As an atheist, I find it odd when non-Muslims refer to ISIS and other similar jihadist groups as not "True Muslims" who are practicing the "True Islam."
Here's a question I have for them: if that's the case, then what exactly constitutes the "True Jedi religion?" Who are the real Jedis out there? What is the difference between the nefarious Sith who have "hijacked the Jedi religion" from its true, peaceful adherents?
For there to be such thing as the "True Islam," then, by definition, the religion, which makes metaphysical claims about the nature of reality, would have to be true. Meaning Allah would have to actually exist, and as an unbeliever your failure to subscribe to the Islamic faith would result in your damnation to eternal Hellfire. Thus, when I hear a non-Muslim, like, say, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, vociferously insist that ISIS has "nothing to do with Islam," my head feels like it's going to explode. As a former religious fundamentalist, the conceptual error is obvious to me.
Well of course we don't actually believe in such a thing. We're just trying to support the moderates in their quest to de-legitimize the radicals who are killing people. We're trying to avoid playing into the Jihadist narrative centering around the clash of civilizations.
My problem with this response is that it's inherently disingenuous, and moreover, essentially facilitates a culture of denialism between the obvious link between Islam and Islamic Terrorism. Doing so prevents us from talking about the problem plainly, and offering real solutions.
Think of religious texts as a data-set. The data-set makes claims about reality (which are false), so really, a religion only "exists" as memes within the brains of believing adherents. Consider the widely varying interpretations of Islam: jihadism, Sufism and everything in between. Some of these memes replicate better than others - arguably, the appeal of jihadism is a mix of its quranic literalism and messianic worldview. The meme is like a type of grand theory offers a method for interpreting the data, which is the texts themselves (in the Islamic case, the Qur'an and the Hadith).
Ignoring that these systems of interpretation clearly rely on the source text does absolutely nothing for the moderates who are trying to wage an ideological war on the battlefield of ideas, where all the drones in the world aren't going to make a damn difference.
Language matters, and it matters very, very much, especially when you're talking about ideas. Then again, I have approximately zero faith in the European political elite's ability to actually deal with this problem, so it's not altogether that surprising.
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Bret Easton Ellis