Monday, November 14, 2005


As an organized religion, Islam is approximately 600 years behind Christianity. If we roll back our clocks 600 years it may be informative to see where Christianity was at the time. Around 1400, the Roman Catholic Church, was deeply divided by a schism that resulted in the establishment of a second papacy in Avignon, France. If today were 1405 instead of 2005, we would be nearly 70 years away from the beginning of the Renaissance and an even more distant 112 years away from the beginnings of the Reformation.

It occurs to me that organized religions are not unlike nearly every other organization in the course of human history. There are periods of movement and momentum and periods of stagnation and maintenance. Just as in 1405 with The Church in the earliest stages of succumbing to the momentum of change and reform, Islam, in a very macro sense, appears to be in the opening stages of dealing with momentum. Of course, it is unclear if the momentum currently brewing will be won by reformers (students, modernist Islamic reformers) or by traditionalist, establishment factions (Wahabists, al Qaeda). One side attacks and so does the other. Both sides are struggling to get an upper hand in the race to capture and ride the gaining momentum to victory.

Something is now becoming very clear that until recently I had only suspected based on my own reasoning while trying to rationalize the strategy of al Qaeda and its choice in targets. Watching the coverage of the 9/11 attacks I couldn’t help but think how poorly they had chosen for an attack of such scale. I’m not sure it is a good analogy, but I did and do think of it as a sucker punch to the buttocks. At first, and for some time to come I attributed this to a dearth of intelligence and a mindset of choosing targets that meant more to terrorists than to Americans. That is not to say that Americans did not like the WTC or The Pentagon, just that since terrorists didn’t know any better they hit the targets that provided them with the most instant gratification possible.

This block from the Scotsman article is both concise and revealing.

At first al-Qaeda announced that "a group of our best lions" had carried out the attacks to punish Jordan for supporting "the Jews and Crusaders".

Then late at night it posted a second statement on the internet "to explain to Muslims part of the reason the holy warriors targeted these dens." It said it had ordered the suicide attacks on the hotels "only after becoming confident that they were centres for launching war on Islam and supporting the Crusaders' presence in Iraq and the Arab peninsula and the presence of the Jews on the land of Palestine."

A third statement on Friday also had a defensive tone. It said the bombers were four Iraqis, who had chosen the hotels "after a month of surveillance and information gathering".

The war that al Qaeda is fighting, indeed the war they have always been fighting is a defensive one. They maintain the cover of good defensive positions against traditional attacks by the US and they are defending an establishment that has and will use oppression in ways as bad as or worse than anything ever employed during the Inquisition. Not only are the tactics of terrorism defensive, but the strategy employed by al Qaeda and its many remoras is defensive. Its strategy of defending the most extreme form of Islam through the most extreme actions has finally revealed the figurative “leak in the dam.”

For at least some time to come, perhaps many years, al Qaeda and its ilk will be able to plug the dam with a well placed finger, bomb, or press release. Eventually, though, the Middle East will give birth to its own Martin Luther and an unknown number of figurative theses will surely be posted on the a website somewhere in the future, perhaps he or she will be Jordanian and this recent attack will serve as a catalyst, though maybe not.

What is clear is that momentum is still up for grabs and that al Qaeda and the like have lost any upper hand that either had or more importantly believed they had. It must be very demoralizing to have to come so close to an outright apology for killing infidels.


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