I've been on a Mordechai Kedar kick lately and he has some interesting ideas on the difference between "radical Islam" and "moderate Islam." Kedar, who is a scholar of Arabic Literature at Bar Ilan University in Israel, suggests - along with Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan, by the way - that Islam is Islam.
There is no "radical Islam."
There is no "moderate Islam."
There is only Islam.
There may be divisions within Islam between Sunni and Shia and (my favorite) Sufi Islam, but there are no hard separations between anything that can reasonably be called "radical Islam" and that which we call "moderate Islam."
Think of it as more of a continuum of violence, all of which has a home within Islam.
An Islamic State (IS) murderer of children and raper of young girls is just as Islamic as a peaceful, mystically-inclined Sufi.
So, what accounts for the differences? Why are American-born Muslims, for example, generally, although obviously not always, peaceful, hard-working, and well-educated - what we would call moderate - while other Muslims, particularly some of those in the Middle East, and increasingly those in Europe, entirely out of control?
Kedar, who obviously well-knows the Koran in the original Arabic, suggests that it is an exceedingly contradictory book - I found it incomprehensible, myself. There is no coherent narrative. - and therefore one is likely to take from it what is encouraged within the culture one is raised in. There are parts of the Koran that are downright liberal, such as the idea that there should be no compulsion in religion. Although, you turn a page and suddenly there is compulsion, unto death, to submit to the authority of Muhammad.
In the Koran, there are other gentle suggestions such as the punishment which calls for the chopping off of one foot and one hand from opposite sides of the body. (Try not to think about it.)
However, if you were born and raised Muslim in, say, San Francisco there is an excellent chance that you would simply be another guy on a commute into the office downtown or to Silicon Valley. If you were a devout Muslim, having been raised in an open-minded part of the world within a local Muslim culture that reflected that, chances are your style of Islam would also reflect that.
You, in other words, would not likely be screeching for Jihad in the streets. You would not burn down churches merely because they are churches.
However, if you were born in a part of the world where people are killing one another over family honor or burying women accused of adultery up to their necks for the purposes of a good stoning, your interpretation of the Koran and the Hadiths and the Sira would reflect that.
It is not that, as Obama claimed, the Islamic State is un-Islamic. On the contrary, if anything those boys are uber-Islamic. They are going all the way back to the 7th century and it doesn't take much imagination to figure how much fun the Arabian Peninsula was in the 7th century. But this is not "radical Islam" because the Islamic State ideology is fully consistent with the historical behavior of Muhammad, the allegedly perfect example for all Muslims.
If anything it is a more orthodox, traditional form.
But the Muslim in the office next door in downtown San Francisco, if he is devout, is also a Muslim.
Then the question becomes, if the cultural environment is such a key factor in determining what type of Muslim one will emerge as, what accounts for all those French and German and British jihadis?
Well? Europe screwed up and is getting more and more screwed up by the day.
By allowing, or encouraging, these enclosed Muslim enclaves in their major cities they ensured that the next generation of European Muslims, who come out of those ghettos, are far more likely to interpret the Koran in jihadi fashion.
That was a big mistake and one that I bet we are well on our way to repeating in the United States.
And, needless to say, by flinging open the doors of Western Europe to violently dysfunctional Middle East Muslim cultures, European political leadership guaranteed the rape and murder of their own people.
Angela Merkel, as it turns out, should never have been let anywhere near public office.