Isis: the Origins of Violence, Tom Holland

ISIS: Origins of Violence

Tom Holland’s film goes to the Islamic roots of ISIS
Jennifer Taylor | May 17, 2017…/historian-tom-holland-film-goe…/

ISIS | Middle East & North Africa
On Wednesday night, historian Tom Holland—leading writer on the ancient world and author of no less than five award-winning civilizational epics—sticks his neck on the line.

He has made a film for Channel 4 TV in Britain—sadly not available yet in the US—about the Islamic State called Isis: The Origins of Violence that even he admits was “brave”.

In it he goes back to Sinjar in northern Iraq, the scene of genocide against the Yazidi people, escorted by a former SAS security advisor, and gets to within one mile of where ISIS fighters are based.

Fearful of abduction and standing by a mass grave of women considered too old to enslave, he evacuates the contents of his stomach. You don’t see that bit. Too gross.

But later he retches again in the stinking rubble, and the camera deliberately lingers on his misery.

Tormented by the unreality of a genocide sanctioned by a holy text but ignored by the West’s liberal intelligentsia, he believes only a changed sensibility will result in a desperately needed and more effective foreign policy.

And he believes that message is so urgent, only a graphic film can do justice to it.


When the BBC’s Muslim Head of Religion, Aaqil Ahmed, said on a Huddersfield University platform last year that “of course ISIS are Islamic: they’re not preaching Judaism”, the story went viral, coming right after President Obama’s disavowal of the same notion.

But Holland, who is 49, is after more than a good soundbite in the media. He wants to change our whole approach to what’s at stake.

He tackles head on what is perhaps the last great taboo—the proscription against linking the Qur’an, the sacred text of a billion Muslims, with violence.

He does two things in the film, one as a historian, the other as a citizen. As a historian he examines the influence of Christian martyrdom on the tradition of Islamic martyrdom. And he goes to Paris to investigate the impact of the Enlightenment on the Islamic world in the age of Napoleon.

But as a person, he deliberately puts his own character into the story so that “you’re seeing what I actually think; what I actually feel.

“However much a historian may try to abstract him or herself from his/her individual feelings, and emotions and contexts, he is always a creature of them. That’s what a film can do. A book can’t do that”, he tells me.


Holland travels to Jordan to speak to a leading Salafi who directly cites, to camera, the Qur’anic justification for the actions of ISIS.

“It had never crossed my mind that I would witness in the lands occupied by the Assyrians and the Romans, a campaign in which men were being crucified and women enslaved”, says Holland.

Yet the sanction for such behavior is in the Qur’an and being actualized as we live.

Ideology and terror combined to make other empires great, says the author of Persian Fire and Rubicon. And it also made the Islamic State great.

To defeat the group, you must defeat the ideology—as the new religion of Christianity eventually defeated the brute imperialism of Rome.

“Anyone who writes about ancient history and who revisits the primordial scenes of Mesopotamian civilization, who stares terror and violence directly in the face as directly as I did, cannot help but inform how one’s understanding of ancient imperialism worked.

“It was coercive, ideologically coercive. It was not just enough to commit atrocities, but those atrocities had to be justified with reference to God or to a ruler. And that terror is an essential part of conquest.’

That cannot remotely be countered by the evasive nostrums of liberalism, he believes.

“I am hoping we will be slightly less naïve in accepting that very very powerful and potent ideas are not all necessarily liberal!” he laughs.

“It is a liberal Protestant conceit that we have secularized, and it is grotesquely ill-suited to a religion that is as different to Western Protestantism as Islam.”

Unless that violence is stopped, it will spread, Holland wrote in an article last weekend for the Sunday Times, in which he likens it to the spread of cancer.

Unless Muslims construct what he calls “a clear and impregnable firewall between the Islam of those who find in it an affirmation of human dignity and the Islam of killers such as [the British medical student who exulted in the approval of God for the slaughter of Yazidis] Muthana, there is a risk the defeat of ISIS will prove to be only an episode in an ever-darkening cycle.”

A grim but real enough prospect.

For in one small home counties market town, nestled in the Chiltern Hills west of London, there is right now a Muslim in fear of his life for blowing the whistle on three imams who preached that the killer of the Governor of Punjab in Pakistan who defended Aasia Bibi on a contested charge of blasphemy, was a shaheed—a martyr.

None has been charged with incitement.

Instead the matter has been referred by the police to the local interfaith group.


Holland insists the West must be more robust “at every level” in its interrogation of what’s really at stake, in the same way people in Europe were obliged to interrogate nationalism and Darwinism after Nazism, and in the way that Christianity interrogated how the Gospels had fostered anti-Semitism.

“What’s needed is acknowledging the problem, at every level. I am just astonished there’s not more of an interrogation of that by Muslims predominantly. It’s their faith that is spattered with blood.”

Holland’s articulacy has won him a huge following and many awards, and in 2015 he was included among the Sunday Times’ 100 Most Influential People. Does he not fear he will be branded in some way for so negative a portrayal of Islam?

“Well it’s not illiberal to object to ideological genocide,” he says.

He received death threats after his first film Islam: The Untold Story, also screened by Channel 4. Is he worried about that?

“ISIS is Islamic which doesn’t mean they embody Islam. Islam is just a name we give to the vast agglomeration of perspectives that go by that name.

“You are morally obliged to ask, well, what’s within that tradition that has encouraged this rather than just burying your head in the sand and saying it has nothing to do with it whatsoever.”

It is something Europeans should be peculiarly sensitive to. European civilization after all gave us Michelangelo, Shakespeare, and Locke, as well as imperialism and the Holocaust.

“It’s part of the continuum, but a measure of self-criticism is incumbent on a people whose culture has resulted in such crimes.”

Ironically, Holland, who is married with two children, believes that the kind of Muslims who issue death threats would not mind the film, as they are always being told they are not Muslims, whereas Holland is saying they are.

As for being called racist, “The irony is that in our anxiety not to repeat the sin [of racism] we are sanctioning a license to commit genocide.

“That even to criticize that license is somehow racist is a peculiarly grotesque paradox.”

Holland is unwilling to see himself as a prophet—historians no longer, unlike Gibbon, do civilizational failure, he says. But, on a more personal level, he is gloomy about the moral supremacism inherent in the rise of violent Islam.

“I don’t think there is anything inherent in human nature that implies we accept one another as equals.”

He tells of a Muslim journalist in Cairo who described a “civil war” within Islam between those who believe they are superior to the rest of humanity by virtue of being Muslim, and those who do not.

“There is no law that says that the supremacists won’t ultimately emerge triumphant. In which case, it’s bad news for everybody else. And we know as Europeans what the consequences of that will be.”

Isis: The Origins of Violence will air on Channel 4 on 17th May at 9pm. It has been made by Blakeway Productions, directed by Kevin Sim and produced by Kevin Sim and Alex Niakaris. The Executive Producer is Denys Blakeway.

Jennifer Taylor is a Bloomsbury author, a journalist, and founder of Lapido Media, Centre for Religious Literacy in Journalism, the first religious literacy charity in the world. Based in London, she did her doctorate on Islam and de-secularization in Britain at the School of Oriental and African Studies under Professor Grace Davie. She worked with theologian Bishop Lesslie Newbigin for ten years until his death, co-authoring his posthumous Faith and Power: Christianity and Islam in Secular Britain also with Professor Lamin Sanneh of Yale University.

Photo Credit: Historian Tom Holland in Sinjar during filming for Isis: the Origins of Violence. Source: Channel 4.

Further material connected to Tom Holland:


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Lost in translation. How the Scientology Organisation tried to recruit Irish translators.

Here is the report: TG4b

A few weeks ago I received a call from Shane Ó Curraighín from the news/ Nuacht RTÉ/TG4 about the the SO plan to recruit translators. I told him about a report I read last year and he then sent me the letter he had sent them to ask for an interview. That was his first problem. Scientology hate journalists and even though they opened a new HQ on Merrion Square they in fact refuse to let anyone into the place. It seems to be a celebrity project of the type which celebrates places wherever LR Hubbard lived and they open a very expensive building but nothing goes on there.



Note in the picture below the crowd. All bused in for the day and those in uniform are not on a day outing from Ryanair but the officials also bused. I often phone the place and no one is there. Bizarre but very SO.


Hi Mike,

Below is the statement which the Church of Scientology provided. They’re offering €.09 per word they’re looking for translators to translate up to 5,000 words per week. They’ve said in their job advert that they hope to have the project completed by July.

We would like to ask you for your analysis on the Church’s campaign to have their text translated into Irish and your opinion on why they’re making a push with the translation.




Shane is then referred to the Mission on Middle Abbey St and it is the the CCHR address he is given that is the organisation that regards all psychiatric drugs as arising from the Nazis. So they run an anti drug routine called Narconon but in reality it is not an anti drugs campaign but Scientology under another name.

— Original Message ——–
Subject: Nuacht RTÉ/TG4: Interview/Statement Request
Date: 2017-04-17 09:54
From: Ó Curraighín, Shane

To: “”

Alex, a chara,

My name is Shane Ó Curraighín, a reporter with Nuacht RTÉ/TG4 in
Galway, we spoke on the phone this morning. We are doing a report this
evening about the Church of Scientology campaign to hire Irish language
translators to translate texts and materials.

Would a Church of Scientology representative be available to do an
interview in Galway in Irish about your hiring campaign? If not, could
you provide a statement on the following questions?

Why has the Church of Scientology decided to translate texts into Irish?

How many Irish language translators do you require?

How many Irish language translators does the Church of Scientology have
working at the moment?

What is the rate of pay you are offering for Irish language translators
to translate your work?

Please contact me on 087 7667 853 if you have any queries about my

Le meas,

Shane Ó Curraighín


Baile na hAbhann, Co. na Gaillimh            M: +353 87 7667 853 E:

 Note address it is media relations? They don’t do relations.

From: Media Relations
Sent: 17 April 2017 19:44
To: Ó Curraighín, Shane
Subject: Re: Nuacht RTÉ/TG4: Interview/Statement Request


Shane, a chara,
Thank you very much for your enquiry.

Unfortunately, we don’t have someone available for an interview, so I will give you the following statement:

We have translated our religious works into over 50 languages and Irish is one of our newest projects, which we are very excited about.

Our Founder, L Ron Hubbard, had a special love for the Irish, from when he visited Dublin in 1956. He specifically went to Dublin to pilot seminars on the subject of personnel efficiency, with people from all walks of life. This resulted in the Church’s “Personal Efficiency Course” being adopted internationally as an introductory course in Scientology. (This is a course that teaches the underlying rules of life and how to apply these principles, so that the student can achieve security in their job, relationships, and all other areas of living.)

We also recognize the historical and cultural importance of the Irish language and the measures being taken to preserve its use. It is an honour for us to contribute to this resurgence by translating around 10 million words into Irish and have it available for study for the generations to come.

The number of translators is increasing almost daily and the final number isn’t known, as there is much to translate. Pay rate is 9 Euro cents per word for usually extensive projects.

We have had some encouraging responses from translators:

“I wish more Churches would translate their materials in our language.”

“Bless the Church of Scientology for investing in our language.”

“I am happy that Scientology is translating their materials into Irish. It is appreciated.”

“I was very interested to receive your message and learn of your interest in the Irish language. I commend the undertaking.”

“I would love to be involved in the project and I look forward to hearing more about what you need and the next steps. Again, I am delighted to be acquainted with you. What a wonderful venture in which you are involved.”

“I find this project interesting on many levels – in particular linguistically!!! Extremely interesting information.”

“The material from your organization is very interesting and it is very clear that your team is organized, adept and is determined to reach their goal. I feel it would be inspirational to be part of such a team and it would also be a creative way to give back to others.”

le meas,

Graeme Wilson

This very same letter was sent out last year when another journalist sought to interview someone. It is pure PR exercise and likely hides that they do not even have an Irish speaker.

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John Duignan as one time insider knows the game plan that the Scientology Organisation (S.O.) has in mind for Irish speakers.

Lost in Translation? You Will Be If You Take up a Scientology Job Offer.

Updated on April 15, 2017

Get a sense of John’s own story here.

I am aware that English to Irish translation gigs can be hard to come by. It is tough enough getting steady work in modern European languages, so the prospect of paid employment in your chosen field will be enticing to say the least. But be well warned; working in any capacity for Scientology under even its most innocuous sounding front groups, is a minefield from which few come out unscathed. ‘That way lies madness’ as the saying goes. Continue reading

Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) / Triratna: Fears mount over scale of Buddhist sect sexual abuse

Followers allege they were coerced into sex in 1970s and 80s with elders of UK’s Triratna order


Denis L Guardian

‘Deep regret’: Dennis Lingwood, now frail at 91, is the founder of the Triratna order. Photograph: Vimeo Continue reading

John Purcell makes a further reply to “Worker” post

Reply from a ‘Worker’ to the post, “Two by Twos” by someone who grew up and out of the movement.

If I look at the quotes here and the worker’s response, on the whole the quotes more reflect my own experience (from thirty years ago in the UK, and as far as I can tell not very much has changed since then). Mentioning the origin of the group is a big no-no; members here as far as I know are still generally unaware of it. I was always told “the meetings” have no Earthly founder, unlike other sects and denominations. People are discouraged somewhat from associating with outsiders (although I have never been shunned by my relatives in the “Truth”). Continue reading

Two by Twos, Cooneyites, Dippers and many more like ‘No Name,’ mentioned on Today with Sean O’Rourke

Southern Protestants and UCD Folklore Project
Friday 17 February 2017 12:00
Researcher Deirdre Nuttall of the National Folklore Collection and journalist and farmer from Wexford, Margaret Hawkins spoke to us this morning.

You can hear about Margaret Hawkins experience starting at 5:30 on the Report.

Then so that the public can study about them here is a link to them on our blog.
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Liveline covers the opening of Scientology Org. HQ in Dublin.


Joe Duffy talked to Daniel about his near recruitment to the Scientology Org. Daniel does not seem to understand that they were trying to hook him big time. He has some insight into the goals of Scientology but seems rather naive as to his playing with fire. He does gain some insight into the new HQ on Merrion Square but in general does not grasp the enormity of what he has got himself involved with.

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