The View From Olympus 33: Islam’s True Face

Boko Haram’s abduction of some 250 Nigerian schoolgirls has again, with good reason, focused attention on the real nature of Islam. Even al Qaeda is reportedly trying to distance itself from Boko Haram. But this is dishonest. Boko Haram represents Islam’s true face.

To be sure, much of the response in Nigeria to the abduction is also an act. Sources inform me that Boko Haram was created by the Nigerian government, which retains ties to it. Why would a state create a Fourth Generation entity? Beyond stupidity and hubris, the apparent reason was so that Boko Haram could serve as a bogeyman, used by the Nigerian government to distract attention from its own crimes. Such is politics in black Africa’s pseudo-states, where the state is merely one criminal gang among many. No wonder the governor of Borno state, where Boko Haram is based, was quoted in the May 12 New York Times as saying, “Honestly, I am so desperate, if the Americans were to colonize, I say so be it.” The best times most of black Africa ever knew or ever will know was when they were European colonies.

Islam promises relief from the endless corruption of African states, but what it actually offers is the puritan tyranny Boko Haram represents. This is inherent in Islam. The problem is that the Koran is to be read literally. Biblical literalism in Christianity is both new and very much a minority view. While the statements in the creeds are to be believed literally, the church as a whole has always understood that the New Testament is heavily metaphorical. That is not the case in Islam. Any Islamic who does not take the Koran literally is a lax Islamic (peace be upon them). Taking the Koran literally, however, yields exactly the sort of puritanical brutality we saw in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, in the areas ruled by al Qaeda and its affiliates in Syria and in Boko Haram. If you read the Koran (as I have), you will see it is a long list of verbots, coupled with endlessly repetitive denunciations of unbelievers, some of which command violence against them. Take that literally and voilà!, you have Boko Haram.

Puritanism springing from Koranic literalism is in fact the Achilles’ heel of Islamic 4GW organizations. Violent puritanism alienates the population and also, as government, simply doesn’t work. I have previously referenced a superb monograph on this, one that deserves much more attention from the American national security establishment than it has received. The reference is to Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam by Michael Vlahos. Vlahos agues that Islamic puritanism creates an endless cycle. Puritan movements arise, take power from the corrupt (by Koranic norms) elite, become “corrupt” themselves because pure Islam cannot govern, and thus gives rise to new puritan movements. This cycle, coupled with a reinvigorated Sunni-Shiite civil war, explains a great deal of what is happening today in the Islamic world.

Because Islam commands violent, literalist puritanism, it is not compatible with other religions, cultures, or secular philosophies. It is, and must be, at war with them. Boko Haram is a warning to any society that tolerates Islam. What it has brought to Nigeria today it will bring to your soil tomorrow. In places such as the suburbs of Paris, tomorrow is not very far away.

PS: In my previous column I discussed some ways in which the Russian armed forces have adopted techniques from 4GW entities. An excellent paper published by the National Defense Academy of Latvia’s Center for Security and Strategic Research, Russia’s New Generation Warfare in Ukraine: Implications for Latvian Defense Policy by Janis Berzins offers a much fuller treatment of this subject. I recommend it strongly, despite the author’s error in attempting to identify technology-driven 5th, 6th, and 7th generations. One would expect people from former Soviet lands to know their Hegel well enough to realize dialectically qualitative changes, which is what “generation” means in this context, are rare.