by Andrew Brown (as revised on Feb 10, 2014)
It doesn't really matter whether the fundamentalists are right about the nature of Islam – it's loyalties and peer pressure that drive them.
How much of what jihadis do is religiously motivated? At one extreme are those who claim their beliefs are entirely explained by oppression and reaction to social circumstances; at the other is the view that the Qur'an is a kind of brain parasite, compelling its victims to slaughter. This latter view is still quite popular on the fringes of the right. I'd like to think the view that religion doesn't matter at all has been abandoned entirely but there is bound to be some groupuscule or cult that still clings to it.
More sophisticated versions of the argument continue, though, and there was a fascinating outbreak this week when the Henry Jackson Society published a pamphlet organised by a former jihadi giving theological reasons why jihadi violence is as unjustified as terrorism, and a counterblast saying this would persuade no one, as Muhammad himself had clearly done indiscriminately violent things and the fanatics we are dealing with use only the text of the Qur'an.
Both sides in this dispute know what they are talking about. The Henry Jackson pamphlet comes with a foreword by the remarkable Usama Hasan, who himself fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s; the Christian counterblast comes from an experienced watcher of the jihadi scene.
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