January 29th, 2015
How is the spread of militant, jihadist, Salafist Islamic fundamentalists like the seemingly random outcroppings of mushrooms in a forest? And why on earth would anyone ask that question!
Visualize the Internet as a literal, humongous net cast over the planet, which conducts information in a constant active, never-ending stream, bringing people and ideas together and creating a fertile ground for innovation and the realization of inspired and life-changing concepts, resulting in new innovative technologies ad infinitum.
Now visualize a mushroom. You probably see a small seemingly insignificant sedentary little cap, minding it’s own business on the forest floor, on a log, or wherever. Actually, it’s anything but that. Mushrooms are the “fruiting” body of fungi, and fungi grow via a vast network of underground branching tube-like structures, called hyphae, which mesh together into a substance that appears similar to a spider web, which is collectively known as mycelium. There seems to be “intelligence” to this mycelium– when only one of these hyphae comes into contact with a food source, the mycelium has the ability to mobilize its energy to actually grow towards and exploit it. This mycelium can actually communicate with the mycelium of another species of mushroom fungus and pass along information, including information about toxic or hazardous substances previously encountered.
Not only that, but this massive network of subterranean mycelium, carry nutrients, which are vital to the propagation of almost every plant ecosystem on the planet. So…now you’re asking, what in the world does all this have to do with the Salafist, fundamental jihadists?
Well, think of the seemingly random explosions of horrific, deadly violence around the globe committed by Islamic extremists such as Al Qaeda / Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Mujahideen as mushrooms. Beginning to get the picture? And we, the Christian, Jewish, and other “non-believers” are the food source.
It’s not quite that simple, or bleak, but we must begin to examine how we–I’ll say the Western world; have had a good hand in fertilizing this rampant growth.
There are a number of ways in which we very effectively fertilize this mycellium of terrorists. For centuries now, the Western world has destabilized vast regions of the world, with predominantly Muslim populations, through endless wars, aggravating already existing tribal enmity and then failing to thoughtfully, and responsibly integrate the resulting refugees and immigrants fleeing those conflicts into our societies.
The most recent, horrific terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by offshoots of radicalized, nihilistic, Islamist Jihadist militant groups: The Peshawar school massacre, committed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), the Boko Haram, (translates to,” Western education is forbidden”) massacre in Baka, Nigeria, the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher Market massacres in Paris, Al Qaeda, the ISIL beheadings of foreign journalists and other barbarous acts committed against their own people in Syria and all over the Middle East.
It is a very precarious time and we must be very thoughtful, and consequent before we jump to react to such terrorist acts and risk becoming the terrorists ourselves. Their fundamentalist intolerance cannot be allowed to ignite our own fears, which unchecked, lead to intolerance. We must educate ourselves, and act from a place of big-hearted compassion, otherwise, what good will come from labeling the 1.6 billion Muslims as the “other” and perpetuating a climate of fear and aggression.
Not one entire group of people must be condemned for the fanatic heinous murderers committing crimes in the name of their God. We need to sit back, breath deeply and take a moment of sobriety to rethink our ideas and learn about what Islam is, and not form opinions and foster emotions based on headlines in the media, or psychotic rants by newscasters, spouting an hysterical Western version shout-outs for jihad, (as did Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro last week, and chillingly, she’s a judge.)
This vitriolic rhetoric only serves to fuel the fearful fires of hatred (think meat tenderizer) and a general misconception about Islam itself. The tragic aftermath is to turn an uninformed general worldwide population against “Islam” and make the lives of the most, peace-loving Muslims, exponentially harder and more dangerous.
I would say that education is the key factor. Both a lack of education about Islam in our cultures, and the forfeiting of foresight, by not realizing that in order to clean up the mess we’ve created, our societies have to create viable, equal education for the refugees and immigrants among us. Quality education is integration in our new multi-cultural and ever changing societies.
Firstly a lack of understanding and education about what Islam (the fastest growing religion in the world) is and what it means to be a Muslim might be a good place to start. The explosion of global anti-Muslim hysteria is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we denigrate and cast out hateful rhetoric, the larger we make the target.
All Muslims are not fundamentalist, murdering jihadists. In fact Muslims believe that the imitation of their prophet Muhammad helps one to know and be loved by God: one lives in constant remembrance of God. Sounds beautiful right?
When my husband and I recently spent 14 days in Istanbul on vacation, we did think twice before booking our trip. The ISIS radicals were fully engaged in battle with the Kurdish troops in Kobani, and we checked in with the “situation” in Istanbul in regards to expected, possibly violent, Kurdish protests against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his lack of action to support the Kurdish in Kobani.
We’re not comfortable with his “covert” acceptance and constantly changing stance in regard to the ISIS militants, as well as his listing towards the right, in his thinly veiled desire to reverse the broad legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey, and return Turkey to an Islamic state. But…we decided that is was now or possibly never, and decided to not venture southeast towards the Syrian border.
It was on this trip, that I was led to explore the relationship of Islam to both Christianity and Judaism during a visit to the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856); during this time it was also the center of the Islamic world. In one of the rooms, the Destimal Chamber a number of sacred relics were on display, and boy, was I surprised! Long ques, equal to those waiting to get into the Treasury where the insanely opulent jewels of the sultans were on display, filed by vitrines containing religious pieces sent to the Sultans: Abraham’s Pot, Joseph’s Turban, Moses’ Staff, David’s Sword, scrolls belonging to John, and Muhammad’s footprint. I didn’t understand, why were these things here?
Then we went to visit the Süleymaniye Mosque (the Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent) where they had glass covered informational pages about Islam, a sort of religious breakdown on display in several languages. Admittedly uninformed, I was shocked to read that Muhammad was a direct descendant of Ishmael, the eldest son of prophet Abraham, and that Qur’an has a chapter named after Mary, the mother of Jesus. Huh? Apparently Muslims respect and admire Mary as the ideal of womanhood, (which is good, because she presides over the highest dome in the Hagia Sofia)…but really, what was all this about?
I decided to educate myself and found out that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all trace their spiritual origins to the prophet Abraham, they comprise the Abrahamic religions. They all believe in one God, and that one God blessed Abraham the common Patriarch: His descendents being: Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, who as prophets, brought his revelations to humankind. Islam also recognizes and respects all the prophets––the riddle of the relics was solved!
So what’s up with everyone fighting and killing each other in the name of God, when they all share the same God?
For the answer to that, we have to look back to the second half of the 19th century, when the Salafist movement, (a movement, sect, or a school of thought within Islam,) surfaced as a reaction to the spread of “European ideas,” and which is based on its commitment to exposing the roots of this “modernity” within the Muslim civilization.
The Salafists believe that they represent the epitome of Islamic practice, in its purest form, as they most closely adhere to the original teachings of their prophet Mohammad, as the messenger of God, (analogous to the Christian fundamentalists in their “literal” adherence to the exact letter of the Bible.) According to the Salafists, living one’s life by fulfilling these divine injunctions is the will of God, and the imitation of Muhammad is tantamount, thus there is no room for any diversion from this path. To open the way to any form of Western thinking within Islam is to commit a sin, worthy of death.
After the invasion of Afghanistan there has been a rise in Salafists committed to radical jihad, aided and abetted by the departing Soviet troops defeated in 1989, who left behind a massive amount of weapons and arms and munitions. After the Soviets were so successfully expelled from Afghanistan, several radical Salafists seized upon this defeat of the Soviet “Crusaders,” the non-believers trying to modernize Muslim culture, to support the call to arms in the form a jihad. The fundamentalist mycelium-Mujahideen feasted on the victory, blossoming into a major network throughout the Muslim world. Then Osama Bin-Laden came to power, 9/11 happened, then we added more fertilizer with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…and things began to go nuclear.
The resulting rise in Islamic terrorist activity has fueled an ugly, virulent anti-Muslim hysteria, a backlash of equally, potentially dangerous fundamentalists all over Europe, who are temporarily benefiting from the recent horrific events in Paris last week.
I live in Germany, where every Monday, lunatic fringe right-wing extremists rally together in Dresden under the banner of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), run by a convicted criminal, who fears that Islam will overrun his picture perfect idea of the “real” Germany. Yuckily, scarily and very, very unbearable ideas for most Germans in the 21st century–considering their history. Thank god the majority of Germans think this is insane as well
In France, the National Front led by Marie Le Pen, whose party recently entered into alliance with the Party for Freedom, (PVV) in the Netherlands led by Geert Wilder, have “cashed–in” winning supporters and converting minds and hearts of the uneducated fearful masses. The same is true for the Progress Party in Norway, whose leader is a woman, Siv Jensen, who is also Norway’s Minister of Finance.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg was quoted in an article in the New York Times in January 2014, “Public discussion of Islam is less about “their beliefs or their color; it’s more about lack of education and need for training,” Ms. Solberg said in an interview. Given Norway’s generous asylum policies and social welfare system, the new government wants to reduce abuse and ensure, she said, that “you always earn more money by working than by not working — it’s a bigger social issue here than immigration.”
Ah yes, now we’re getting somewhere.
What if the mycellium of terror suddenly formed mushrooms simultaneously, and they all sprouted at once, thrusting out spores into every city with a sizeable immigrant population?
The only possible way to prevent this is not with angry warrior aggression, or by developing technologically superior weapons, thereby fueling the fires, fertilizing the ground, but by improving the quality of education for everyone.
No more tax shelters for the 1%, and offshore corporate accounts, channel those billions into education so that our cities don’t further degrade into rampant Blade Runneresque noir scapes of crime and daily terror. No place in the world will be “safe” for the absurdly wealthy offspring of those 1%, did they ever stop to think of that while hoarding their billions?
Amid the new economic austerity measures imposed by the EU, most European cities are going to have a hard time improving schools in order to create the needed opportunities for disenfranchised, impoverished immigrant populations. All over Europe increasing social and economic marginalization is driving young people towards extremism.
In France, the banlieus, basically ghettos inhabited by immigrant families, have such a high unemployment rate for youths that hopelessness is a matter of daily life and the factor leaving, especially young men, vulnerable, depressed and angry.
Mostly Muslims, these youths already feel shunned, set aside and stuck between worlds. They wind up committing theft and burglary, just to have a little money, or power, maybe to help feed their poor families and wind up being thrown in jail, alongside the extremely radicalized Islamic Imam proselytizers, who lie in wait, to get their hearts and minds, waiting to take control of their destinies to do their twisted version of jihad. These young, mostly men, are easy targets for extremist Islamic groups, who offer them a sense of purpose and belonging. In the U.S we’ve been dealing with this for decades among the immigrant Latino, Chinese and Vietnamese communities as well as the impoverished and marginalized African American communities.
All three young men responsible for the attacks in Paris; Saïd and Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, grew up in these banlieus.
There are minor “trade schools” in place, but how many un-employed mechanics can a society support?
A recent New York Times article quoted the deputy mayor for education in the Paris suburb of Colombes, Leila Legmara,”… We are not treating the problem at its roots. Of course we need more security and resources to fight terrorism. But we also need to address what it is within our society that is capable of producing monsters.”
Great, finally at least someone is getting down to the roots, and hopefully, we will all learn how to deal with them.
Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: email@example.com