Chastity and Terrorism

What are the root causes of terrorism? Poverty (problem: most terrorists seem to come from middle class or upper middle class Middle Eastern families). U.S. hegemony (at least in part). Embarrassment and rage at the decline of Islamic civilization (almost certainly). Another recent candidate has emerged: Chastity.

Bernard Lewis, a noted Arabist at Princeton, recently gave a briefing to senior policy makers in Washington, D.C. Among other things he pointed out that the most violent elements in the Middle East are – surprise! surprise! – unmarried, young men. He pointed out that these men frequently find themselves in rather hopeless situations, even if they have some education, and are attracted to radical Islam as a way of working out frustrations and bringing about radical change.

According to Lewis, however, most young men in the Middle East suffer from sexual frustration as well. They live in a society that places a very high value on chastity (or at least female chastity). Outside of marriage, the only viable route to sex is prostitution. Most young men in the Arab world, however, cannot afford either marriage or prostitution. The result is pent up sexual frustration. The seventy virgins promised to martyrs start looking much better.

Or so says Lewis. The whole argument does seem to smack of what Edward Said called “orientalism,� namely the sexualization of Muslim culture by Western intellectuals. (Think, nineteenth century proto-anthropologists obsessing over the lechery of the harem). On the other hand, just because there is a glib, lit-crit phrase that allows one to dismiss the argument doesn’t necessarily mean that it is wrong. I really don’t know. Certainly, one can get terrorists out of social milieus with very lax sexual morality. Think of the student radicals of the 1960s.

Let us imagine that Lewis is correct, however. Strong norms of chastity coupled with the unavailability of marriage leads to sexual frustration that is channeled into violence. Does this constitute and argument against chastity? Might a modest tolerance for fornication lead to a more stable and less violent world? Discuss.

[Note: Should anyone attempt to turn this thread into a discussion of homosexuality or SSM, I promise that I will hunt you down and punish you if it is the last thing that I ever do!]

85 comments for “Chastity and Terrorism

  1. September 16, 2004 at 8:30 am

    So in other words, Brigham actually didn’t go far enough by calling single men over 28 “menaces” to society.

  2. September 16, 2004 at 9:13 am

    I respect Said’s work in literary and cultural criticism a lot more than I respect his politics (which he made difficult to do, since he insisted the latter flowed logically from the former), and I tend to think a sensitivity to “orientalism” is an important corrective to much cross-cultural thinking initiated by the West. And to simply posit that Islamic extremism is significantly function of male horniness is a tad reductive. Properly formulated, however, there’s something important to this argument. BYU’s Valerie Hudson has recently contributed to making a similar point about China: that the very high male-to-female ratio in that country is resulting in a lot of unattached, unsocialized, unhappy young men, all of which makes war a more attractive option. Check out this book

    September 16, 2004 at 9:15 am

    Okay, links don’t seem to work here in WordPress, do they? Perhaps I’m doing something wrong. Anyway, the book is “Bare Branches,” by Valerie Hudson and Andrea M. Den Boer, from MIT Press. Google it.

  3. ronin
    September 16, 2004 at 9:23 am

    Well, I wonder if this argument holds water, really. For example, there are at least 500 million young, educated, but poor, and chaste men in India – both Hindu and a small number of muslims and Christians, in a society, which like Islamic societies takes the issue of female chastity really seriously. So, like yourng Islamic men, outside of marriage or prostitution, they have no way odf seeking sexual satisfaction. If one were to believe Prof Lewis’ theory, then we ought to be seeing Hindu extremist movements and Islamic movements developing in India similar to the Islamic terrorism we are currently seeing coming out of mid-eastern countries. But, that is not the case. I think the growth of Islamic terrorism in Mideastern courtries is caused by factors other than that a lot of young muslim men are sexually frustrated. Just my 2 cents, and I am no scholar

  4. September 16, 2004 at 9:52 am

    9-11 contradicted this approach in some ways. At least one of the young men involved (I believe he was on the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field, rather than the planned Pennsylvania Avenue) was engaged to be married and had a Mercedes Benz his father had just purchased for him, waiting for him in a garage back home. His fiance and family had no idea of what was going on.

    I have pondered Muslim family life vs. Muslim militarism — I think marriage and family are an excellent counterweight to actual personal involvement in extremism (unless you are unusually wealthy and dedicated — like Bin Laden).

    The scriptures say it is not good for man to be alone, I believe. The human sex drive is pretty strong and the law of chastity can chafe a bit when one is of sufficient age to be married.

    Still, we don’t see Mormon men going around and killing others because they got kicked out of the singles ward. As I think this post recognizes, Islam has unique theological components that when added to the law of chastity, might drive young men towards martyrdom. We say that a belief in God and the afterlife serves as an anchor to our souls. For these young men who become terrorists, their beliefs in God and heaven are driving them towards murder and self-immolation.

  5. Nate Oman
    September 16, 2004 at 10:02 am

    First, Lewis is not necessarily reducationist in his analysis. He is not claiming that sexual frustration is the sole cause of Islamic extremism or even the major cause. He simply suggests that it is a possible factor.

    My dig at Said was meant as a dig at what I see as a broader problem in the humanities rather than at his politics per se. My objection is to the notion that the interpretation of words is a good way of responding to questions of social fact. Maybe Lewis is involved in working out Western intellectual sex fantasies on the canvas of silent Middle Eastern masses. However, as a theory of why particular events are occurring, Lewis’s theory is not utterly implausible. (Provided that it is coupled with appropriate qualifiers and other independent variables.) It seems to me that what is wanted is actual data rather than a literary deconstruction of Lewis’s text.

  6. September 16, 2004 at 10:18 am

    But you do have to ask yourself, if you believe in the theory: Where are all the Mormon terrorists?

  7. Mephibosheth
    September 16, 2004 at 10:18 am

    I think the main cause of extremism IS poverty. If most of the terrorists are, like you suggest, middle-class to upper-middle class, then surely they can afford a prostitute or a wedding and their sexual-frustration is a moot point. Rather, the promise of bin Ladin that he will provide financially for an entire family of a suicide-bomber for the rest of their lives sounds a little more convincing than a promise of 70 virgins of equal age in afterlife.

    There are exceptions: Al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaida #2, is an Egyptian-trained physician, and someone mentioned the 9/11 bomber above. These men are obviously after power and glory. I read an article by a Jewish-American professor that was aquainted with Al-Zarqawi for many years. As the years went on, he pay less and less attention to reason. “Wait,” the professor would say to his extremist friend, “There is more freedom to practice Islam in America than there is in Egypt.” But Al-Zarqawi would just continue to spout off rhetoric. And now he’s infamous.

    These extremists exist because Bin Ladin has given them the two things they lack living under totalitarian regimes: money and a cause.

  8. September 16, 2004 at 10:23 am

    Does this constitute and argument against chastity? Might a modest tolerance for fornication lead to a more stable and less violent world? Discuss.

    “Fornicator” and “fornication” are words that don’t get used much in the world today. I think a lot of people wince just to hear them. Maybe because the word immediately conjures up the uncomfortable image of sex as a sin.

    I’d divide fornicators into two categories. There are those who are fairly committed to a live-in partner (or a monogamous relationship) and there are those who sleep with whoever is available, somewhat attractive and compliant. The first category (in my view) causes serious societal problems but the second category of people present a more immediate and devastating threat to themselves and society. Observing people who live this kind of lifestyle immediately brings to mind the word “CHAOS”.

    I get the impression that a (significant?) percentage of teenagers and young adults these days are in that second category. How great a percentage is hard to say — but it appears they are simply bouncing around without any emotional order or stability in their lives. Because they live thier lives so spontaneously, without controls or limits, it seems almost anything could happen to them.

  9. Kaimi
    September 16, 2004 at 10:32 am


    I predict that this theory, if widely accepted, will rapidly become a source of pick-up lines. I mean, how could anyone turn down the line, “Sleep with me, or the terrorists will have won.”

  10. Shawn B
    September 16, 2004 at 10:55 am

    I remember reading an article with a similar argument. The author talked about the successful neutralization (in Palestine, by the PLO, if I remember correctly) of terrorists that had served their purpose and (it was feared) were going to cause trouble at home. In addition to finding these once-terrorists secure jobs, the government set them up with lovely women to marry.

    I looked up the information on the article if you are interested:

    Bruce Hoffman, “All You Need Is Love,” The Atlantic Monthly. Boston: Dec 2001.Vol. 288, Iss. 5; pg. 34, 3 pgs.

  11. D. Fletcher
    September 16, 2004 at 10:57 am

    I don’t know about terrorism per se, but it is pretty clear that unmarried males are responsible for most of the violence of the world. Robert Wright, who wrote “The Moral Animal,” suggests that polygamy was outlawed as democracy grew — as each man received his share (one vote), he also was guaranteed future genetic potential (one wife). It happened this way because men (admittedly, it was all men making decisions at the time) were afraid of the dangers of men who couldn’t get wives, either because of their personality disorders or lower economic potential. If there were legalized polygamy (the theory goes), most women would drift to a few highly intelligent and well-off men, leaving a huge number of men at the bottom of the social scale without sexual outlet, a very scary proposition. Thus, polygamy is outlawed.

    One way that celibacy can promote danger, is the sexual abuse that is rampant in churches with specific celibacy doctrines (i.e., the Catholic church).

  12. Mark B
    September 16, 2004 at 11:14 am

    Danithew writes:

    “Fornicator� and “fornication� are words that don’t get used much in the world today. I think a lot of people wince just to hear them. Maybe because the word immediately conjures up the uncomfortable image of sex as a sin.

    Ah, how the youth suffer from lack of memory of the good times!

    The best recent (is 1977, the year my oldest was born, recent?) appearance of the word was at the beginning of an interview of the President Richard Nixon by David Frost. Apparently in one more of his failed efforts to get comfortable with the press, Nixon asked: “Well, David, did you do any fornicating this weekend?”

    Alas, no record exists of Mr. Frost’s response.

  13. Aaron Brown
    September 16, 2004 at 11:25 am

    The Gahuku tribe in Papua New Guinea encourages their teenage males to engage in ritualized fellatio as a rite of passage into adulthood. If I recall correctly, some anthropologists have theorized that tribal societies will sometimes institutionalize homosexual sodmy in order to give adolescent and young adult males a sexual outlet such that the village elders do not have to engage in heterosexual competition with younger, sexually frustrated tribal males.

    In short, perhaps Gay Sex is the solution to terrorism.

    (Sorry, Nate, but I couldn’t resist). :)

    Aaron B

  14. Nate Oman
    September 16, 2004 at 11:47 am

    Aaron: Even now my minions in California are dogging your every step…

  15. Nathan Tolman
    September 16, 2004 at 11:55 am

    On Unmarried Men and Violence

    Unmarried men and violence is actually one of my research interests. Historically, you do not find the phenomena Nate is talking about just in Terrorism, but in all kinds of acts of rebellion.

    1. In Early Modern China (my main area of interest) one can see unmarried single men participating and sometimes leading peasant rebellions. Li Zicheng, who lead the rebellion that basically brought down the Ming dynasty, was an out of work postal runner (talk about going postal!) who was unmarried, I believe, at the start of the rebellion. His armies were more or less made up of unmarried young men from North China. The Taiping rebellion was similar in content.

    Fijian (the province right across the from Taiwan) had the triple whammy of having high rates of polygamy, common female infanticide, and a large amount of poor people. The province was a hotbed of rebellion, piracy, and banditry. The province brings an interesting view to bear on the above statement:

    In short, perhaps Gay Sex is the solution to terrorism.

    Fijian developed a cult centered around homosexuality.

    2. Though I have not studied this phenomena in Europe as much, I believe one can see similar patterns there.

    On Said

    I agree with Nate and Russel on this issue. Talking to Russel’s point about his politics, I lost most of my respect for Said’s political side with Out of Place. For those who do not know it was basically an autobiography that made the point that Jews and Arabs got along well until the founding of Israel, the proverbial snake in the garden. Much of recollections center around his school experiences. I have heard from two of his former classmates, one on the radio and one who is my Professor of Central Asian history who went to the same school at the same time as Said, that he definitely misrepresented the school situation, that things were not as rosy as he portrays.

  16. Nathan Tolman
    September 16, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    One more thing, in my research having a large amount of unmarried men is not sufficient cause to create rebellions or terrorism, but the situation provides a socially explosive mixture, that other situations or conditions could ignite. It is also interesting that one of the Chinese Communist Party’s polices during the Chinese Civil war was a wife for every man. It was no coincidence that the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) had so many unmarried men, again from North China.

  17. Silus Grok
    September 16, 2004 at 12:03 pm

    Two quibbles:

    First: the FPP starts “What are the root causes of terrorism?”, but then proceeds to speak only of Islamist terrorism… terrorism and Islam are not synonymous. Perhaps the opening sentence should read “What are the root causes of Islamist terrorism?”.

    Second: the assertion that “most terrorists seem to come from middle class or upper middle class Middle Eastern families” is un-supported (and I believe, un-tenable… but that’s a different post). How did you arrive at that conclusion?

    One comment:

    In modern, western Mormonism I would submit that the sexual frustration of our heterosexual young men is mitigated by other pastimes: what isn’t sated by NiCMO is burned up in the masturbatory glee of HALO, QUAKE, and GRAND THEFT AUTO.

  18. September 16, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Maybe we should take that “menace to society” comment by Brigham Young a little more seriously. I wouldn’t say that every single male is a menace but I have to wonder what percentage of the world’s menaces are single males.

  19. Nathan Tolman
    September 16, 2004 at 12:41 pm


    If you would have read my post just above you (not that I expect people to read what I write) you would have seen this expanded to social violence in a different area of the globe. Plus I think Nate is not getting at a root cause of terrorism, only a factor.

  20. Silus Grok
    September 16, 2004 at 2:12 pm

    Nathan Tolman: your very interesting addition to the discussion showed up while I was busy crafting my own post… had it showed up earlier, I certainly would have read it — I enjoy your posts. Actually, I enjoy most everyone’s posts.

    Anyway… Now, while your post certainly enlarged the focus of the discussion, it really couldn’t address the issue that I raised: that the discussion was framed in such a way as to needlessly portray terrorism as an Islamic issue.

    – Silus …with a “u” ; )

  21. Nate Oman
    September 16, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Silus: By all means, insert the word “Islamic” in front of “terrorism” in the first sentence.

  22. Silus Grok
    September 16, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    I would, but I forgot my password.

    ; )

  23. greenfrog
    September 16, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    One of the key differences between bonobo society and chimpanzee society is the level of intraspecies violence that occurs, bonobos being vastly more peaceable than chimps. One of the other key differences is that bonobos engage in lots of sex of all varieties imaginable and all partners imaginable, while chimps tend more toward (dare I say “human-like”?) dominance hierarchies and very limited sex.

  24. D. Fletcher
    September 16, 2004 at 2:37 pm

    Humans are apparently partially polygamous by nature, partly monogamous. Our monogamy is nothing compared to certain field mice, which mate for life, and if the mate dies, do not mate again, and a primate species, orangutans, who also mate for life.

  25. Julie in Austin
    September 16, 2004 at 2:48 pm


    It was 25, not 28.

  26. September 16, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    25, 27, 28, 29….

    the mormon myth machine rolls onward…

  27. September 16, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    The most effective thing the Mormon Church does to socialize its young single men is send them on missions. What if instead of madrassas run by Wahabbists, Muslims had a Missionary Training Center?

  28. Adam Greenwood
    September 16, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    Two queries: Is this really a problem of chastity, or a problem of marriage? In other words, I wonder if unmarried but not chaste young men might be just as prone to crime, rebellion, and other social ills as chaste young men.

    Second, does it matter if the chastity is partially voluntary? Hazarding a guess, I would say that the likelihood of chastity leading to violence is on a continuuum: entirely involuntary chastity is worse, then partially voluntary chastity with frustration at any prospects of ending it (as appears to be the case with Muslims), then partially voluntary chastity with decent prospects of ending it (as with Mormons), and then totally voluntary chastity (as with Catholic priests. Their celibacy may contribute to various ills, but violence is not among them I’ll bet).

  29. Nathan Tolman
    September 16, 2004 at 4:28 pm


    I think the problem is not chastity but marriage, for the most part. I present a caveat because I can not speak to the biological side of the issue. It is interesting that in a good part of the Islamic world (from what I understand) and in Early Modern China, there were relatively high barriers to marriage, including a dowry/bride price, the physical necessities of a traditional marriage ceremony (marriages are expensive as a requirement, not an option), and possible requirements for owning property. This tends to make it disproportionately hard for poorer people to marry, or people that are biologically capable of marriage, but are not in a social/financial position to marry. Add to this a bias for sons and against daughters that might cause an imbalance in the sex ratio, and you have a recipe for many unmarried men. In some societies the celibate clergy (Catholic Priests and Buddhist Monks come to mind) soak up some of excess males, but often the problems overrun what the church can take. Islam does not have a religious celibate option as far as I know.

    Compare this to Mormons. We have restively low barriers to marriage, no dowry, we can have the reception at the Church if we want a reception at all, the temple is more or less free, and we marry even when the husband is not in a great position to support a wife.


    Thanks, no offense intended.

  30. Silus Grok
    September 16, 2004 at 4:35 pm

    None taken.

  31. Ashleigh
    September 16, 2004 at 4:52 pm

    Geez, all men do is think about sex. ;-)

    It seems to be a credible theory that celibacy might contribute to violence. It’s hard to know how *much* of a contribution, but certainly worth study.

    But I wonder too if lack of female companionship, or even the prospects of female companionship might also play a role.

    Recent studies that look at how men and women form relationships and how those relationships translate into emotional health seem to indicate that while women seem to rely more on other women for their social/emotional needs, men rely almost exclusively on women (to talk through problems, for feelings of love, security, place). In general male/male (father/son, friend/friend) relationships don’t seem to play much of a role in male emotional health. (An aside I wonder how/if this applies in homosexual relationships.)

    While celibate young Mormon men are encouraged to form meaningful sex-free friendships with young Mormon women, this is not true in many/most Muslim countries where all contact between the genders is discouraged.

    If these studies turn out to be correct, women isolated from men can still have most of their emotional needs met, men isolated from women do not.

    I also agree that pair-bonds like marriage probably play a very strong roll in discouraging violence.

  32. Adam Greenwood
    September 16, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    Very thoughtful, Ashleigh.

  33. Ben Huff
    September 16, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    Yow, talk about a reductionist view of marriage! Lewis’ view, as portrayed, seems to presuppose that the main pacifying effect of marriage would be that it is a sexual outlet! Fortunately, a reasonably good marriage is good in many other ways.

    I think the primary problem is aimlessness. This is what rich and poor young Muslim men under dictators have in common. They do not identify with their country or the people it controls; their governments are too self-serving and do not involve them. Marriage of course does a lot to correct the problem of aimlessness: being a husband and father give one a purpose, give one’s life meaning.

    Poverty, and in general resentment at alienation from the centers of “success” are also very important, and contribute to aimlessness. Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers are predominantly very poor. So are Palestinian suicide bombers. The participants in the 9/11 hijackings are hardly typical terrorists! That was hardly a typical act of terrorism. It involved vastly more planning and expertise than most terrorism.

    Young single men in the US far too often have sexual conquest as their purpose. I hardly think it is a positive feature of Western society that this is so accepted.

  34. Ben Huff
    September 16, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    Ashleigh, posting while I wrote, said it better. If I had turned all the energy I’ve put into celibate dating over the last ten years into a terrorist plot instead, I would be making some serious headlines!

  35. September 16, 2004 at 5:17 pm

    Islam does not have a religious celibate option as far as I know.

    You’re right on Nathan. In fact, Islam is very critical of celibacy rules adopted by Christian monks. Muhammad is reported to have said that men should marry and raise children.

  36. Keith
    September 16, 2004 at 7:35 pm

    “While celibate young Mormon men are encouraged to form meaningful sex-free friendships with young Mormon women, this is not true in many/most Muslim countries where all contact between the genders is discouraged.”

    Some Islamic societies may strictly regulate interaction between males and females, but I’m pretty certain most don’t discourage all contact between genders. There may be things that are engouraged (just as LDS youth are engouraged not to date before 16, or a bishop is advised not to counsel with a woman without someone else being in the building,etc.) but such is not eliminating contact completely, just guiding in how to keep it right. Additionally, even in extremely conservative/rigid Islamic societies there is still consistent interaction between female and male relatives (where much emotional support might happen anyway), so I’m not certain there is a great isolation going on or how much it actually impacts the general psychological well being.

  37. Ashleigh
    September 16, 2004 at 7:56 pm

    “I’m not certain there is a great isolation going on or how much it actually impacts the general psychological well being.”

    I’m certain there is a great deal of unhealthy isolation. Not only in space, but in the philosophy that women are not worthy male companions. (women being useful only for sex and raising children, not talking through your problems)

    Also, the presence of sisters and mothers does not necessarily negate the need for the female pair-bond relationship.

    Yes, the isolation varies a great deal between countries and cultures. It would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between the most rigid separations and the number of radical young men in those societies.

    I’m not sure how much it impacts “general psychological well-being� either, but I do think it is a worthy question to ask, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer was “a great deal.�

  38. Keith
    September 16, 2004 at 9:16 pm

    “Yes, the isolation varies a great deal between countries and cultures. It would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between the most rigid separations and the number of radical young men in those societies.”

    I agree with this, and I think it would be an interesting study. My reason for posting in the first place was simply to bring out that the “many/most” Islamic countries seemed too broad. There’s a real difference, for example, in what is allowed in Suadi Arabia, or under the former Taliban, and what is allowed in countries such as Egypt, Turkey, or Indonesia.

    I do suspect, as you do, that there might be a correlation found between the radicals and the isolation found in the most rigid countries. But then such a correlation with the creation of radicals, might be as much of a product of living under any repressive regime, regardless of how much the sexes are separated. It’s always complicated.

  39. Benjamin Huff
    September 17, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    Does Lewis have the self-awareness to ask whether Western sexual laxity might be stoking the fires of terrorism?

    When I lived in Saudi Arabia, some huge fraction of the packages in stores had black magic marker on them where employees had had to edit out images of women dressed indecently according to local standards.

    Baywatch, etc. In the West, commercial exploitation of sex has become almost compulsory. As economic globalization continues, any culture that resists pervasive cheap references to sex comes under more and more pressure. What is the rational response to this pressure?

  40. Mike G
    September 18, 2004 at 10:59 am

    First, I want to compliment you on this forum! I stumbled across this group blog a few weeks ago and was very impressed by the quality of the thinking on this site. I was also very pleased to see some folks from my old stomping grounds of Manhattan 1! Keep up the great work!

    On the topic of sex and terrorism, my perspective is that clever leaders are able to use primary biological drives (like sexual behavior) to influence behavior in their followers.

    Capitalist marketing machines, social movements, “totalitarian” movements, and religious organizations generally tend to both take a stand on sexual behavior and to use that stand to influence the behavior of their followers.

    It’s only one weapon in the arsenal, but I believe it can be a powerful one for some constituents. Would a more relaxed position on chastity lead to less terrorism? Well, I need some more data and analysis on the critical factors that drive terrorist behavior to make a guess on that.

    Based on some interesting work by Ron Inglehart (and Valerie Hudson’s work is certainly connected to this project) — it does seem that cultural attitudes about gender equality are THE strongest predictor of democratic development. I would argue that questions of gender and sexuality should be given a great deal of attention as scholars, policymakers, etc. piece together their models for understanding terrorists.

  41. Jon Allie
    November 1, 2004 at 2:26 am

    I’ve lived in a number of Muslims countries and there isn’t any sexual frustration because they all have non-Muslim workers for sex and most of the men have no qualms about sex with other men. A man can have multiple wives and the state gives them an allowance for each child and pays for college with many free amenities. This is just one more alibi for whats traditionally is the violent culture known as Islam. Do a web search for THIRD JIHAD, WAHHABI, JUMMA, ect. Most don’t want to accept the obvious……. All of the 9/11 terrorists were Wahhabi and Saudi Govt (Wahhabis) is responsbile and supports these terrorists.

  42. Jesse
    September 20, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    Perhaps we should manufacture a bumper sticker for Nate: “Fornicators for World Peace.”

    Seems to me that line of thinking falls firmly into the “Sin a little, God will forgive us and then beat us with a few stripes” camp. I am sure that Nate tossed it out simply as a rhetorical stink bomb, no?

    I would argue, however, that there is a very real biological component to the argument that a glut of sexually frustrated men can conceivably increase the relative level of violence in a society.

    A couple years ago, I participated in a study done by a Harvard anthropology Ph.D candidate. He was testing the hypothesis that interaction with small their small children, by married men, impacts their testosterone levels. For a couple of weeks I kept a journal of my activities both with my spouse and my children, and three or four times a day spit into a test tube and then at the end, mailed all of this fascinating material off to the student. What he found, that correlated with other research, is that men who are in a stable, long term relationship with a woman have lower levels of testosterone than do single, unattached males. There was no significant variance in testosterone associated with men’s relationships with their small children.

    There is some evidence out there correlating testosterone with aggression. I think it not unlikely that marriage physiologically affects us guys so that we’re more mellow, and generally less likely to resolve disuptes with their fellow man (or woman) through the judicious use of automatic weaponry.

  43. Nate Oman
    September 20, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    Certainly, serious violent behavior is overwhelmingly the province of young, single men.

  44. September 20, 2005 at 5:36 pm

    Isn’t it more a matter of a lack of responsibility than a lack of sexual release? I mean, really. “OMG, we have to kill people because we’re frustrated.” Honestly. If they had businesses with employees to support or five kids to feed or a mother and three younger sisters to watch over, they’d never have the time or desire to strap on a bomb.

  45. GeorgeD
    September 20, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    Who knows about Muslims and their sexual repression or whatever. Personally I think it is less about the sex and more about the shame that they experience in their culture but who knows.

    LDS need to be sure that they don’t leave Christ out of the subduing of their sexual appetites. If they think they can do it all by self control they are flirting with big danger.

  46. norm
    September 20, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    hey, nathan. it’s matt from the 5th ward. where are you these days? sounds interesting.

  47. Greg Call
    September 20, 2005 at 6:20 pm

    I think it’s a mistake to posit too close a link between a particular style of crime or warfare (terrorism) and a particular culture, demographic, or religion. Terrorism has been used by anarchists in the late-19th and early 20th century, by socialists around the same time (and later), by fascists during the thirties, and by neo-radicals in the sixties (thinking of groups like the Bader-Meinhof Group and the Symbionese Liberation Army). None of these movements, to my knowledge, advocated chastity. Much to the contrary, for some of them. Nate’s clearly right that “serious violent behavior is overwhelmingly the province of single young [and I would add poor] men,” but the particular kind of violent behavior at issue seems to have different contours than violent crime in general. Terrorism has been carried out by women such as Emma Goldman, Leila Khaled, Ulrike Meinhof, and even Patty Hearst. I believe the Tamil Black Tigers had a number of female suicide bombers. It’s natural to look at who’s committing these acts *now* and point to factors in their culture or demographic as an explanation, but it seems to me that that ignores the long history of political violence.

  48. norm
    September 20, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    does openness to fornication and/or availability of marriage reduce the number of hyper-aggressive bachelor’s? probably. (not giving arguments just voting).

    I’m more interested in the application to golf. A golf buddy’s drive lengths have diminished considerably since getting married last summer. But we single guys still seem to crush the ball. (Same is not true for pre-pubescent males.) I think there’s a similar phenomenon there.

  49. Nate Oman
    September 20, 2005 at 6:24 pm

    Greg: I don’t see that this follows at all. While some sort of historical comparison on the basis of a particular sort of violence may be useful, it seems quite natural to me to look for the roots of violence committed by members of a particular culture within the culture. The point is not that the culture is inherently violent or that the kind of violence in question is necessarily tied to that particular culture, but rather that this particular violence is tied in this particular historical instance to this particular cultural setting. I am sorry, but I see absolutely no reason why I should suppose that looking at the Bader-Meinholf Group is going to tell me more about Al Qeada than looking at Islamic culture. It seems to me that your remarks are motivated by a laudable cultural sensitivity, but one that has run amok a bit.

  50. Jeremiah J.
    September 20, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    A few scattered comments:

    Lewis is a very competent historian, not a great social scientist. His “What Went Wrong?” is a great example of a great sweeping cultural history without good attention to establishing causal relationships. Lewis makes it vividly clear that that something ‘went wrong’, but leaves huge gaps in the causal story. He also leaves out, glaringly, not necessarily the colonialism of Europe but at least what went wildly right in Europe (and why) during the decline of Islam. The role of the centuries-long decay of Ottoman institutions is also given short treatment.

    I didn’t hear Lewis’s talk but the same kinds of questions about causal relationships exists here. It is true that sexuality seems to be somehow related to the Islamic terrorism–the stories of individual bombers at least attest to this. But not being able to afford prostitutes? Maybe in Niger or Somalia, but not in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Syria–middle income countries. And not among people whom we agree are largely middle class.

    The occasionally-noted connection between homosexuality and suicide terrorism is much more plausible (but still only a facilitating cause). Homosexuals in many societies, not just Islamic ones, experience feelings of anomie and social alienation. They also have higher rates of suicide in general. (sorry, Nate, I’m not trying to start anything here)

    The “seventy virgins”, is, I think quite overblown as a cause (and misleading, since it allows us to think that these people have completely left the realm of normal worldly cost-benefit reasoning). True some people who have attempted to blow themselves up have spoken about rewards in the afterlife. But suicide bombing has caught on quite well among many who are either secular or of a different religion. The common thread among suicidal militants from Al-Qaida to kamikaze pilots to the (largely secular) former Baathists in Iraq isn’t a fanatical fixation on the afterlife but the absence of more effective fighting methods combined with the lack of better (worldly) prospects for the individual suicide bomber. Kamikaze pilots already faced the great likelihood of getting shot down over the water if they didn’t kamikaze. They could waste their life or spend it on something useful. Palestinians in the occupied territories aren’t the poorest people in the world (at least in the West Bank) but enough of them (still very few) face such poor economic and social prospects that the sure prospect of becoming a hero and imagining your family being taken care of after you die is not a bad deal.

    Ben: About the “repressive regimes” theory. Yes, many Arab Muslims live under dictatorships. Indeed all Middle Eastern ones do except those few Arabs who are also Israeli citizens (unless Turkey is Middle East). But there are a lot of dictatorships around the world. Most of them don’t cause some of their people to fly across the world to a free country and bomb its people. Moreover, the ideology of Islamic terrorism rarely says anything about a lack of democracy or human rights. Indeed this ideology decries Western democracy and many of the things we associate with human rights. Rather the greatest complaint, and the biggest source of frustration and dissatisfaction with these repressive regimes has always been their attempts to imitate the West or the fact that they’ve been controlled by the West. It’s not a ‘democratic deficit’ but rather Westernization and foreign domination. This is the story in Islamist struggles against governments in Palestine, Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran.

  51. Greg Call
    September 20, 2005 at 7:02 pm

    Nate: I agree that you are not necessarily going to learn about the sources of Al-Qaedaism by looking at Bader-Meinhof. As my first sentence indicates, I am really only questioning a link between terrorism *as a tactic* and a particular culture or demographic. Certainly any particular instance of terrorism should lead us to look at the particular culture that produced it.

  52. Tatiana
    September 20, 2005 at 11:14 pm

    I agree with Greg Call’s post #48 that it’s a mistake to draw simple conclusions about terrorism, which is in general diverse and complex.

    There’s something I heard a writer say once, though, that I think does bear thinking about. He said that those cultures and countries who treat women the worst are the same ones that are the most pathological in all other ways as well.

    While I know Islam as a religion isn’t oppressive of women, in fact, historically Islamic societies treated women better than those they replaced. Still it’s true that there have been several Islamist governments in recent years who were. Is there any correlation between terrorism and oppression of women? I would love to see a scientific study of that question.

    (I wish I could think of a way to google for that writer’s name. He was from some Islamic country, perhaps Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, and wrote a novel several years ago under a female pen name. I read several reviews of it and heard an interview with him. Can anyone tell me who he is?)

  53. GeorgeD
    September 20, 2005 at 11:45 pm

    Islam as a religion isn’t oppressive to women? Their scriptures tell a man he can beat his wife. They give a woman less rights of inheritance than men and woman’s testimony isn’t enough of itself to convict a man in court. A man can divorce her at will and he can take three other wives. He has absolute rights to the children ina divorce.

    That is just their scriptures and then add all the traditions on top of it and I think its a pretty oppressive religion for women. Almost all the female circumcision

    There are many who claim that when women are thus repressed they create sons that are non-functional and have a hard time turning into men. The little boys all grow up with a false pride that usually manifests itself in shame.

    It really amuses me to see what PC has brought us. Feminists (not you Tatiana) tell us that the church is patriarchal and oppressive to women and then turn around and say that Islam is not oppressive to women. You won’t find me falling for that.

  54. GeorgeD
    September 21, 2005 at 9:43 am

    Sorry for the incomplete sentence. I meant to say almost all the female circumcision in the world takes place in Muslim countries. Circumcision used here is a euphemism. It is actually genital mutilation.

    Nothing American feminists have ever seen compares to the oppression of Muslim women.

  55. annegb
    September 21, 2005 at 10:07 am

    I am reading a book by a guy from Chicago about suicide terrorism. He makes the point, by using statistics, that the majority of SUICIDE terrorism, I think between 1995 and 2003, was committed by some guys from Sri Lanka, who are doing it for political, rather than religious, reasons.

    His research says that the main reason for terrorism, suicide, is when a foreign government occupies a region, such as Saudi Arabia, and the acts are primarily to oust the occupiers. Also, they are committed by citizens of relatively well-off countries rather than the poorest coutnries. Religion is secondary in all cases. Think Chechnya.

    Also, increasing numbers of women are participating. Women who lose their loved ones in struggles against occupying forces.

    He doesn’t say anything about sex. Nate, you guys are sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel for topics here. Not that sex is a bottom-of-the-barrel topic, but criminy, what’s up with you guys and sex?

  56. Mike (tongue in cheek)
    September 21, 2005 at 11:07 am

    Maybe Lyndie England was onto something more profound than I thought when she had Muslim prisoners wearing her panties around their faces?

    What the US Army needs is to recruit some of our more aggressive [women] from the skanky parts of the cities and send them to Iraq and of course pay them the going rate and keep the coke flowing. New uniforms will be needed; short tight skirts, high heels, etc. If lack of fornication is fueling the fires of Islamic terrorism, this should pour cold water on it and our boys will be home for Christmas.

  57. Seth Rogers
    September 21, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    GeorgeD, compared to the surrounding cultures at the time the Koran was written, Islam was an extremely radical step forward for women’s rights. Rather progressive for its time. Sexual mutilation takes place in places where people are poor and stupid. I don’t see that religious values have much to do with it.

    Getting back to the main topic though …

    I don’t think this is about sex. Well, it might be, but I think the terrorism phenomenom is explainable by other factors. As mentioned, Al-Quaeda’s main men were often rich and affluent fellows with little evidence of being sexually deprived.

    I think the breed of terrorist that this discussion applies to however, is not these intellectual radicals, but to the “second wave” of terrorists who blow themselves up in the streets of Baghdad and Gaza. These guys often do seem to fit the stereotype Lewis mentions.

    However, Lewis is equating marriage with sex and this is where his argument falls apart. Marriage is much more than sex. It’s about companionship, family and the fulfillment of a lot of cherished life ideals. It is entirely possible that these guys are frustrated because the embodiment of their paradigm of ideals is denied to them. Marriage is denied to these guys because they can’t afford it, put simply. You can’t raise a family with no income.

    Honestly, I don’t think this is about guys not “getting any.” Really, I don’t care if you live in Iran or Sweden. Sex is available and always has been. Sometimes the most morally represive societies have the most thriving underground sex scenes. So, if sex is what they want, it’s available. This is more about stymied moral aspirations than it is about carnal frustration.

    I think this is simply a case of Lewis, as Nate put it, “working out western intellectual sex-fantasies” on the hapless Islamic masses.

  58. Seth Rogers
    September 21, 2005 at 1:28 pm

    By the way, I think it’s way overstating things to claim that prostitution in the Middle East is not affordable.

  59. Tatiana
    September 21, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    GeorgeD 54, 55:

    I have a close friend for many years who is Islamic, and from her I can tell you that Islam really is a religion of peace and respect for all. In fact, the teachings of her religion remind me more of LDS teaching than those of any other religion with which I’m familiar. They are taught not to use alcohol, and to learn everything they possibly can about every subject imaginable. Their respect for knowledge stands with ours in contrast to nearly every other religion I’ve been exposed to.

    It’s not always accurate for outsiders to assess a religion, as we’ve seen with our own. The women take much more prominent leadership positions at her mosque, for instance, than women do in LDS wards. She herself was graduated from Oxford University. Now she’s doing Islamic studies. I can tell you for sure that she’s not oppressed, except perhaps for the self-oppression of the brilliant overachiever.

    The stories of The Prophet that she has related to me make me think of him as someone exceedingly gentle, kind, and good, rather like Joseph F. Smith. I have a tremendous respect for Islam because of knowing her.

    When I was investigating the church, here in the Southeastern US, I was told by several people that the Mormon religion was bad, and I was given twisted versions of LDS doctrine as evidence. I asked those people if it wouldn’t be more accurate to talk to actual Mormons to find out what they believed, rather than trusting outside sources. I think, to a certain extent, the same thing must hold true for Islam. I think many people have a wrong idea about the teachings and doctrine of Islam, and it causes them to put themselves in opposition to millions of people who are our natural allies for peace and kindness in the world, the vast majority of Islamic people.

  60. Talon
    September 21, 2005 at 3:01 pm

    Several of the 9-11 hijackers were either married or engaged, and several also frequented strip clubs and/or bars prior to carrying out the attack.

    The assertion that muslim men are too poor to get married is absurd. Populations in the third world are exploding. Either these children are illigitimate, or they are the product of marriages. Either way, there seems to be no problem for third world men to ease their “frustration”.

  61. Tatiana
    September 21, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    I’m reading the section on Islam in “Religions of the World, A Latter Day Saint View” published by BYU in 1997, (later revised and expanded) and the parallels between Mohammed and Joseph Smith are startling, as are those between the early history of the Islamic faith and Latter Day Saint church history. The teachings are close in many ways as well, though there are also major differences.

    However, Islamic teachings on prayer, fasting, almsgiving, faith, modesty, scholarship, humility, internal stuggle against evil inclinations, repentance, and compassion are quite similar to ours. Both religions have their own “modern scriptures” but accept previous revelations such as the Bible, so far as they are translated correctly. Both emphasize strong family life, and are adamant in their views of the sanctity and importance of families as the basis for achieving peace and happiness. Both religions teach chastity before marriage and fidelity thereafter. Both adhere to high standards of moral and ethical conduct, such as honesty, hard work, frugality, generosity, and politeness. Both observe a dietary code. Indeed both religions have every reason to be warm and respectful neighbors to each other in the world.

    Indeed, many Muslim students at BYU choose to go there because of its high moral and academic standards, and because they feel comfortable in an LDS environment, which is similar to their lifestyle at home. Finally, mainstream Muslims denounce the radical ideology of terrorists as a gross misinterpretation of Islamic principles, antithetical to Islam’s historical advocacy of tolerance and peace.

    So I hope very much that Latter Day Saints in general will study, learn, and understand enough about Islam that they won’t perpetuate the stereotypes too often held in mainstream culture of Islam as a militant and oppressive religion. It simply is not true.

    (I’ve drawn heavily from the book in writing this post.)

  62. b bell
    September 21, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    Its really hard to reconcile the “peaceful Islam” as discussed by Tatiana with support for suicide bombers across the mulim world. Issues with Islam being a religion of peace….:

    1. Death penalty for people who convert from Islam to another religion. I saw a muslim family who converted to LDS targeted for death on my mission in the 1990’s in South Africa
    2. Dhimitude, Second class citizenship for non muslims in a muslim state (S. Arabia good example)
    3. Designation of non islamic lands as “lands of war”
    4. Genital mutilation
    5. Oppression of women. Spousal abuse is condoned by islamic clerics for disciplining difficult wives. You can find long discussions of this practice and pictures of how a beating is to be properly carried out on the internet
    6. Death penalty, imprisonment for gays
    7. 3 top US muslim charities shut down for terrorism funding
    8. Slavery (S arabia banned slavery in the 1960’s) but its still practiced on the sly
    9. lack of religous freedom in Muslim countries as a matter of law

  63. Kaimi
    September 21, 2005 at 5:46 pm

    B Bell,

    It’s equally easy to construct a lengthy list of harms that have been perpetuated under the heading of Christianity. Many of the items are identical to those on your list.

    Take mass slaughter of non-Christians throughout history (crusades and other times); add massive persecution of other Christian sects, including our own; add very recent bombings and killings such as Northern Ireland; long history of oppression of women under various Christian groups; oppression of gays; apologetics for slavery for long stretches of time; and a very spotty record of legal recognition of religious tolerance.

    Does that record mean that Christianity is not a peaceful religion?

  64. b bell
    September 21, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    I would say that pre-enlightenment Christianity was not very peaceful. Islam needs a moderation similar to what Christianity had. All of my comments involved current conditions and practices. I fully expected you to reply in the PC manner that you did.

    Currently Islam is very violent and oppressive as opposed to MODERN Christianity. I am afraid that the truth is not often PC. Two of Presidents Bush’s “islamic advisors” have been arrested for supporting terrorists since 9-11 One was convicted and the other is standing trial in South Florida as we speak. The Admin has been to PC in my view. I feel that the Crusades were an act of self defense against an aggressive Islam that had destroyed Chirstian cultures across the middle east.

  65. Kaimi
    September 21, 2005 at 6:11 pm

    B Bell,

    It doesn’t divide so neatly along those lines. In the past few years alone, you’ve got bombings and killings in Ireland and Britain; slaughter of Muslims by (mostly Orthodox) Serbians; the “Lord’s Resistance Army” in central Africa which is explicitly Christian, seeking to establish a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments, and which slaughters, rapes, and kidnaps tens of thousands every year; the Army of God and its offshoots, bombing abortion clinics and killing doctors. Go back a few years, still well within this century, and you’ve got major massacres of non-Christians, by Christians, in Africa, Yugoslavia, and all around the world. Just within the past year, there was a statement by a widely followed Christian leader condoning anti-gay violence. Plus there are numerous ties between the KKK and Christianity, and the presence of numerous Christian white supremacist groups. Christianity’s un-Christian-like conduct certainly didn’t end with the crusades.

    I would be happy to see Islam move itself forward and actually put more of its more charitable principles into practice. But based on the Christian experience, that may not happen for a while.

  66. DavidH
    September 21, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    “I would say that pre-enlightenment Christianity was not very peaceful. Islam needs a moderation similar to what Christianity had . . . .I feel that the Crusades were an act of self defense against an aggressive Islam that had destroyed Chirstian cultures across the middle east.”

    Given that the Crusades were an “act of self defense,” in which ways would you say that pre-Enlightenment Christianity was “not very peaceful”? In which ways has it moderated itself?

  67. GeorgeD
    September 22, 2005 at 1:17 am

    Kaimi, Kaimi, Kaimi

    Your sense of scale and proportion is disturbing. Did the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury endorse what was going on in Ireland? C’mon man. The Lord’s resistance army is a Christian organization? C’mon Kaimi say it out loud and we’ll know for sure. Maybe The Short Creek Fundamentalists are Mormons? Or perhaps the LeBaron family?

    Is this a law school teaching technique or is it something you learn in rhetoric classes — take a trivial argument and scale it up to a non-trivial case?

    This is really disturbing. How does any case you cited rise to the level of Khomenei, the de facto head of Shia Islam, sentencing Salman Rushdie to death?

  68. annegb
    September 22, 2005 at 4:51 am

    Kaimi, Kaimi, Kaimi, B. Bell, B.Bell, B. Bell, the top terrorists in the world are not muslims. It is the Tamil Tigers from Sri Lanka, who are atheists. Speaking purely about terrorism. It’s not about sex. It’s about political oppression.

  69. GeorgeD
    September 22, 2005 at 8:26 am

    Tamil Tigers may be the top terrorists but they seem to have jept their terror close to home. I don’t recall them crashing planes into skyscrapers, truck bombing military housing facilities, boat bombing US warships, bombing subways in London, plotting the bombing of LA airport etc. etc. ad infinitum. I guess its because Islamism is all about love that they can’t beat the Tamil Tigers at the terror game.

  70. annegb
    September 22, 2005 at 10:00 am

    My point was not that Islam is less terroristic, but that, based on the research of this guy whose book I read, suicide terrorism is motivated by political problems rather than religion. Al Queda’s main goal is getting Americans out of the middle east–a super-power they perceive as oppressive–rather than supporting their religious beliefs.

    Based on his numbers, all suicide terrorism is motivated for that reason. Religion is secondary. He seperated suicide terrorism from other types of terrorism and explores ways to fight it. Which are actually not much.

    9/11 killed the most people, but the Tamil Tigers have perpetrated the greatest number of suicide terrorist acts, one resulting in the death of Rajiv Ghandi.

  71. Kaimi
    September 22, 2005 at 10:57 am


    Your proposed distinction seems reasonable. However, it’s not Bell’s original argument. The argument, as it played out, went along these lines.

    Bell: Islam isn’t peaceful. Just look — they kill people, oppress gays, suppress religious freedom.
    Kaimi: Christianity has done all of the above.
    Bell: Not modern Christianity.
    Kaimi: Even modern Christianity.
    George: But that wasn’t endorsed by the leadership of the mainstream eccesiastical denominations.

    Not a bad argument. But also not B Bell’s original argument. As I’ve said, I would be happy if Islam did better at incorporating some of its more peaceful teachings into practice. Your point about the involvement of ecclesiastical leadership makes some sense, and I think that one important step would be for more of Islam’s religious leadership to renounce violence. (I’m not holding my breath on that happening). Perhaps they need another 500 years to get there. That’s how long it took Christianity, in the scheme of things.

    As to the broader question of just how we define religious communities, I think that it’s often the case that religious communities are perceived by outsiders as being most like their extreme elements. Many Evangelicals are reasonable people perfectly willing to coexist with Mormons, but the ones who aren’t give the whole group a bad name among Mormons. For non-Mormons, fundamentalists and polygamists often define their image of the church. And we do the same for Muslims, defining the group by our perception of its extreme edge.

  72. b bell
    September 22, 2005 at 11:14 am


    I think that there is mainstream support for terrorism in the muslim world against Isreali civilians and to a lesser extent non islamic civilians. Go to and read the sermons coming out of the largest and most influential mosques in Egypt or S Arabia. Close your eyes and imagine the pope or Billy Graham talking about killing people and praising suicide bombers. There is no comparison.

    Islam needs a moderation

  73. Seth Rogers
    September 22, 2005 at 11:23 am

    Religion has nothing to do with this.

    The kind of evils that Bell is talking about happen in politically instable countries: usually the third world.

    Religion is just a gimmik, a rallying cry for people trying to justify violent behavior. Terrorism and Islam have very little to do with each other. Al-Quaeda has just cynically and opportunistically appropriated Islam to give its actions a moral tone.

    Statistically, radical “Islamic terrorists” are about as common among Muslims as supposedly Christian neo-nazis in the US. Neither the neo-nazis nor Al-Quaeda says anything at all about Islam as a religion.

    Actually, I believe the largest population of Muslims in the world is in Indonesia, whom the US has had almost zero serious problems with.

    Throughout the 80s and 90s, the hands-down majority of terrorist acts were performed not by Middle-Easterners, but by Latin Americans.

    Even in Iran, a supposed hotbed of state Islamic radicalism, the general population is more or less, uninterested in the Iranian Revolution, and “death to America.” Most Iranians on the street had little hostility to the US (I say “had” because our actions in Iraq may have changed the equation).

    b bell has made a classic mistake of saying “terrorism is found in Islamic cultures today, therefore terrorism and Islam ALWAYS go together.”

    Everything b bell has said is easily explained away by poverty and political instability. Islam doesn’t have to be the reason for the violence. And I don’t think it is.

  74. Seth Rogers
    September 22, 2005 at 11:28 am

    By the way, US christian fundamentalists have called for the killing of Muslims and toppling of Middle Eastern governments.

  75. b bell
    September 22, 2005 at 11:33 am

    I disagree with Seth.

    Islam and terrorism and violently linked. Read the sermons at Then blog about what you have read.

    Its pretty clear that there is mainstream support for terrorism amongst the elite Islamic clerics in the Middle East.

    Modern relativism is a death sentence for the West in its conflict with Islam. Even the UK is waking up now.

  76. b bell
    September 22, 2005 at 11:41 am

    here is a recent sermon in S Arabia. Compare this to the writings of the Pope

  77. Space Chick
    September 22, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    I think it would be more accurate to say that modern Islamic leaders encourage terrorism and use their religious authority to do so, rather than that Islam itself encourages terrorism. “How” they encourage it may very well include promises of carnal delights in a garden with fountains. As to “why” they encourage it, many of the reasons given above probably play a role. Orson Scott Card apparently drew on some sociological theories regarding violence and overpopulation, implying in one short story he wrote that an excess of young and unproductive men usually seems to lead to a warlike attitude within an entire culture, where parents end up encouraging their sons to go to battle, and that the ensuing casulaties among young men reduce that portion of the population to manageable levels. He did not imply that it was a conscious process–“let’s kill off all these young bucks in a war with our neighbors so we can have peace at home”–but rather an unconscious reaction to population pressures. I’d love to know what Card was basing this on–you guys are all fairly smart, any hints?

    I’ve also heard a speaker posit that the “youth bulge” of increasing proportions of young men in their late teens/early twenties, in conjunction with lack of water, lack of arable land, lack of employment, and lack of opportunity in general, coupled with an increased education and increased awareness of how much wealth/freedom others enjoy is what primes a given region for violence and instability. He did not suggest that specific religions were a cause of that violence, only that unscrupulous religious leaders could take advantage of the unrest to advance their own aims, cloaking their personal agendas in a mantle of righteousness.

  78. DavidH
    September 22, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    I looked at the memri webpage, and then did a google search about the website.

    There is some debate whether the memri website is an objective source with respect to the Islamic or Arabic worlds.

    An article questioning its objectivity:,7792,773258,00.html

    Memri’s response,10551,778373,00.html

    While the memri home page focuses on negative aspects of the Arabic and Islamic worlds, there is a page on memri that quotes from Islamic and Arabic reformers: One can also get to this page from the home page in two or three clicks.

  79. Seth Rogers
    September 22, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    b bell, who exactly gave that speech? The intro said it was a Saudi government official. I didn’t see any mention of religious credentials.

    In any case, I don’t see that it makes much difference. Islam is not a centralized religion. There is no central leadership that speaks for everyone and every cleric has his own following. Just because the head of some madrasa somewhere says something loony doesn’t automatically transfer his opinions to the entire Muslim community or even most of the Muslim community.

    Actually, I’ve always held that this is the critical flaw with modern Islam: Muhammad is dead. Nobody speaks for the entire religion anymore. Therefore the message depends on who you’re talking to.

    Anyway, I don’t see what moral relativism has to do with this one way or the other.

  80. GeorgeD
    September 22, 2005 at 4:52 pm

    The middle ages get a bad rap. Everyone holds up the mirror of modernity to them and finds them wanting in religious faith and practice. I find that the Cristians of the middle ages were entirely fallible (horrifically so) but they had some core values that they would gives their lives to defend. The crusades may have benn catastropically executed but the cause was just. The Inquisition is now caricatured but it may have preserved Christianity in spite of all its excesses.

    I find much to admire from the middle ages. St. Frances of Assissi, Bernard of Clarvaux (sp?) etc. etc.Thank goodness that the Apostacy only went so far. Thank goodness for the faithful of that era who didn’t suffer it (by force of arms if necessary) to go farther.

    Thank goodness for the George Bush’s of this world who carry on the fight for western civilization, if not for Christianity itself.

  81. B
    September 22, 2005 at 6:05 pm

    A counterintuitive reason religion gets dragged into so much violence worldwide may be because a straightforward, base-level reading of most religions leads one directly toward “thou shalt not kill” type teachings. When a leader is trying to stir up violence, the faithful audience is thinking “but wait a minute, we’re not supposed to kill; we don’t believe in killing.” The leader then has to address those religious objections and must do so in religious terms, otherwise the people will say “god said not to kill; you’re just a man; we should listen to god, not to you.” And so the leader has to find some way to make it seem like the religion allows for killing or even requires it. It might not be hard to find enough war stories in most religions’ holy books to make an arguable case. But I still think it’s significant that Middle Eastern clerics feel like they have to build a case to try to convince Muslims that it’s a good idea to be violent. At the very least that means suicide killings are not self-evidently “good things” in the eyes of most Muslims.

  82. Seth Rogers
    September 23, 2005 at 1:11 am

    I also don’t see what George Bush has to do with this topic either.

  83. BillM
    September 28, 2005 at 1:16 pm

    This theory seems to lack a fundamental correlation. Is there any evidence that women are lonely in the singles wards of Islam? When deriving the relathionship Lewis doesn’t determine any type of causal relationship. He is stating that one thing is happening, and here is possible cause. Hardly a concrete analsysis.

    So a guy can’t find a wife, gets sexually frustrated, then becomes a terrorist. His theory makes lots of sense.

  84. January 23, 2006 at 11:53 am

    One says Christianity in the “modern” sense is more peaceful than Islam, and another refrers to medieval Christianity. You all are getting it wrong. There simply is no equivalent to Islamic terror in Christianity, and there never was.

    Terrorism is sanctioned by Islamic holy writ, whereas the events in “Christian history” you refer to is a result of Christendom, not Christianity. Christianity is the religion, and the Pope didn’t sanction terrorism – Roman emperors (Christendom) generally did, however. They used Christianity as a symbol since it was declared the state religion in the 4th century. Before that we saw Christianity bloom as a peaceful movement without one person raising a sword. When Muslims kill apostates it is because it is Islamic law. Before you say that’s just extremism, it is an established fact that this doctrine is accepted by all four school of Sunni jurisprudence.

    The moral relativism that’s going on here is sickening. All religions are not equal. I know that’s what we’ve been conditioned to believe, but terrorism isn’t as easily inspired by Amish teachings as it is in Islamic teachings. Once we accept this politically incorrect truth, maybe we’ll make progress in solving some real problems.

    The vast majority of terrorism in the world today comes at the hands of Muslims. The reason is not poverty. The reason is not lack of education. The reason is not strictly political. These are excuses by the moral relativists who don’t want to consider the painful alternative. Violence and waging war against non-believers is a 14 century tradition that is not just some fluke fad that coincidentally struck Muslims around the world with vigor. It is grounded in Islamic principles – and no, Islam is not reduced to the five pillars.

    Another myth is that the Christian Church was less tolerant of Jews than Islam. This is a half truth. In practice it is true, though in principle it wasn’t. Intolerance towards Jews in Islam came at the divine sanction of Islamic sharia. Intolerance towards Jews in Christendom came without the sanction of the Church. It was easier for Christians to disobey Christian teachings because the Church did not have a stranglehold on every Christian’s daily habits, as Islam does for the Muslim.

    Teh Popes ordered that Jews were to be tolerated in ways that are not allowed in Islam. For example, that a Christian could not testify against a Jew because of obvious bias. In Islam, Jews and Christians could not testify against Muslims. Also, Jews were not allowed to express their religion in public under Islamic rule, but the Popes ordered that the Jews be left alone during their religious festivals.

    It is a fallacious to equate Christendom’s actions as political empire, with thos of the religion of Islam. But this is just one of many techniques used by modern academians, to promote the burnt out doctrine of multicultural relativism.

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