Radical Islam, Nihilist Rage

“…These are explosive issues and need addressing carefully. The trouble is, this debate remains trapped between bigotry and fear. For many, the actions of groups like the Islamic State or the Taliban merely provide ammunition to promote anti-Muslim hatred.

Many liberals, on the other hand, prefer to sidestep the issue by suggesting that the Taliban or the Islamic State do not represent “real Islam” — a claim made recently, in so many words, by both President Obama and David Cameron, the prime minister of Britain. Many argue, too, that the actions of such groups are driven by politics, not religion.

Neither claim is credible. A religion is defined not just by its holy texts but also by how believers interpret those texts — that is, by its practices. The ways in which believers act out their faith define that faith. The fact that Islamist extremists practice their religion in a manner abhorrent to liberals does not make that practice less real.

Nor does it make sense to think of the Taliban or the Islamic State as motivated simply by politics, any more than it does to imagine them as purely religious. Radical Islam is the religious form through which a particular kind of barbarous political rage expresses itself.”