Tragic news in from London where, in an apparent terrorist attack, two attackers chanting Allahu Akbar (“God is Great”) attacked a soldier, beheading him and mutilating his body. One of the perpetrators then reportedly declared, “”We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”
Years ago, when I edited the Middle East Quarterly, I published a piece written by Timothy Furnish looking at the upswing in decapitation among Islamist terrorists. It’s background certainly worth reading.
The important take-away for me is how the interpretation ascribed to the two verses discussing beheading in the Quran is more extreme today than it was a millennium ago. The reason for that lies in the Saudi willingness to finance radicalism and extremist interpretation.
Too often, American policymakers embrace the notion that grievance motivates terrorism. Make no mistake: Grievance might provide an excuse but the roots of such extremism lies in ideological and theological interpretation. While groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) or the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) might propagate apologia, many moderate Muslims—for example those in the American Islamic Congress (AIC) and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) readily recognize that theological interpretation is the battlefield. Unless we recognize that we are in a battle of ideology and exegesis and not simply dealing with a problem that can be dealt with by concession or incentive, we will never be able to protect fully society against the scourge of terror.