One man’s extremist is another’s true believerby Peter Welby / March 1, 2016 / Leave a comment
Religious extremism is on the rise. In January, at least 16 religious groups carried out killings or kidnappings in 21 countries around the world. 15 years ago, an American university identified 11 groups in seven countries.
The question is why—is religion inherently extremist? Or do we just hear a lot more about the extremist variety?
In December, my organisation—the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics—published research on the ideologies of rebel groups in Syria. We found that at least 65,000 fighters in the country belong to groups that share parts of Islamic State’s and al-Qaeda’s ideology. But some of these groups were willing, at least in theory, to participate in peace talks. Some say this is enough to define them as part of the “moderate opposition.”
The disagreement has a simple cause: no one can agree on how to define extremism. Just look at the statement by a senior police officer last May that signs of Muslim radicalisation might include n…