Natural disaster, Islam, When Prophecy Fails

A few days ago I questioned whether aid to the tsunami victims would alter the anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.  Now we have reports of previous aid efforts to Muslim after natural disasters failing change the attitudes towards non-believers.

After Mt. Tambora erupted in 1815, killing 100,000, a Christian Science Monitor report notes that “imams on the northwest coast of Java preached that the eruption was a sign of Allah’s displeasure at infidel rule, and urged a violent jihad, according to Sartono Kartodirdjo, am Indonesian historian.”

 Likewise, after the eruption of Mt. Krakatoa in 1883, according to historian Simon Winchester, “the Dutch made this superhuman effort to bring relief to the area because they were aware of the significance of the event and that the Muslim clerics were quickly making political capital from the event.” But the relief changed no hearts, and Muslims mounted a violent assassination campaign against Dutch officials.

There are signs of similar thought processes in present day Muslims:

…the South African Mufti Ebrahim Desai, the imam of an “Ask the Imam” feature at a Muslim question and answer site, made a statement that, had Powell known of it, might have diminished his confidence in the effect of the aid. The questioner asked (spelling and grammar as in the original): “The west is often criticised by Muslims for many reasons, such as allowing women go to work. But shouldnt the west also recieve praise because its always them who intervene when muslims r being tortured, they stopped Milosovic kiling muslims and sent their own troops to the country, they r usually the first to send aid when theres a flood, they r also intervening in Isreal and condeming them killing Muslims, so should we appreciate their efforts or not?”

 Desai’s answer was brief: “In simple the Kuffaar [unbelievers] can never be trusted for any possible good they do. They have their own interest at heart.”

One might think this doesn’t make any sense.  That surely they must realize that we have helped far more Muslims than we have harmed.  Sorry, but you would be wrong.  It is irrational to expect people to be rational or at least to use the same rational as you.  A far better model for human behavior is expressed by the out of print book When Prophecy Fails.  If certain conditions exist the believer (of any type, not just religious) will become even more fanatical about their beliefs and increase their proselyting and conversion efforts when predictions fail.  In this case their predictions are about Allah being good and non-believers being evil.  And the result is predictable with the When Prophecy Fails model:

God is angry with Aceh people, because most of them do not do what is written in the Qur’an and the Hadith,” said the Indonesian imam Cut Bukhaini. “I hope this will lead all Muslims in Aceh to do what is in the Qur’an and its teachings. If we do so, God will be merciful and compassionate.”

…a recurring phenomenon of Islamic history: when disaster of any kind strikes, it is all too frequently interpreted as having been caused by a failure on the part of the people to be Islamic enough. So the result is a renewed fervor, and new miseries for non-Muslims inside and often also outside the Islamic state in question. It is beginning to look as if the tsunami may be another occasion of this. There is nothing wrong with focusing and reforming one’s actions in the face of the reality of death; the potential problem here is that when the Muslims “wake up,” as they are being called to do now in Indonesia, they will direct their attentions not only to matters of individual piety, but to that other Muslim obligation, jihad.

It is still my belief that we have to “attack” their youth.  We have to destroy their culture via a “corrupting” influence.  Osama bin Laden made it very clear–we have two choices:

 If you fail to respond to all these conditions, then prepare for fight with the Islamic Nation.