Losing Their Religion: The Materialist Nihilism Fueling the Rise of ISIS/ISIL and Salafist Jihadism

Flag of ISIS/ISIL

The black flag of contemporary nihilism in our world today.

 by V Lexander

Since first publishing our ongoing series of articles on the decades-long Saudi Arabian-led Salafist terrorist campaign (“The Saudi Gambit Against Iran: Continuing Blowback from Al Qaeda, Taliban, and Now Boko Haram – Part I“) last June/July, there have been monumental changes to the evolving geopolitical landscape of the region, most prominently the rapid ascent of ISIS/ISIL—the confederacy of terrorist gangs and Sunni rebel militias calling themselves the “Islamic State”—and its consolidation of power over large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

These swift changes have shocked and shaken up much of the world, but for those that have been living in the midst of the sectarian chaos created in the wake of the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the only shock is in how adamant the Obama administration and its European allies are in refusing to learn from the mistakes made by their own governments over the past thirteen years and how easily they were manipulated by Saudi Arabia and its Arab and Turkish allies into backing the allegedly “moderate” anti-Assad Syrian opposition to the hilt, and as a consequence, creating the so-called “Islamic State” that is slaughtering its way across Mesopotamia with its ultimate (and thoroughly unattainable) goal being the conquest of Europe and the (equally impossible) destruction of America.

Much has been made of the fact that the “Islamic State” is neither Islamic nor an actual state. What has not been made clear in the Western media is the fact that ISIS/ISIL (along with Boko Haram in Nigeria) is the culmination of decades-long Salafist experimentation with Sunni extremists like Al-Qaeda and Taliban. What the Salafist leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates learned from the years they built up, funded and armed Al-Qaeda and the Taliban was that true believers cannot be counted upon to go all the way. They are not reliable enough to count on to carry out mass slaughter, let alone genocide. Sure, you can find a minority here and there who are sincerely evil enough to engage in mass murder and potential genocide with zealous glee, but they are few and far between. Most militants and terrorists, even the most brazenly murderous ones, are limited in how far they are willing to go by their religious and/or ideological beliefs.

The Salafist despots of the Persian Gulf needed terrorists who weren’t motivated by such cumbersome limitations as sincere religious belief, but rather motivated by terror for the sheer sake of terror. With ISIS/ISIL and Boko Haram, the answer to finding such genocidal barbarians was to look not to Muslims or even those readily inclined towards religion, but rather those who are the very opposite. Instead of recruiting religious fanatics to their cause, they would recruit veteran criminals, aspiring murderers and serial killers, gang members, rapists, and other such bloodthirsty scum.

A key recruiting ground for ISIS/ISIL have been Western European and American cities and suburbs, particularly among the more extreme elements of the “gangsta rap” crowd and those who are attracted to living out such misogynistic ultraviolent fantasies without constraints of any kind. This recruitment strategy has been, as the world has thus far witnessed, wildly successful. The real world result has been the transformation of parts of Syria and Iraq into a surreal murderous dystopia similar to that featured in the “Mad Max” films starring Mel Gibson.

Anyone who has ever personally had the misfortune of interviewing or interacting with this new breed of jihadist will attest that they display no sincere concern for faith or the genuine practice of Islam. In almost all cases, regardless of whether they come from a Muslim background or not, their knowledge of Islam is minimal to nonexistent, and it goes without saying that they have no command or understanding of Classical Arabic—these are not people who have even had any experience in reciting the Qur’an, which on the most basic and superficial level does not even require actual understanding, but simply the ability to properly recite the verses of the Qur’an. That they lack even this fundamental ability demonstrates that they have had neither formal nor informal instruction in Islam or Qur’anic exegesis, and when it comes to praying according to the Islamic method, which these butchers are only required to do for the sake of propaganda purposes on camera, they are only able to go through the physical motions. Without at least one person to physically “lead” them in prayer, they are unable to accomplish this most simple and fundamental of religious tasks. There is likewise no interest in learning any of this, as they consider such endeavors to be tedious formalities distracting from their primary goal: torture, bloodshed and rape.

To suggest that they are addicted to violence is an understatement. It is little wonder then, that the basis for ISIS/ISIL was borne out of the allegedly “moderate” Syrian opposition to Bashar al-Assad, many factions of which were originally secular prior to joining the ISIS/ISIL umbrella, particularly in Iraq, where many loyalists and former members of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party have joined the terror confederacy. In point of fact, the only requirement to joining ISIS/ISIL is a willingness to devote oneself fully to the organization and to the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children. Based on eyewitness accounts, ISIS/ISIL fighters are given free rein shoot anything that moves and there are no internal penalties to punish those who commit brazen murder and rape. So long as one is fighting under the banner of ISIS/ISIL, one can literally get away with anything. Again, it is no different than the “Mad Max”  universe.

The real ideology underlying ISIS/ISIL—and Salafist jihadism and Wahhabism, in general—is a radical materialist nihilism. There is no concern for what occurs after the death of the body, nor any theology regarding the afterlife. ISIS/ISIL have gone so far as to even abandon the tired and worn-out strategy of the “seventy-two virgins in paradise” used by some Sunni Islamists, which—to the eternal disappointment of anti-Muslim agitators—has no basis in the Qur’an, but originates from fringe variations of hadith, or sayings and traditions of the Prophet. The selective use of such non-authoritative and fringe hadith by Salafists (practitioners of Wahhabism) has always been unusual, considering that Salafism, by its very nature, is opposed to tradition as a whole. ISIS/ISIL, like their Boko Haram brethren, have abandoned such pretense and adhere to the most pure expression of Salafism possible: unadulterated materialism to the point of nihilism.

Some, particularly those who harbor anti-Muslim prejudices, will balk at the idea that Salafism/Wahhabism could possibly be materialist in nature, let alone nihilist, but even the most cursory examination of the history of this ultraviolent cult of barbarians will reveal that none of their actions or beliefs can be justified by even the most severely literal interpretation of the Qur’an. On the contrary, rather than “purifying” Islam or embodying some sort of Islamic primitivism, Salafism has been, from its very inception, radical and reformist in its character. Salafists routinely desecrate and destroy graves, tombstones, mosques, shrines, and anything that stands in the way of what they view as “progress.” In Saudi Arabia, the ruling Salafist regime have spared no expense at destroying entire graveyards and razing mosques and shrines that present an obstacle to their modernist vision of what Mecca and Medina should be like. These days, you’ll rarely encounter any Muslim who has visited the two holiest cities of Islam and come away from them feeling as though the pilgrimage felt in any way “holy.” Saudi Arabia, like the other Salafist regimes of the Persian Gulf—Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates—are as unholy as you can possibly get, considering they are consumerist monocultural wastelands bereft of indigenous expressions of culture, because so radically modernist and materialist are Salafists, that they consider even the native cultures of the Arabian Peninsula, particularly those outside the region of the Najd—the birthplace of Salafism and the original homeland of all the ruling families of the Persian Gulf Salafist monarchies—to be infidel cultures. As for the indigenous culture of the Najd itself, the most that can be said is that it is an anticulture and that what little culture is native to that region exists solely due to the advent of Islam and its civilizing effect upon the barbarian Najd tribes that spent their free time raping and pillaging their way across Arabia and making life miserable for everyone. It was such savagery that first awoke Muhammad to the harsh social Darwinist realities of the region centuries before such ideas ever became codified into modern language and form, and ultimately culminated in the birth of Islam as a force for civilization and sanity.

All things considered, when all the evidence is assimilated, processed and weighed, the only rational conclusion one can come to regarding Salafism and its inherent jihadist ideology is that it is materialistically nihilist in character and orientation. It is all about the here-and-now, and the amassing of temporal power and wealth. The private lives of the Salafist sheikhs, sultans and emirs of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the Emirates will tell you all you need to know about the true nature of their “faith”: the relentless, obssessive hoarding of wealth and material possessions, the routine practice of rape, torture and slavery as if they were normal activities basic to nature, and so on. These are not “holy” people. They are nihilists, pure and simple, as barbarically nihilist as were the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

The solution to Salafism and jihadism is not to “reform” Islam, as anti-Muslim critics and opponents cynically and ignorantly suggest, because there is no—and has never been any—universal central authority or institution in Islam to reform. Even the concept of a “universal Caliphate” has always been a myth, considering the many factions and divisions that existed even during the lifetime of the Prophet, which culminated in the permanent schisms of Sunni and Shi’a, both of which underwent further schisms over the centuries into the various Sunni and Shi’a schools of thought that exist today. The concept of universal “Reformation” is alien even to Christianity, as the Protestant Reformation only occurred as a modernist innovation in those lands under the domination of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Catholic and Orthodox churches of the East and in Africa, no such movement developed, and of course, this is also why the oldest communities of Christians can still be found in the cradle of civilization, that region encompassing Mesopotamia and western Iran, because the churches there have been able to maintain their traditions throughout the centuries to the present day, even in the face of ever increasing Western Protestant evangelism.

Traditional Islam, unlike the other Abrahamic faiths, emphasizes and enshrines individual interpretation and exegesis of scripture and faith above that of the collective or community consensus, thus making any sort of central spiritual authority or institution something of a contradiction, hence the clear divisions outlined in the Qur’an between temporal (secular) political authority and that of the spiritual realm, the latter of which is the sole domain of God, i.e. while God allows humans to rule over other humans in a secular manner, humans cannot the position of God in spiritual law, which is purely a matter between the individual and God. In the most fundamental Islam of the Qur’an, there are no intermediaries between the individual and God, making the concept of a priesthood or clergy anathema to pure Islam.

What the anti-Muslim crowd does not want to accept or acknowledge is that it is not Islam or the billion plus Muslims around the world that are the problem. It is a small ruling minority in the Arabian Peninsula that is the root source of all the jihadist absurdities, as well as the American and European trade and diplomatic policies that enable such a ruling minority to indulge their endless lust for temporal power and wealth at the expense of the lives and liberties of countless men, women, and children that become their victims.

Salafism is not Islamic, and its adherents cannot be considered Muslims. Salafism cannot be reformed or tamed or changed. Like Nazism, until it is completely eliminated, it will only continue to persist and survive, and if left unchecked, it will spread around the world like a virus. This is not because of anything inherent in Islam or religion in general, just as there is nothing inherent in politics or Western civilization to account for the extremes and excesses of Nazism. Rather, it is because throughout the history of the human race, there has never been any shortage of bloodthirsty psychopaths who are attracted to the idea of slaughtering their fellow human beings. There has, from the moment humans began to exist as a self-aware species, such a violently barbaric antisocial minority and until we overcome our hatreds and prejudices, there likely always will be.

In other words, the solution is to begin accepting and treating each other as human beings. Yes, it is easier to indulge in bigotry and racism and continue the perpetual cycle of violence and fight fire with fire and respond to mass savagery with mass slaughter, but ultimately we will only advance as a species when we are able to progress beyond such primitivism and become, in a manner of speaking, more human than human.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *