Pious foes of terror
When I was in college in upstate New York, the spring would melt the snow and bring wandering groups of evangelical Christian preachers to the campuses. The agnostics and areligious would come and listen to Sister Cindy stand on a bench and explain how they would all burn in hell — to huge waves of laughter.
The only people who would be incensed by these preachers, and who would get into arguments and shouting matches with them, were — other Christians. Normally some church-going student whose vision of god was more benign and benevolent than the fire-and-brimstone preachers would be the on to berate them.
(Not a surprise, there are four distinct views of god among American Christians. )
It is a pattern one sees repeatedly. Monotheistic religions treat groups who claim to be of their creed but differ slightly in practice or ideology face a special kind sort of hatred. The heretic or heretic is much worse than the pagan or the nonbeliever. The latter can claim ignorance, the former have no excuse. Catholic persecution of the Albigensian Christians. Marxist-Leninists going after Trotskyites. There is always a greater anger between two groups who claim the same ideological space.
This, I believe, can be used to political advantage in fighting Islamicist radicals. There is a simplistic tendency by some to argue that a conservative Muslim would automatically be in the same mindspace as a Taliban fighter. Not necessarily so. Many pious Muslims are repelled by Al Qaeda or the Taliban, seeing them as mass murderers or mediaeval throwbacks who pretend to wear the garb of Islam.
This was underlined once again by the careful electoral distinctions that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate in Egypt made between himself and the more extreme Salafists. It was also brought home to me by the recent Pew Global Attitudes Survey’s Pakistan Project report. Polling Pakistani Muslims who prayed five times a day versus those who didn’t as a crude measure of piety, the polling found that who prayed more were more likely to disapprove of the Lashkar e Tayyeba by a sizeable 14 percentage points.
They disapproved, in fact, of Al Qaeda, of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network more than their less religious counterparts.
One can hypothesize that a less religious Muslim could find political or other secular reasons to support Islamicist militants while a pious one would have those reasons offset by a sense that these terrorists are besmirching his faith.