Small Wars Journal

Replacing Afghan Honor with Taliban Disgust: The Specter of Ethnic Cleansing – Part 2 of 3

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 12:28am

Replacing Afghan Honor with Taliban Disgust: The Specter of Ethnic Cleansing – Part 2 of 3


Doyle Quiggle


The Taliban's Weaponization of Moral Authority in Afghanistan - Part 1 of 3


"Disgust is intuitive microbiology."

-- Steven Pinker

Radically redefining the acceptable parameters of "warrior" behavior, the Taliban have obliterated ancient Afghan virtues of honor and shame and replaced them with hygienic markers, cleanliness and disgust. To put this in the terms of the bio-cognitive manipulation inherent to influence operations, they figured out how to tap into one of the most ancient behavior-regulating centers of the human brain, the insula, a sort of antechamber of the amygdale responsible for disgust reactions. The insula tells us to avoid feces, rotten food, molds, anything that can make us physically ill through ingestion or proximity. The insula's disgust detection helps us protect the body's cavities from potentially infectious bacteria by making us feel disgusted by potential contaminants. It's the primary brain mechanism with which honor-shame cultures must gain congruency in order to compel behavioral norms from societal members. While disgust at feces and urine is first nature to all human offspring, disgust at the mere shape of a toilet bowl or the ethnic background of an Afghan is culturally relative, socialized, and taught.


Performing a bio-cognitive analysis of Taliban motivators allows us to see how the Taliban specifically manipulate the cultural-biology of disgust, which is highly primed in members of honor-shame cultures, especially Islamic honor-shame societies, to subvert and replace traditional Afghan moral authority.


Stability stakeholders must understand that the Taliban's rank and file fighter is not motivated by a traditional fear of shame or by the ancient tribal desire to shore up or gain honor for himself and his clan. His motivation today is far more primal: He is motivated by a fear of contamination by anything his Taliban leaders happen to define as disgusting.[i]  The Taliban fighter today is pathologically disgust-avoidant, programmed to perceive anything or anyone who is not Taliban as a potential identity contaminant, as dangerously disgusting. The political economy of the Taliban is driven by the bio-dynamics of disgust containment, which is why they became the notorious "Puritans" of Central Asia.


The Taliban fighter today does not seek honor. He seeks cleanliness. When contaminated, he uses blood, the blood of that which is non-Taliban, as soul bleach. Any act, no matter how far outside the realm of human decency or of traditional Afghan honor codes it may be, now becomes possible for a Taliban fighter as long as he cleanses himself in medias res or ex post facto, in blood. Without the modulating elaborations of honor-rooted, traditional, highly evolved, overlapping clan relationships, the resulting cultural product -- the Taliban's fighter -- is more primal, far less sophisticated, and far less stable and predictable than the traditional Afghan warrior.


Stakeholders who are betting on the Taliban to establish the stability required to lay pipelines and extract strategic minerals from the Hindu Kush would do well to consider the precise implications of the Taliban's replacement of traditional Afghan honor with cleanliness and of traditional Afghan shame avoidance with homicidal disgust.[ii] In order to maintain power over their adherents, the Taliban must keep them in a state of constant anxiety about being contaminated. Taliban leadership are disgust managers.


Once the Taliban have been made a legitimate part of the Afghan government, we should expect their leadership to intensify and complete their program of ethnic, clan cleansing, in a manner similar to what occurred in Somalia in the last decade of the previous century after we tucked tail in Mogadishu and abandoned the country to mayhem.[iii]     

"Disgust is so reassuring; it feels like a moral proof."


-- Jed Rubenfeld

Paul Rozin’s groundbreaking research in the psychology of disgust informs us that disgust is “a basic biological motivational system”. (I am asking Afghan stability stakeholders to take seriously the possibility that the Taliban and other extremist leaders in Afghanistan have closely studied Rozin's insights and applied them directly to their influence operations.) As Rozin further explains, “Core disgust is qualitatively different, in terms of meaning, from distaste.” Next to fear, disgust is our most powerful physio-emotional response, involuntary and contagious. We can rarely override disgust reactions, and because we're disgusted by what disgusts other members of our in-group or "moral tribe," disgust is, so to speak, a social disease.


Disgust is also a pre-adaptation. We are born with it. When this pre-adaptation is activated and then linked via culture-specific symbols to our environment, objects, groups, ideas, or behaviours, it is almost impossible to undo the association, no matter how arbitrary (culturally bound) that association might be.[iv] Disgust at urine is inborn, untaught. Disgust at things associated with urine must be learned, through cultural association. As some wag put it, "There was a time when having a toilet inside a house was disgusting." 


Rozin's favorite example: less than one percent of Americans can drink water from a sterile, never-used toilet bowl without feeling disgusted by the act. Even thinking about that act triggers mirror neurons that trigger involuntary disgust responses. Most people cannot even drink from a cup shaped like a toilet bowl. As Rozin notes, “Disgust evolves culturally and develops from a system to protect the body from harm to a system to protect the soul from harm.”


The hallal-haram disjunction in all variants of Islam is a superlative example of the body-protection system of disgust being symbolized and narrated into a soul-protection, in-grouping system.  The cultural rules of Islamic hallal gain congruency with and activate the inborn, evolutionarily inherited disgust-detection system, centred in the insula, fusing that system to specific symbols of haram (that which is digusting), thereby transforming biological disgust into a hallal-haram antagonism that serves as an individual Talib as his identity-protection system.


What had been a straightforward set of dietary rules and sumptuary laws are actually a complex set of behavioral constraints that regulate the entire life of a devout, pious Muslim individual. The hallal-haram dialectic determines what an adherent wears, what and where and how he reads, and with whom and where and when he affiliates with other human beings. All normative Islamic teaching exploits the primal, inborn disgust mechanisms of communal members to construct a combatively exclusive hallal-haram dichotomy that regulates social behavior.[v] 


Even within non-violent Islam, what may have begun as a body-protection system becomes, through sumptuary laws, a Muslim-identity-protection system. Any thing, group, person, set of beliefs, or behaviors that gets symbolized as haram will provoke an involuntary visceral response of disgust Muslim who are limbically captive to the hallal-haram dichotomy. That’s what the cognitive science of disgust teaches us.[vi]


What specifically gets perceived as a haram contaminant of both the individual and group identity of the Muslim believer is largely determined by the disgust/shame symbolism of his local Islamic community.[vii] In Afghanistan, traditional local moral authorities (Imams, Jirga Elders, clan Mullahs) established the boundaries of haram. Within traditional, clan-bound, village-center Afghan Islam, the realm of haram was severely limited, as this exceptionally honest Afghan analyst warned us in 2009:

Contrary to much of the literature that depicts the Pashtun as a religious fanatic, the average tribesman looks more to Pashtunwali than Shari’a as a guide. While he is religious, his Islam is closely influenced, if not blended, with folk-Islam and superstitions that are derived from four Sufi schools that were adopted directly by the Shamanistic Afghans well before the arrival of Muslim armies that conquered the region. He is generally contemptuous of the mullah and tells marvelous jokes regarding the greed of this religious guide that normally emerges from the lower strata of Pashtun society. The power of the mullah begins to emerge during periods of warfare or social turbulence when this skilled orator is able to influence those attending his mosque that the tribe is facing dual threats, normally an outside military force that poses a threat to the tribe that the mullah is able to magnify into an even greater threat against Islam, itself. Once the mullah is able to rally a sufficient number of followers, he leads them into conflict against the khan and malik class of the tribe, displaces them by killing or driving them off. But if the mullah is able to gain control of the tribe’s governance, he must find a way to continue the turbulence that brought him into power because the tribesmen gravitate to the secular authorities by abandoning the mullah.[viii]

Whether or not a specific Muslim's disgust-detection program becomes a total and totalising motivational system to which he subjugates his entire identity and lifestyle largely depends on how his respective Islamic community narrates, teaches, propagates symbols of haram/disgust. That social-psychic vulnerability of the Islamic mind is precisely where the Taliban attacked, uprooted, and replaced traditional Afghan honor-shame cultures and their custodians of moral authority.  


This is how a now-popular Taliban poem redirects and deforms Afghan moral, ethnic, and warrior-identity confusions:

Don't call me brother

Don't talk to me about village and home.

I will put up with handcuffs and shackles

And days and nights in prison.

You can enjoy sleeping on soft pillows and the palang.

You can go on hajj and fast, sped a long time praying.

But, we will enter and stay in paradise together.

Like many Taliban poems written after 2007, these popular lines also glorify and legitimize suicide bombing, an act that all pre-Taliban, traditional Afghan moral authorities truculently condemned as dishonorable and cowardly. The complete absence of suicide bombings and mass-casualty terrorist tactics during Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union testifies to the radically different way that traditional Afghan moral authorities defined and expressed the honorable warrior five decades ago.[ix]  


Having replaced local Afghan moral authority with their own influence assets, propagandists, and brainwashers, Taliban obliterated traditional definitions of honor and shame and replaced them with disgust symbolism. Analysis of the Taliban's influence-operation propaganda and doctrinal statements all reveal a plethora of disgust symbolism, projected as often onto other Afghans as onto Kuffar ISAF/NATO troops. Isolating Taliban "literature" for themes, sub-themes, and master-narratives reveals a psychotic preoccupation with disgust and its sources within Afghan society itself. Preoccupation with "social" disgust contaminants is often a psycho-social precursor of campaigns of ethnic cleansing, as we know from analysis of Serbian propaganda during the War in Yugoslavia, which aggressively projected disgust onto Bosnians with whom Serbians had lived for many decades without fear of being contaminated by them in their identities as Serbians. 


Taliban leaders constantly, aggressively manipulate their adherent’s disgust-detection system, keeping them hyper-sensitive to contaminants not only from Kuffar culture but from all thing haram, like the naked faces of women. By placing the fear of haram contaminants to the very center of the Islamic identity, the Taliban are able to exploit and manipulate the cognitive torments that arise from contact with competing haram sources of identity formation, especially non-Taliban, traditional Afghan tribal notions of honor and shame.[x]


This process is well known as “demonizing the other," where the "other" in Afghanistan is now whatever or whomever Taliban leadership designate as haram, which is now anything that stands between them and their many criminal enterprises. Now caught between a hallal-haram antagonism, the Taliban's recruit is made obsessed with keeping his Islamic identity un-contaminated, as pure and clean as the Amu Darya. This is, of course, the secret psychosocial strength of Taliban hallal-haram dichotomy: identity control. What makes the hallal-haram construct especially adaptive (and therefore “sticky”) for Taliban adherents is that it gives them a great deal of personal control over the maintenance of their Islamic identity. That identity control, or illusion of control, creates a powerful sense of self-esteem.


Crudely put, the hallal-haram construct empowers the Taliban fighter to be his own identity warden. The power of identity self-policing equates to self-esteem in a broader, fragmented Afghan society in which traditional tribal and clan structures are severely dilapidated. But self-policing is also a matter of other policing. And the Taliban require a constant flow of blood to wash haram bacteria from their tortured souls. That's largely why this social-identity construct will continue to be a powerful driver of instability in Afghanistan and those border regions where the Taliban dominate. 


Exploiting the biocognitive resources of disgust and the hallal/haram dichotomy, the Taliban give a young, identity confused recruit a virile feeling of control over his own environmental contingency (luck) and a strong feeling of successful agency, empowering him to stave off what Martin Seligman calls learned helplessness.[xi] For example, securing gainful, meaningful employment in Afghanistan today is largely a matter of luck. Unemployment, a primary trigger for the loss of self-esteem in Afghan society, largely remains outside of the volitional sphere of many Afghans today. The Taliban's hallal-haram antagonism performs the psychosocial task of making luck in identity formation and maintenance irrelevant, thereby granting identity control and bolstering self-esteem. Within a broader environment of under- or non-employment, the survival value (what makes it attractive to adherents) of the hallal-haram construct increases, because it serves as an identity-preserving system for warding off low-esteem, yet another psychosocial strength of this hallal-haram social identity strategy, even among moderate Muslims living in, say, Berlin. Among Taliban youth seeking to become honorable Afghan warriors, the hallal-haram construct becomes doubly valuable for placing so much identity control in the hands of the adherent.


Although all variants of normative Islam activate the primal disgust programs of adherents by constructing the religious identity of followers within a hallal-haram antagonism, the Taliban aggressively keep adherents hyper-sensitive to the threat of identity contaminants. Moreover, they have figured out how to use the disgust-detection program to compel loyalty among their "limbic captives" precisely because it provides a sense of identity control and fosters self-esteem, pride in being an uncontaminated Muslim, in an honor-shame whose primary moral authorities, custodians of the terms of honor and shame, have been wiped out by the Taliban.


Analysing disgust and social-identity formation, Martha Nussbaum has noted, “And even in contemporary terms, it appears that a firm and overgeneral bounding off of the self from the disgusting serves to reassure the self about its own solidity and power.” Nussbaum’s analysis suggests that disgust-avoidant individuals remain stubbornly committed to, visibly loyal to the disgust system itself precisely because simplistic binary constructs like the hallal-haram/disgust-detection construct, are powerful cognitive balancers that make narrative captives, such as Taliban members, feel like they have personal control over the development and maintenance of their Islamic identity within a broader "liquid haram" society in which they have little or no actual control over the fate of their social identity, self-esteem, or the attitudes of the group to which they belong. In this regard, the most identity-stable Afghans today may very well be those who lie about their ethnic or clan membership. 


Analysing the Taliban hijacking and distortion of traditional Afghan Muslim hallal-haram as a narrative activator of the disgust-detection bio-motivational system enables has allowed us to perceive how a distinctly Taliban identity is formed: Along a plotline that moves from disgust activation to identity border policing (identity control) to self-esteem to group identification. After his disgust-detection system has been activated and is vigilantly on-the-lookout for haram toxicants, a Taliban adherent begins to externalize the hallal-haram distinction and project it onto whatever the Taliban fantasize as disgustingly haram.


The recruit is now prepared for further identity de-formation, to strengthen his Taliban, not his Islamic, identity. Demonization of all non-hallal, non-Taliban identities is nearly inevitable within the Taliban's contagiously toxic field of haram symbols.


The Taliban's "Islamic" social identity receives further plotting when the pre-adaptation of altruism (a group-protection motivational system) gets activated, usually by the articulation and contemplation of “hero plots,” such as martyrs & sword narratives, that channel traditional tribal "altruistic" instincts into protecting the new "hallal community" (the Taliban itself) from that which is haram and disgusting. The Taliban identity advances from disgust-detection to altruism/group-identity protection -- cleansing Afghanistan of disgusting haram tribes, clans, ethnicities.  


To summarize, Taliban group-forming masternarratives effectively hack into disgust biocognitive programs already activated in most Afghan Muslims by their formative, normative Islamic community by the hallal-haram dichotomy. Taliban communicators gain congruency with the same disgust-detection system in recruits that his primary Islamic community had activated with sumptuary laws. However, Taliban recruitment rhetoric gains access to primal disgust through the psychic doorway of self-esteem. They reverse the traditional, normative Islamic social-identity-formation plotline.


Because Afghanistan has suffered unimaginable social fragmentation for three decades, many young Afghans have arrived at or are beginning to arrive at an “identity crisis” often marked by feelings of self-disgust, a common psychological denominator among not only the Taliban's but also Al Queda and ISIS recruits. Taliban recruiters know full well that the American war thrust many young Afghans into close proximity with all manner of haram and Kuffar. They know that this same Afghan is still encumbered by impulses to keep his Islamic identity hygienic. They know that he is inextricably captive to his formative Islamic community and to notions of becoming an honorable warrior or man. But because those communities have largely broken apart and are in social disarray, they are contaminated with haram. They require purification, maybe even ethnic cleansing -- or, so argues the Taliban propagandist.


Taliban recruitment literature and propaganda exploits a social-identity crisis that has been caused by what they define as the “disgusting” facts of modern Afghanistan. Responding to social-identity competition (modern pluralism) as if the competition itself were a haram contaminant, Taliban "moral authorities" (influence operators) establish the uncontaminated hallal identity of their own pell-mell doctrine as a replacement for traditional Afghan Mosques. When the social realm is framed by this antagonistic hallal-haram construct, it’s but a kite run over to the moral imperative to de-toxify not only oneself but also the entire country of haram.


The Taliban offer Afghans now tormented by modern identity competition a quick boost to their Islamic self-esteem. That much is oft noted by CT analysts of both Taliban and ISIS propaganda. However, the means by which Taliban RE-activate a primal disgust program in recruits -- a disgust system that had already been activated and educated by normative Islam but elaborately contained and highly limited within traditional Afghan Islam -- has been fatally overlooked. Taliban, ISIS, and other extremist propagandists do not merely re-balance an unbalanced Afghan's social identity. Extremist recruits do not merely repair his damaged self-esteem. They do not merely offer a haram-contaminated Muslim a means of self-determining purification. They radically regress the recruit's moral center of gravity to a primal level of disgust paranoia.


The Taliban's "moral authorities" (identity manipulators) achieve that aim by first getting an individual to feel viscerally disgusted by his own low self-esteem. Taliban communicators exploit a deviously persuasive tautology: They provoke self-disgust before they offer the recruit a means of purging himself of his own self-disgust. Both Taliban and ISIS "narratives of true Islamic identity" transform the hallal-haram disgust-detection biological-motivation system into a total and totalizing social motivational system. The Taliban fiercely project the realm of haram into a voraciously expanding symbolic field of disgust threats, often accusing recruits of being disgusting. They make promiscuous use of a wide array of anti-Western discourses (such as the anti-imperialist, racialist tirades of Franz Fanon), Islamic symbolism (especially images taken from the “Salaf,” the first generation of Muslims), and now even from popular street culture, all of which seek to increase an Afghan Muslim’s sense of drowning in liquid haram.


Taliban "identity narratives" link the generative cause of a recruit’s low self-esteem to the contaminating culture of Kuffar, ISAF, NGOs, anything that gets in the way of the Taliban's real endeavours: drug-dealing, gun-running, and human-slaving.  Taliban propaganda represents the recruit’s low self-esteem itself as “disgusting” because it is caused by haram tribes, clans, or ethnicities. The “self-loathing” Afghan Muslim is a theme as common in Taliban literature as it is in ISIS literature. Kuffar pollutants abound in ISIS propaganda, where Taliban disgust symbols are more often projected onto Afghans who have become haram/disgusting, in need of cleansing. That theme bodes ethnic cleansing.


Low self-esteem in Afghans is, according to the Taliban, the result of the Talib's own faulty disgust-detection system. His haram infection is the result of growing up Muslim in an environment rife with haram pollutants, like the Pashtunwali code. Once the disgust-detection system has been re-triggered in a potential recruit, and once his primal disgust has been linked both to his own low self-esteem (self-disgust at being, say, Pashto) and then linked to the purported sources and causes of his disgust — haram toxicants — the recruit becomes bio-cognitively captive to the Taliban's masternarrative of identity, a mind-slave to Taliban moral authority.[xii]


Given what Rozin has revealed about the psychology of disgust, we must suspect that true emotional defection from this new Taliban disgust masternarrative, which has completely replaced traditional Afghan concepts of honor-shame, becomes nearly impossible. That insight bears profound implications for any Kuffar General getting ready to sit down and negotiate the future "stability" of Afghanistan with Taliban leadership. Does that General really want the blood of Taliban ethnic cleansers on his hands?  


Taliban communicators appear to grasp Rozin’s insights into the psychology of disgust, at least intuitively and quite possibly self-consciously. They fully understand how to use all of the resources of bio-cognitive manipulation -- from narratives, poems, and symbols to psycho-tropics -- to transform primal disgust into a totalizing identity-forming system that makes recruits feel good about killing for anything their Taliban moral authorities define as haram.


Although counter-terrorism experts have long understood that all Islamist movements activate and mobilize primal disgust as a behavioral vector during the narrative re-formation of the social identity of their jihadists, many Afghan analyst have overlooked how insidiously and systematically the Taliban have replaced traditional Afghan notions of honor with disgust.


To sum up, by hijacking primary the biological motivational system of disgust that had already been activated and educated in Afghan Muslims by his traditional community and contained by traditional notions of honor and shame, the Taliban locks its recruits into a “fated” behavioral vector, a vector that begins in the adherent’s formative Muslim enclave when his or her identity was constructed within the combative antagonism of hallal versus haram. The Taliban ruthlessly exploit psychological resources, in particular disgust, that had already been activated and plotted into Afghan Muslim social identities. Taliban "identity masters" isolate seemingly non-violent perceptual influencers, like haram, and exploit them to construct extremist identities.


Studiously rehearsing counter-terrorism expert Nick Pratt's durable insights about the social-psychology of radicalization, his former pupil, Dina al Raffie, usefully notes: “radicalisation can be understood as a process of first fostering an increase in religious awareness and then manipulating this awareness for political ends.”[xiii] Bio-cognitive analysis of Taliban influence operations reveals how they increase religious awareness by using hallal and haram to re-map Afghan geography itself. Any area or region not controlled by the Taliban is designated as haram, disgusting, and therefore must be cleansed with the soul-bleach of blood. 


Taliban identity narratives link core disgust (haram soul toxins) to low self-esteem; they also link core disgust to group identification. They offer identification with Taliban as the only effective means by which to purge oneself of haram, especially the contaminants of haram Afghan ethnicities and clans. Self-esteem, group identification, and disgust (Taliban group attitude) become fused. By the time an Afghan has been born again as a Taliban fighter, he is no longer striving to become an honorable warrior. He is no longer ashamed of shameful behaviors, like rape and killing children. Instead, he is terrified of being contaminated by whatever his masters tell him is haram, and he seeks the keep his "Muslim" identity well-burnished and cleansed in blood.


A recipe for stability in Afghanistan, seriously?


Stability stakeholders need to understand that Afghanistan today is neither an honor-shame society nor a warrior society. [xiv] It's a conglomeration of broken & busted, deeply dysfunctional post-traditional tribes, overlaid with newly emergent Talibans (preaching a version of Islam that induces a lethal, homicidal disgust-paranoia and practicing highly sophisticated forms of international crime, including child-sex trafficking) whose individual members nevertheless remain, as their forebears, socially and cognitively compelled by ancient honor-shame and warrior imperatives but whose social-psychological and cultural dynamics socially fragmented Afghans themselves understand little better than outside observers of Afghanistan.[xv] Traditional institutions, forms, and rituals for educating, channeling, and structuring honor-shame, warrior compulsions have been shattered by too many decades of civil war and now replaced by a disgust-paranoid pseudo-Salafist narco-cracy. The falcon may still be hunting somewhere high above the Hindu Kush, but he can no longer hear the falconer.


End Notes


[i] We know now that shame cultures keep the insula of its members hyper-activated. For that neuro-sociology, see Pulcu E, Lythe K, Elliott R, Green S, Moll J, et al. (2014) Increased Amygdala Response to Shame in Remitted Major Depressive Disorder. PLoS ONE 9(1):2018)

[ii] For an extended analysis of how Islamic extremists exploit and manipulate disgust cognition in their fellow Muslims, see Doyle Quiggle's Analyzing the Bio-cognitive Substrates of Social-Identity Formation in Islamic Extremists. (Journal of Terrorism Research. 7(2), 2016).

[iii] For a reminder of how clan cleansing was achieved in Somalia, see Lidwien Kapteijns's Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Legacy of 1991 Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights (U Penn Press, 2013).

[iv] For detailed examinations of the violence potential of our disgust motivational system, see W.I. Miller’s The Anatomy of Disgust (Harvard University Press, 1997); Paul Rozin, “Digust: The Body and Soul of Emotion” in Power’s (ed) Handbook of Cognition and Emotion (John Wiley & Sons, 1999); A.S. David et al, “Disgust—the Forgotten Emotion of Psychiatry” in British Journal of Psychology, 1998. I owe all of these titles to Paul Ekman, see Emotions Revealed (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003).

[v] For an anthropological examination of hallal in a global context, see J Fisher’s The Halal Frontier: Muslim Consumers in Global Market (New York: Palgrave, 2011). For an updated examination of the economic implications of hallal identity to global markets, see Halal Matters: Islam, Politics, and Markets in Global Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2015). Neither work investigates the centrality of hallal to Muslim social identity; revealingly, they assume it as the enabling premise of their arguments.

[vi] See Paul Rozin and Edward Royzman’s “Negativity Bias, Negativity Dominance, and Contagion“ in Personality and Social Psychology Review 5, 2001; also, Rozin and P. Fallon’s “A Perspective on Disgust” in Psychological Review (94, 1987) as well as Rozin and R. Mandell’s “Family Resemblance in Attitudes to Foods” in Developmental Psychology (20, 1984).

[vii] Islamic cyberactivists have already developed internet search engines whose algorithms distinguish between hallal and haram. These engines are programmed to exclude haram from search results. They are collectively known as Hallal Verified Engines (HVE), such as Hallalgoogling and I’m Hallal. We need field studies of who hallalgoogles and how HVE’s globalize Islamic social identity, especially among European Muslim demographics. How are HVE’s influencing normative Islam, globally?

[viii] See Tribal Analysis Center, above

[ix] This excellent collection of specialist analysis examines how the Taliban have departed from traditional Afghan moral institutions and deformed traditional Afghan interpretations of Islam, Afghanistan's Islam: From Conversion to the Taliban, edited by Nile Green (University of California Press, 2016).

[x] For a fine example of analyses that omits disgust constructions from the social-psychology of Jihadis, see Andrew Silke’s “Holy Warriors: Exploring the Psychological Processes Of Jihadi Radicalization” in European Journal of Criminology (5 (1), pp. 99-123, 207).

[xi] For an exhaustive analysis of how both individual and social identities get constructed out of the bio-cognitive resources of disgust, see Martha Nussbaum’s Upheaval’s of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

[xii] Upon the Taliban's plotline for social-identity, the movement from primal mental ambiguity (the innate biological need for narrative) to self-disgust to social identification to redemption (cleansing self and country of haram) is figured as a natural, even inevitable. Taliban re-formation (or deformation) of traditional Afghan Islamic social identity exploits what psychology calls a reaction formation, the repressed impulse being, in Taliban recruits: The impulse to keep an Islamic identity clean of haram contaminants, the competing possible social identities that the original tribal or clan community excluded in order to minimize the evolutionarily inherited cognitive torments of multi-level selection.

[xiii] See, “Social Identity Theory For Investigating Islamic Extremism in the Diaspora” in Journal of Strategic Security (Winter, 2013, Vol 6, n. 4).

[xiv] Given what we now understand about how neural hormones (complex protein chains) affect fetal development, it is not an exaggeration to say that honor-shame cultures exert influence upon a child even before he is born. See Braintrust: What Neuro Science Tells Us About Morality (Princeton, 2011) by Patricia Churchland.  

[xv] For top-shelf analysis of the competition among Afghan moral authorities to gain control of the moral center of gravity of Pashtun tribes, an analysis that reveals the many devils in the detail of pre-Taliban tribal personalities, see the study Mahsuds and Wazirs; Maliks and Mullahs in Competition by the Tribal Analysis Center here:


About the Author(s)

Doyle Quiggle (PhD, Washington University) has had the honor and privilege of being a professor to US Troops downrange, at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa and at FOB Fenty, Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He researches the anthropology of war from within the battlespace, focusing on counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency.