After the 2015 Paris attacks by ISIS commandos, Donald Trump’s counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka wrote these notorious lines, blaming the ideology of “radical Islam” for the atrocity:
These attacks are the latest manifestation of a growing and globalized ideology of radical Islam that must be addressed at its source—which includes the mainstream imams and media personalities who nurture, promote and excuse it … They were inspired by a thriving online ideological structure that recruits and radicalizes mostly men to save “the caliphate” from “the kuffar [infidels]” … The threat we’re facing isn’t just individual terrorists. It’s the global ideology of radical Islam. We have to take it seriously, and call out imams, academics, and media personalities who give it a platform under the guise of exploring both sides, fostering debate or avoiding political correctness.
Except these words weren’t by Sebastian Gorka at all. They were written in The New York Times by Wajahat Ali, hours after the massacre of 50 Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. I swapped white nationalism for radical Islam, politicians for imams, and Western civilization for the caliphate.
A funny thing happened after the tragedy of Christchurch: Everyone discovered, all at once, that ideology matters. Four years ago, commentators were contorting themselves to attribute jihadism to politics, social conditions, abnormal psychology—anything but the spread of wicked beliefs that lead, more or less directly, to violence. Ideology for thee but not for me. Imagine the contempt any thinking person would feel for someone whose reaction to Christchurch was to wonder whether a few Muslim street hoods had once roughed up the shooter, or if during his trip to Pakistan the authorities had given him a hard time at the airport. Did he have trouble getting a job? Feel unsettled by modernity?