Some call this evil “Islamic radicalism,” others “militant jihadism” and still others “Islamofacism.” Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision — the establishment by terrorism, subversion and insurgency of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews and against Muslims themselves who do not share their radical vision. ~George W. Bush, November 11, 2005

So it is Islam that has been exploited! But how can Mr. Bush even attempt to maintain that we struggling with Islamic radicalism and not with Islam? Whence arises Islamic radicalism, if not from Islam? At a basic level of semantics and logic, Mr. Bush’s statement is nonsense. Even if it were the case that radical interpretations of jihad and Islam generally are not shared by most Muslims, it is fatuous to pretend that these interpretations are not as Islamic in origin and character as any other. They might well be considered heterodox (however, I do not believe anyone can show that they are considered as such by a broad majority of Muslim jurists), but there is nonetheless something inherent in Islam upon which they can readily draw to make their arguments (and anyone familiar with the Qur’an knows well that it is not at all difficult to find some ready justification for what they have been doing).

While the comparisons between Islamists and 20th century totalitarians always seem to me to be overblown, the comparison may be useful here. Imagine someone saying (indeed, more than a few have said) that Soviet or Maoist communism is “very different” from what Marxism or ‘true’ socialism requires, and that the Leninist-Stalinist system was a perversion of communism (would Mr. Bush call it an “ideology of peace”?). Many a Trotskyite, communist sympathiser, liberal and naive American have said this very thing, and it was no more credible in that case. Imagine someone claiming that Hitler betrayed the spirit of National Socialism by starting revanchist and expansionist wars (perhaps Hitler didn’t speak for all the peaceful Nazis)–he would presumably be laughed out of the room. But today we are supposed to believe that a religion that has expanded for virtually all of its history by means of the sword and political conquest, and which has a doctrine that legitimises violence for a very broadly construed “defense” and expansion of the House of Islam, has no fundamental and integral connection to political violence? This is simply idiocy, and unfortunately it passes for the reigning political wisdom.