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Associating Piety and Violence

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Photo: Reuters

Among the major religious traditions around the world, only one—Islam—currently and stubbornly associates piety, devotion, and sacred scholarship with murderous violence.

A Washington Post headline unwittingly emphasized that point when, in announcing the death of terrorist chieftain Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, it described him as the “AUSTERE RELIGIOUS SCHOLAR AT HELM OF ISLAMIC STATE.”

This is not to say that Baghdadi’s genocidal history is in any way representative of Islamic scholars in general, but it is very hard to find Christian, or Jewish, or Buddhist sages who organize and glorify genocidal, terrorist violence perpetrated by groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and other Islamic extremists.

Yes, ghastly episodes in Norway, New Zealand, Pittsburgh and Charleston show non-Islamic killers motivated by racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, or insanity, but none of them claimed to kill in service of an ancient faith. Baghdadi did, and Islam—and the world—is better off with his death.

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