Killing kuffars for the ‘good’ cause
Good deeds are extra rewarded during Ramadan, the holy month. This year, the Islamic State jihadists’ chief propagandist, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, took the occasion of Ramadan at heart to wish for death and disaster and the holy month to become “a calamity for kuffars”. Almost as a birthday wish. ‘Kuffar’ is a highly derogatory Arabic term used to refer to non-Muslims. With Ramadan coming to an end and terror attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, an old question emerges again: ‘How do being good and violent go together?’
Questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ have tormented witnesses of violence of all times. Although anger and disgust make it very tempting to demonise the offenders all together, regardless of whether they are Nazis or jihadists, this response won’t further our understanding and won’t make any change at all. Informed communication across cultures might be more helpful to change, but depends on our ability to stand back, observe and understand before jumping to conclusions in order to get a more comprehensive picture. Many explanations may exist of why normal people keep turning into (normal) beasts, time and time again… below you will find another one.
In spite of what people tend to believe (especially about themselves), life`s complexity is barely understood. Human intelligence, even in its most brilliant form, simply lacks the capacity to come even close to understanding life`s complexity. Too many questions simply remain unasked and therefore unanswered. Similarly, psychodynamic processes within a person involve many contradictions and aspects that do not appear to make sense. Preserving blind spots and an unawareness of what we don’t know may take the edge off, but does not diminish the glowing source of existential uncertainty in the end.
In spite of and perhaps exactly because of this confusion, achieving feelings of ‘purity’ and ‘consistency’ are much valued yet very difficult to achieve. A ‘Truth’ one can believe in provides existence with a feeling of structure and meaning. Achieving such a state requires an armoury of distorted perceptual and cognitive processes, rooted in personal and cultural backgrounds that help to maintain the inner balance and consistent sense of self.
As a patient once explained: “I know what I believe must be right, because it feels right. If what I believed in was wrong, it also would feel wrong. It couldn’t feel “right”, if it wasn’t right. As simple as that but totally spot on. Phenomena are put into an order and every feeling of right or wrong indicates that a side is chosen and a view confirmed. Of course, the feeling is based on an assumption, but why would you bother if it feels right?
The human operating system is well able to contain tolerate confusion. However, the problem starts when life comes in between while we were having other expectations. Especially when people are still wondering about the answers to life’s questions, as every rebellious youngster does, then persistent probing will readily surface the many contradictions involved in life’s game. If a challenging but sensible peer then shows interest in who you are and try to be, then marketing psychology provides an answer where life doesn’t. The more unsure a potential customer feels about which product to choose, the more his preference will steer toward the common brand.
Choosing sides is one way to escape confusion and contradiction. In the words of the ‘shadada’, the Islamic State printed on their flag: “Islam is a monotheistic religion and Muhammad was its one true prophet”. Committing to one ‘Truth’ can be a trusted way out with prescribed recipes against potential doubt and contradiction. “Say to them: ignorant people do you bid me to worship others than God?” (‘Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Tabarani’ – Surah 109). Lingering in disturbing nothingness would seem a bit silly, right after you suddenly see a path uncovered that gives you the answer to the confusion, doesn’t it?
Also puritan Christian monks had their way of dealing with doubt and life`s contradictions. Some monks even chastised themselves for having ‘impure thoughts’, like feeling physically attracted to someone else. Proactively taking responsibility and punishing yourself for thoughts that distract you from purity and Truth, serves multiple benefits:
- God may not punish you anymore after you already did so yourself.
- You might discourage your mind from having more impure thoughts.
The pain of punishment may further distract and out rule the intense negative emotions they may experience as a result of “crossing the line”, similar to contemporary self mutilators. In modern times, people usually beat themselves up with harsh self-criticism over their mistakes.
The process of choosing sides, passionately accompanied by a pinch of disgust, piercing eyes, pointing fingers and the use of words like ‘normal’, ‘never’ or ‘crazy’ may look aggressive and independent, but it isn’t. Opponents have to choose or be made to choose another side in order to complete a complementary relationship.
Nazis needed Untermenschen and Jihadists cannot do without kuffars like a see-saw cannot do without its counterweight. In order to rise to a (self-acclaimed) superior status, a single and elevated truth is relied on as a strong anchoring point. A ‘bad’ side is needed as a counterweight to feel superior to.
People like to become better persons, better than themselves and better than others. The prettiest princess in the country cannot accept a second queen who is just as pretty in order to be undisputed number one. Although there can only be one prettiest princess, the presence of the little princesses loosing the competition and ending up disappointedly standing in her shadow is required and appreciated. In this stage, life`s inconsistencies are projected onto the others out there, like the kuffars of today.
As soon as the challenge is levelled over to others, the conflict no longer lives within. Taking your frustration and anger out of yourself and out on to others, then becomes a justified, purifying, and self-sacrificing act. Jihadists, just like other gangsters, need violence for love to exist. Developing the self-compassion that people need to stop inviting everyday violence to return into their life is one answer to a phenomenon as complex as life itself.