Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — of the Naked Breasts of Justice and the Verse of the Sword ]

Two more quick notes on the Gunpowder & Lead / Bernard Finel discussion:

The first concerns similarities between a figure — not in this case, Rick Santorum — on the American Christian right and his Iranian counterparts:

These two instances — which if I recall correctly, were reported within a month of one another between Dec 2001 and Feb 2002 — can be used as indicators to illuminate both the similarity and the difference between religiously-influenced thinking as between two nations and two religions. The similarity — a common Puritanism, to give it a name — is immediately apparent: but the difference — that the Christian Ashcroft merely veils the statue, whereas the Iranians grind off the figure’s breasts — surely speaks to a deeper intensity on the part of the Iranian authorities.


My second point is by way of counterpoint to my discussion of RJ Rushdoony in Recommended Reading: salad.

A recent COMOPS paper, How Islamic Extremists Quote the Qur’an [.pdf], explores a substantial body of jihadist materials:

Islamist extremists make heavy use of the Qur’an (Islam’s most sacred text) in their strategic communication. This study analyzed the most frequently cited or quoted verses in the Center for Strategic Communication’s database of over 2,000 extremist texts. The texts date from the years 1998 to 2011, and originate primarily from the Middle East and North Africa. Taking this data as a starting point, we provide a qualitative analysis of the historical contexts and core narrative components of the cited passages.

and notes:

The most surprising is the near absence of the well-known “Verse of the Sword” (9:5) from the extremist texts. Widely regarded as the most militant or violent passage of the Qur’an, it is treated as a divine call for offensive warfare on a global scale. It is also regarded as a verse which supersedes over one hundred other verses of the Qur’an that counsel patience, tolerance, and forgiveness.

We conclude that verses extremists cite from the Qur’an do not suggest an aggressive offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor, and retribution. This shows close integration with the rhetorical vision of Islamist extremists.

Based on this analysis we recommend that the West abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination, focus on counteracting or addressing claims of victimage, emphasize alternative means of deliverance, and work to undermine the “champion” image sought by extremists.

That’s a significant insight to chew on. And since we are still in “recommended reading” mode, let me also point you to the COMOPS Qur’an Verses Study: A Response to Our Critics. Different people — as the discussion between Mark Jacobsen and Tim Mathews illustrates — will have different reasons for and levels of interest in these documents, but it is good to have serious scholarship challenging some of our easy (and dubious) assumptions.