
for martyrdom are just idiots looking for a body
bag to crawl into. The real idiots are the TLAs
who have armed, funded, and incited the young
fools just to keep their snout in the public tax
trough while violating the trust of those folk
who pay their salaries. If they were less hypocritical
about it it might be easier to stomach.

From a biological standpoint the young primate males
are the expendable first line of defense for the
group, survivors may get a chance to breed and some
go on to take the place of the Alpha male. It took
millions of years to hardwire that into humans.
Assuming it will just go away if you can show them
enough Woody Allen role models and teach them enough
hypocritical cant about being nice to people who
are clearly their enemies, as shown by the actions
of those, is assuming that you have solved behavior
without bothering to study it.

You might also pay attention to how fast the Rus
responded to a natural anthrax outbreak with their
bioweapons troops. The communists cooked up a few
million gallons of that stuff in their abandoned
factories and it has never been tracked down by
any outsiders. The outbreak occurred when there
had not been any reported cases for 50 years. It
was from a thawed reindeer carcase.

What is horribly painful to me is that those who
are supposed to be in charge are obviously without
a clue about most things on this planet. Living in
their disconnected beltway bullshit fantasyland
they think they can survive their own stupidity.

In the interim they rain Hellfire antitank missles
on women and children all across the world and then
wonder why some young people are pissed off enough
to try and strike back any way they can.

zAugust 11, 2016 10:09 AM

@Timothy Harden

"some of these attacks are carried out by people who have no sense of identity at all"

This is true of course, but those lone wolf mass killers are typically much different than the kind of people who join a group. They are more likely to have a mental illness and are less likely to be motivated by ideology. I wouldn't even call many of them terrorists (Sandy Hook shooter for example), as they lack any sort of political or religious message. They aren't typically seeking the group identity provided by a terrorist organization.

albertAugust 11, 2016 10:37 AM

@Ross, @Chyna, @All,

The interesting thing is, ISIS -is- a state, the Islamic State. They are engaging in 'military' actions. The payoff for ISIS members is the establishment of a Caliphate, or martyrdom, depending upon which side of the organization you're on.

Atran studied the grunts, the field soldiers. Fine. I don't particularly care about the socio-religious motivations of the individuals who are trying to hose me down with an AK-47. Or blow me up with a bomb. Or kick the shit out of me during a street protest.

These people are brainwashed, and there really isn't anything that can be done about it, except perhaps to study them, or destroy them*. Sometimes, the cancer grows back, and the more you cut, the faster it grows, until the host dies.

Irrational belief systems affect every aspect of modern life, everywhere.

If we must have a war against a concept, let us have a war against Irrational Belief Systems.

Let's start with US foreign policy.

-----------
* By the way, how's that working out?
. .. . .. --- ....

ffdae96f8dd292374a...August 11, 2016 12:49 PM

This sort of research only serves to distract from infinitely more material/relevant causal factors of terrorism.

Prior to exploring the 'disenfranchised youth' angle, perhaps Mr. Atran might perform some research as to why so many counter-terrorism professionals continue to awkwardly ignore the painfully obvious fact that if vastly more powerful foreign militaries laid waste to our cities, our response would look very similar.

Unfortunately, that sort of analysis doesn't advance the War on Terror narrative - and sure as hell isn't going to help get anyone's budget increased/contract approved - so I doubt we'll be seeing much research down those lines.

SteveAugust 11, 2016 2:24 PM

As someone else noted Jihad is not properly used in media and subsequently at large. It is a very personal activity of looking into yourself and to overcome or handle something internal. It is an internal quest, not going out and doing things to other people as is so popularly misused.

freeAugust 11, 2016 4:07 PM

The biggest terrorists on the planet is the US governmwent and its lapdogs like bruce schneier.

Sancho_PAugust 11, 2016 5:40 PM

@Wael, @r

“Holly” or “Holy” doesn’t matter, “War” is the shit.

However, we do not want to see the truth (which is twofold):

First, the reason (thanks @Andrej)
(we’re already on “the list”, so you can read it):
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/07/friday_squid_bl_537.html#c6729843

Second, any religious believe, if in any form associated with our tangible world, our life, is absurd.
Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, asf, all crap, only seeking power on earth.
Nothing to do with God (I am not atheist but do not believe in your Gods ! ).

So when we speak of “Holly” or “Holy” it is always a joke.

Good points here about lone wolf, terrorism, and of course military (and other) gangs.
No future generation, why?
Because there is no?

hmmAugust 11, 2016 8:40 PM

very few voices of dissent have not been answered here yet

occams says majority are in tacit agreement
but
cynicism says red flags prevent further engagement

DroneAugust 12, 2016 4:19 AM

Terrorism is a lot like Pornography - it's hard to strictly define, but you sure know it when you see it.

RatioAugust 12, 2016 7:30 AM

@Wael,

members of various groups engaged in militant jihad (or holy war in the name of Islamic law)
'Jihad' doesn't translate to 'Holly War'... Horrible mistranslation, and given the frequent clarifications about the meaning of the word "Jihad", it's reasonable to surmise that the mistranslation is deliberate.

You seem to have missed the word militant in front of jihad. Describing the combination of those two words as "holy war" is reasonable, yes?

Surely you know that "jihad" is used as "holy war" or something close to it (and not just as an internal struggle or what have you) by speakers of Arabic in the Middle East. All you have to do is watch the media in the region and listen.

And then there's another word you'll hear: the word "mujahid" or its plural "mujahideen". That "mu-" prefix has the same function as the "-er" suffix in English, meaning "someone or something that does X" for some root word "X", right? That means that the mujahideen are those that perform jihad. (Al-Shabaab for example uses that word in its full name: Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. Is "movement of youngsters that perform struggle" a correct literal translation?)

It's possible that everybody uses these words the wrong way (as the Muslim Brotherhood argues to those that consume English), but is that what you find if you look at the religious texts?

I'd appreciate it if you could tell me if my linguistic guesses are correct. The religious part I don't care too much about, but I don't mind talking about it. :)

Dirk PraetAugust 12, 2016 7:52 AM

@ Ratio

I'd appreciate it if you could tell me if my linguistic guesses are correct. The religious part I don't care too much about, but I don't mind talking about it.

The simple answer is that you need to differentiate between the (originally) theological and political meaning of the word. It's about the same thing as a country's flag being hijacked by right wing nationalists creating the impression to outsiders that anyone waving a flag by definition is a nazi nut job.

WaelAugust 12, 2016 9:55 AM

@Ratio,

You seem to have missed the word militant in front of jihad. Describing the combination of those two words as "holy war" is reasonable, yes?

It's not just the translation that's wrong! The terminology doesn't exist. Even if the original English was "Holy Jihad", the translation would be "baseless". So back to your observation about "militant jihad": no, it's not a reasonable translation, still.

Surely you know that "jihad" is used as "holy war" or something close to it (and not just as an internal struggle or what have you) by speakers of Arabic in the Middle East. All you have to do is watch the media in the region and listen.

That usage refers to self defense and resistance of occupying or aggressive forces.

That "mu-" prefix has the same function as the "-er" suffix in English, meaning "someone or something that does X" for some root word "X", right?

Correct. It's a form that implies continuity of an action -- present participle, if you will.

That means that the mujahideen are those that perform jihad.

Correct as well. But it has several forms (Arabic grammar is complex and elaborate, more than other Semitic languages, by the way.) So Mujahidoon is the masculine object plural, Mujahidan is the dual masculine form (two males), Mujahidat is the feminine plural (there are two types of feminine plurals,) Mujahidatan is the dual feminine form (meaning two females.) There are many other forms, depending on word placement in the sentence, and the meaning and context of the sentence... you get the idea.

(Al-Shabaab for example uses that word in its full name: Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. Is "movement of youngsters that perform struggle" a correct literal translation?)

Correct. But if you want a more accurate literal translation, it would translate to "Movement of jihad-performing male youth". "Mujahedeen" is also a form of exaggeration, meaning "oft-engaging in jihad", implying continuity of the action. Al-Sabaat would mean "female youth". "Al-Shabab" here is a fuzzy term referring to males between 15 - 30 years old, or so. Where is Lotfi Zadeh, when you need him (although he's Persian, not an Arab!)

It's possible that everybody uses these words the wrong way (as the Muslim Brotherhood argues to those that consume English), but is that what you find if you look at the religious texts?

Don't get me started on the MB.

I'd appreciate it if you could tell me if my linguistic guesses are correct.

Hopefully that met your request.

The religious part I don't care too much about, but I don't mind talking about it. :)

Opposite of me! I care about the religious part, but don't care much to talk about it, although I am sure it will definitely come across the other way around.

WaelAugust 12, 2016 10:21 AM

Al-Sabaat would mean "female youth"

should be:

Al-Shabbaat would mean "female youth", the "l" is not pronounce, though. It sounds like: Ash Shabbat.

Scott AtranAugust 12, 2016 12:06 PM

"MIlitant jihad" is an anlalytic construct for gauging attidues for self-identified Mulsims regarding the use of violence as justifiable against others to defend or advance goals related to to their beliefs about Islam and the threats against it (it is a "composite variable" with a high "alpha" in the lingo of statistics). As for "Jihad," Islmaic State, like Al Qaeda, believe that the notion of "inner jihad" as spiritual struggle for elnigntenment and salvation is a Sufi heresy introduced during the Abassid Caliphate and apostasy (murtad). They claim that the first Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Omar, and Othman, and others important figures of the early generation of the Salafs only countenanced offensive jihad.

And, of course,mthere are numerous other predipitating conditions for the rise of, and adherence to, Islamic State and its ilk: local, regional, geopolitical, sociological, psychological, and so forth. PErhaps even personality factors, although unlike Eric Hoffer, I don't put too mich stock in these (volunteers seem to span the normal distribution overall). The point of the science of it isn't just to tag and speculate about about contributing factors, but to operationalize and test them. And ingoing to the front, one of the greatest weaknesses of social science -- demonstrating that stated willingness to do something correponds to actual willingness -- can be eliminated.

Finally, the research described aimed to answer a challenge President Obmam and nat'l intel director James Clapper raised in Spet. 2014: namely, that a critical mistake was to underestimate IS's will to fight, as with the VietCong, while overestimating the Iraqi army because, as Clapper put it in a statement endorsed by Obama, "will to fight is an imponderable." But I would maintain that the research decribes shows "will to fight" to be ponderable indeed, if adequately operationalized in testable and eeplicable ways.

WaelAugust 12, 2016 12:17 PM

@Scott Atran,

They claim that the first Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Omar, and Othman, and others important figures of the early generation of the Salafs only countenanced offensive jihad

You know history doesn't support this claim? And where does the term 'Holy' come into relevance in what you wrote -- this was the primary topic of discussion: why do you insist on translating "Jihad" to "Holy war"?

Scott AtranAugust 12, 2016 12:24 PM

Whatever "history shows," it is what they (self-declared mujahedin of ad-dawla) sincerely believe. And they believe jihad is holy war regardless of what anyone else believes. To say this is historically or otherwise incorrect is like saying to a person who believes in God that their beliefs are riddled with empirical impossibilities and logical contradictions -- and about as persuasive.

WaelAugust 12, 2016 12:36 PM

@Scott Atran,

Whatever "history shows," it is what they (self-declared mujahedin of ad-dawla) sincerely believe.

First of all, they don't represent Islam. Second, the term 'Holy war' was used long time ago, before IS came into play. Still, what you said above, is your interpretation of their actions as "Holy war'. This isn't a strong justification for the mistranslation you insist on adopting.

And they believe jihad is holy war regardless of what anyone else believes. To say this is historically or otherwise incorrect is like saying to a person who believes in God that their beliefs are riddled with empirical impossibilities and logical contradictions -- and about as persuasive.

"They claim" is worthless unless you provide support for "your claim of their claim". "Not about as persuasive" is a deflection. You are on the hook to persuade me that your translation is correct, not the other way around. I have shared the linguistic meaning and roots of the word.

Scott atranAugust 12, 2016 12:57 PM

I and others in my research talk to Islamic State, have talked to Nusra, Jemaa Islamiyah, Lashkar-e-Taiba, European and North African volunteers, and others, including leaders -- in Arabic, Urdu, English, French, Berber, Behasa, etc. -- and this IS what they say. You may not like it, and it may not represent Islam for you and many others (nor likeky for the overwhelming majority of Muslims), but that is irrelevant to what they say, think and do, and of the consequences of this in their actions on the battlefield and elsewhere where we test, experimentally, and replicate in controlled ways, the links between beliefs and actions.

Clive RobinsonAugust 12, 2016 12:58 PM

@ Scott Atran,

And they believe jihad is holy war regardless of what anyone else believes.

That's actually irrelevant to the point of conversation.

As an example, If I was a "White Male and Stale old goat" and started claiming I was the son of god and all non belivers should be shipped to Australia or be recycled as neddy burgers then most people would consider me as an individual to be certifiable. Even if I managed to get myself a following the opinion of most others would be that the followers were likewise certifiable. What few would consider is that all "White Male and stale old goats were certifiable.

What the WASP nations MSMs have done by equating "holy" with "despotic" is demonise all people that they see as "muslim" with a tiny bunch of certifiable despots with delusions of grandeur.

This is more commonly called "being tarred with the same brush", such MSM behaviour has been responsible in the past for vigilante behaviour where totally innocent people have been disadvantaged, hurt or killed.

If you do not understand this then it raises all sorts of questions about your outlook on life.

rAugust 12, 2016 1:49 PM

There's a new (related) paper added to the post by Bruce (at the top), oddly it appears to be a forward dated comment as 08/13.

WaelAugust 12, 2016 2:09 PM

@Scott Atran, @Clive Robinson,

You may not like it

It's not about me liking or disliking it! That's not a factor in the discussion. If I don't like it, and it's accurate I would not dispute it! This is about accurately translating a word. To say: 'jihad (or holy war)' is a manifest error, especially when everyone else who knows Arabic tells you otherwise!

and this IS what they say

What do they say, 'Jihad' means 'Holy war'?

If we go the other way around (from English to Arabic,) since this seems a dead end path (Arabic to English,) what does the term "Holy war" mean to an English speaking person and where else in history was it used?

ianfAugust 12, 2016 3:25 PM


@ Wael,
             your quest to protect and defend the purity of translation and/or the only halal meaning of the word "jihad" is misguided (so what else is new). The Western society's sole generalized attitude to "jihad" is analogous[*] to the message of a cartoon I once saw (in TIME or Newsweek when I read them in pre-Internet times) of a teamster beating up a long-hair with a Stop Russian Atom Bomb placard, and shouting "I DON'T CARE WHAT KIND OF COMMUNIST YOU ARE!"

[^*] in case of need, ask Clive to explain the term with forays back to Magna Carta. That'll sort you out.

WaelAugust 12, 2016 4:45 PM

@ianf,

your quest to protect and defend the purity of translation and/or the only halal meaning of the word "jihad" is misguided

This is way too many iterations over a simple matter. Let me think about it a bit and get back to you and the author of this "study",

WaelAugust 12, 2016 8:59 PM

@Scott Atran,

I just watched one of your debates with Sam Harris. Interesting collection of people there. I'll watch a few more and get back to you.

RatioAugust 12, 2016 9:37 PM

@Dirk Praet,

you need to differentiate between the (originally) theological and political meaning of the word ["jhad"]

Sure. But that presupposes there's a difference between religion and politics. If it turns out there isn't, you're looking at a religious dispute with political consequences or a political fight over religious dogma or ... In other words, a struggle for supremacy within the politico-religious complex. And depending on what the religious texts actually say about jihad, you'd have (1) a group that has hijacked "jihad" as a means for violence or (2) a group that's trying and failing to leave violence behind or (3) both.

@Wael,

You seem to have missed the word militant in front of jihad. Describing the combination of those two words as "holy war" is reasonable, yes?
It's not just the translation that's wrong! The terminology doesn't exist. Even if the original English was "Holy Jihad", the translation would be "baseless". So back to your observation about "militant jihad": no, it's not a reasonable translation, still.

Let's take a step back. I'm talking about description, not translation. To take two culinary examples, you could translate "burrito" as "little donkey" and "espresso" as "pressed out", but that doesn't mean (as you might conclude) that there are no vegitarian burritos or that some oranges and a juicer will get you an espresso. To convey what those words mean in English you need to describe them, because there are no words that work well as a translation.

Do you agree with translating "jihad" as "struggle"? Is it reasonable to describe "jihad" as "struggle for religious reasons in Islam", or "religious struggle" or "holy struggle" for short? If not, how would you describe it?

You are aware that "militant" means "warlike", "aggressive" or some such? (That's where the violent component of the phrase is, not necessarily in the word "jihad".) Isn't it then accurate to say that "militant jihad" means "holy war"?

That usage [of "jihad" as "holy war" by speakers of Arabic in the Middle East] refers to self defense and resistance of occupying or aggressive forces.

Not exclusively. Haven't you seen people saying that offensive or just violent jihad is wrong and that believers should start thinking about jihad as internal struggle only? Because I have.

That "mu-" prefix has the same function as the "-er" suffix in English, meaning "someone or something that does X" for some root word "X", right?
Correct. It's a form that implies continuity of an action -- present participle, if you will.

Or habit, right? Like "joker" or "liar" or "smoker" or ... in English.

I was aware of the extensive declensions in Arabic, although I have no idea how it all works. ;) Male vs female forms I've seen in things like "bin" vs "bint" or "Allah" vs "Allat" (in a linguistic sense I mean: "the God" vs "the Goddess"). It's mostly recurring words that I've picked up though: religion, the other, the West, war, state, constitution, names of countries in the Middle East, imported words like philosopher and democracy, etc. And then there's "secular", which I think has an "l-m-n" root, but I never seem to hear or remember correctly what the Arabic word is.

But if you want a more accurate literal translation, [Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen] would translate to "Movement of jihad-performing male youth".

Gotcha. And mixed male and female would be male grammatically? Btw, is the word "harakat" female? Do abstract words tend to be female? Questions, questions....

Anyway, thank you for your answers so far.

The religious part I don't care too much about, but I don't mind talking about it. :)
Opposite of me! I care about the religious part, but don't care much to talk about it, although I am sure it will definitely come across the other way around.

Heh. Well, let's just say I've seen your name in discussions on religion. We can do religion when it unavoidably comes up in a squid-post after the 16th(?) ... ;)

WaelAugust 12, 2016 10:18 PM

@r,

Re: "cd900f63cf8d3df4254bde4f40116fb6e4b89f05" I put at the end of a previous comment: No one cared to ask what that is? On a security blog?

WaelAugust 13, 2016 12:23 AM

@Ratio,

Let's take a step back.

I'm afraid one step back won't be sufficient, but I'll comply.

I'm talking about description, not translation.

Sounds good.

Do you agree with translating "jihad" as "struggle"

Jihad by itself means the following: Roughly speaking, Jihad is a noun that comes from the root word "Juhd" which means power and capacity or effort (it's the word used for potential difference, as in voltage.) It's related to the the word "Jahd" which means "Hardship". Sometimes "Juhd" refers to mental effort, whereas "Jahd" refers to physical effort. This is taken directly from several Arabic reference dictionaries (Mo'gam.)

The exact translation or description of the word depends on the context! In our context, the best description (in my opinion) is "strive". So "jihad fee sabeel Illah" would translate to "strive in the path of Allah". "Holy struggle" is inaccurate. "Holy anything" is inaccurate.

You are aware that "militant" means "warlike", "aggressive" or some such? (That's where the violent component of the phrase is, not necessarily in the word "jihad".)

Yeppers.

Isn't it then accurate to say that "militant jihad" means "holy war"?

Okay, help me out here:

Militant = warlike, aggressive
Jihad = Strive, struggle
Militant jihad = warlike strive, warlike struggle, aggressive strive, or aggressive struggle.

You can't map any of the above four expressions to 'holy war', unless you equate the following:

Warlike = militant = holy;
Strive = struggle = war

Do you see the above mappings valid in English? If you do, then 'militant jihad' can be translated as 'holy war'. Me? I don't see the above two mappings as valid (each line isn't a list of synonyms, for sure.)

Now I understand the culinary example, and agree with your rational! I speak more than one language, and I'm aware of the translation issues and that often one has to use "descriptions of meaning" rather than translations.

Not exclusively. Haven't you seen people saying that offensive or just violent jihad is wrong and that believers should start thinking about jihad as internal struggle only? Because I have.

I have not heard it that way. What I heard, and agree to, is this: if God wished, he would have made everyone a believer (it's a verse in the Quran,) But it's a free will "thing". Therefore, there is no compulsion in religion (or belief!) It has to come freely from within. No one uses the term "violent jihad" or "aggressive jihad"! I think this will require further clarification, because jihad can also describe the act of defending against aggressors, supporting the weak and the abused, in many forms including fights or wars. But even in this case, it's not accurate to describe it as 'holy war'! It's a war alright! But not because there is a holy war! It's a war for a purpose, with strict rules too. What IS is doing violates all these strict rules, and cannot be described as "jihad" either, although they use the term. But even they don't say 'holy war'. That's precisely the reason I asked Dr. Scott Atran what the term 'holy war' means to an English speaking person!

Or habit, right? Like "joker" or "liar" or "smoker" or ... in English.

Right. But the 'mu' prefix isn't the only way to describe that.

I was aware of the extensive declensions in Arabic, although I have no idea how it all works.

In the Arab world, at least most countries I have seen, students study several Arabic classes for 8 - 12 years: Literature, grammar, handwriting (several styles), poetry, reading and composition. When they graduate from high school, they know about 15% - 20% of the Arabic grammar. They'll need to specialize in collage for a few more years; the equivalent of a Ph.D. to reach the expert level -- there are exceptions, of course. So don't feel bad, the majority of native Arabs don't now much beyond the basic rules. I guess the same can be said about most languages...

forms I've seen in things like "bin" vs "bint"

Correct. "Bin" is a contraction of "Ibn"! Funny now that I write it in Latin letter, it doesn't look like a contraction! In Arabic, "bin" would be written as "Bn" -- it's a two letter word as opposed to the expanded three letter word (Ibn, like "Ibn Khaldoun".)

Allah" vs "Allat" (in a linguistic sense I mean: "the God" vs "the Goddess").

'Allah' is an Arabic word that cannot be made into plural and there is no feminine form of the word. "Allat" is an old idol name in the Arabian peninsula. It has nothing to do with the name "Allah".

And then there's "secular", which I think has an "l-m-n" root, but I never seem to hear or remember correctly what the Arabic word is.

The word you're looking for is "aallmani", root: I.LM. which means "knowledge". It's same word used for science also. Just keep in mind that the "aa" signifies the letter "ain", which has no equivalent I. The English language. If you pronounce it as "Almani", then that would mean a "German male" :)

Gotcha. And mixed male and female would be male grammatically?

Yes!

We can do religion when it unavoidably comes up in a squid-post after the 16th(?)

I hope @JJ comes up with something impressive, because I don't want to make the "illustration". I'm wondering how I will relate it to security... I have an idea, though :)

WaelAugust 13, 2016 1:35 AM

@Ratio,

The word you're looking for is "aallmani", root: I.LM. which means "knowledge". It's same word used for science also. Just keep in mind that the "aa" signifies the letter "ain", which has no equivalent I. The English language. If you pronounce it as "Almani", then that would mean a "German male" :)

Sorry, I have to add more. I.L.M is also the root word for "world" which becomes "worldly" as in "secular".

Arabic has many names for things. For example, the lion has over 500 names. I know about 20 of them. Once upon a time the blind poet Abu Al'ala' Al-Ma'arti got invited to a place. He tripped over a man's leg. The man said: who is that dog (referring to the poet, big mistake.) Al-Ma'ari responded by saying: The dog is he who doesn't know 70 names for the dog :)

WaelAugust 13, 2016 3:14 AM

@Ratio,

Crud, somehow I missed that one:

Btw, is the word "harakat" female? Do abstract words tend to be female? Questions, questions....

Short answer, yes! Harakat is a feminine noun. The long answer is: in isolation, the word is written "Haraka" and pronounced the way it's spelled. It ends with a ة so it's feminine (not the only rule, though.) When it's followed by Al-Shabab, then it's pronounced as "Harakat", and the expression is read as: harakati eshabab. In Arabic, it looks the same in either case: حركة.

As for abstract nouns, they tend to be feminine. I looked at this list, some were feminine and some were masculine if translated into Arabic. I haven't checked the statistics on that one.

Enough before the moderator throws something at me ;) If you have more questions on the topic, you may ask the moderator for my email.

ianfAugust 13, 2016 3:24 AM


@ Wael laments “way too many iterations over a simple matter. Let him think about it a bit and get back to me and the author of this "study" ”.

You don't need to get back to me on that… I share the generalized Western approach to that your "simple matter." It may be because the West has plenty of problems of its own, and "jihad" (in whatever shape, and of like etymological origin) simply doesn't figure in it. Also all hitherto so-labeled "manifestations" of it here have come to be viewed as down-our-throats attempts to share the Middle East's pain over its perpetual inability to lift itself out of the Middle Ages. YMWV.

(Thus, should you personally now feel compelled to set up a doubly-blind anonymous crowd-funding campaign to finance your forthcoming therapeutic sessions on account of that, I'll gladly contribute 5¢ to it… nothing to sneeze at. Also my lawyer reminds me to attach this: THIS ONE-TIME OFFER RESTRICTED TO WAEL, hear?)

I put [40 character long hexcode] at the end of a previous comment AND no one cared to ask what that is? On a security blog?

Yeah, shocking. Perhaps understandable in part that it could hardly have been anything worth knowing? Also because, paraphrasing Henry Stimson, gentlemen do not decode other gentlemen's coded messages.

Clive RobinsonAugust 13, 2016 4:27 AM

@ ianf,

Yeah, shocking. Perhaps understandable in part that it could hardly have been anything worth knowing?

Well perhaps you should excercise your little grey bits a bit more...

You could notice that it's lower case hexadecimal, thus fourty chars times four bits gives 160bits or twenty bytes.

But for some people here 160bits given as a hex string has a potential meaning to be found in NSA designed NIST specifications FIPS PUB 180 and 180-1.

Thus you might or might not check it, as such but against what as input.

You might also get out your ASCII calculator and see if it has meaning, likewise check the unicodes.

You could also search for the string in google or such to see if it appears anywhere else.

But it could also be a parody of a tweet that was briefly in the news recently.

Look on the endevor as being like a walk around the block, it has no particular purpose as a journy to a destination, thus other than as excercising those aging parts and keep them working it might have no meaning, but then again it might...

WaelAugust 13, 2016 4:40 AM

@ianf,

Yeah, shocking. Perhaps understandable in part that it could hardly have been anything worth knowing?

Funny you should reply! That "hex code", my dear friend, is for your eyes only!

I'll gladly contribute 5¢ to it

Make it 7 cents, because that hex code was my humble 2 cent deposit towards this deliverable ;)

The string is the SHA1 of "Great, give @ianf more ammunition!" (Without the quotes)

Keep messing with me, and I'll get so deep inside your head and not let go until you become a great security guy, just ike one of us! You know, when you become paranoid and wear a straitjacket :) Welcome to the club, mate! Mua ha haha haaaa.

RatioAugust 13, 2016 5:55 AM

@Wael,

Warlike = militant = holy; Strive = struggle = war

Do you see the above mappings valid in English? If you do, then 'militant jihad' can be translated as 'holy war'. Me? I don't see the above two mappings as valid (each line isn't a list of synonyms, for sure.)

No, you're right that those mappings aren't valid.

I don't know if the word "jihad" always has religious overtones when people use it in Arabic, but when the word is used in English we're talking about a religious injunction. We don't talk about an Arab poet (Adunis, say) and his jihad as a poet, we talk about his quest for perfection in poetry or something along those lines. (If the word is implicitly tied to a religious duty in Arabic, this connotation is simply dropped in translation in this context!)

When the word "jihad" remains untranslated it always has religious overtones in English. And that's where the meaning changes to the more specific "religiously commanded struggle". Add "militant" to the mix and you have "religious commanded warlike struggle" -> "religiously commanded war" -> "holy war".

Think of it this way: what do you think about when you see "hajj" in an English text? Mecca, probably. So will an English speaking Christian. But what if the whole text is in Arabic? You'll still be thinking "Mecca", but an Arab Christian might think "Lourdes" (or wherever). What happens if the whole text is in English and the word is "pilgrimage" instead? You'll insist on Mecca, and now the English speaking Christian is thinking "Lourdes". I think something similar happens with "jihad", wouldn't you agree?

Haven't you seen people saying that offensive or just violent jihad is wrong and that believers should start thinking about jihad as internal struggle only? Because I have.
I have not heard it that way. What I heard, and agree to, is this: if God wished, he would have made everyone a believer (it's a verse in the Quran,) But it's a free will "thing". Therefore, there is no compulsion in religion (or belief!) It has to come freely from within. No one uses the term "violent jihad" or "aggressive jihad"!

Just to clarify, there was one example where they were talking about what jihad should be, how people should understand it. In that context the different types or interpretations of jihad were discussed. In another instance there was a philosopher (I think, it's been a while) weighing in. That's the sort of thing I've seen.

"Bin" is a contraction of "Ibn"! Funny now that I write it in Latin letter, it doesn't look like a contraction! In Arabic, "bin" would be written as "Bn" -- it's a two letter word as opposed to the expanded three letter word (Ibn, like "Ibn Khaldoun".)

Ah, right, it's "ibn".

"Allah" vs "Allat" (in a linguistic sense I mean: "the God" vs "the Goddess").
'Allah' is an Arabic word that cannot be made into plural and there is no feminine form of the word. "Allat" is an old idol name in the Arabian peninsula. It has nothing to do with the name "Allah".

Yeah, I know about the three pre-Islamic goddesses. I had a hunch there was an etymological link between the words "Allah" and "Allat", because I had picked up on the pattern and it turns out there is. (Really! I get that that may sound like heresy but remember I'm talking about the etymology of two Arabic words, not about religion.) The origins are "al-ilah" (as in the Shahada) and "al-ilat", if I remember correctly.

And then there's "secular", which I think has an "l-m-n" root, but I never seem to hear or remember correctly what the Arabic word is.
The word you're looking for is "aallmani", root: I.LM. which means "knowledge". It's same word used for science also. Just keep in mind that the "aa" signifies the letter "ain", which has no equivalent I. The English language. If you pronounce it as "Almani", then that would mean a "German male" :)

That's the one! Thank you! :)

Sorry, I have to add more. I.L.M is also the root word for "world" which becomes "worldly" as in "secular".

That link between "knowledge" and "world" is somehow completely logical...

Arabic has many names for things. For example, the lion has over 500 names. I know about 20 of them.

I know only two: Osama and Assad. There are more that people use as names but I can't think of others right now.

Anyway, enough about language! ;)

WaelAugust 13, 2016 9:48 AM

@Ratio,

'm talking about the etymology of two Arabic words, not about religion.) The origins are "al-ilah" (as in the Shahada) and "al-ilat", if I remember correctly.

They're unrelated! The word "Allah" isn't composed of "Al Illah". Some orianralists like to claim that, but there is no truth to that statement. I can give you a somewhat similar example.

I was in Tokyo one day with a Japanese colleague. We were talking about languages and stuff. Then I told him: you know what? Tokyo is anagram of Kyoto! He said no, I insisted :) He said maybe in English it is, but the Japanese characters for the two cities are different... I had to concede, because he knows more than me. He also convinced me by writing the names in Japanese down for comparison.

Anyway, enough about language! ;)

Ok!

Bauke Jan DoumaAugust 14, 2016 2:00 PM

Wondering if the research gves any insights on why and how the American Barack Obama became a terrorist -- the world's greatest even.

ianfAugust 14, 2016 3:03 PM


IF Barack Obama has managed to terrorize the likes of (the wits of?) one Bauke Jan Douma, THEN MORE POWER TO HIM, I'd say, and 4 MORE YEARS.

rAugust 15, 2016 12:33 AM

@ianf,

I was thinking more along the lines "absolute power corrupts absolutely", but who am I to argue with a man who wants to give me a tech job?

WaelAugust 15, 2016 1:47 AM

@Scott Atran,

So I watched a few of your debates, talks, and presentations. My perception is that your research is far more accurate than the incomplete, inaccurate information some of the folks you debated use. Your research confirms what I already know to be true. I’m pretty familiar with arguments that Dawkins, Krauss, Tyson, Sam Harris use... so it wasn't exactly shocking to see your 'opponents' sometimes surprised, puzzled, and appalled.

And just when I thought I heard it all... I hear your kids feed frogs dabbed paper until the frogs exploded? Pretty cool! Cruel, but also cool (with a capital ‘c’.) A Frog IED, that's a first :)

The only observation I have is the previous one I mentioned, which I will not say more about except for the following:

militant jihad (or holy war in the name of Islamic law)
 As a reader of this comment, I will read it as: According to Islamic law, militant jihad is known as holy war.

Firstly, as I said before, there is no such thing as ‘militant jihad’ nor ‘holy war’. Secondly, if you say the people you interview used these terms, then you have consciously chosen to adopt a terminology used by people who know very little about Islam (by your admission) over the correct terminology that knowledgeable scholars of Islam state. This is an unjustifiable decision that doesn't conform to the spirit of this objective research, which you have conducted for quite some time.

Thanks for sharing your findings with us. I’ll be following your presentations from now on.

ianfAugust 15, 2016 3:15 AM


Yeah, rrrrrrrrrr, and if you need additional reference on your C.V., I'll gladly confirm that you're pretty good at crypto, too, never giving away any hints of the keys. Something that poster Sancho_P (a pseudonym) previously talked about, hidden meanings in plain text. Like, for instance, in this very message you have managed to hide all but 1 of the 5 "Ws" so well (who/ what/ when/ where/ why for the uninitiated), that I am pretty sure we could never decrypt any of the rest even with, say, Wael's hush-hush wink-wink on-the-que-tee SHA1 help.

    Still, should the job offer not work out, do remember that there always remain these options – and some of the work mates there look quite dishy!

@ Wael,
             I resemble that your withholding what obviously is in the public domain, and should be obligatory to disclose WITHOUT PROMPTING. If for no other reason, than to enable anybody to check whether you might be straying aside from the only straight shining path to enlightenment (I could cryptically have quoted you the correct Arabic-numerals numbered Hadith that says so, only I don't know it). Because, after all, Scott Atran appeared here to promote his study of "why ordinary people become terrorists," and not to argue with Dawkins, Tyson, Krauss & Harris (which, btw., sounds like a law firm… Laws of Sanity and Reason?,) as you claim. I don't recall ever hearing Dawkins on causes of terrorism. Religious superstition aplenty, yes—is terrorism anchored in that, too?

So WHERE ARE THOSE VIDEOS YOU TALK ABOUT, and WHY haven't you deemed it appropriate to shovel us with your learned commentary of/on PRECISELY TIMED snippets from them. That's what I resemble the most (also managed 3 out of 5 prescribed Ws).

WaelAugust 15, 2016 4:19 AM

@ianf,

So where are all those videos?

Here:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0MEJN7vtvMU#
http://youtu.be/BrMW7WIZfgs
http://youtu.be/qlbirlSA-dc
http://youtu.be/IahLaDYjXWQ
http://youtu.be/NbhldCni6bY
http://youtu.be/_ZAgZVSH5BE

I checked my notes, and need to correct "dabbed" papers to "dabs of paper"...

Power law distribution: number of casualties per event... (Find it)
And a prophetic vision: In one of the videos (find it): Crack a group by finding out what food they eat. I guess pizza is a dead give away, then.
Table vision analogy isn't convincing. Bad tool... (Find it)

This isn't a 3GPP specification that you need to solicit help for. You could have easily found it the same way you found the videos you shared, right? If you're interested in the subject, then comment on it rather than commenting on me! Focus more on the content and less on the poster of the comment!

Religious superstition aplenty, yes—is terrorism anchored in that, too?

Yes, your law firm is making that claim, which Dr. Atran corrected. Religious superstition, eh? I'll remember that!

Dirk PraetAugust 15, 2016 5:49 AM

@ Ratio

But that presupposes there's a difference between religion and politics. If it turns out there isn't, you're looking at a religious dispute with political consequences or a political fight over religious dogma ...

Exactly. As you probably know, and just like Christianity, Islam is not a homogenous religion with a central religious body that makes authorative calls on religious and/or political dogmas the way Rome does for Catholics. Sunni and Shia are the top branches and both have further subdivisions like Wahabism and Salafism in the Sunni branch. Next to that, there's also cults like Sufism and the black Nation of Islam in the US.

Wahabism is the state religion in Saudi Arabia ever since the alliance between its founder, the preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and the ruling House of Saud somewhere in the beginning of the 18th century. Like Wahabism, Salafism is a very orthodox interpretation of Islam, followers of which are usually classified as "quietists", "activists" and "militants". The first group totally abstains from politics, the second is politically active and the third group, a small but very vocal minority, are those that have taken the path of violence and these days are commonly referred to as "jihadis".

Although the roots of Salafism go back to late 19th century Egypt, it's important to point out that present day "jihadism" is a fairly recent phenomenon that finds its origins in the Afghan war against the Russians, and from where it has spread to other parts of the world, not in the least by the US invasion of Iraq and generous financial support by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

The term "militant jihad" and its equation to "holy war" were in fact coined by westerners to explain the phenomenon to a western audience (think crusades), and subsequently adopted by the militants themselves, in effect hijacking the original meaning of the word "jihad" in Islam.

RatioAugust 15, 2016 5:53 AM

@Wael,

I won't comment further on the etymology (not composition) of the word "Allah", because it seems that what is just etymology to me (and perhaps a bit of history, now that I think about it) is also/mostly a religious issue to you. So let's leave it there...

I'll also skip the other religious (and legal?!) content, because I'm not about to publicly more or less, maybe, kinda, in a way, errr... agree... with something ianf said. That's just not done. I'm sure he agrees. ;)

I'll just point out the following:

"A (or B in the name of C)" does not mean "according to C, B is known as A". It means "B in the name of C is known as A", or more precisely "A (that is to say, B in the name of C)". ("In the name of" and "according to" don't mean the same thing, at all!)

Scott "SFITCS" FergusonAugust 15, 2016 6:26 AM

@Dirk Praet

Indeed, but they can be a serious PITA to set up and configure for the average user or even common sysadmin as they introduce a number of concepts people are generally not too familiar with. That's why I'm kinda enthusiastic about SubgraphOS which has all of these implemented by default, just like RBAC in Solaris 11 and which I mentioned earlier in my conversation with @Wael.

Security is a serious PITA for the average user or even common (as dirt... cvs what? man what? Change control huh?) sysadmin. Hence my comment in the earlier post about it not being something for the average user. (the comment in the following paragraph about the bassist from ZZ Top was supposed to be in that sentence)
Funny how people appreciate the time and effort it took to learn base level skills in their own field, but they don't need to do any study to be "sys admins". A standard human bias :/
I'm less enthusiastic about "secure OS" - they are not a solution for the "layer 8" types as they'll just disable the protection they provide (or refuse to use something that won't let them do what they saw in a Youtube video, or heard from some guy who lives in a bus shelter). As those distros rarely have all the tools needed for a given situation they require the services of someone skilled to be made useful. Great as reference models but in my experience it's better to take something like Debian or [insert the name of your OS OS here], build the SOE with security in mind, and then harden it.
There is something about convenience being the arch enemy of security.

The golden rule for every support engineer is to never believe a word the customer says. If I had gotten a euro for every time a customer lied about "not having touched or changed anything", I'd be a millionaire.

<rant>See my previous comment about "layer 8" (the PEBCAK layer) types. :)
One of many things that irks me is people that have "a bit of a fiddle/play". One thing is not working to their (often from a X-Y problematic viewpoint) satisfaction - so they have a bit of a fiddle (a la Nero). Obviously you don't need to know they changed things... and they will refuse to believe that every action they made after following "intuition" or some random internet advice - that didn't fix the "problem", has now created another problem. </rant>.

RatioAugust 15, 2016 7:20 AM

@Dirk Praet,

Islam is not a homogenous religion with a central religious body that makes authorative calls on religious and/or political dogmas the way Rome does for Catholics.

Of course you meant to say "the way Rome does for Roman Catholics". ;)

Although the roots of Salafism go back to late 19th century Egypt, it's important to point out that present day "jihadism" is a fairly recent phenomenon that finds its origins in the Afghan war against the Russians, and from where it has spread to other parts of the world, not in the least by the US invasion of Iraq and generous financial support by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

I'm not sure I agree with that assessment (or indeed how factually correct some of that is), but today's reality is the same either way.

WaelAugust 15, 2016 11:22 AM

@Ratio,

What we're discussing here is aligned with the topic of this thread. We can't be discussing security controls, programming languages and virtual machines, etc. under this thread -- now that would be off-topic.

because it seems that what is just etymology to me (and perhaps a bit of history, now that I think about it) is also/mostly a religious issue to you. So let's leave it there...

Your sensitivity is appreciated. I didn't elaborate more barbecue it wasn't clear what your level of interest is, and I didn't want to bore you with long texts of references that I may have to translate.

Even among Muslim and Arabic grammar scholars, the issue is not settled and it's not a major topic of discussion. I only gave you what I believe to be correct (not based on blind religious faith -- indeed, the matter really isn't that important from a religious perspective,) but based on my evaluation of arguments both sides presented, which I clumsily haven't shared. My earlier reference to orientalists wasn't complete, there is a continuation to it that I avoided because it'll branch us into a different topic altogether.

is also/mostly a religious issue to you. So let's leave it there...

Let's not :) Here are some more details that were omitted...

Arab linguists have differed on the origin, etymology, of the name "Allah". Some of them said it's a derived name, and others said it's a "solid", meaning not derived, name. Of those who said it's derived are grammar giants like Sibawayh, who said: the origin is illah, meaning god. This is derived from the verb: ya'lah, meaning to go to someone for protection. Ibn al-Athir al-Jazari said something similar. I am not able to copy the Arabic text here, because this FreeBSD machine isn't Arabic localized -- the description is bit longer, and I am sharing here some brief links that you may use a translating engine for further investigation. There are other linguists who agree with him, too. This point of view is aligned with your understanding.

Ibn Al Qayyim Al Jawziyyah stated that the difference in opinion (derived vs. not derived) is only superficial, and he gives his rational. He is, I believe, of the opinion that the name isn't derived.

The other point of view, that claims the name isn't derived, bases that on that "Allah" is a personal name of God, and since he existed before anything else, his name cannot be a "derived" name, because there is nothing to derive it from. This is the point of view I took to be true. I shouldn't have expressed my point of view categorically without reference.

In summary: Each side has three strong "justifications". I took one over the other because it made more logical sense to me. If I look at it again with a clear mind, I may adopt the other point of view -- I don't know.

"A (or B in the name of C)" does not mean "according to C, B is known as A". It means "B in the name of C is known as A", or more precisely "A (that is to say, B in the name of C)". ("In the name of" and "according to" don't mean the same thing, at all!)

I agree with your analysis. I actually thought about this before posting it, but I was sloppy. That does not change my position on the translation, though.

I don't mind if you agree with @ianf :)

Dirk PraetAugust 15, 2016 3:31 PM

@ Scott "SFITCS" Ferguson

I'm less enthusiastic about "secure OS" - they are not a solution for the "layer 8" types as they'll just disable the protection they provide

Like a Magnum 357 is the right toy for a toddler. Personally, I prefer an OS that already has all required features built-in than boulted on and is perfectly useless to someone without the necessary training and skill sets. There's this persistent myth among management types that any paper MCSE or Linux enthusiast can somehow miraculously also do HA system set-ups. They're an entirely different beast and @Nick P and myself have discussed on a number of previous occasions the many reasons for their limited adoption and commercial success.

Scott "SFITCS" FergusonAugust 16, 2016 12:37 AM

@Dirk Praet

<snipped>Personally, I prefer an OS that already has all required features built-in than boulted on and is perfectly useless to someone without the necessary training and skill sets.</snipped>

I suspect I would too, if I could find one. [half-joking] With the right colour-scheme that is.

<snipped>There's this persistent myth among management types that any paper MCSE or Linux enthusiast can somehow miraculously also do HA system set-ups.</snipped>

If only we could figure out where management gets their stupid ideas... </sarcasm>

Anon10August 16, 2016 11:01 PM

@dirk
Although the roots of Salafism go back to late 19th century Egypt, it's important to point out that present day "jihadism" is a fairly recent phenomenon that finds its origins in the Afghan war against the Russians, and from where it has spread to other parts of the world, not in the least by the US invasion of Iraq and generous financial support by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

You got the beginning and the end, mostly right, but completely skipped the middle. You can't understand the origins of Al-Qaeda and its splinter organization ISIS without reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Anon10August 17, 2016 7:58 PM

What the WASP nations MSMs have done by equating "holy" with "despotic" is demonise all people that they see as "muslim" with a tiny bunch of certifiable despots with delusions of grandeur.

This is more commonly called "being tarred with the same brush", such MSM behaviour has been responsible in the past for vigilante behaviour where totally innocent people have been disadvantaged, hurt or killed.

I can't speak for the UK media, but if you're referring to the US main stream media, you're fighting a straw man. The actual position of the US main stream media has been that the root cause of terrorism has been one of a long list of alleged grievances against US foreign policy ranging from the Gulf War to the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars to Israel to drone strikes, which breed resentment against the US, and make people want to join terrorist organizations. Scott demolishes the MSM theory, but showing that terrorism is at its roots theological. Changing US foreign policy won't make the certifiables any less determined to kill us, and no matter how mad the non-certifiables get, they're still not going to strap on a suicide vest.

Hay nony mouseAugust 18, 2016 2:48 AM

@Anon10 :

It appears you are trying an old Trolling trick of waiting a while for a thread to "go cold" then post a low content comment without correctly attributing.

Naughty Naughty, back to the smelly pit beneath the bridge you fester in.

Dirk PraetAugust 18, 2016 10:12 AM

@ Anon10

Scott demolishes the MSM theory, but showing that terrorism is at its roots theological.

I'm reasonably sure that if one of Scott Atran's ancestors had interviewed the common battle field crusader or their supporters at home, he would have gotten the exact same responses about the purely religious nature of their motives. What did he actually expect ? To be treated to a subtle and highly nuanced political discourse rooted in a firm comprehension of global socio-economic grievances as reflected by the mindset of thoroughly brainwashed retards with the average IQ of an empty ashtray? You don't demolish anything by kicking in open doors.

Changing US foreign policy won't make the certifiables any less determined to kill us

It wouldn't, but it would sure make one hell of a difference in recruiting broad support for their cause. If the excesses of the financial sector weren't so enormous, there wouldn't have been an Occupy Wall Street movement. And there would not be a Black Lives Matter if only one black person a year was shot by the police.

You can't understand the origins of Al-Qaeda and its splinter organization ISIS without reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood from the onset started out as a political movement with a fundamentalist approach to Islam, not differentiating between state and religion, condoning and actively engaging in violence to achieve their goals. So did groups like Irgun and Haganah in Israel, beit without the religious inspiration. Like the IRA, they semi-officially renounced that violence to become a political force in the seventies. Many of their hardcore members like Al-Zawahiri eventually joined Bin Laden's AQ.

When they hijacked the Egyptian Spring and Morsi rose to power, they were eventually crushed by Al-Sissi and the entire leadership was rounded up. Unlike Erdogan in Turkey, they did not have broad support among the population and today are pretty much done, especially with the strong competion from Salafist groups fishing in the same pond.

Anon10August 18, 2016 5:48 PM

@dirk

It wouldn't, but it would sure make one hell of a difference in recruiting broad support for their cause. If the excesses of the financial sector weren't so enormous, there wouldn't have been an Occupy Wall Street movement. And there would not be a Black Lives Matter if only one black person a year was shot by the police.

Support is a vague term, which could describe people 1) actively involved in a terrorist organization to those 2) without direct involvement but share its core ideology and are potentially recruitable to those 3) who are neither connected to a terrorist organization nor agree with its core ideology, but still sympathize with some of its goals. If someone's beliefs are theological, then facts and logic have little role in shaping those beliefs, and changing facts have little capacity to reshape those beliefs. So Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter might be analogous to group 3, but not to groups 1 and 2. Your crusaders example might be a better analogy for groups 1 and 2, in which case we're looking at violent conflict with Salafist groups for at least the next few hundred years.

MisterNoAugust 20, 2016 3:39 PM

?
Shadow government. Lining defacto puppets' pockets.
I dare Western society to give developing countries a fair handshake. The US has a rich history in hypocrisy and growing an empire the wrong way. When we sit at the trade table, if dollars signs and trade volume doesn't pop up with the other guy, does that justify infiltration? Define terrorism again.

Terrorism is reactionary. Figure out cause and effect. I have read Covert Action Magazine and a lot of Noam Chomsky's stuff.

When the ICC puts their thumb down on Bush's head and says "reparations or else." There was no vote on an Iraq resolution. It wasn't a choice.

When Sunni's wake up one morning and realize their voting power got co-opted by Shiite dissidents/migrants/refugees. When you re-build a govt with religious sect parties. When you have too many children. When you have too many wives. When you fail to point the finger at yourself, your own leaders, and your parents for giving birth to you.

It's not Dutch Shell's job to give everyone a job. And if they were really righteous, they would drop their weapons and let US soldiers walk in and look like the asses they are.

It was a real eyebrow raiser to see Saddam Hussein go down before Qaddafi. When the Bush administration tried to sandbag Hussein up against Iran. Hussein actually responded with some intelligence:
"Why should I front against my brothers?" [trying to not make waves]
"How could such a puny principality garner so much influence?" [talking about Kuwait]
For the sake of peace, he was actually right on the money.

US white phosphorous artillery shells, smoke burning people out of their town so the oil consortium can get in and drill. Pick a screw up. The US military is the only western military to still use white phosphorous for anything, unless someone can correct me.

Over half a century of shadow in Guatemala with a lead in to Truman... started over damned fruit (the UFC).

Iran: the US screwed that up. That was our puppet that got caught, so why the facade for all these years? Delta Gate, an under powered rescue attempt with over-loaded Sea Kings.

Carter and Reagan. Need I say more?

What do you think Arab Spring was about? It was about cleaning house all the way to Libya.
Benghazi: after Eni backed out, trying to re-insert ourselves. Fail. Because they were smart and caught on. What if you have let Libya be Libya? Would it kill us?

Three wrongs don't make a right. What if the smart person wads the Mid-East up and throws it in the trash, with all 3 three of those religions? Find me some moral conviction.

So now, the US drops refugees in my backyard, thinking that solves a problem and uses it as an excuse to violate my computer. The VOLAG(Voluntary Adjustment) and PRM(Pop. Refugees Migration) bureaus of the State Dept. That is my problem, not people in the sand.

Wrong namesDecember 22, 2016 11:35 AM

This is wrong on at least one level, jihad does NOT mean 'holy war'. "Holy war" when translated to Arabic renders as "al-harb al-muqaddasa" (not "jihad") which is not an expression used by the Quranic text or Muslim theologians. In Islamic theology, war is never holy; it is either justified or not. Finally the Quran does not use the word jihad to refer to warfare or fighting; such acts are referred to as qital.

Scott AtranJanuary 5, 2017 12:43 PM

Jihad does not literally mean holy war, but war in certain circumstances to defend the Ummah and cause of Allah, which is a holy endeavor, hence the connotation "holy war." War is not inherently holy, but war in defense of the faith is. The contentious issue resolves around the meaning of defense."

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