Another week, another major speech about the threat of radical Islam and of jihadism, another set of policies to deal with the problem. On Monday, David Cameron gave his latest high profile speech about what he called ‘the struggle of our generation’.The trouble with most of these speeches is that they are rooted in false perceptions of the problem. And the trouble with most of these initiatives is that their real impact is not so much in combating jihadism as in undermining liberty.
I seem to have written on the issue almost as often as David Cameron has given a speech about it, or the British government has launched a new initiative to combat it. Here I have pulled together some of the main themes of those essays, to suggest how to rethink the issue.
If we want to understand why some Muslims are drawn to jihadism, we must jettison easy notions of ‘radicalisation’.
The ‘radicalization’ argument looks upon the jihadists’ journey back to front. It begins with the jihadists as they are at the end of their journey – enraged about the West, and with a black and white view of Islam – and assumes that these are the reasons they have come to be as they are. But for most jihadis, the first steps on their journeys to Syria were rarely taken for political or religious reasons.
The making of wannabe jihadis in the West, 1 March 2015
The real starting point for the making of a homegrown jihadi is not ‘radicalisation’ but social disengagement, a sense of estrangement from, resentment of, Western society. It is because they have already rejected mainstream culture, ideas and norms that some Muslims search for an alternative vision of the world. It is not surprising that many wannabe jihadis are either converts to Islam, or Muslims who discovered their faith only relatively late. In both cases, disenchantment with what else is on offer has led them to the black and white moral code that is Islamism. It is not, in other words, a question of being ‘groomed’ or ‘indoctrinated’ but of losing faith in mainstream moral frameworks and searching for an alternative.
Myths of radicalisation, 2 June 2013
There is little truth to many of the popular views of the ‘failure of Muslims to integrate’ or of the reasons that would-be jihadis are alienated.
The idea that Muslims as a group are poorly integrated is not borne out by the facts. Numerous polls have shown that Muslims tend to identify with Britain to a greater degree than the population at large. In a 2009 Gallup poll, 77 per cent of Muslims said that they identity ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ strongly with Britain – compared to 50 per cent of the population at large. Similarly, a 2011 Demos poll found that 83 per cent of Muslims were ‘proud to be British’, as opposed to 79 per cent of Britons in general.
British Muslims certainly tend to be highly conservative in their social attitudes, being far less liberal on issues such as homosexuality and abortion than the general public. Such conservatism does not make their beliefs incompatible to British values – there are plenty of Christians, Jews and atheists who are equally illiberal – or suggest that Muslims are unable to integrate. Nor does Islam necessarily make one socially conservative. Muslims in other Western nations – France, Germany and the USA, for instance – are notably more liberal. As indeed were previous generations of Muslims in Britain.
To see beyond the stereotypes, 5 April 2015
The usual clichés about jihadis – that they are poor, uneducated, badly integrated – are rarely true. A survey of British jihadis by researchers at London’s Queen Mary College found no link to ‘social inequalities or poor education’; most were highly-educated young people from comfortable families who spoke English at home. According to the French newspaper Le Monde, a quarter of French jihadis in Syria are from non-Muslim backgrounds.
What draws most wannabe jihadis to Syria is, to begin with at least, neither politics nor religion. It is a search for something a lot less definable: for identity, for meaning, for belongingness, for respect. Insofar as they are alienated, it is not because wannabe jihadis are poorly integrated, in the conventional way we think of integration. Theirs is a much more existential form of alienation.
The making of wannabe jihadis in the West, 1 March 2015
Why are some Muslims attracted to jihadism? Part of the reason is that the collapse of the left, and of a universalist outlook, has combined with the rise of identity politics to create new openings for Islamism.
What gives shape to contemporary disaffection is not progressive politics but the politics of identity. Identity politics has, over the past three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms. A generation ago, today’s ‘radicalised’ Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook, and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organizations. Today they see themselves as Muslim in an almost tribal sense, and give vent to their disaffection through a stark vision of Islam.
The making of wannabe jihadis in the West, 1 March 2015
Being ‘community minded’ clearly meant something very different to the Mullah Boys than it had to the Asian Youth Movement. The identity of the AYM, and of its members, came from its political vision, and from its relationship to broader political movements, working class organisations at home and national liberation struggles abroad. ‘The only real movements capable of fighting the growth of organised racism and fascism’, the Bradford AYM declared in its magazine Kala Tara, ‘is the unity of the workers movement black and white.’ The AYM also saw the fight against racism as part of a wider set of struggles such as those ‘in Ireland, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Palestine’. Those struggles (like the AYM itself) had all but disappeared by the 1990s; not just physically in the sense of the decline of the organisations but intellectually, too, as the ideas that had fired those movements burned out.
A decade earlier Sidique Khan or Shehzad Tanweer might well have joined the AYM, or even the Socialist Workers Party. But these were now lost causes. Far from being plugged into a wider political network, as the AYM had been, the Mullah Crew existed primarily because its members were cut off from wider society. Their aim was not to change the world but to protect their turf on the streets of Beeston. In that difference – in the degeneration of political campaigning into gang ritual – lies much of the change that has taken place within Muslim communities in Britain over the past twenty years. And out of that difference have come the reasons that a number of Muslims have turned jihadist.
The making of a British jihadi, 6 June 2013
The fading of the left and the rise of identity politics has also transformed anti-Western sentiment and turned it into an inchoate rage against modernity.
Anti-imperialists of the past saw themselves as part of a wider political project that sought to modernize the non-Western world, politically and economically. Today however, that wider political project is itself seen as the problem. There is considerable disenchantment with many aspects of ‘modernity’ from individualism to globalization, from the breakdown of traditional cultures to the fragmentation of societies, from the blurring of moral boundaries to the seeming spiritual soullessness of the contemporary world.
In the past racists often viewed modernity as the property of the West and regarded the non-Western world as incapable of modernizing. Today, it is ‘radicals’ who often regard modernity as a Western product and reject both it and the West as tainted goods.
The consequence has been the transformation of anti-Western sentiment from a political challenge to imperialist policy to an inchoate rage about modernity. Many strands of contemporary thought, from the deep greens to the radical left, express aspects of such discontent. But it is radical Islam that has come act as the real lightning rod for this fury.
Radical Islam and the rage against modernity, 28 January 2015
From India to Algeria, from Egypt to South Africa, the organizations that led struggles for freedom from colonialism, or the ideologies that claimed to represent the identity of the free nation, have become senile or corrupted. People have become disaffected with the old order. But the new opposition movements that have emerged to give voice to that disaffection are often rooted in religious or ethnic identity, and are often sectarian or separatist in form
Disaffection in a fragmented world, 14 June 2015
Neither the claim that jihadis are not ‘reallIy’ Muslim nor the claim that the nature of Islam explains the attraction of jihadism makes sense.
For some the answer lies with Islam itself. ‘There’s a global jihad lurking within this religion’, the Canadian journalist Mark Steyn insists. Islam is ‘a bloodthirsty faith in which whatever’s your bag violence-wise can almost certainly be justified.’
Others have resisted the idea that jihadism is driven by Islam. David Cameron, in an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme in the wake of the slaughter of tourists on Sousse beach in Tunisia, condemned those who call Islamic State ‘Islamic State’. It is ‘not an Islamic State’, he claimed because ‘Islam is a religious of peace’.
Neither argument possesses credibility. A religion is defined not just by its holy texts but also by the ways in which believers interpret and act upon them; that is, by its practices. The fact that supporters of IS practice their religion in a way that horrifies the British Prime Minister, and most liberals, and indeed, most Muslims, does not make it any less real or Islamic. Like it or not, Islamism is an integral part of the tapestry of contemporary Islam.
And yet, while the insistence that jihadism is disconnected from Islam makes little sense, the claim that Islam can explain why jihadis act so unconscionably is equally untenable. The vast majority of Muslims, after all, abhor the actions of IS, and would find their actions morally inexplicable. Nor is it just Islamists who are drawn into such acts. From Buddhist monks in Myanmar organizing pogroms against the Rohingya to Dylann Roof shooting dead nine worshippers at the Emanuel African church in Charleston, inhumanity is widespread in the non-Muslim world too.
Evil and the Islamic State, 16 July 2015
Contemporary radical Islam is the religious form through which a particular kind of barbarous political rage expresses itself. So rather than debate ‘Is Islam good or evil?’ or ‘Are jihadis motivated by politics or religion?’, we need to ask different kinds of questions, about both religion and politics. Why does political rage against the West take such nihilistic, barbaric forms today? And why has radical Islam become the principal means of expressing such nihilistic, barbaric rage?
Radical Islam and the rage against modernity, 28 January 2015
Islamists are often as estranged from mainstream institutions of Islam as they are from wider society.
Most homegrown wannabe jihadis possess a peculiar relationship with Islam. They are, in many ways, as estranged from Muslim communities as they are from Western societies. Most detest the mores and traditions of their parents, have little time for mainstream forms of Islam, and cut themselves off from traditional community institutions. Mohammed Siddique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, is a classic case in point. He had rejected his parents’ subcontinental traditions, refused an arranged marriage, and wed instead Hasina Patel, a woman he had met at university. So disgusted was Khan’s family with his love-match that it all but disowned him. Disengaged from both Western societies and Muslim communities, some reach out to Islamism. They rarely arrive at Islamism by attending sermons given by preachers of hate. Rather, such ideas usually percolate through small groups of friends in gyms or youth clubs. Again, the 7/7 bombers are a case in point. It was in a gym that Siddique Khan met with two of the other bombers, Shezad Tanweer and Hasib Hussain to sketch out the plans for the bombings.
What Islamism provides to those drawn to it is not religion in any old-fashioned sense, but identity, recognition and meaning. Detached from traditional religious institutions and cultures, many adopt a literal reading of the Qur’an and a strict observance of supposedly authentic religious norms to mark themselves out as distinct and provide a collective identity.
Myths of radicalisation, 2 June 2013
Multicultural policies in the 1980s had helped create a more tribal Britain by encouraging people to see themselves in narrower ethnic or cultural terms. Muslim inhabitants of towns such as Beeston adopted a more rigid Islamic identity, becoming more isolated from other communities in the town. Second generation Muslims like the Mullah Boys would, just a decade earlier, have probably been far more secular in their outlook, and more willing to forge friendships with people of different faiths and cultures. Now they saw themselves as tribal Muslims and most of the people they knew, liked and trusted came from within the tribe. But not only were segregated from the wider social world, they were also cut off from the traditional institutions and structures of Islam. Even though the Boys saw themselves as Muslim, they wanted nothing to do with the subcontinental Islam of their parents. In challenging the old ways, they isolated themselves from their families and often became pariahs in the community. So disgusted were Sidique Khan’s family about his relationship with Hasina Patel [a woman he had met at university and whom he had married, having refused a match arranged by his parents] that they moved from Beeston to Nottingham, in the hope that their errant son would follow them. He didn’t.
It is a common story. In The Islamist, Ed Husain tells of how his attraction to radical Islam led to a battle with his pious but traditional father. Eventually his father gave him an ultimatum: leave Islamism or leave my house. Husain decided to leave his house. He stole out in the middle of the night and crept down to the East London mosque, which was controlled by the Jamaat-influenced Islamic Forum. He was taken in by ‘the brothers’ and treated like a ‘family member’. For people like him, Husain observes, ‘cut off from Britain, isolated from the Eastern culture of our parents, Islamism provided us with a purpose and place in life.’
The making of a British jihadi, 6 June 2013
Muslims are not the only group to feel disaffected and estranged from mainstream institutions.
These developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of most social groups. Many within white working communities are often as disengaged as their Muslim peers, and similarly see their problems not in political terms but rather through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. Hence the growing hostility to immigration and diversity, and, for some, the seeming attraction of far-right groups. Racist populism and radical Islamism are both in their different ways expressions of social disengagement in an era of identity politics.
The making of wannabe jihadis in the West, I March 2015
European societies have in recent years become both more socially atomized and riven by identity politics. Not just the weakening of labour organizations, but the decline of collectivist ideologies, the expansion of the market into almost every nook and cranny of social life, the fading of institutions, from trade unions to the Church, that traditionally helped socialize individuals – all have helped create a more fragmented society.
At the same time, and partly as a result of such social atomization, people have begun to view themselves and their social affiliations in a different way. Social solidarity has become defined increasingly not in political terms – as collective action in pursuit of certain political ideals – but in terms of ethnicity or culture. The question people ask themselves is not so much ‘In what kind of society do I want to live?’ as ‘Who are we?’. The two questions are, of course, intimately related, and any sense of social identity must embed an answer to both. The relationship between the two is, however, complex and fluid.
As the political sphere has narrowed, and as mechanisms for political change eroded, so the two questions have come more and more to be regarded as synonymous. The answer to the question ‘In what kind of society do I want to live?’ has become shaped less by the kinds of values or institutions we want to struggle to establish, than by the kind of people that we imagine we are; and the answer to ‘Who are we?’ defined less by the kind of society we want to create than by the history and heritage to which supposedly we belong. Or, to put it another way, as broader political, cultural and national identities have eroded, and as traditional social networks, institutions of authority and moral codes have weakened, so people’s sense of belonging has become more narrow and parochial, moulded less by the possibilities of a transformative future than by an often mythical past. The politics of ideology has, in other words, given way to the politics of identity.
Populism: What, why, how?, 5 November 2014
Nevetheless, there is something distinctive about Islamist identity.
Because Islam is a global religion, so Islamists are able to create an identity that is both intensely parochial and seemingly universal, linking Muslims to struggles across the world and providing the illusion of being part of a global movement. Islamism, like all religiously-based ideologies, provides, too, the illusion of divine sanction for jihadists’ acts, however grotesque they may be.
Isolated from wider society, disembedded from social norms, shaped by black and white values which in their mind possess divine approval, driven by a sense of rage about non-Muslims and a belief in an existential struggle between Islam and the West, jihadis are able to commit the most inhuman of acts and to view them as acceptable, even righeous.
Evil and the Islamic State, 16 July 2015
Government policies have undermined liberties without challenging jihadism.
Politicians constantly call for a defense of British values against extremism. But beyond platitudes about liberal democracy, they find it hard to articulate what those values are. At the same time, these leaders constantly undermine fundamental liberal values in the name of fighting terrorism: They have increased state surveillance, restricted free speech and banned certain organizations.
Britain’s dangerous new tribalism, 10 July 2015
Simplistic narratives about ‘radicalisation’ miss the complex roots of homegrown terrorism. The proposed solutions – banning organizations, closing down madrasas, imposing broadcast bans on those with ‘disgusting views’, pre-censoring online hate speech, increasing state surveillance, reviving the Data Communications Bill, or ‘snoopers charter’ – betray our liberties while also helping deepen the sense of alienation and disengagement that has made Islamism attractive to some in the first place. The real issues we need to confront are issues such as the contemporary sense of social disengagement, and not just among Muslims, the corrosion of the institutions of civil society, the lack of a progressive counter-narrative, the collapse of the organizations of the left, and the continual attacks on liberties in the name of security. All this may not be as headline-grabbing as saying ‘Ban the hate preachers!’. But, then, real social change can rarely be reduced to soundbites.
Myths of radicalisation, 2 June 2013
The images are all taken from IS propaganda videos.
To restate a bit: social disengagement is a global, somewhat intractable phenomenon that is particularly visible and highlighted in Islamism. Technological modernization, limits to economic gains, liberal wins, identity politics, and globalism; Donald Trump as candidate for President is partially consumerist hero-worship (Berlusconi), but mostly a moralistic circling of the wagons, an attempt to make things clear again. Quite understandable, given the inexorable social stresses behind the ennui.
> the corrosion of the institutions of civil society, the lack of a progressive counter-narrative, the collapse of the organizations of the left
These three I see as one, though it’s helpful to list them so. I like how these 3 of your list of 5 things we should be addressing concern the left’s abdication- it’s so easy to focus on reactionaries, and ignore the lack of leadership of the left, and the cost of that lack. We on the left have vanishingly little to say about how to actually accomplish cohesiveness and inclusiveness in society. We have for so long left ‘hive-mindedness’ to the right (especially the religious) that we don’t recognize the urgency of a broad, progressive attempt to support cohesiveness, whether through the lens of liberty or institution. We focus instead on narrow notions of equality and the safety net, transfer payments and injustice. Now that mankind’s gods are streaming out through the side door, we assume like the fabled frog in a warming pot that we should make do with this wasteland of consumerism and volatile, existential confusion. We have not even recognized the unprecedented challenge to mankind of how to carve out personal meaning in a post-theistic, globally interdependent age, even as the risks and the terrible price of failure is broadcast constantly, pruriently. The turn to radicalism provides clear answers, and will be increasingly listened to if all the left has to sell is consumerism and the right to fuck who we like. A final irony: we suffer only a bit less from the same uncertainty (insecurity) as the right does, and are thus influenced by rightist dumb-dumbs selling xenophobia, TPP, and the general notions of government/taxation/social engineering as evil. We haven’t awakened to the danger of our stupor. Ours are the sins of omission, the guard asleep at the gate.
Regarding Point No. 5:
You contend that Islam does not attract people to violent Islamism. Your evidence for this assertion is that A) there are many religions and ideologies whose adherents are known to commit atrocities, and that B) the vast majority of Muslims do not endorse Islamism, let alone violent Islamism.
With all due respect, Exhibit A is pretty weak. That a particular ideology is not the only path to violence is not proof that it is not a path to violence. That is obviously a non-sequitur. There can be multiple paths to violence, of course. Exhibit B is more interesting, but does not really prove what you’re saying it proves. It proves that there are ways of being a Muslim that don’t entail violent Islamism. So, sure, Islam does not necessarily lead to Islamism. But that’s not really the claim people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Douglas Murray, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris et al. are making. They’re saying – rightly, I think – that Islamism is the result of one plausible interpretation of Islamic doctrine, and that, therefore, as long as there are billions of people looking to Islamic doctrine as their primary source of moral wisdom (or identity), there will always at least the potential, under the right circumstances, for Islamism to flourish. In my opinion, it is not necessary to conclude from therefore that there is no hope for Islam. However, if Islam can attract people to Islamism, and Islamism is something to be avoided, then it stands to reason that we would need to acknowledge the link in order to understand how to weaken it.
I think you misunderstand my argument. I don’t claim that the fact that believers of other faiths commit atrocities or that the vast majority of Muslims don’t endorse Islamism provides ‘evidence’ for the assertion that ‘Islam does not attract people to violent Islamism’ (and that’s your phrase, not mine; without qualification, it’s not one that makes much sense to me). What I argue is that if we look at the actual life stories of would-be Western jihadis (and I do wish that those who say they favour an empirical-based view of the world would spend some time looking at the facts), what you find is that in most cases such jihadis don’t become jihadis because of a particular interpretation of Islam; rather they are drawn to jihadism for wider (often non-religious reasons) and are drawn to a particular interpretation of Islam because it provides justification for, to coheres with, that view of the world. Of course there is a link between Islam and Islamism (why else would I criticize the idea that supporters of IS are not practicing ‘true’ Islam, or insist that ‘Islamism is an integral part of the tapestry of contemporary Islam’?). But to acknowledge that link is not say anything of the reasons for which people may be drawn to Islamism or jihadism.
Well, my apologies if I’ve somehow misrepresented your argument, but what I mean to address is your rejection of the notion that, in your words, “the nature of Islam explains the attraction of jihadism.” I think it can, at least partly. Surely it is not a coincidence that so many disaffected Muslims form their radical identities from among the offerings of Islam, which do of course include the doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. Islam may not be the catalyst that lights the spark of radicalism in young Muslims – perhaps that is, as you suggest, a consequence of “social disengagement” – but its more violent and regressive doctrines do clearly offer an attractive channel for that radicalism.
When you say, “… jihadis dont become jihadis because of a particular interpretation of Islam…,” you seem to be making a sort of postmodern argument that jihadis don’t become jihadis because of an attraction to jihadism (i.e. the “particular interpretation”). Whereas, from my perspective, it seems like a mere tautology to point out that jihadism, which is a theological interpretation peculiar to Islam (at least in its particulars), is largely what attracts and informs jihadis.
If I had meant to write ‘jihadis don’t become jihadis because of an attraction to jihadism’, I would have done so. And had I written that, it would have been not ‘postmodern’ but stupid. But the terms ‘jihadism’ and ‘interpretion of Islam’ are not synonymous. Jihadism refers to a particular form of Islamic armed insurgency or terrorism. Such action, for jihadis, finds justification in a particular interpretation of Islam, but it is not the same as a particular interpretation of Islam. I recognize that distinctions such as these may not be important for you. They should be to anyone who wants seriously to address these issues.
You seem to believe that wannabe jihadis read the Qur’an and through their reading are motivated to join a jihadist group. If you look at the biographies of Western jihadis, you will discover that it rarely happens like that. Many Western jihadis are, at the beginning of their journey, not particularly religious (a quarter of French jihadis in Syria are thought to come from non-Muslim backgrounds) and it is not their reading of Islam that leads them to become jihadis. It is, rather, a far more complex story in which they are often searching for identity, recognition and meaning, and yearning for a black and white view of the world, and in which radical Islam eventually becomes, as I put it, the ‘religious form through which a particular kind of barbarous political rage expresses itself’.
It is not the case that ‘a theological interpretation peculiar to Islam (at least in its particulars) is largely what attracts… jihadis’. The theology is certainly important but not in the way that you imagine it to be. So long as we insist that the theology comes first and jihadism follows, it is unlikely that we will ever be able truly to tackle the problem.
I of course don’t deny the complex psychological factors involved in the radicalization process. But I don’t think it’s serious to deny that the divine sanction and heavenly rewards offered by (at least a plausible interpretation of) Islam play a major role in attracting some Muslim radicals to jihadism. The literature I’m familiar with has done nothing to convince me that jihadis are not genuinely attracted to these religious doctrines once they become familiar with them. (And that they might have picked up these ideas by word-of-mouth rather than an actual reading of the Koran seems rather beside the point, unless you’re going to argue that the doctrine of violent jihad really has nothing to do with Islam and is just a hoax promulgated by opportunistic bomb makers.)
You say: “The theology is certainly important but not in the way that you imagine it to be.”
I imagine that the theological commands, sanctions, and rewards offered by a particular (but still plausible and authentic) interpretation of Islam play a significant role in luring young men from the position of “disaffected radical” to the position of “jihadi.” And I think that tackling this problem will involve taking this particular theological interpretation off of the table – not by eliminating Islam, of course, but discrediting jihadism and literalism from within the faith.
I’m glad you’re acknowledging the complexity of the issue. But you’re also conflating two distinct questions. The first (and the one with which you started this thread) is ‘Is Islam the main reason for people becoming jihadists?’ The second, which you raise in this post, is ‘Are jihadis genuinely attracted to these religious doctrines once they become familiar with them?’. The answer to the second is clearly ‘Yes’. But that does not imply, as you seem to suggest, that therefore the answer to the first question must also be ‘Yes’.
Well, is Islam the main reason for people becoming jihadists? For some, the answer is a straightforward “yes”. There are people who, having no particular interest in taking up a radical ideology, and having not been rejected or disillusioned by the modern world, read the Koran or listen to sermons or watch videos on YouTube and say to themselves, “Yes, this is what I should be doing with my life”. But I also acknowledge that, for some – perhaps for most, as you suggest – the path to jihadism is more complex. It often begins with a building up of anti-modern, anti-Western feelings completely detached from religious doctrine. But even for these individuals, I think it’s not quite true to say that Islam does not play a main role in explaining why they become jihadis and not something else entirely. If not Islam, what? Where do these ideas about martyrdom and paradise and caliphates and apocalyptic struggle – the ideas that distinguish jihadism from, say, Marxism or anarchism or other radical ideologies – come from if not Islam?
Islam doesn’t always explain why people go searching about for a radical identity. But in the case of jihadis, it does explain where they ended up.
My apologies for taking a while to respond – I have been away, and I am only just catching up. I am, however, somewhat confused as to what you are arguing now. You claim that Islam is ‘the main reason for people becoming jihadists’. But you claim also that ‘Islam doesn’t always explain why people go searching about for a radical identity. But in the case of jihadis, it does explain where they ended up.’ Those are different arguments. The first is about the reasons people become jihadis. The second is about the tools and meaning that Islam (or rather a particular interpretation of Islam) provides for jihadis. The latter claim is actually not that different from my argument that ‘jihadis don’t become jihadis because of a particular interpretation of Islam; rather they are drawn to jihadism for wider (often non-religious reasons) and are drawn to a particular interpretation of Islam because it provides justification for, to coheres with, that view of the world.’
Perhaps the confusion can be seen in your question ‘Where do these ideas about martyrdom and paradise and caliphates and apocalyptic struggle – the ideas that distinguish jihadism from, say, Marxism or anarchism or other radical ideologies – come from if not Islam?’ I have tried to sketch out in some of my articles the beginnings of an answer as to why people get drawn to Islamism and jihadism rather than radical leftwing ideologies; to explain the reasons why ‘A generation ago, today’s ‘radicalised’ Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook, and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organizations’ whereas ‘Today they see themselves as Muslim in an almost tribal sense, and give vent to their disaffection through a stark vision of Islam.’ But yours seems a more rhetorical question. Taken with the rest of your argument, it seems to suggest that people are drawn to Islam rather than to Marxism or anarchism because Islam contains ‘ideas about martyrdom and paradise and caliphates and apocalyptic struggle’. If that is indeed what you are arguing, then I disagree with you – and so does the evidence.