History professor, Dr. Richard Landes teaches us about Muslim history, honor culture, and their global and political impact when Islam comes into contact with other religions and cultures. Richard also discusses the idea of current global jihad by radicals, and the difference between radical Muslims and moderate Muslims.
One of the most important things in Muslim culture is to have honor and to keep honor. And if someone loses honor, that honor is restored mostly through acts of vengeance.
This differs from much of modern western society, and is often something that people in western society don’t quite understand about how Islamic and much of Arab culture is different from that of western society.
Muslim culture, which is an honor-shame culture, is one where you have to often shed another person’s blood to restore one’s honor. In western society, of course, we settle disputes by courts and other forms of discourse. In the west, we are so accustomed to resolving misunderstandings in a civil manner, when we are faced with an enemy like radical and extremist Muslims, whose mentality is right out of the Middle Ages, we are not equipped to understand them because we simply don’t believe that someone can seriously think, believe and behave in such ways. Our minds simply struggle with seeing it for what it is.
What the people in the west must understand is that Muslims believe that they have a naturally superior religion (in fact the only true religion) and god (Allah) wants Islam to dominate the world. And any form of violence is legitimate to establish and restore the honor of their religion.
In the west, the separation of church and state has been a very strong core value, but in Islam, the state exists to uphold the demands of the religion, and Sharia law (Islamic law) is the main law that is practiced.
Luckily, the war against extremism can be won in the public sphere, in peoples minds, without the use of violence, and that is what Richard is focusing on.
To better understand the cognitive dissonance here, it can be helpful to understand the psychological concept of cognitive ego-centrism. Cognitive ego-centrism is the assumption and projection of your own mindset onto other people.
Cognitive ego-centrism comes into play in two ways here. First, there are the westerners who live in a positive society where if someone wins and does well for themselves, it is celebrated. And in Muslim societies, there isn’t such a concept. If someone wins or does well for themselves, it is seen as someone else’s loss. The same is with solutions to problems or business deals. In the west, it is often about finding solutions where everyone wins. In Muslim culture, it is more of a winner take all situation.
Modern civil society depends on us treating each other well, and expect to be treated decently in return. As a result, we tend to project this on other people who don’t share this point of view. But in Muslim and Arab culture and society, things are seen as a zero sum game where if one person wins, someone else necessarily loses out. The irony is that they too fall into the cognitive ego-centrism trap where they assume that we think like they do, and that even though the west seems like it wants to find the best outcome for everyone, they are suspicious of it because they feel like the west wants to win out.
As a result of this double cognitive ego-centrism, generally, the side playing the zero sum game wins because the other side (the west) doesn’t try to grab for themselves more than they feel is fair while they side that feels that there must be only one clear winner tries to grab for themselves as much as possible so that they are a clear winner.
An example of what happens when the two cultures meet and have some sort of dispute or disagreement is that the Arab/Muslim side tries to win outright and fully, and is not happy until they get all concessions to go their way. The west, on the other hand, thinks that it didn’t do enough if the Arab side is still unhappy, and concedes further. It is a common line of thinking in the west, and especially in liberal circles, that if some group doesn’t have it as good as they possibly can or isn’t happy, then it is somehow the fault of the west or those liberals, and never the fault of the other group. It almost takes all the thinking and responsibility away from the other group as though they are helpless children, and puts all responsibility solely on the west.
Cognitive ego-centrism: liberal politics & understanding Islam and Muslim world
Here is the video on cognitive ego-centrism from the full video:
And here is the article on cognitive ego-centrism and politics.
Cognitive ego-centrism is a tendency to project your own mindset onto other people. Of course, everyone has their unique mindset which they bring and apply to everything. But it is impossible to understand another person’s mindset exactly, so we try to make sense of it, and put the pieces of the puzzle together. Since we understand our own mindset best, we tend to project parts of our own mindset onto others even if it is different from their mindset. And we have a very hard time comprehending how and why other people’s mindset might be different.
In this video, Richard Landes discusses how Cognitive ego-centrism comes into play when the west and its culture of democracy and equal rights comes in contact with the eastern Muslim world which has a mindset of all or nothing, and a pride-based, revenge-based culture. When these two worlds meet, they don’t comprehend one another because the west is open and inviting, and thinks that other cultures will participate in kind, but the Islamic world’s mindset is that of conquering the whole world for Islam, and it won’t stop until it does. So while the Muslims try to conquer the west ideologically and with violence, people brought up with western culture and values simply concede.
The important difference between western culture and Muslim culture is that in the west, when you have disputes or people coming together, you try to find solutions that would work well for both parties, and that if you would be nice to people, they would be nice to you in return. And people are generally thought of as good until proven otherwise. We tend to project this on people who don’t necessarily share this point of view. But in Arab and Muslim culture, there is what can be identified as a zero-sum mentality. In a zero-sum game mentality, if someone wins, the other side necessarily loses, even if in reality both sides win something. So in the mind of a zero-sum game player, anything that registers as a win or a benefit for the other side registers to the zero-sum game player as a loss for themselves. As a result, people who come from zero-sum game cultures tend to project their mentality onto other people.
So there is a mutual misunderstanding of the two sides by each side.
Generally, when such different cultures come together, the zero-sum game sum wins because they don’t settle for any outcome that isn’t an all out win.
Furthermore, a common attitude in the west is that if something isn’t working, then it must be our fault and not the other side. Richard refers to this as masochistic omnipotence syndrome where there is a strong tendency to think that it is all our fault, and take any responsibility out of the hands of the other party.
To sum up the issues, here they are:
1) Tendency to self-blame
2) Omnipotence fantasy where you are responsibly for everything right or wrong
3) Misunderstanding of true motivations of the Muslim culture
When the west makes a concession, the west thinks it is generous. But the Muslims and Arabs take it as a sign of weakness, and an invitation for further aggression which will bring about further concessions.
What is a moderate Muslim & what is an extremist Muslim? Difference of moderate & extremist Muslim
Here is the video excerpt from the full video on what is a Muslim extremist and what is a moderate:
Here is the blog post on Muslim extremist vs. moderate Muslim.
In this lecture, Richard talks about the difference of extremist Muslims and moderate Muslims, and there difference between extremist Muslims and moderate Muslims if there truly is a difference.
It is a very awkward and uncomfortable distinction to make and many people shy away from this question. But it is a very worthwhile and necessary thing to think about and consider.
The options in this question are not good options because if we identify extremist and fundamentalist Muslims, or people who may be Islamists but we may not be sure, we would have to confront them, and that is a difficult thing to do because we are faced with the question of violence and choosing conflict.
So let’s think about that is a genuine moderate and a false moderate among Muslims in the west today. For the time being we leave the Muslims living in the rest of the world out, and only consider the ones living in Europe and North America.
False moderates are people who make it seem that they are moderates, but really they only pay lip service to moderation, and wear that as a garb that makes them accepted in western societies. But underneath, they are supportive of extremist Islamic actions and beliefs. For them it is about the same goal of the violent jihadis, but with a different strategy that is less violent.
Global jihad is an Islamic religious movement based on the Islamic principle that Islam is the superior and the only religion on the planet, and that everyone should either become a Muslim or be enslaved. You can call it a global caliphate or a global Sharia. This is a global movement in which the ultimate goal is the conquest of the world.
But the liberal left doesn’t and can’t understand this concept because when they are confronted with this idea, they will say that we are demonizing all Muslims, and that we are the bad guys here. The liberal left will say that saying this about Muslims is hate speech.
But the extremist Muslims themselves say that it is their goal to conquer the world because according to Sharia law, that is the goal. Many moderate Muslims do have as their goal to have Islam take over the world, and we must take them seriously when they say that.
Of course, there are many organizations that have as their stated goal to conquer the world and make it all islamic. There are the extreme and terrorist organizations like ISIS, AlQaeda, Hamas, Hizbollah, Boko Haram, and many similar others. These groups are clearly the extremist and they want to conquer the world for Islam. They are easy to identify and there is no argument about how evil they are because they actually openly state all their goals.
On the other hand, there is another group of Muslims who are more difficult to group and identify. There are Muslims who say that they are not extremist, but in fact do everything in the real of non-violence to support the extremist agenda of conquering the world for Islam. They protect the violent jihadists as much as possible, and conduct campaigns in our public spheres like western universities, with journalists and media to get them to comply with their demands. As long as you comply and submit, and start behaving as a submitted person, there is no reason for them to have to use violence against them because they are already complying with their Islamic demands. And we must identify people who have bad motivation and use our institutions against us.
So a true moderate and a liberal is someone who treats others by the same liberal and moderate principles when he has the upper hand and he decides how to treat the other person instead of when he demands to be himself treated fairly by western moderate, democratic and liberal principles. So if that is our definition of what it means to be a moderate, how many Muslims like that do we find, and more importantly, how many Muslim leaders and preachers do we find who can also be described as moderate and truly preach peace and acceptance?
There is very little true tolerance and acceptance in the Islamic world, and it is their responsibility to become more modern and more moderate as a society. Until then, they should be fairly categorized as a society to be extremist.
Muslim violence having an impact on western society: giving into Islamic jihadist violence
Here is the video excerpt on this topic from the full video:
And here is the link to the blog post on Muslim extremism in the West.
A common issue that often comes up is violence in a society, and how that violence is dealt with. In the western world, there is a common understanding that all or almost all violence is senseless. But in the Muslim world where there is an honor culture, there is a place for violence in society. In Muslim societies, the concept of revenge violence to protect your honor is praised and very common.
Charlie Hebdo is a great example of Muslim violence and how the Muslim world and the western world deals with that violence. For Muslims, violence and the threat of violence is an effective option to get things to go their way. In the western world, there is obvious fear, and quick appeasement under the guise of cultural understanding.
President Barak Obama and John Kerry called the Charlie Hebdo violence senseless. But for the jihadists, this was a very meaningful action that led to meaningful results.
When the western media outlets claim to be sensitive to the feelings of Muslims. But that is precisely the problem because you are forced to be sensitive to the feelings of Muslims because otherwise they will kill you like they did in the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
To put things in contrast, people aren’t as sensitive to the feelings of Christians when showing offensive pictures of Jesus Christ. People simply don’t have to be as sensitive to Christians or other groups because there is no threat of violence like there is when dealing with Muslims.
Richard also talks about a student in his class who talked about dehumanizing the nazis. And that is an example of how people want to be nice and don’t want to make some group to be evil. In the modern era, the Muslim jihadists spread the kind of violence or hate that is equivalent to the nazis, and openly call and actually pursue genocide of infidels (what they call all people in the west who don’t believe in Islam) and heretics. This is a good example of how in the west we want to be nice to groups and other people and how many people have a niceness that makes it easy to be blind to some of the worst evil in the world.
There is a sort of a moral narcissism going on here. It can even be said to be liberal moral narcissism where good people don’t want to think others as being bad. Because once someone is bad, you have to actually do work and oppose them. And if you are afraid of them, like in the case of being afraid of Muslim violence, then it will be very easy to find excuses to not oppose evils like jihadist and Muslim violence. So moral narcissism leads to excuses for cowardice and not opposing the evils of the world.
Liberal mindset and Islam: why liberals appease and apologize to Muslims due to self-blame
Here is the video excerpt on this topic from the full video:
And here is the blog post on liberal mindset of the West and Islam.
Liberals have a serious problem with their reasoning because they have adopted a set of positive-sum rules that let them be happy for others and do good things for others. These good things are great and they all work when they encounter people who are also willing to play by those rules.
A liberal democratic society is the highest standard for a country in the modern world, and seems to be the most successful way to structure a society, but it can only exist successfully if the free and liberal democratic notions are reciprocated by most of the others in that society to correctly exercise their freedom to act responsibly.
But when a society works well according to the free liberal modern democratic standard, and finds success in that, it isn’t well prepared when it meets another culture that has a zero-sum ethos like Muslim societies tend to have.
It is difficult for the liberals in western democratic societies to see the differences between them and the less modern societies because many of the principles in those societies simply don’t make sense. The other side isn’t going to play the liberal democratic game. And if the positive liberal overtures aren’t working for the other societies, then the liberal line of thought thinks that it isn’t the fault of the Islamic society, but rather the fault of the liberal’s approach, and that it must mean that the liberal democratic society isn’t doing enough to appease the Islamic society.
Self blame comes into play. It becomes a function thinking that everything is a function of me. If something bad happens like 9/11, it must be my or our fault. We aren’t perfect, but it must be asked why the other people did this to us.
As a side note, Richard mentions that historically, America has been relatively good to Muslim countries compared to how the European countries treated the Muslim world.
So the liberal paradox is that since the liberals think of themselves as good people, and think of all others as good people, they aren’t able to let go of the notion that all others are good people. Liberals are just not equipped to deal with bad people who will use the great liberal principles against them.
Richard calls such people Demopaths. Such people use the great western principles like liberty, equality, freedom of speech, humanity to get what they need out of the western liberal society, but themselves not play by those rules. And in any case when it is up to them to grant rights to other people, they don’t do it at all. So they are not committed to these values, they just use it to get things to get their way. But many people use democracy to destroy democracy. And liberals don’t readily believe that we have real enemies who want to destroy the democracies that we created.
The Muslim world does not want democracy. They want sharia law.
In the Muslim world, it is about loyalty to Sharia and the Muslim world and religion. They will always or almost always choose that rather than what is really right or wrong. In the western liberal mindset, it is often the mindset of self-blame and more often than not agreeing that the western approach is somehow wrong and has been doing wrong to Muslims whereas the Muslims simply use that notion to their advantage.
How the west started losing to Jihad onslaught in universities and media outlets
Here is the excerpt from the full video:
And here is the blog post on the impact of radical Muslims in American and western universities.
This video is about the west losing to a jihadi onslaught. Richard dates the beginning of the western collapse to the year 2,000 when we had the Second Intifada.
Usually, civil societies have common ways to defend themselves from threats of pre-modern societies and mindsets which want to use force to dominate because they think that they should dominate western and other societies. Richard shares that he strongly believed in those common defenses that civil and modern societies have, but something happened that made him change his mind.
The pre-modern political model was one where if some people opposed you or stood in your way, you would try to eliminate them if you could. This worked in aristocracies and societies in previous centuries. It is still the case in many third world countries.
Generally, people in modern societies who behave as they would in a pre-modern society would not have much success. That is true except for one case. If they use violence, they are likely to get their way because not many people would confront them.
In the year 2000, during the Second Intifada, key areas of the western public spheres were used by jihadists or people spreading jihadist agenda, and behaved with appeasement and placation as the answer to intimidation.
During the Second Intifada in 2000 when journalists were not depicting what was actually going on, but instead reporting an extensive staged propaganda campaign of how Palestinians had it so bad. And that got a very strong anti-Israel and anti-Jewish response in the west led by Muslims and Arabs living in western countries.
The BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement is another manifestation of the global jihad movement in which there is a tremendous pressure and propaganda against Israel and everything Jewish. Many of the BDS leaders and people who disseminate their propaganda are Muslim, and do everything they can to take advantage of the great western values to get as much advantage from those values as possible, but themselves spread hate and intolerance.
Nakba the catastrophe. Definition of the Nakba For Arabs & How Arabs Kicked Jews Out Of Arab Lands
In this talk, Professor, Dr. Richard Landes talks about the Palestinian Nakba, some of the Palestinian history, and how the Muslim Arabs view Israel, and their defeat of 1948 which they now call the al Nakba day, which means catastrophe.
Here is the full article on the Arab Nakba. Below is a video excerpt from the full video that focuses on the Arab Nakba:
The Palestinians and the Muslim world used to refer to their defeat to Israel as the Nakba, but now this term is widely used to denote the founding of Israel as a catastrophe. So for Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims, Israel’s mere existence is the Nabka (catastrophe) which is a very racist, hateful and bigoted point of view.
Additionally, Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims exiled about 1,000,000 Jews from Arab lands in 1948, and make no mention of that when they talk about el Nabka. In fact, after 1948, almost all Jewish communities in the Middle East either disappeared or were destroyed, with most Jews having to leave Arab lands or face violence. This created 1,000,000 Jewish refugees. And until today, there is no Arab or Muslim country which has given freedom or equal rights to Jews, and Jews living in Arab countries constantly face discrimination and violence.
In the Arab world, the Nakba means “catastrophe” to denote the disaster that befell the Palestinians as a result of this war when Israel was formed.
Originally, when the term Nakba was used, it referred to how the Arab armies lost that war. and to criticize the Arab elites in how they carried out and handled the war of 1948. Since then the term has taken on a new meaning, and is largely used to criticize Israel, and generally refer to the Israeli state as a catastrophe to the Arab world.
Arabs claim that 600,000 to 800,000 Arab refugees were driven out of Israel in 1948. The actual historical truth is more complex than that, but this is what the Arab side claims to be the truth. But what is really going on is that this event was an utter humiliation to the entire Arab world. It was the equivalent of an Olympic athlete losing to a weak child.
As a result, many of the Middle Eastern Arab and Muslim countries proceeded to kick the Jews out or threaten the Jews with violence. This resulted in about 800,000 to 1,000,000 Jewish refugees who were kicked out of Arab lands and had to leave all their possessions behind. These Jews literally often had to walk through the desert to make it to Israel, which was the only safe haven for them.
Additionally, Egypt exiled a large part of their Jewish population in 1967 which created even more Jewish refugees whose only safe haven was to come to Israel.
All of this was an act of vengeance. And before they fled Arab countries, many of the Jews did face various acts of violence just before they left the Arab countries.
So it is important to understand that the existence of Israel has a cultural meaning of Jews against Arabs, but it is also a religious issue. Part of the Muslim beliefs is that they are the only true religion, and that they should dominate. And certainly, they should dominate in the lands that are considered by them to be Muslim lands.
The area that is now Israel has been in the possession of the Muslim world since only about 1 generation after the prophet Mohammed died, and other than the Christian crusades, that land has been ruled by Arabs ever since it was the home of the Jewish people 2,000 years ago (the Jews were conquered by the Romans and exiled from their home, and have been yearning to come back to their original home for the last 2,000 years having been stateless before the establishment of Israel).
So the part of Islam that believes that it should dominate the world has it as a great insult that sovereign Jews with their own state live in “Dhar al Islam” which means “Aram lands.”
So as far as the extremist Muslims are concerns, the state of Israel can’t exist because until it is destroyed it represents the Nakba, a catastrophe, that will only be gotten over after Israel ceases to exist. Israel is seen as a blasphemy against Allah and against Islam.
While this is an extremist Muslim belief, there are many Muslims who have made peace with Israel, and are ready to get on with their lives. Of course, there are extremely active, strong, numerous, and well-funded Muslim groups and organizations that have as their stated goal to destroy Israel, wipe it off the map, and bring genocide to the Jews who currently live there.
Additionally, the Muslims who want to compromise with Israel, themselves face violence from the extremists, and have their voices quieted.