The Banality of Evil in Paris

Looking at images of the French terrorists, it is hard not to think that they, like the Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for organising Jewish deportations to extermination camps, look ridiculously ordinary. Clearly, what they also had in common with the Nazi was ‘…an incapacity for independent critical thought’ as Hannah Arendt, the Jewish political theorist noted in describing Eichmann at his trial for war crimes in Jerusalem.

Had they or any other terrorists been really capable of independent critical thought they would surely not have lived their lives just to kill others in the name of a prophet that asked for total submission whilst enriching himself and accruing power. The terrorists, in common with all others, lived lives devoid of achievement, unremarkable except for some petty crime.

Yet despite showing no previous talent for clever ideas, they come to the conclusion that to die in attacking the West would be the best way to live. Muhammad was a warmonger. The list of his battles is long during his lifetime. One has to expect that Islamic terrorists are keen on following in their prophet’s lifetime accomplishments and slaughter to conquer. But in killing Westerners, each terrorist only serves to strengthen our collective revulsion at their motives and to create martyrs for civilisation of their victims. And once they’re dead, well, that’s it. The killers will soon be forgotten. Those killed however, will be remembered.

I have come to the conclusion over researching in the last few months the problem of Islamic terrorism, that what we are dealing with is a peculiar, stubborn, mulish, naive stupidity – an inability to think independently of Islam that is borne of the independent choice of the faithful.

Islam means ‘voluntary submission to God’ and proclaims that the purpose of human existence is to worship God, with the Quran as the literal word of God as revealed to the prophet Muhammad – the final prophet. Yet it doesn’t occur to Muslims that perhaps he was wrong or making all these revelations up for his own gain? It’s the convenience of all the revelations which might give one cause to ponder. He has gained so much that by the end of his life he reigns over a conquered little caliphate and is a wealthy and revered man.

Isn’t it odd that he was a warlike man, a string of battles during his lifetime allowing him to conquer lands and peoples? If he is truly the last prophet, to complete the teachings of the Torah and of Christ, then why was his own life so completely the antithesis of Christ’s? Christ preached peace and that killing was a crime. The prophet had a sword which he nicknamed. Christ said the poor and the meek would inherit the Earth, whilst the prophet himself grew in wealth during his conquests. The list would go on of course to cover the prophet’s youngest wife Aisha, whom he married age 6 and introduced to intercourse aged 9 or 10. It is said she brought her childhood toys to the marriage bed. Christ had no child brides. Islam extols the virtues and life of Muhammad as describing the ideal man, the perfect man.

Over 1400 years of history Islam has not had a single moment of Reformation, in the way that Christianity has. Church and State are one and ideas of Individual Freedom and Democracy are decried by multitude Islamic proponents of Sharia law.  Muhammad saw it as his sacred duty to convert unbelievers to Islam by force or persuasion.

These verses from the Quran:

YUSUFALI: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
PICKTHAL: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
SHAKIR: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

YUSUFALI: The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!
PICKTHAL: And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!
SHAKIR: And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!

So to be a TRUE believer in Islam, it is necessary for the faithful to fully live by the holy book, and all it says about non-believers and violence. This is clearly the take that radical Imams promote to their congregation, and which leads to all the violence we see today from Islamic terrorists.

This clip shows some classic fundamental Islamists rejecting the laws of the UK and a non-Muslim woman’s right to dress as she pleases. Note in particular the Life of Brian-esque way in which the Burka’d woman asks the interviewer whom she believes is naked in her Western dress – ‘Who are you trying to seduce?’. It is clear that this Muslim woman is interested not in the complexities of life in the UK and in coexisting with her fellow humans, but only in one view of the world – that of Islam.

This is the profound problem we face in trying to understand Islamic terrorist activity. How can a true believer, one who is supposed to submit to Islamic doctrine completely, NOT want to turn away from the West. Because in everything we do in the West, all that is best about the West, lie the burgeoning seeds of a question. And once Islam is questioned, it is vulnerable. This is why cartoonists, a normally benign group of people, take on such importance to a submitted mind.

‘The prophet is more important than my children’, said a Parisian Muslim man interviewed after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. This is the root of the Palestinian conflict and all the conflicts worldwide involving Islam. And without a Reformation of Islam the religion can never coexist in the West, because strict adherents simply do not want to participate in our societies fully.

This means those Muslims who want to adhere most will never benefit from our education properly because either they are taught in Islamic schools or taught at home that what they are learning at school is wrong. Nor will they be able to participate in the workplace on an equal footing. It keeps immigrants living in closed communities and allows ignorance and distrust to breed. Multiculturalism has played its part, of course, in allowing this by not forcing better integration. But ultimately the reason lies with this – Islam needs an uncritical membership. It needs wilful ignorance and therefore an inability to think for oneself.

Without that, as Hannah Arendt said of Eichmann, it is impossible to tell right from wrong.

“… the only specific characteristic one could detect in his past as well as in his behavior during the trial and the preceding police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think.” (6)

“… the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology, or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness.” From Eichmann in Jersualem by Hannah Arendt


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