“But I want to answer a slightly different question, which is: If Islam did not exist … would a group like ISIS, with all the other realities as they are, exist...today and do the same things?”
“My answer to that hypothetical question is a resounding yes.” Discussing global terrorism at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Mogahed, who formerly led research on Muslims with the polling organization Gallup, said that extremist groups all over the world commit the same kinds of violence using what she called “the local social currency” to justify it. “That is sometimes Christianity. That is sometimes Judaism. That is sometimes Buddhism. And it is sometimes secular ideologies. So a world without Islam would still have a group like ISIS—they would just be called something else that may be less catchy.”
In the Middle East itself, she said, there was terrorism before there was a “pronounced Islamic social currency.” In the 1950s, the secular, left-wing fedayeen committed attacks on Israel in the name of Arab nationalism which, Mogahed said, was the prevailing social currency of the time. Given this history in the Middle East, and global history from Peru to Northern Ireland to Japan, in which terrorism emerges again and again from societies with no Islamic traditions to speak of, there’s a limit to the Quran’s explanatory power when it comes to political violence."
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