The Muslim population in France is somewhat higher than the Muslim population in most other European countries, and the numbers have risen very sharply in recent years, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in terrorist attacks.
What we might find surprising is that many of the terrorists, before turning to jihad, spent years living very un-Islamic lifestyles.
Adel Kermiche - one of the two 19 year-olds who slit the throat of 86 year-old Catholic Priest Fr Jacques Hamel this week - was described by a schoolmate as a normal teen and to all appearances seemed uninterested in the religion of his parents. Apparently he only started attending a mosque once he'd become radicalised following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who killed 84 people in Nice, reportedly drank alcohol, ate pork, took various drugs, went Salsa dancing, had a pretty wild sex life, didn’t fast during Ramadan, and didn’t go to the mosque. He too had only recently began taking his Islamic faith more seriously. But once he began taking Islam seriously, he crashed a truck into a crowd of men, women, and children and shouted 'Allahu Akbar' during his shootout with police.
We see this pattern over and over again among jihadis. Young Muslims go clubbing, go drinking, and then suddenly go on a killing spree, shouting 'Allahu Akbar.' And the friends and relatives of the jihadis then point to their past behavior as proof that they didn’t really care about Islam, so they must have decided to slaughter unbelievers in the name of Allah for some other reason.
I wish that politicians, and reporters, and people in general would make some sort of informed effort to understand why so many Muslims who’ve spent years engaged in very un-Islamic behavior, end up waging terrorist attacks. Because anyone who really wants to know why young Muslims can rapidly transform from party animals to suicide bombers will quickly learn that France has produced a recipe for endless terrorist attacks.
Let’s go through France’s recipe for endless jihad. I’ll make this so shockingly simple, a four year old can understand it.
A double life
First, many young Muslims live double lives. Muslims are raised to believe that Islam is true. But they grow up in France, where they’re free to do anything they want. So they drink. They do drugs. They have sex. In most Muslim countries, they wouldn’t have the same easy access to these things, but in France they can do what they want.
But here’s the key: They still believe that Islam is true. So they’re Muslims in terms of what they believe, but they’re not Muslims in terms of their actions. Plenty of Christians and Jews can relate to this. There are lots of people from different religious traditions who aren’t living according to the standards of those traditions, but who still believe.
People who dare to tell Muslims the truth about Islam are called 'racists' and 'bigots' and 'hate-mongers' and 'Islamophobes.'
The Islamic beliefs of these Muslims are almost never seriously challenged. They’re told all their lives, by their leaders and their families, that Muhammad was the greatest man who ever lived; that the Qur’an has been perfectly preserved; that the Qur’an is filled with miraculous scientific insights etc. These beliefs are complete nonsense. But no one bothers to show the Muslim that these beliefs are complete nonsense. People who dare to tell Muslims the truth about Islam are called 'racists' and 'bigots' and 'hate-mongers' and 'Islamophobes.' And this makes it very easy for the Muslim to dismiss any criticisms of Islam. So the Muslim goes through life convinced that Islam is indisputably true.
Some of these Muslims eventually decide to be good Muslims instead of bad Muslims. Either because they've matured, or because been confronted by some more devout Muslims, they decide to be more consistent. So they stop drinking and stop clubbing. They strive to be a good Muslim so that he or she can be accepted by Allah.
Some of the Muslims who begin striving to be better Muslims come to realise that they can’t really know if they’ve been good enough to be accepted by Allah. As a Muslim, you just don’t know your standing with Allah. The worst sin in Islam is shirk which is idolatry. But how do you know whether you’re idol-free enough for Allah? You don’t know, so you have no assurance of salvation.
How to guarantee salvation
And here’s where things get scary: Even the best Muslims don’t know what Allah’s going to do with them on judgment day.
Even Muhammad himself didn’t know what Allah was going to do with him. (See Surah 46, verses 8-9)
Muhammad’s closest companion, Abu Bakr, the first of the 'rightly-guided' caliphs, said: 'If I had one foot in paradise, I would still fear Allah’s deception.'
Even the best Muslims don’t know what Allah’s going to do with them on judgment day.
Now, if the best Muslims didn’t know what Allah was going to do to them, what hope is there for bad Muslims? If Abu Bakr didn’t feel safe, and you’ve spent half your life drinking, and gambling, and partying, and fornicating, how can you possibly feel safe? You can’t.
There is only one way to feel safe and know that you’ll be accepted by Allah.
You may know exactly what this is already. And if you know, then how difficult do you think it is for the conflicted Muslim to figure out?
If he doesn’t know, the online recruiter will tell him.
A one way ticket to paradise
Jihad proceeds in stages.
When Muhammad and his followers were only a tiny minority of the population, they were commanded to preach a message of peace and tolerance.
But once Muhammad had gained a larger following and had formed alliances with various tribes, but wasn’t yet strong enough to subjugate non-Muslims, he was ordered to wage defensive Jihad. The Muslim community would fight unbelievers, but only if the unbelievers did something first.
When Muhammad and his followers became the most powerful force in Arabia, they were commanded to wage offensive Jihad—violently subjugating non-Muslims, simply for being non-Muslims.
In Sahih al-Bukhari 2787, Muhammad declares: 'Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujahid [the jihadi, someone who wages jihad] in His Cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty.'
If you get killed while waging jihad, Allah guarantees you’ll go to Paradise. So even if you’ve spent years violating basic Islamic teachings, Allah makes you an offer. Die while killing unbelievers, and your salvation is assured.
These are the people who are killing you, France.
Oddly enough, when these young jihadis go on a killing spree, people read about their shady pasts and say, 'This attack can’t have anything to do with Islam, because this was a bad Muslim.' But being a bad Muslim is what compelled him to accept Allah’s offer of salvation in exchange for martyrdom. Islam was the driving force behind the attack.
So the process that produces these attacks is straightforward. But now we have to ask, 'What are French leaders doing to change anything about this process?' Absolutely nothing. And that’s why these attacks are only the beginning.
David Wood is the head of Acts 17 Apologetics
Click here to watch David's extended video presentation on this subject
Click here to read David's testimony 'From Nihilism to New Life'.