ISIS is just one of a full-blown global jihadist insurgency

Maajid Nawaz writes: The first female jihadist suicide bomber to blow herself up on European shores struck this week in St. Denis, France. The pope and King Abdullah of Jordan have both named ISIS’s assault on Paris as the start of World War III.

I disagree. Those two horrific World Wars involved states and conventional armies. Until now — and our reaction will determine whether it stays this way — this has been a conflict involving an asymmetric non-state actor, which by its sheer audacity is forcing states to reconsider the precarious status quo of international relations today. I believe it is safer, more accurate, and more productive to name this a global jihadist insurgency. And after the latest events in Paris, it’s time to recognize that this insurgency has reached European soil.

Recognizing this as an insurgency affects entirely how we react to it. We cannot simply shoot or even legislate our way out of this problem. Unlike war, counter-insurgency rests on the assumption that the enemy has significant enough levels of support within the communities it aims to survive among. Recognizing the source of that support means avoiding the apologism of the far left or the sensationalism of the far right. Both of these reactions will render us blind to the real wellspring of this insurgency’s appeal: the Islamist ideology, as distinct from the religion of Islam.

President Obama, and many liberals, shy away from calling this ideology Islamism. Their fear is that both Muslim communities and those on the political right will simply hear the word “Islam” and begin to blame all Muslims. Instead, the mantra that is repeated is “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.”

Phrasing things in this way rests on an understandable concern. But it exacerbates the very problem it seeks to avert. To explain this, for a while now I have been using a reference from popular culture, which I am glad to say has now made the Urban Dictionary. I call it the Voldemort Effect, named after the villain in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. [Continue reading…]

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