Some of you mıght know that I am a rabıd reader. I target to read 100 books a year and even though I rarely hit that goal, I usually do come close. Somewhere along the line, I came to realize that I don’t read the way most people do. I don’t read books, I engage them. When I am reading fiction, I am taking mental notes. I am constantly asking why this was included in the dialog, why that rabbit trail was pursued and whether it will play into the main plot later on, etc. I am constantly analyzing how the writer is creating their story just as much as I am enjoying the story itself. I do this with movies too. I remember pulling out a napkin five minutes into Elysium and writing out the entire plot line. Then I flipped the napkin over and plotted out my second guess where the story was going. (My first guess was spot on.)
When I am reading non-fiction, I am not analyzing the story, I am debating it. I am doubting it. It blows my mind to realize that so many of my friends will simply pick up a book, absorb whatever it is saying and then simply say, “I liked or didn’t like it because…” and then they talk about how easy or hard it was to read or even how “mean/nice” the author’s voice was. I find myself telling people who comment on how much I read, “read smarter, not more”. The following is an example of what I mean by that.
A short while back I started reading The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West? This was a book I had high hopes for and since the US immigration policies were a big issue (thanks Trump for making an already bad problem worse and thanks Liberal Media for your unquestioning criticism of anything and everything Trump might do). Anyways, I am going to give you a glimpse into some of my internal dialogue I had with the book but first, you can see my actual final review of Myth here. (Feel free to go give it a like)
Myth was commenting on how the conversation in the US about the “Muslim threat” increased after the Fort Hood attack and the foiled Times Square Bombing. He says (they proved to be only coincidental: there was no increase in extremism or terrorism-related arrests in the years afterwards).
My response: This is easy to say since you are writing this book less than a year (actually about 1.5 years) after these attacks. It’s more wishful thinking on your part than reality. The numbers don’t agree with you.
The facts: Jihadist terrorist attacks did hit an all time low in the US in 2011 but have been higher ever since than for every previous year this century except 9/11. Here are some of the numbers: Numbers of Jihadist terrorists in the US since 2012.
2012 = 15
2013 = 17
2014 = 32
2015 = 80
2016 = 48
2017 = 31
Numbers of US deaths from jihadist terror attacks since 2012.
2012 = 7
2013 = 23
2014 = 19
2015 = 44
2016 = 68
Like I said, saying Fort Hood was just a blip on the radar is far from the truth. Later on, Myth talks about how his opponents defend their “xenophobic predilections” by using handpicked stats. They are backed with statistics and claims hand-picked to bolster their argument.
My response: Methinks the pot is calling the kettle black. Statistics are little more than another way to lie and you have already demonstrated that you are more than willing to cherry pick your own stats as well.
Pointing to a slight drop in the number of refugees into Europe in 2011, Myth tries to say that the crest of the Muslim Tide has already passed. From here on out the numbers of Muslim immigrants and refugees will decline. As he writes, People just aren’t jumping into improvised rafts to flee Europe anymore.
A few pages later Myth makes the ridiculous claim that The “Arab Spring” revolutions of 2011 did not produce the large increase of cross-Mediterranean immigration the media had predicted.
My response: Seriously, how dare you even begin to make presumptions about what the Arab Spring will do when they are not even yet finished at the time of your writing? At the time of publishing, unrest in Iran, Syria, and Yemen had not yet died down, Egypt was actually experiencing another wave of unrest, and the whole Benghazi affair had not yet happened. And you have the audacity to make predictions as to what impact the Arab Spring revolutions will have on immigration as if it were already fact!?!
When talking about how most of the Muslim world is against jihadist terrorist activities Myth throws in the fact that 88% of the victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslim.
My response: Yes, this is probably true. But there is a vast difference between the daily terrorist activities happening in their neighboring countries and the headlining attacks in Europe or America. When a terrorist blows up a mosque you will hear, “That is not Islam”. When they go on a shooting rampage in France and blame it on a cartoon you will hear, “Well, they shouldn’t have written that.”
Myth tries to make a comparison with secularist US, France and Turkey. It calls them all constitutionally protected state secularism.
My response: The Diyonet would beg to differ. The Diyonet is a part of the Turkish cabinet that runs religious affairs. All the mosques in the country are built and maintained through tax dollars flowing through it. All the Imams in the country are paid by Turkish tax dollars flowing through it. It even funds multi-million dollar mosque building projects in other parts of the world for the stated purpose of promoting the spread of Islam. Many of the anti-government Imams recently expelled from Austria were fully financed through the Diyanet and some of the taxes I paid when buying my lunch just an hour ago are helping to finance such activities. Constitutionally protected state secularism? Not in Turkey.
To be fair, Myth then does go on to acknowledge (yet downplay) the role the state does have in Turkish religious affairs. Then he throws in another twist that had my eyes practically popping out of my sockets. He writes: This, the Turks argue, is why Islamic extremism and terrorism have been almost nonexistent in their country.
My response: Really? REALLY?!? I have 2 problems with this. 1) It simply is not true.
November 15, 2003 – 3 killed, 146 wounded in Istanbul
November 20, 2003 – 32 killed, many wounded, British consulate in Istanbul damaged
June 24, 2004 – 4 killed, 15 wounded right before President Bush was supposed to visit Istanbul
July 2, 2005 – 6 killed 15 wounded from a bomb on a train near the city of Elaziğ.
July 6, 2005 – 5 killed including 1 British and 1 Irish when a bomb on a bus in Kusadasi exploded
February 13, 2006 – 6 injured when a supermarket in Istanbul is bombed
June 25, 2006 – 4 killed 26 injured from a bomb in the tourist resort near Alanya
August 28, 2006 – 3 killed 87 injured in Antalya
September 12, 2006 – 10 killed, including 8 children in a park in Diyarbakir
May 22, 2007 – 6 killed, 91 injured at a mall in Ankara
I could go on. Just a quick search produced three more such incidents in 2008, two in 2009, three in 2010, and seven in 2011. These are just incidents leading up to the publishing of his book that the author should have known about. It does not include the far greater number that occurred since the advent of Isis. (I could match all the attacks from ’05 to ’11 just with the year 2016 only including ISIS credited attacks)
The 2nd problem I have with his statement is itself a question. What about the times when state-sponsored activities are themselves considered terrorism? For visa reasons, I will not go into specifics here, but I will say that many people throughout the Southeast will call the police terrorists and those living in the Syrian areas Afrin and Manbij have an even lower view of the “help” Turkey is offering.
My next issue is actually an historical misunderstanding of the hijab. Myth claims that the hijab is actually an Arabic tradition that predates Islam.
My response: Actually, it is a practice that Arab traders borrowed from the upper class of Byzantine society. When the Arab raiders, both before and after the rise of Islam, ended up settling in cities, they tended to adopt and even institutionalize certain city practices. These were then codified in the hadiths that were not written down until at least 200 years after the time of Muhammad.
Now that I think of it, the mosques also are a copy of Byzantine culture. Pretty much every single mosque you will see anywhere in the world is a scaled-down copy of the layout of the Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine Church.
In comparing attitudes towards the religious influence of lawmaking between the Near East and the West Myth states: 42% of Americans “want religious leaders to have a direct role in writing a constitution” – something that would probably be forbidden by the Constitution.
My response: Of the 55 signers of the Constitution, 49 were active members of a Protestant Church, 2 were Catholic, and only 4 were not members (although three still had Deist and even Episcopalian views). If you were to go down the list, I would bet more than half were graduates of one divinity school or another, a good number of them were ordained clergy, and probably nearly all of them had multiple members somewhere close in their family tree. Although the Constitution itself was not a specifically Christian document, there is no question that many of those who signed, and helped put it together were “religious leaders”. If they were going to forbid religious leaders from taking a hand in writing it, the room would have quickly been close to empty.
Shortly after this Myth begins to embrace the politically correct mythology that the problem isn’t Islam itself but rather deranged individuals. Myth actually goes one step farther in saying that fundamentalist Islam is actually our greatest ally in reigning such potential terrorists in. He writes: The terrorists also have a simpler, shallower conception of Islam than fundamentalists —that is, their degree of interest in the actual teachings of the Koran is fairly minimal.
My response: Al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS has a PhD in Islamic Studies and was an active cleric before America’s involvement in Iraq. If only he was even more fundamentalist, perhaps he wouldn’t have become a terrorist. To be fair, Sheikh Aadel Al-Kalbani is a Salafi cleric who has come down against ISIS and the 9/11 bombers (17 of whom were likely Salafist). Then again, the only reason we know his name is because he is pretty much the only one of significant importance in S.A. who has had the courage to condemn ISIS. While some endorse, finance, and recruit for ISIS and other such groups, most simply remain silent. They are hardly a force that can be relied on to help prevent such future acts.
A short bit later Myth is pulling out some stats that show the number of arrests of Islamist terrorist-related activities has been on the decline. 201 arrests in 2007, 187 in 2008, 110 in 2009 and then 179 in 2010. Myth blames the increase in 2010 on one particular sting and then says, but this does not appear to be part of an upward trend.
My response: Again, this statement is based on wishful thinking, not fact. There has not been nearly enough time for anyone with any journalistic integrity to make such a claim. FYI, I couldn’t find the stats for 2011-2013 but here are the number of terror-related arrests made in the EU for 2014-2017.
774 arrests in 2014
1,077 in 2015
1,002 in 2016
975 in 2017
Bad news, these numbers show that there definitely had been a huge upward swing since the time of Myth‘s publishing. Good news, there has been a slight downward trend for the past couple years. I am not nearly stupid or dishonest enough, however, to try and project this trend into the unknown and unpredictable future.
I actually did start laughing a minute later when I read this boldfaced lie. Islamist terrorism remains rare.
My response: If I were to do a google search for terrorist activity today, how many Islamist acts would I find? Yesterday? The day before? It is just because it is actually so common it rarely gets headline news anymore. Islamist terrorism is hardly rare. Numbers to back that sentiment… In the week from June 23-29, there were 34 terrorist attacks killing 354 people. This includes a Taliban attack in Afghanistan, the massacre of 120+ people in attacks at a funeral in Nigeria by Miyetti Allah, an ISIS attack at a security checkpoint in Iraq, a bomb killing 3 in the Somali town of Wanlaweyn by Al-Shabaab, two IED explosions near Aleppo, one just outside a hospital, and I could go on. Islamist terrorism remains common. It has not been rare for a very long time and it will be a very long time before it becomes rare once again. This is a sad truth and no amount of politically correct wishful thinking will change it.
Piling one lie on top of another, Myth goes on to say: In the West, jihadist attacks are not as prevalent as other forms of terrorism.
My response: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Wikipedia has an article on Islamic terrorism from 2014 through to the present. Although like most Wikipedia articles, the page needs some cleaning up, it is still a good starting place to see how blatantly false this statement is. There were 348 suicide bombings carried out by 623 people in 2017. These attacks killed 4,310 people and wounded 6,700 others. ISIS was responsible for 220 of these 348 attacks. Combine Al Quaeda and affiliates and you can now account for more than 90% of the bombings. Add in other suicide bombers who would claim to be Muslim and you have 348 attacks. To be fair, there are a spattering of “Christian” terrorist activities throughout Europe. Maybe about a half dozen a year although you would have to go back a good bit for the last Christian suicide bomber. Perhaps the most heinous attack in recent history would be the one with which is found on the opening pages of Myth. Even there, Breivik himself makes no claim to Christianity. He writes in his manifesto: “I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person, as that would be a lie… myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God.”
For the cherry on the top of this insanely false segment, Myth writes: All told, there were 65 jihadist terrorist incidents in Europe from 2001 to 2009, involving 336 people; this represents less than 1% of all terrorist incidents on the continent during those years.
My response: A) How narrowly are you defining “Jihadist”? B) How broadly are you defining “terrorist incident”? C) Why do you have no footnote to source this little factoid? You can wikipedia search terrorist attacks by year for a convenient list in chronological order. To the right of each incident, there is a column labeled “perpetrator”. Just a brief glance at that and you can see for yourself roughly what percentage of terror attacks are carried out by jihadists. It certainly is far more than 1% (or even 50%).
So if Islam itself is not the cause of terrorism, then what is? Myth has an answer for us. Of the most famous terrorists, “All of them are integrated, Westernized, and educated… The source of radicalization is the West and not jihad or the conflicts in the Middle East… Psychological research points to the importance of perceived deprivation.”
My response: Well, in that case, if you know any millennials then you better watch your back.
Myth then does go into an excellent chapter demonstrating the ways the fear of immigrants today parallels fears of other groups like Irish and Italian Catholics, Eastern European Jews, etc. I did notice this little “oops”… Then, after 1885, Prussia expelled Russians and Poles (most of them Jewish) from its territory and they fled westward. Between 1881 and 1899, Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe rose from 3,000 a year to 50,000; by 1914, it was 135,000. Many moved on to Germany and France.
My response: That’s interesting. Russians, Jews, and Poles were expelled from Prussia and migrated into… Germany? Things that make you go hmmm.
And then there was the moment Myth was talking about the potential benefits of refugee populations on the local culture. (I strongly agree) He says that the “chips” in British fish and chips are the product of French Huguenot refugees.
My response: Because that sounds so much more inclusive than “White European Protestants”.
Myth writes: The jihadists, up to and including the 9/11 attackers, were never seeking to impose Islam on other lands. Rather, their goal was to remove non-Islamic forces and influences from what they believed to be “the Islamic world,”
My response: I strongly agree. I think if he focused more on this and the need for the West to step away from their incessant interference in this part of the world, this would have been a much stronger book.
Finally, Those policies helped build a culture of grievance in which being offended has become a badge of identity.
My response: Those dang millennials again.
Thanks for enduring this brief glimpse into my mind at work when I am dialoguing with a book. Please head over to Goodreads to read and like my much shorter review.