In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, people form within the Muslim community have come out against the acts. This includes Imams as well as normal Muslims. I applaud this. It is about time! But some of what they have said is a little weird. Are these shooters and extremist really not Muslims? Because the motive (images of the prophet) is an explicitly Islamic motive. To blame it on a country’s foreign policy seems a little weird.
The argument seems to go that there is always some percentage of the population susceptible to indoctrination for extremist causes. Perhaps they are frustrated people desperate to be justified in violence; perhaps they are nihilists desperate to cling to some sort of purpose.
“If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
Martin Luther King Junior
I think this is a dangerous idea to spread. But it must approximate to what people think the terrorists are thinking. It’s not about ideology, it’s about me.
And this argument isn’t without merit. We see people with no clear link to Islam or ISIS joining ISIS from the UK. And ISIS aren’t the only indoctrinating body. There are Muslims fleeing the Central African Republic because of Christian militias and the IRA in Ireland also got a fair number of supporters. (Although, unlike ISIS, a quick Google search doesn’t show people joining the movements without a prior affiliation.) Is this really what is going on? Is a movement that is aesthetically Islamic recruiting non-Muslims from the population.
This should be a claim we can investigate. We should be able to expose people to a fictional but extremely violent movement to see whether we get people joining. After all, the claim is that some percentage of the population is just crazy enough to join; apparently it’s got nothing to do with the actual ideology. I don’t know how to get the ethical review for such a study past a board, but it must be a knowable thing.
I doubt that the people are separate from the ideology, though. Yes, some percentage of the population probably is mental enough to join violent movements for the sake of purpose or to indulge in violence. But, based on the clear relationship between the origins of an ideology and the profile of the activists, I suspect the violence-indulging nihilists are the minority. ISIS is composed of Muslims, the Charlie Hebdo shooters were Muslim, the Irish Republican Army was composed of people who were republican before they joined.
Muslims, thank you for speaking out against the terrorists and those representatives of your religion that don’t fit in a society. It is important to have that voice. I understand that it must be difficult. You probably have to deal with the personal consequences of being a Muslim and would rather not have the attention, given the racial tensions effected by the UKIP-voters and racists. But your voice is important. However, the terrorists are Muslims. That is precisely why the Muslim voice against terrorism is so very important.