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20 February 2017


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Very helpful.



Patrick, perhaps if you did a thorough analysis of Christianity comparing and contrasting its nature and variety, as you did for Islam, a better appreciation may develop as to why jihad developed and seemed to evolve targeted against western countries. Was the Inquisition period a parallel development that receded, but did not in the case of Jihad? During those periods, what did the two religions share or differ? Your finished analysis could throw light on why Jihad developed into international terrorism? The Inquisition punished heresy which so too does Jihad.

Patrick Lang


A great idea had I world and time enough, but I want to finish my trilogy. pl

Charles I

Yes Pat, priorities please!

Saif Katana

Good overview. Although I disagree on many points, due to lack of many important details, for its concise length the summary will suffice for non-Muslims viewing Islam from a non-Muslim perspective.

However (besides the many nuances left out) there are some discrepancies, which I must address:
1) "A religion of law", although law is important, very much emphasis in Islam is also placed in intangible things like (good) "intention", "conduct" and of course faith, which is a big reason why many converts accept Islam and many long time believers don't abandon it.
2) "Messiah (Mahdi)" as described in the article is not accepted by the Sunni's. The Sunni's claim that the Messiah/Mahdi will be Jesus while the Shia believe it will be their infallible Imam.
3) Takiyya as described in the article is a shia concept and not a Sunni one. For Sunni's its a last resort permissable but discouraged act, comparable to the eating of dead pork for example when dying of hunger. Like Abraham lying to a king to save his life (one of only 3 sins in his entire life).
Takiyya in Shia tradition is however essential to its belief since it is used to explain why Ali didn't rebel openly against the ruling Caliphs before him.
4) The lack of an organization of religious scholars is today is not proof of it never being institutionalized. They definitely existed, but many times being non "official" for opposing the ruler. Due to many (non-innovating) traditional scholars being assassinated by rulers they had to go underground. The Saudi's (a few generations ago) for example slaughtered a hundred highly educated scholars because they opposed ruling by kings by birth and only accepted Caliphs (chosen by merit) like the companions of the Prophet did. Only 4 scholars escaped the massacre.

Much information in the west about Islam is messed up by taking particular aspects of certain sects (especially shia) and generalizing them. This has been going on for centuries and is even present in "Dante's Inferno". The problem is also that most Muslim communities today are even more "informal/below the radar" than before, mainly to avoid the (US-vasal) governments in their own nations of persecution.

* Also note that there is a big difference between "Jihad" and (fringe)"international-terrorism". If this is not understood properly you may end up fighting enemies that don't (or at least didn't) exist before, like the local Taliban resistance in Afghanistan. (Not saying that Taliban is pure Islam)

Patrick Lang

Saif Katana

Actually the Sunnis think of the Mahdi as a mujaddid ad-din, a renewer of the faith. I have neve heard any Sunni Muslim say that he would be a "messiah." Jesus? The Shia sometimes say that Jesus will return with or just before the appearance of the mahdi/imam. pl

Norbert N, Salamon

thanks Colonel and Saif Katana for a great concise summary of the Muslim Faith.


sir, thank you. a few corrections, if I may.
the ismailis are called seveners but the break with twelvers occurred after jafar us sadiq (the fifth imam) over the succession of musa al kadhim and ismail. a v small minority believe his son (muhammad bin ismail) was the last imam, hence the term seveners. the majority of the ismailis are the nizaris (49th currently) and the mustali tayyabi residing in south and central asia, syria and yemen.

the druze are not an offshoot of the twelvers but of ismailis as they revere al-hakim (fatimid)


thanks, Pat appreciated. Also helpful to shutting me down for a while. ;)

while Christians had misunderstood the New Testament, distorting it in such
a way that they believed Jesus was one element of a triune God.

It took me quite a while to appreciate Trinity. Or for that matter how much theological sense it made.


First ff thank you so much for providing the links. They are very handy and valuable references.

As to the Mehdi- Jesus issue, indeed there are contradictory beliefs on the subject. Take the below reference as just one example, where several references to Jesus coming back is made and signaled as central to the Sunni ! :

the whole issue has become convoluted. Though w/o a doubt Mehdi is a much more central and important figure for the Shia than the Sunni branch of Islam.


There's another Sylvia on the board. The e-mail above was sent by a different Sylvia!!!


Hello Pat,
Found this 'family tree' while looking into another matter. It may help a better understanding of the relationships of the branches. http://www.thearda.com/denoms/families/trees/familytree_islam.asp

Lee A. Arnold

Good papers & powerpoint!

Going further (and I hope you will comment from your experiences in this region) it seems to me that security analysis of violent jihad has to distinguish the two very different sources of it. Very abstractly speaking,

1. Incitement by political actors in the name of Islam, including state sponsors of terror.

2. Mystical impetus in young people who have fallen into despair and consciousness of sin (of not living up to ideals of Islam). For example terrorist loners who are U.S. citizens.

So, the strategy to fight it would include public peacemaking as much as possible to try to prevent new converts, with secret operations to destroy terrorist cells, etc. And stick with your allies. And it is going to go on for a hundred years.

Some terror attacks on the homeland will be successful, even though the general strategy is working.

But the useless temporary ban on immigrants -- no new security reason, just to be seen making Trump look "strong" & fulfilling a campaign promise -- and the useless threats against Iran, are counterproductive. These tactics should not be used until necessary. These are NOT useful to the war on violent jihad & it is easy to argue that these actions make it more difficult. Trump would never have okayed such action if it had been explained to him why. The only way to avoid further misjudgment so stupid & dangerous might be to get all of the crackpot advisors away from handling Trump.


I much enjoyed your powerpoint. However I'm a historian of a sort. What we know about the origins of Islam depends upon the Qur'an, which is well preserved because divine language. Anything else is in doubt, because subsequent scholars will have modified it to correspond with their point of view.

ex-PFC Chuck

OT: Just saw a tweet saying that H. R. McMaster has been selected as Flynn's replacement as National Security Advisor.



Come now... There is much more known of the origins of Islam than the Qur'an. Only Muslims believe that the Qur'an answers all questions and even they admit the relevance of various collection of hadith. are you a Muslim? If you don't like my opinions you are free to have your own. I recommend to you "The Venture of Islam" by Marshall Hodgson. pl


Lee A Arnold

The problem with your two comments is that it betrays the fact that you do not believe jihadism is other than a fraud perpetrated on the gullible and needy. You remind me of the host of senior officials of the US government who are in-instructable in this matter. HR McMaster is not among the un-instructable. pl



If you don't like my view of Islam form your own. I am not terribly interested in the trivia of the various names of branches of Shiism. I wish you joy of such studies. pl

Lee A. Arnold

Quite the reverse. I do not believe that all of jihadism is a fraud perpetrated on the gullible and needy. It is religious experience. I know that religious experience is a real event. I am concerned here with an aspect of the individual psychology of it. Many mystics report a passing state of apocalyptic feelings and visions. In Christianity, some of the images in the Revelation of St. John are an example. Also Dante's circles of Hell. But it is also possible to get stuck in this state. In accord with these visions, some mystics have been incited to frenzy and violence. The conditions of the world may seem to justify it, because religious experience is informed by both 1. the religious tradition that it happens within, and by 2. the individual's own time and place in the world. Jihad is no different, just more intense in our era. I think that some converts to jihadism are "waking up" to the historical message of the West's mistreatment of the the Islamic peoples. This is stated explicitly in some of the statements left behind by the "lone wolf" terrorists in the U.S. This doesn't excuse their violence. But it means that part of waging the war on violent jihad is a delicate, tight-wire act.


Colonel Lang,

You wrote

"To this day, Shia populations are quick to think of themselves as an oppressed underclass bullied by the stronger and more numerous Sunnis."

Does this view manifest to any extent beyond a context of "the larger Islamic world"? I was reminded of the HRC cable stating



Forgive me. You know when you notice a small smudge on a beautiful face. These two little errors were marring an otherwise excellent overview.



I think that is true. It has long been true that Shia merchants and businessmen have been more prominent and powerful in places like LA than their numbers would have indicated as leading to dominance. pl


West Coast was a favored destination for Iranians of means leading up to, and after the 1979 revolution. I'd suggest it's an Iranian connection, rather than a religious one.

William R. Cumming

Many thanks P.L. for this reposting!

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