Analysis: Why Western Muslims leave a pleasurable life for jihad

The Islamic revival is being driven by a feeling of “revulsion against the West, frustration at the whole new apparatus of public and private life.”

August 17, 2015 05:20
3 minute read.
Islamic Jihad

An Islamic Jihad militant attends an anti-Israel rally in Rafah.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Western Muslims living in the most free and wealthy countries in the world are leaving, or returning, in the thousands to the Arab world in a search for meaning in their life – or an Islamic revival that fits within their traditional cultural religious values.

Samuel Huntington summarized in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, “As the pace of modernization increases, however, the rate of Westernization declines and the indigenous culture goes through a revival.”

How is this possible? This is because the rest of the Muslim world, for the most part, does not hold the same religious or cultural values as the Frenchman or American does, and is why they are having a difficult time integrating into European culture.

The Islamic revival is being driven by a feeling of “revulsion against the West, frustration at the whole new apparatus of public and private life,” wrote historian Bernard Lewis in Islam and the West.

It is this “vision of a restored and resurgent Islam, through which God’s law and those who uphold it would prevail over all their enemies.”

Roger Cohen argued in The New York Times last week, “The honest answer is that we don’t know why a 20-something Briton with a degree in computer engineering or a young Frenchman from a Norman village reaches a psychological tipping point.”

But we do. It is a radical Islamic ideology – Islamism – which is being ingrained into their heads from their imam, the Internet or their family members.

Daniel Pipes, scholar and president of the Middle East Forum think tank, said Cohen posits that “the Western jihadis are ‘yearning to be released from the burden of freedom. ’ I disagree.”

“The establishment’s analysis of Islamism suffers from an inattention to the power of ideas. Neo-Marxist efforts to blame economic deprivation ruled for a while but shattered on the rocks of inaccuracy,” Pipes told The Jerusalem Post.

“Self-critical notions about the legacy of colonialism likewise fell into disrepute,” he said.

“The simple explanation is that the Islamist vision – like the fascist and communist visions before it – has compelling attraction, especially for educated youths who seek to devote themselves to a great cause.”

The challenge for those fighting the Islamist movement, Pipes said, is to defeat and marginalize this vision so that Islamism – again, like fascism and communism before it – loses its appeal.

“Ideas matter; time has come to pay attention to them,” he said.

Philip Carl Salzman, a professor of anthropology at McGill University and an expert on Arab tribal culture, told the Post that Muslims coming in large numbers to Europe have not sought or been able to assimilate to European culture.

“Islam requires adherents to bring the true religion to the entire world. Many Muslims in Europe see their immigration as a slow demographic conquest, which is why in Denmark young Muslims have worn a T-shirt saying: ‘In 2048 we are in charge.’” “It is also why many Muslim men see ‘infidel’ Christian girls as war booty, to be captured and raped at will, thus the shocking upsurge in rapes and sexual abuse in European countries,” Salzman said.

The professor said Islamic culture is supremacist, so a fundamental theme in mosque sermons is avoiding assimilation to European culture.

“Young Muslims see Islamic State and al-Qaida as successfully and openly implementing Muslim principles, such as enslavement and murder of infidels, that are difficult to apply in Europe,” Salzman added.

“Above all, they see Islamic State and al-Qaida as conquerors, which is what their Muslim ancestors were, and which would provide them with the honor and glory that they feel Muslims deserve.”

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