My response agreeing with someone’s post on an Open University blog:
Every conflict which has escalated into terrorism has ultimately been resolved by listening. “I think there has to be a political solution. All wars have to end in some kind of political compromise.” (Jeremy Corbyn)
I think you are right. In this case it is not militant Islam that is the problem, that is the excuse. It is the tool used by cowardly and genuinely evil people to get angry young men to commit murder and become suicide bombers. It is the lazy branding used to explain the behaviour and ‘other’ those aligned with or sympathetic to their views. But the claim that it is the cause or the causation is misinterpreting the situation; if it wasn’t religion making the divide it would be race or nationalism or political belief.
There were a lot of unhappy people in the Middle East cross with the Western world, united in a woolly concern about cultural imperialism or economics or tired of being sidelined or concerned about the future of the Middle East given an apparent bias in financial and political support to one particular country, or even a number of other things too. And we weren’t listening, so the shouting got louder until a couple of buildings got destroyed in New York. Given they were a global emblem of globalised capitalism I suspect we can take a guess at what the protest was about: cultural imperialism and the imposition of products, media output and values upon a number of closely-related societies who found those impositions increasingly intolerable.
And when protests are not heard, they get louder and louder until they go bang.
I am not aware of any great effort on the part of Western governments to say “Hmm. There’s some unhappy people here. Let’s find out what the problem is and come to an agreement.” But there are many calling for airstrikes and selling weapons and destabilising governments and killing civilians. And the protests are getting louder and more frequent. The combined political view seems to be “The question is whether we can kill people who hate us at a faster rate than we make other people hate us by killing so many people.” (David Mitchell)
If there is a religion involved here, I fear it is the worship of Mammon or Plutus, or one of their many allies.
“Why do otherwise sane people do this?“
Do you mean the suicide bombers and murderers? I think that is fairly easily answered; a lot has been researched and written in psychology and criminology about how people can be made to believe what our philosophy says is nonsense or wrong.
Do you mean those who recruit, indoctrinate, train, equip and despatch them? The easiest ones to explain: power-hungry cowards who get a kick out of disruption. ‘Psychopath’ and ‘sociopath’ probably cover it. Every terror group needs those, as does most nations I suspect – I bet there’s plenty work in the various secret services. It’s just these ones are the baddies and ours are the goodies.
Or do you mean the government leaders who believe airstrikes really are accurate, that military intelligence from foreign agents is never unreliable, that killing people because they hold a different passport is morally good, that killing people will make the related survivors more friendly, that using their land for our proxy wars won’t upset anyone? The sort of people who proudly proclaim they would conduct the first strike to start a nuclear conflict?
“We need to UNDERSTAND violent, militant Islamism – and writing if off as a form of insanity is simply an admission that we don’t understand it.“
I agree. Coming to the realisation that you have no option left to make your voice heard other than kill yourself and take others with you, is a very sane act. When done in our name we consider it the highest form of self-sacrifice and heroism. And it is done to make a point, whether it is holding out one’s hand in the flames when being burned at the stake for religious freedom, dousing one’s self in petrol and self-immolating for national freedom or any of the people who have died on hunger strike in prison. These people are not killing themselves and others because they are insane. They are trying to make a point, to be heard, a final desperate act in the hope their life can mean something by throwing it away. Or rather they are the poor unwitting victims of the militant section of a much larger unhappy group of people. It is that larger group who need to be heard.
But I don’t think we know who that group are. And I’m not sure we’re even asking the question.