Cognitive Dissonance & Islam

Obviously I wasn’t the first to recognize this. Here are some other discussions:
The Reality of Cognitive Dissonance among Muslim Apologists, an excellent piece that I heartily recommend to all. Money quote:

As to how this dissonance serves to help Islamic extremists to continue, Muslim apologists seem to suffer a severe case of denial to acknowledge and admit. The denial is irresponsible, because failure to suppress Islamic radicalism does not appear to corroborate the claim made by majority Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace.

Cum Grano Salis, a German blogger with a Den Beste like mind, discusses the term in regards to Islam and also mentions al-Qaeda’s Fantasy Ideology, which helps us in the West comprehend the sick nature of the terrorist attacks – as the terrorists try to outdo themselves to see who can conduct the worst abomination and justify it with the Koran. Cum Grano Salis may just appear in my daily reading list.

It’s interesting to note this response by a Muslim writing a week after 9-11. He seems aware of cognitive dissonance, even implores other Muslims to avoid it, but in doing so falls prey to it himself. The realization of the fact that the terrorists’ actions are condoned in Islam does not fit his belief that Islam is a peaceful religion is too much for him to handle:

I bring up cognitive dissonance here, because I fear that in circumstances such as these (following acts of terrorism, media coverage of war against a Muslim majority nation, etc) some Muslims may feel an internal strife, a religious or spiritual crisis. But this should not be the case. One of the beauties of Islam, indeed one of the things that attracted me to it, is that it appeals to both emotion and reason, to mind and spirit. It makes sense. It is simple. It is just. And it is true. If ever we feel a cognitive dissonance of sorts in relation to Islam, alarm bells should go off, warning us that we do not have enough knowledge regarding that particular subject or situation.

The writer’s answer to the cognitive dissonance is that he lacks enough knowledge to understand the terrorists’ actions. Islam is “simple”, “just”, and “true” – and a Muslim’s questioning of his faith as he attempts to stop the cognitive dissonance should be stopped by simply saying “I don’t know”. Ignorance becomes a shield of one’s beliefs. Instead of questioning which could lead to a deeper understanding of one’s religion – or the possible rejection of it entirely – the Muslim simply shuts down saying “I don’t know”. The rough equivalent in Christianity is saying “It’s God’s will”. No further advantage can be gained by more questioning in the believer’s mind because the risk of learning that one’s religion is wrong is too great, and such an outcome could threaten the very identity of the believer causing great emotional pain and suffering.

Cognitive Dissonance proves that Islam is a religion that has never had a “Reformation” like Christianity. In fact, Christianity could be viewed as unique among the world’s religions for having undergone such a tumultuous period of self-reflection and change.

Cognitive Dissonance prevents Muslims from realizing that questioning can lead to apostasy and heretical ideas, but it can also lead to a deeper appreciation of one’s faith – as the Jesuits have so adroitly proven in their half-millennium of existence (and thrice excommunication by Rome).

The question from our perspective is: How do we force Islam to reform? Is such reformation possible? And if so, how do we survive until it does? Here Lee Harris’s disease metaphor laid out in al-Qaeda’s Fantasy Ideology seems almost prescient since it was written almost 2 years ago:

“...after driving out all other competing ideas and ideologies, they literally turned their host organism into the instrument of their own poisonous and deadly will.”

Isn’t that what Saudi Arabia is experiencing today? The Saudi royal family has spread Wahabism around the globe, and now are about to be consumed by it. All the makings are in place for a jihadist overthrow of the kingdom: a corrupt government infiltrated by jihadists, a dying king, a large yet effete royal family containing many supporters of the jihadists, and the cognitive dissonance which prevents the leaders from recognizing the true enemies within their own ranks caused by their own inflexible understanding of their religion.

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