After “Manchester,” there was complete silence in the British media and within British politics about the fact that the perpetrators and those who took responsibility for the act of terror invoked Islam. It is a worthy aim to have the desire to prevent innocent individuals, in this case Muslims around the world, from being thrown into a maelstrom where they are prejudged. However, this is certainly not how the problems will be solved.
It is as wrong to say that terrorist acts such as that in Manchester are to be purely explained as religious as it is to say that religion plays no role here. Why in the world is it so difficult to maintain a balance in this point?
The Crusades were not purely religiously motivated. The counter-movement on the Islamic side was just as little a product of pure religious motivation. There have been repeated coalitions between Christian rulers and Muslim rulers against assorted rivals. However, to maintain that the Crusades and the counter-movement had nothing to do with religion since political, commercial, and indeed the rulers’ very personal reasons in part played a role would be – please excuse the word choice – ridiculous. The crusades were not a matter or problem of Buddhists or atheists. It was a problem of Islam and of Christianity.
All studies show that it is practically impossible to find common features between Islamist terrorists or jihad fighters going to Syria or Iraq from all over the world. Age, social class, education, and place of origin, whether one is a convert or traditionally religious, are all quite different and are worthless as far as similarities are concerned and much less as an explanation. The biographies are too diverse.
There is only one thing all perpetrators have in common. They are all Muslims. Since most Muslims are not terrorists and do not advocate this type of terrorism, there is, of course, no direct path from being born into a Muslim family to violent Islamism. However, if within dozens of countries, contexts, languages, cultures and even personal biographies there is one factor around the world and over the years that has remained stable, it is a connection to Islam. At the same time, there is no similar global movement found in other religions, i.e., Buddhists, atheists, Christians, or Sikhs are not involved in the global terror. Therefore, one cannot simply ignore this factor.
At the same time, this is not about ‘sticking it to’ Islam. Instead, it is a matter of the following: When there is only one factor which always arises, there can be no solution which looks at everything but of all things ignores this factor.
Just think of what it would mean if all terrorists only had one thing in common, that they were Jesuits, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Evangelicals. Neither the media nor politicians would throw out this factor so rarely as is the case with Islam. Just think if all the perpetrators were smokers. Even if one had no idea where the connection was, that would become a permanent topic. Hundreds of millions of Evangelicals have to continually hear that occasional individuals only possibly being one of them have killed an abortion doctor or wanted to burn a Koran. Tens of thousands of terrorists over decades and up to the present day, on the other hand, may not be brought into connection with their religious affiliation. Around the globe, this exception is exclusively made by politicians and media professionals for Islam.
Is it because no one is fearful of all these religions and groups, while certain Muslims also threaten and exercise violence against media professionals? Would other religions and groups have to likewise threaten violence in order to be less sweepingly condemned? Is this a form of advance submission?
Again: For me, it is not a question of ‘sticking it to’ Islam or to make every Muslim responsible for what some Muslims do, as my German book Islam: Picture of an Enemy demonstrates. Instead, it is a question of the following: When there is only one factor which always arises, there can be no solution which looks at everything but of all things ignores this factor.