5 Myths About Violent Extremism and Terrorism

I recently saw an article about the “5 myths” of violent extremism and decided to make my own.

  • We will stop terrorism!

No, it will not stop. We cannot stop terrorism. We cannot stop violence. Call it “human nature” if you must but humans vary in many ways – and ideological, political, religious, social and other variations inevitably lead to tension and the disruption of peace, even going so far as violence.

When this violence is enacted based on a political cause and to ignite fear in a population or a change of government policy, it is known as terrorism. We cannot stop violence being enacted, always and without failure, thus some amount of violence in the world will be terroristic. We cannot stop people using a tactic.

  • Terrorists are mad, bad and dumb!

Many terrorists are educated. Some are highly educated. They tend to be logical and sane. There is no association with terrorism and mental illness although some terrorist types — namely lone actors – are more likely to be mentally ill. Some of them are rich, were in important community positions, had important jobs and rewarding careers in front of them. They may see what they are doing as morally just – not bad or evil.

  • Violence is not a component of religious understanding or interpretation!

Violence apparently disqualifies anything from being religious. This is counterfactual. Let give me give you a few examples: “Jews who killed Christ are not real Jews,” “Companions of the Prophet Muhammad who fought in battles are not real Muslims,” “The Crusades had nothing to do with Christianity.” Stupid statements? Yes, they are.

Religion has something to do with some of the terrorism we are seeing. Not everything, however, but not nothing. Groups like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Tony Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army use religion in their own mold to motivate political violence. Thus it is important we understand the religion’s cross-over with violence and the individual’s interpretation and enaction of that violence.

  • Terrorists do not understand their religion!

Islamic terrorists have an understanding of their religion that other Muslims do not, that is assured. However, that does not mean that they have no understanding – or that they are not Muslims.  Some Islamic terrorists may be religiously naive and guided towards something they think is true. But the truth of religion is a very contentious thing. Does knowledge hold truth or does action? What do the sacred texts say? These are good questions to ask.

In fact, even Christian terrorists view their scripture in ways which moderate Christians do not. For example in Genesis there is a sentence which says: “Whoever shed human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed, for the image of God has God made mankind,” consider about this for a moment. Whoever sheds blood, you are justified to shed their blood. This justifies murder of those considered murderers. And although it is in the Old Testament, Jesus did state: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Therefore, in light of the Ten Commandments, justified murder could include killing those who kill (consider single-issue anti-abortion terrorist attacks for a moment).

But where does that end? An eye for an eye, qisas… it leaves the world blind. Do we kill the executioner and then the executioner of the executioner until there is no more execution? It makes no sense at all.

  • We caused it. Terrorism and the ‘backlash’ is our fault!

Many people miss the key facts: ‘we’ – the West – do not have to be involved in any way for terrorism to spring up. In fact, there are many factors that fertilize the soil for political violence.

For example, in Islamic terrorism the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathir and core Islamic religious texts are used by terrorists. These texts predate America! Even writings by Qutb show us that Islamic radicals hate America by its sheer existence in what it is: democratic, free, open, sexualised and not Islamic.

The foundations of Islamic terrorism do not rely solely on the West, and can in fact exclude the West to continue or to strike (e.g. when Islamic terrorists strike Coptic Christians in Egypt or when Filipino Islamic extremists behead innocent Filipinos). Illegal wars and invasions contribute to ‘blowback’ and revenge-based terrorist acts, and grievances are associated with interfering with other countries economies and politics. The extent of the ‘we caused it’ narrative is limited.


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