In the wake of the terrorists attacks on Paris last week it was obvious that at least some politicians would incite that cliché that, no matter how many shouts of “Allahu Akbar” were heard among the gunshots on Friday, this violence was in no way Islamic.
And so it has proved. Only on Tuesday Theresa May, the home secretary, duly stood up in the Commons and intoned: “The attacks have nothing to do with Islam.”
It is a mark of what a fatuous oaf May has become in recent months that even her prime minister David Cameron would not back up her stupidity on this count. Speaking at prime minister’s questions, the Tory leader said:
“It’s not good enough to say there’s no connection between terrorism and Islam. [Islamic State] are making that connection and we need to prove it’s not right.”
Meanwhile Sajid Javid, the business secretary who some have tipped as a potential successor to Cameron, claimed that the terrorists were “taking a peaceful religion and using it as a tool to carry out their activities.”
The fact that aside from May the Tories have taken up a standard leftist narrative – that Islam is a cuddly, lovely faith exploited by nasty men – says more about their electoral positioning and need to pick up the ethnic minority vote than it does about the nature of Islamic State, or Muslim terrorism in general.
The truth is that it does not take great extrapolations or distortions to go from the Koran to kamikaze attacks outside of the Stade de France. Mohammed, unlike, say, Jesus, was a warrior. As he is described in the Islamic tradition he spread the faith via the sword, and violence is thus part of Islam.
Even Muslim apologists do not really defer from this view. As Just Ask Islam puts it:
“There is not such a meaning in the Quran, ordering or even permitting the Muslims to ever attack innocent people whether they are Christians, Jews, or any other faith for that matter. Combat is only ordered against those who are attacking or killing the innocent Muslims or fighting against the established Muslim state.”
As Islamic State has proved, your mileage may vary on who qualifies as “innocent”, especially when it is Western taxpayers who have funded the military forays into the Middle East that many commentators here see as having provoked Islamic terrorism over the past few decades.
And as the religious critic Sam Harris points out, there is very little that Islamic State are doing that was not done by Mohammed:
“The example of Mohammed as an exemplar of the faith doesn’t square very well with modern cosmopolitan secular tolerant values. He was not a hippy who got crucified. He was not an ascetic who sat cross-legged under a Bodhi tree. He was a warlord who did many of the things that you see members of Isis doing.”
Nobody is claiming that Islamic State has a sophisticated interpretation of Islam. Nor indeed are many politicians or commentators saying that Islamic State’s version of Islam is the only one that has currency at the moment.
But the fact that Islamic State does fit into the wider family of Islam is undeniable. It is not “nothing to do with Islam”, nor is it a bastardisation of the faith. And until politicians and their sympathisers on the allegedly progressive left admit as such, it will be that much harder to win the war of ideas that leads to slaughter in the streets of European capitals.
Image Credit – Paris, September 2007 by Moyan Brenn