Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

July 23, 2011

The decline of political terrorism & the rise of religious terrorism

The media has been reporting a lot about Anders Breivik. I’m curious about the tendency of some to label Breivik a “Christian Extremist”. Additionally, there is widespread repetition of the Norwegian official deeming him a “Christian fundamentalist.” I think this is wrong on the specifics, but it also goes toward the general problem of our age where we attempt to fit everything into black-white religious dichotomies. For example, “moderate Muslims” vs. “Islamists.” “Islamic extremists” vs. “Christian extremists.” Because of the salience of notionally religiously motivated Islamic militant movements there has been a shift toward reinterpreting secular nationalist terrorist movements as religious ones. For example, the attempt to frame the Irish Republican Army as Catholic terrorists, or the Tamil Tigers as Hindu terrorists (in reality, both these are nationalist movements, often with a Leftist slant). Or consider the refashioning of Tim McVeigh into a Christian terrorist when he was a lapsed Catholic at best and probably irreligious by the time of his terrorist act. This religionization of all radical movements means that people have a really hard time today digesting the fact that 19th and early 20th century anarchists who committed what seem to be patently suicidal acts were ...

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