Yes, the Problem is Clearly “Religious Extremism”

That, at least, is the main cause of terrorism according to The Guardian;  and there’s no possible way they could have been any more precise.

Religious extremism has become the main driver of terrorism in recent years, according to this year’s Global Terrorism Index.

The report recorded 18,000 deaths in 2013, a rise of 60% on the previous year. The majority (66%) of these were attributable to just four groups: Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaida.

Hmm…  I wonder if there is any common factor amongst these four groups that hold such a commanding lead in their victim counts–something more specific than “religious extremism.”  Well, Wikipedia might shed some light on the subject, but that’s an awful lot of typing and mouse clicks to expect from a journalist.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Yes, we’re all used to political correctness trumping competency in journalism, and implicating the Religion of Peace is a big no-no.  There is, however, a greater misunderstanding at work here resulting from this self-imposed ignorance–one that undermines the entire point of the article.

The Guardian supposes that these numbers represent a shift in the motivation for terrorism away from socio-political matters and towards religious matters.  This is not so.  Ironically, the secular/religious distinction makes sense to Westerners because of our religion, which has traditionally been some flavor Christianity.  Though our specific theologies have differed, not even the concept of Christendom erased our inherent distinction between the City of Man and the City of God.  Some Christians have separated them more than others, some have delineated them differently than others, and some have just been confused, but there is always a distinction.

Islam, on the other hand, has no such distinction.  Mohammed established a religion that is also a political ideology.  Ignorant Westerners impose their own religious assumptions on top of that and thereby misunderstand it.  The only real religious/political distinction that Islamic theology contains is the division between Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) and Dar al-Habr (the House of War.)  Furthermore, this distinction is not a conceptual tool for understanding the makeup of society, but a challenge with an ultimate political goal.

Accordingly, it is a gross misunderstanding to call this a shift in motivations for terrorism.  These four entirely random groups are indeed motivated by religious extremism, but for them, that is no different than a political motivation.  That is not a shift.  There is no actual change in the type of motivation–only a change in which popular political ideology is at work.

But that’s not a story liberal journalists are allowed to write.

About Matt

Software engineer by trade; lay theologian by nature; Lutheran by grace.
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