The debate between the “religion is the culprit” camp and the “circumstances” camp continues. As I’ve said before I don’t think it’s an either/or problem. Particular circumstances drive people toward certain kinds of beliefs. Or, to put it another way, certain circumstances, such as lack of opportunity, perceived or real oppression, etc., make certain ideas appealing. This does not mean that those who take up those beliefs do not hold them wholeheartedly. For example, the post-war conditions in Germany made Nazi ideology appealing. Without the Great Depression, the Nazis may have remained a fringe group.
But unfortunately the current debate over Islamic terrorism is driven by the it’s either religion or its circumstances narrative. Those putting forward the circumstances are rightly concerned that some will blame all Muslims if we attribute the violence to religion. But the solution to this problem is not to ignore the evidence that those associated with terrorist organizations like ISIS are not motivated by a particular interpretation of Islam (one that most Muslims reject!). Instead we must make it clear that it is wrong to indict an entire group of people based on the actions of a few of them.
At the History News Network, Timothy R. Furnish describes the polemics between these two camps at a recent conference (“Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad”). In doing so, he gave some great advice on how to deal with the problem of the eschatological thinking characteristic of the current Islamic terrorist groups. He argues that “modern attempts to de-fang apocalyptic groups (overt ones like ISIS; quasi-eschatological ones like Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusrah) need to emulate the Ottoman example: that is, actually employ Islamic religious texts (Qur’an, hadiths, scholarly works) to undermine eschatological jihadists (as I first called for in August 2014). Simply labeling them “non-Muslim” will not do the trick.” Read the entire article here: