Salafism / Uncategorized

Can drug induced hallucinations lead to sympathy with religious extremists?

“The day after my ayahuasca trip, I went to the mosque and did some regular Muslim prayers, feeling as though I had been cleansed of so much angst and alienation that had fueled my weird and punky shit over the years. I can even go to a Salafi mosque and just look for the good in whatever they have. Say what you want about the Salafis, but it’s one way—not the only one—of loving the Prophet.”
– Michael Muhammad Knight, psychedelic drug user, American Muslim, Salafist sympathizer, idiot extraordinaire? from his interesting and disturbing article, CONFESSION OF A MUSLIM PSYCHEDELIC TEA DRINKER

This reminds me of the stories I have heard from friends in the “Islamic world” of Salafists recruiting illiterate drug addicts to join their ranks, even paying them in cash and drugs to fight for ultraconservative Islamic extremism.

In referring to the above quotation from Michael Muhammed Knight, I had originally written an overly exaggerated statement along the lines of “This paragraph is perhaps the single stupidest thing I have ever read”, which would have been an exaggeration of course. Indeed stupidity seems to be an immensely renewable resource that flows from the most abundant of fountains, haphazardly springing up continuously throughout this beautiful planet, continuously spoiling it for everyone.

But seriously, can you think of anything more absurd than hallucinating drug addicts working with, or even passively sympathizing with, fascist ultra conservative religious fanatics hellbent on taking away the personal freedoms of men, women, and children; liberal and moderate Muslims, Christians, Jews, and the calling of death to atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, secularists, repression of women, killing of gays, brainwashing of children, censorship against all free thought, all because some idiots on drugs think some fascist’s delusional speeches sound trippy?

“Michael Muhammad Knight (@MM_Knight) is the author of eight books. His ninth, Tripping with Allah: Islam, Drugs, and Writing, is forthcoming with Soft Skull Press.” Perhaps be should write one called “How Drug Induced Hallucinations Led Me to Sympathize With Fascists” Soft Skull Press should be ashamed of themselves.

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7 thoughts on “Can drug induced hallucinations lead to sympathy with religious extremists?

  1. “But seriously, can you think of anything more absurd than hallucinating drug addicts working with, or even passively sympathizing with, fascist ultra conservative religious fanatics hellbent on taking away the personal freedoms of men, women, and children; liberal and moderate Muslims, Christians, Jews, and the calling of death to atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, secularists, repression of women, killing of gays, brainwashing of children, censorship against all free thought, all because some idiots on drugs think some fascist’s delusional speeches sound trippy?” I’ll bite. But first let me say that if you can fire off a sentence like that out loud without pausing for breath, you have a great future on talk radio.

    And before I go on, too, I need to identify a few stylistic problems in the sentence. There should be a dash between “ultra” and “conservative.” The semicolon is out of place, because it basically forces the reader to start up the sentence again with the word “liberals.” “(T)he calling of death to” sounds awkward, but connects remotely to your earlier phrase “hell bent on,” so it’s sort of OK. Then you have this list of people that you say Salafis call death to: “atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, repression of women….” Which of these items is not like the others? Which of these items just doesn’t belong?

    Other problems are linguistic. You’re using some of the words sloppily. You’ve got the phrase “hallucinating drug addicts” at the beginning, and “idiots on drugs” at the end. How many people do you think MMK is? Who’s hallucinating now? Then, you’ve got the word “fascist” in their twice. The second time it’s redundant. IMHO it shouldn’t be in there at all. It’s your call. It seems to me that salafism and fascism are completely different movements that grew up in completely different times and places. Maybe they share several characteristics, but so do dolphins and sharks.

    Now, on to your main question, can the reader think of anything more absurd than users of drugs sympathizing with (to make a long story short) Salafis? Sure, plenty. Ionesco’s and Beckett’s plays, for example, or the idea that the moon is made of green cheese. If I said that eating bacon with every meal would extend your lifespan, that would be absurd too.

    It seems to me that religion contains two particular modalities. There are of course many others, but I want to focus on these two. In one, the practitioner feels that all is right with the world. Heaven and earth are perfect, all creation breathes together in harmony, all things are as they should be. And two, there seems to be a threat to this order, represented by people who disagree with the practitioner, and that threat and those people must be opposed.

    It’s possible to extend this phenomenon beyond religion to other ideologies. Atheism, for example. The universe is marvelous, wonderful, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the greatest galaxy cluster. Science can explore these marvels, solve the mysteries that surround us, drag humanity out of ignorance … the only problem is those confounded religious nuts who persist in believing their idiotic iron-age myths.

    It’s no stretch to imagine that someone who was working within that first modality might find Salafis more acceptable than usual, in the same way as a hiker might admire the beauty of the pattern on the scales of a rattlesnake without wanting to take it into his home. And that, finally, is a direct and serious answer to your question.

    • JACKRABBI wrote: ‘Then, you’ve got the word “fascist” in their twice.’
      The comma is not necessary and the word should be “there” not “their”.
      Thanks for correcting the errors in this little post I spent all of fifteen minutes writing after I read with disgust that drugs led some asshole to be okay with hanging with Salafists.
      I guess if i feel like it I may make corrections when I get around to it. It will help to persuade more people to my way of thinking perhaps.
      Anyway here’s to the demise of Salafism and all other ultra conservative (oops ultra-conservative! Stupid me! Boy, am I embarrassed!) theocratic movements that are different from, yet similar to and in many ways much worse than fascism.

  2. CHARLES KABORGANINE, yes I’m trolling my own website. No haven’t read his book and this is not a book review. I read the Vice article linked to in my blog post. I found the paragraph I quote offensive in the same way that I would find a stoned hippy saying “Hey these Neo-Nazi skinheads ain’t so bad after all. To each their own.” to be offensive.

    I’m probably too busy this weekend but I’ll probably eventually get around to trolling my own website, harassing myself and expressing an opinion on my own blog again real soon.

    Thanks for trolling CHARLES.

  3. Good point about there and there. I truly thought I was beyond that. The comma is debatable. I got two messages in my inbox from you — it seems you wrote a longer message and then decided to shorten it. Would it be all right with you if I replied to the longer message, which has more material in it?

  4. Well, it doesn’t matter. Maybe there’s information in there that you decided not to make public. It’s all right.

    Some of my teenage time was spent in a Friends (Quaker) meetinghouse. There I heard statements like “Love the sinner, hate the sin” and “Look for that which is of God within everyone.” I’d have to say I still agree with those prescriptions.

    Around the same time, my stepfather started meeting with neo-Nazis in Detroit. Your mention of neo-Nazis in your reply to Charles reminded me of this. My stepfather is a non-religious Jew, currently a professor emeritus of Social Psychology. Every year about a dozen neo-Nazis used to come to our town on Hitler’s birthday. About 300 counter-demonstrators would show up and shower them with abuse and vegetables. So my stepdad, who was on the city council at the time, got curious about them and phoned them up. He explained who he was and said he’d like to interview them about their lives and maybe write a book about them. They agreed, telling him to meet them in a black van in the parking lot of the McDonalds on 8 Mile, and to come alone. Through them he met all the leaders of the extreme right, including Aryan Nations, skinheads, and KKK. His position with them was Chomskyan, maintaining that the tenacious problems they faced were not caused by Blacks and Jews but by structural inequalities of capitalism. He shared some good moments with them, even becoming friends with a retired Grand Dragon, and indeed wrote an excellent book on them. He never encouraged them in their racism, but was able to communicate with them through their shared humanity. (And he didn’t even have to be stoned to do it.)

    I’ve been on the white nationalist website Stormfront a few times. I’ve made about 90 posts, mostly spread between two long debates. To be honest, I haven’t received much love from those people; at best, a glimmer of grudging respect. The feeling is mutual. I don’t find them stupid or crazy, by and large, and some are pretty sharp debaters who know their history — i.e., their version of it.

    About six years ago, here in Vienna, Austria, we had a court case where a young Muslim guy was convicted for making online threats of al-Qaeda-style attacks. A right-wing student in one of my classes stated to me that he felt the Muslims were (are) taking over Europe. The tension in the city between Muslims and non-Muslims felt especially strong that day. So after work I walked into the nearest mosque and asked if I could talk to someone about religion and politics. Sure, an Egyptian guy said. We talked for an hour and a half, then went shopping for food together. He insisted on having me up to his apartment for rice and fish prepared by his wife. We continued our conversation while his kids watched The Simpsons in the next room.

    I went back to that mosque a few times. I’m pretty sure the imam is a Salafi. At one point he was described in the local scandal rag as a “Hassprediger,” a hate-preacher, for supporting Hamas. I tried to get an appointment to meet with him for a chat but he was surrounded by members of his flock. I had another long talk another time with a couple of guys there about politics and religion. It felt obvious that we saw the world from vastly different perspectives but were all trying hard to do the right thing.

    Later, I heard from a Palestinian student of mine that that imam was in trouble with some of his colleagues because he had publicly stated his belief that trying to turn Europe into a new caliphate was not a great plan and that it would be better to live peacefully side by side with the non-Muslim Europeans. What a concept, huh?

    Dialogue isn’t a cure-all for what ails the world. But neither is hostility. Maybe each has its place. In this moment in history, when it’s become so easy to communicate with just about anyone, it’s both interesting and beneficial to talk with people who have different beliefs.

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