Lessons from the Boston bombers

Two articles in today's Sunday Times serve to illustrate why I continue to question my friend's conversion to an ideology that seems to me to be the antithesis of what humanity should be striving to achieve, namely leaving the world in tact and a better place for our children .

The first is an article by the Chairman of Quilliam, an organisation which has founded a youth movement in Pakistan to counter extremist ideas. Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist, imprisoned for his extreme views, looks at how the global jihadist movement has changed in the last ten years from the credo of a group to the "mission of an insurgency" seen across the Arab world and beyond. The central tenet of this shift from a local to a global struggle is that the jihadist's "people" stop being his neighbours or fellow nationals, and instead become brothers and sisters of the ummah. Hence the enemy become "non-Muslims", "the only war that of Islam versus the non-believer" and it becomes justifiable to strike America and her allies in any way because of their interference in countries which are on the brink of creating a state where the ummah can live as they wish. Thus we see young Chechens blowing legs off marathon runners in Boston not because they believe that it will free their countrymen from Russian hegemony, but because they were brainwashed in their local Mosque into believing that such actions would ultimately help the global struggle against the kuffar.

The second by Andrew Sullivan, very pertinently, tries too understand how and why the left refuses to see religion as the cause of the Boston bombings. It quotes Tsarnaev's uncle describing his nephew's shift to "extreme devotion": "I was shocked when I heard his words, his phrases, when every other word he starts sticking in words of God", and asks why commentators such as the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald should desperately search for some other motive (societal alienation, mental illness, instability) when "history is crammed with violence committed in the name of God". We have seen how Christianity can "become murderous": from the crusades to the religious conflicts of the 17th century when it was founded by a supposed peace loving prophet. Why is it so unlikely that a religion founded by an "explicitly political conqueror"  should be used by today's terrorists to justify their abominations? The tendency to take religion to its extreme, violent form is "not the exclusive province of any faith". But what we should understand here is that those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam are simply expressing a faith without doubt or humility. "It is past reason". It is, as Muslims love to tell us, total surrender, and it knows no restraint.
So why should we not believe Tsarnaev when he tells us his motives. He is, as Sullivan says, not crazy - just terrifyingly consistent.
He may be the exception. We know that most Muslims are peaceful and caring and love their families and hope for the same things we all do: a better world for their children. But it is also true, it seems to many of us, that Islam has a difficult problem with modernity. It cannot, like Christianity moderate doctrinally because the Qur'an is the uncreated word of God. It cannot be subjected to objective scholarly criticism or be re-interpreted in the light of scientific advance. Nor can it accept the existence of those who choose not to believe in one God or no God at all. And it is universal in its aims.

These, to me, are disturbing characteristics in isolation, but terrifying when put together.