The Making of Islamic Extremism-
Posted on May 15th, 2019

Dr D. Chandraratna

We need to examine the making of Islamic extremism now so that precautionary measures can be taken to avert future catastrophe/s.  Before you venture into rehabilitating the yesterday’s terrorist the government must start a conversation with those who have studied the problem to identify well in advance before they strike in order to guarantee the security of citizens. Islamic terrorist is different from other terrorists like the LTTE suicide cadre where the lower rank recruit is brainwashed to become the martyr for a cause for which he even lacks first hand experience. The Islamic terrorist/ suicide bomber is carrying out a prescribed Godly mission who is intent on falling into the lap of God at the flick of a detonator switch to enjoy carnal pleasures that are forbidden by the same God in this world. Given the incompetence that the GCE (O) level politicians have shown so far, this has to be entrusted to criminologists/ psychologists and other experts who explore the evolution of the criminal mind. They are familiar with the notion of the alienated self and its possible nexus with the family, school, environment, psychology, personality and many other underlying causes. The suicidal terrorist is an unknown quantity but with the danger of terrorism and the magnitude of its horror becoming the new normal greater attention is paid to the would be terrorist. Even in terrorism the political terrorist is easy to understand but the religious terrorist who blows up people to appease a God is a difficult proposition.

A rational discussion cannot take place if we do not talk openly which is specially thwarted in times of crises. Hence we sprout feel good solutions, which last only until the embers are doused. That kind of Sanwedi sanhindiyawa (empathic coexistence?) is ephemeral. We need to ask the serious question whether Muslim society in general has an existential problem. Practically in every continent the recent violence associated with terrorism has links to Islam and Muslims. From the America’s to Europe, Australasia and Africa this cancer is fast growing and as the years roll on it is increasing in its monstrosity. A Muslim scholar resident in Australia has argued that the Muslim society is having an image problem and a tendency to self alienate them from the mainstream. This self-alienation in societies where the Muslims live as a minority is talked about in the West in response to the radicalization of the youth in Western society.

In the Sri Lankan context it is pertinent to pose the question whether our Muslims are a fractured, ‘morally inconsistent’, confused society. There are varying conflictual moral authority systems at play. Within a wider democratic framework Muslim society operates as a mini ‘theocratic’ state, controlled by a priestly class. Given the multiplicity of contradictory scriptural interpretations there are warring sects and collectivities. From the cloistered religious worldviews each one of these moral systems grasp the world in parts but not the totality. Godly moral canons cannot relate to the totality of the human world because modern society has gone past the boundaries of a God dictated world. They cannot take a critical stance outside of their values. In a sense they have moral specialists who are simultaneously a graduate of a university but illiterate in liberal worldly matters. There are those who are retailers who sell the Godly canon through motivational preaching’s and there are also buyers. Those who are confused flock to them. In such a culturally disorganized society the fanatic and the psychopath see a respectable niche opening to win his desired accolades from God.

From a sociological viewpoint this is the constitutional duality of human nature, the duality of the body and its needs in conflict with the soul. The idea of the homo duplex that earlier philosophers spoke of is in a state of antagonism instead of being in a balance. We cannot pursue moral ends without contradicting each other (body and soul), causing a split between the two, without offending the instincts and the penchant for the desires deeply rooted in our bodies. For civilizational advance it is necessary to repress the excessive individualism of the body because the failure to repress this part of the constructional duality of the human being leads to an anomic, ‘asocial’ situation of normlessness or at best confusion. If the moral authority has no relevance to the men’s real material situation in their performance of the occupational and social roles concomitant with natural talents, society tends to decompose itself into a multitude of incoherent corporations with a pervasive guilt complex in the wider society. Subcultural norms of conduct sprout and with their different scriptural interpretations of morality a ‘split personality’ complex abounds. Some of the pathological minds lead the groups and espouse oppositional conduct norms. The highly motivated religious fanatic will not hesitate to jump the bounds of reason. No better power than the Cod’s command will justify his actions. The use of violence and other forms of degeneration are not evil per se but an occasion for self-congratulation.

In the Muslim society there is a love-hate nexus between the priestly class and the bureaucrat, politician and the financier who operate in the wider democratic framework. They in general are sympathetic to the priestly class although they may not openly profess complete allegiance to the strict Godly interpretations and even abhor violence.  The priestly class cultivates them and the fanatic sees him as an ally of the violent subcultures and its conduct norms, which need political and financial resources to survive. The fanatical subculture needs the blessings of political power and bureaucratic favor to defuse the thereat to the their moral authority system. These contradictory moral authority systems make it difficult for the ordinary people to follow behavioral patterns in a socially adaptive manner.

Therefore alienation is rampant. Living according to God’s command and abiding by the strict conduct norms the alienated self finds acceptance and even a sense of superiority. The subculture of religious chauvinism believes that the Muslim social world must be unquestioned and in its determinist way human behaviors must be controlled. Those who want to live in the modern world may enjoy the forbidden fruit in secret and the vices may be practiced in cloistered quarters. But guilt abounds in this theocratic society. Creating Arabia by reintroducing the Arabic language, the beard, the desert landscape, the dress, headgear are all part of the self-infliction of alienation.  Their politician offers subcultural groups exclusive schools, churches, political parties, ethnic ghettoes, banks, legal systems and communication systems without hindrance. This is given the name pragmatic politics by all and sundry, which in the final analysis is, becomes a huge social menace. 

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