Mormons and Jihadis: Parallel Revolts Against the Modern World

We have all become familiar, at this point, with the doctrines of groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. The theological underpinnings, the history of Salafism and Sayyid Qutb, the crucible of 1980’s Afghanistan, have taken on tremendous significance as our existential battle with Islamism grows.

What we know less about is the culture of the Islamists, the daily lives of Mujahedeen in Afghanistan and Chechnya and the deserts of Syria. This is starting to change however, as writings on the subject begin to emerge. Thomas Hegghammer recently gave a speech in which he discussed the question of “What jihadis do in their spare time”.1 Hegghammer spoke about the love of poetry that exists within their ranks. The New Yorker recently published a similar article, describing ISIS fighters relaxing after battle, sitting around reciting poetry and songs to each other.2

Hegghammer also spoke about the tendency of Islamist fighters to weep openly, an action mirroring their tendency to declare their “love” for their brothers.3 He writes: “It is curious, for example, that Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi should be known simultaneously as al-dhabbi (the slaughterer), and al-baki (he who weeps a lot).” He continues that “These ‘soft’ activities pose a big social science puzzle, in that they defy expectations [of groups such as ISIS]”.

Beyond this question of “hard men doing soft things”, as Hegghammer calls it, such behavior also calls to my mind an interesting parallel, as it reminds me greatly of the Mormon patriarchs I grew up around, who were equally given to such proclamations, and equally comfortable with crying publicly.

In a 2012 article on Mormon men, Kristine Haglund discusses their propensity for weeping at church services, where they articulate their thankfulness for their family and friends.4 She states that “They cry standing at the pulpit, speaking of their wives and children and of Jesus. They cry when they describe their friendships with the men they do volunteer church work and play basketball with.” Haglund describes the poetry of such moments, the heartfelt speeches that Mormon men give about their lives and their culture, in prose that mirrors that of Hegghammer and the New Yorker when they are describing the puzzling “softness” of Muslim jihadis.

Rather than being random, I think this similarity exists for very specific reasons. Most men in our modern society do not weep openly, and there is a certain irony that it is these two groups that are the exception. Men in the West are routinely castigated by feminists and liberals for being “emotionally shut off” and “overly aggressive”, and are urged to get in touch with our feelings. Yet the only two groups of men that seem to be doing this, Mormon men and twenty-something ISIS killers, are in just about as diametric opposition to our modern liberal nation-states as any two groups can get.

In a kind of round-about agreement with feminists, I concur that men must be quite confident in their masculinity to weep openly in front of other men. However, this kind of confidence does not come from a wholesale rejection or “rethinking” of masculinity, as our liberal contemporaries constantly harp on, but rather from an embracing of masculinity. When you have fought other men with your bare hands, when you have looked down the barrel of an opponent’s gun, when you have sired eight children, when you have a close-knit group of male friends who respect you and your prowess as a man, that is when you feel confident enough in your masculinity to weep openly.

Many of my closest friends have been and are Mormon. I have found them, as a whole, to be loyal, dependable, solid, respectable people, and I think extremely highly of them. At times in the past there have been parts of me that wished I was a Mormon man.

In regards to Islamism, I consider the practices of groups like ISIS to be repellant, and should Europe descends into civil war in a few years time (a likely prospect), I would be proud to die fighting against the Islamists to keep Europe free and European. At the same time I have had a large exposure to Islam and Islamism. I have argued with Muslims, been in fights with Muslims, and have researched jihad extensively through literature and media. I must, however, admit that though I view them as enemies, I can understand and appreciate the attraction their groups hold for young men.

Therefore despite the fact that I am not Mormon, and do not believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and despite the fact that I would gladly fight and kill ISIS members if I had the chance, I also feel, in other ways,  a certain respect for each group.

I respect them because they are attempting to live a sacred life in our profane world. Amidst the overwhelming consumption of our industrialized and corporatized global culture, each is trying to create something.  They are not worshipping Nike. They are not blindly spoon-feeding themselves reality television. They are not cheering on the destruction of their race and society like suicidal European multiculturalists. They are sacrificing to effect movements and rituals that they view as sacred. They are sublimating their own desires for what they feel is the good of their descendants. Whether or not I agree with them, such a focus is highly refreshing and inspiring.

As Lee Harris states in The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islam’s Threat To The West, “While we think little further than our retirement, they think in terms of centuries–what, however, do centuries mean to us anymore? In the long run, we’re all dead–so who cares about the long-term fate of the West? Finally, while we raise our children to have contempt for the very traditions that created the Western cultures of reason, they are raising their children to be willing to die to keep their traditions alive.”5

I also respect these two groups of men because they are each a rare representation of masculinity in our feminized modern world. In a society that actively despises normal heterosexual men, each group is a rare connection back to our ancestors’ notions of manhood, and to qualities that our modern culture is bereft of.  While, to paraphrase Jack Donovan, I do not consider the Islamists “good men”, they are, just like Tony Soprano, “good at being men”–they possess strength, courage, mastery, and honor, even if they use these attributes in the service of beheadings and suicide bombings.6

As Bill Maher so controversially said in the days following 9/11, the hijackers might have been evil nutjobs, but they most certainly were not “cowards”.7 It takes courage to fight jihad and die shahid. It takes a less martial but still significant kind of courage to retain belief in Mormonism in the face of our secular society. It would be easy for Mormon men to give it all up for the sake of becoming “rational” and enjoying casual sex, but honestly, does it really take courage to become an atheist anymore? Does pre-marital sex take courage? Such is now the route prescribed to us in public school.  Retaining one’s faith in Mormonism, raising large families, stating openly in 2015 that you, as a man, have a unique and immutable connection to God that women do not possess; all of this makes Mormons far more manly in my book than your average liberal atheist or Evangelical, and for these reasons I salute them.

As groups who believe in traditional notions of masculinity and gender roles, Mormons and jihadis are both in opposition to our modern world. Multicultural-corporatist society has deemed masculine young men the enemy. But unlike other young men, who deal with this existential crisis through a focus on alcohol, pornography, video games, and other forms of consumption and debauchery, young Mormon and Islamic men stand fast to their values, and in doing so stand in firm opposition to society.

As the jihadi Isa Sa’d Al ‘Awshan writes in his poem Epistle to the Scolders: “The Age of Submission to the Unbelievers is over… I do not desire money nor a life of ease”. What can this be called but a wholesale rejection of modernity? An excerpt from a recent Nashid (poem) from ISIS reads:

Oh Istanbul!
You consented to profanity in your streets
You filled the streets with harems
What happened to you that in such a short time
You yielded to despots, oppressors, and infidels
Oh Istanbul!8

Such laments echo the refrains of Mormons, who also reject the decadence of modern life. It is this rejection that is so crucial to why Mormonism and Islam are the two fastest growing religions on Earth.

Young men across North America and Europe suspect or know that the modern West is deathly ill. They likewise understand at some level that their normal urges for brotherhood and aggression put them at odds with modern society. With this being the case, is it any wonder some flock to the Middle East? The jihadis, whatever else they may be, are the only group on earth actively trying to tear down modernity.

The more aware members of the Western intelligentsia understand that they are threatened by groups such as these. They are threatened by the greater birthrates of Muslims and Mormons, which mean that an increasing share of the population will hold what are to them “backward” beliefs. Whether they want to admit it or not, they (and we) are also threatened by the guns and knives and bombs of the Islamists, and the masses of “regular” Muslims who tacitly and not-so-tacitly support such violence. Yet such members of the political elite seem to think that with enough exposure, our “freedoms” will convert such groups to “our” way of life. Under this thinking, exposure to the consumeristic and sexual and entertainment opportunities of the West will cause Muslims and Mormons and other religious groups to slowly let their religiosity and conservatism fade away. Never mind the fact that this requires more and more of our children to grow up to be prostitutes, strippers, homosexuals, and investment bankers. What is even more pressing is the basic moral premise this brings–that we should pin our hopes on pleasure, decadence, consumption, and weakness.

With such a strategy being the increasing modus operandi of Western nation-states, I will take my cue from the Mormons and jihadis, and embrace a life of procreation, heritage, guns, and poetry. My version won’t be Muslim or Mormon, but the constants are the same. And when the civil war does start in Europe, I and those like me will actually have lives worth fighting for.  Can the liberal multiculturalists say the same? favicon

Julian Langness is the author of the upcoming memoir Fistfights With Muslims In Europe: One Man’s Journey Through Modernity, Culture, Masculinity, and Violence, coming out in the fall of 2015. To receive excerpts and updates, please email to be added to Julian’s mailing list.

  1. Hegghammer, Thomas. “Why Terrorists Weep”. Paul Wilkinson Memorial Lecture. University of St. Andrews. 16 Apr. 2015.  Web. 16 Jun. 2015. (PDF)
  2. Creswell, Robyn and Bernard Haykel. “Battle Lines”. 8 Jun. 2015. Web. 16 Jun. 2015.
  3. Nasiri, Omar. Inside the Jihad. Basic Books. 2006. Print.
  4. Haglund, Kristine. “Why Mormon Men Love Church-ball and are Scared of Homosexuality”. 10 Sep. 2012. Web. 16 Jun. 2015.
  5. Harris, Lee. The Suicide Of Reason: Radical Islam’s Threat To The West. Basic Books. 2007. 260. Print.
  6. Donovan, Jack. The Way of Men. Dissonant Hum. 2012. Kindle.
  7. Raphael, Chris. “Politically Incorrect: A Eulogy”. Undated. Web. 16 Jun. 2015.
  8. Creswell, Robyn and Bernard Haykel. “Battle Lines”. 8 Jun. 2015. Web. 16 Jun. 2015.

5 thoughts on “Mormons and Jihadis: Parallel Revolts Against the Modern World”

  1. Thanks for an interesting column Mr Langness

    I wish only to react to your characterization of Islamic State Jihadis as “good at being men” and “possess(ing) strength, courage, mastery, and honor”. I strongly disagree with that.

    For to be good at being a man, and irrespective of what cause one defends, one needs to have enough respect at the same time for the defeated enemy and for oneself, not to let one’s most vile instincts out in abject torture and sadistic killings of prisoners nor of civilians.

    One also needs to establish other relationships with women than raping or trade in sexual slaves.

    Incidentally, the fact that even more extreme IS videos with worse degree of sadistic violence tend to pop up in coordination with IS defeats tells volumes about how their courage is proportional to the vulnerability of their targets. This was observed again a few days ago, as IS had been handed its backside part by Kurdish troops -including women- chasing them from part of the Turkish border.

    Islamic State types are fighters and have a degree of physical courage. They are definitely not worthy as men. Notably, they are completely lacking in honor.

    This may by the way not be true of every and all Jihadist out there, but it holds for IS types.

  2. This goes to show how many different ways a written article can be interpreted. I doubt the writer intended to present ISIS as role models for men.

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