After the last attacks in the heart of Europe by jihadism I feel like I need to try to clarify some concepts to me that not everybody is really familiar with.
Probably the first and not that obvious concept is that we are facing a very complex issue that affects everybody around the globe. There’s no way we can analyze the situation without considering as many factors as possible, sometimes questioning our own well stablished ideas.
The issue of jihadism involves with a wide range of shades of gray involving religion, politics, international and national interests, an amazing amount of groups and a continuous evolution that changes the parameters by which to measure and analyze basically them all on a daily basis; what is true today might not be entirely true tomorrow.
Whenever we talk about religion we find many different definitions, so for the sake of any argument we need to find a common ground. When we talk about religion we should understand that it involves not only a set of beliefs, but tribal sense of belonging, power and political and social layers. Many former primitive religions have learned with different degrees of success to avoid their interference in political and non religious matters and have so lessen their impact in social configuration, but not all of them, being the Islam, as the youngest of abrahamic religions, the one that hasn’t been still be able to evolve to such a more desirable situation. This is so, also, because of the very self definition of it’s holy book to be considered the last and final word of God.
Religions, in general, change people’s perception of good and wrong from the childhood and are generally based on the presumptions of a specific set of believes arising from books and religious authorities with different, and many times confronting, interests. It, therefore, and specially in some of them, affect the way adults decide to frame their interaction with society to some levels that are extreme to our own modern eyes, but not so in their own framework. Only considering some actions within that framework can we understand how such hideous ideas appear, move to action and, also, can be attacked.
What you can easily consider a crime in our modern societies, for instance torturing and even killing homosexuals, is not so in those brains that have been induced to believe that homosexuality is a crime in the eyes of a specific interpretation of a religion and understanding of a given god.
Religion by itself affects the way any issue develops due to the framework by which individuals think and therefore behave.
Criticism of Islam is not only necessary, as it has happened with any other religion, but also desirable if we want to protect those moderate muslims and minorities and groups within the muslim community, those for instance living in theocratic countries and are agnostic, atheist, women, homosexuals, etc.
But we must not confuse criticism of Islam with criticism of anybody who professes that religion in general; as said, there are many interpretations, moderates, liberals, fundamentalisms and schools around that quite often fight each other in many senses. Islam can be reinterpreted and probably, as many muslims suggest and ask for, reformed in order to put the religion as a whole in trace with modern societies thus proscribing islamism, the political imposition of Islam, and jihadism not as a simple struggle but a violent imposition of Islam, from it. Where intolerance to our secular, critical and humanist values arise, we must stay strong and never compromise, as any compromise in this case is a defeat that endangers all our modern advances.
And to do so we must be aware of the dangers not only of jihadists, but specially of islamism. A weak response to the way we deal with them, allowing public spaces with no way to defy their positions, should simply not be allowed.
Those who consider themselves as liberals in general have a special duty, to admit the danger of considering the criticism of Islam as a racist or xenophobic behavior. While this could be true sometimes when the critics trespass the line of ideas to people who belong to a group, it will not be so always, so in respect of the freedom of speech we must recognize when it’s the legitimate criticism of the ideas and allow it while being specially careful with those taking advantage of the freedoms we have provided to ourselves to destroy them, as happens with islamists, not to mention jihadists.
There are deep roots that deal with ideologies that seek to violently impose a specific extremist version of Islam, others that are nurtured by the violence of commercial and geo strategic interests that first world nations have brought to Middle East without considering the long term consequences, root of plain psychotic violent individuals mixed with true believers, and some that take specific advantage of the wrongly understood permissiveness of our own modern societies at risk only for the fear to question and criticize; actually impeding ourself to freely think about some of this issues.
If we, as people, truly want to help protect minorities and want to fight extremism, we need to first try to understand the gigantic complexity of the issues to consider and how addressing one will affect in too many times in chaotic ways the others as none of those factors are not only not isolated from the rest, but mixed in different proportions. Then only strongly defending the need to demand transparency, better international politics, more freedom of speech and the abolishing of blasphemy laws can we really start to find the necessary consensus to efficiently fight the islamist and jihadist threat.