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Three on Islamic terrorism

March 30, 2016

Arun Kundnani argues:

The Islamic State does not primarily recruit through theological arguments but through a militarized identity politics. It says there is a global war between the West and Islam, a heroic struggle, with truth and justice on one side and lies, depravity and corruption on the other. It shows images of innocents victimized and battles gloriously waged. In other words, it recruits in the same way that any other armed group recruits, including the U.S. military.

From that viewpoint, westerners who similarly imagine a clash of cultures help the terrorists. But what to make of the fight between fundamentalist and more moderate Muslims in Pakistan, highlighted by the Easter bombing there? No doubt, those internal struggles are shaped by the international forces outside the nation. It was the British, after all, who united and then divided India. And it is the Saudis who fund the fundamentalists there. Still, it’s hard not to see that fundamentalist movement as having its own impetus, which uses as well as gets driven by global events. We don’t look at a fundamentalist Christian sect in the US, and explain them away entirely with reference to the political and economic environment in which it blossomed. Why should we do that with any foreign religious sect? And when one reads conversion stories like this, they seem authentically religious.

That said, I agree with Juan Cole that the vast majority of Muslims are no more to blame for the acts of their radical co-religionists than are the vast majority of Christians. It’s easy to imagine that humans would be better off, if we weren’t so tempted to find Truth in religions and ideologies. That might require that we were smarter as a species. We are stuck with people as they are. To any western Christian who wishes the silliness and sometimes awful threat of other radical sects weren’t with us, the obvious response is: you give up your silly religion first.

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