The appalling attacks in Paris last night were, as Francois Hollande said, an act of war. They were Islamism’s declaration of war on free society – but, crucially, they represented something else. An act of war, by Islamists, upon Islam itself.
As Douglas Murray says, it is lazy and wrong to argue that these attacks had nothing to do with Islam. The repugnant creed of the Islamic State is certainly related to Islam – but it is also inimical to Islam. The scenes in Paris will shock Muslims world over; indeed, when we Muslims hear of gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” before committing the very acts of murder explicitly prohibited by the Koran, our repugnance is joined with a sense of desecration.
To assert that this Islamism is un-Islamic is not a kneejerk response to the atrocities we saw last night, and so many times around the world.
So this is a new ideology, a form of totalitarianism – and one that has its ideological source not in medieval Islam but 20th century fascism. They dress in the robes of ancient Islam, but the methods and the ideology are terrifyingly modern. The Islamic State, with is easy control of social media, is the most modern incarnation yet.
The Islamic State’s brutality against anyone it encounters – Egyptians, Jordanians, Iraqis or Syrians – has been a reminder to the Muslim world that Islamism is not just directed at westerners. It’s also a reminder of why the animus against Islamism is rising — holding out the prospect of real reform. Crucially, the jihadis are losing the argument. Ten years ago, a Pew poll found that 41 per cent of Pakistani Muslims said that suicide bombings were sometimes justified. Now, it’s down to 3 per cent.
This is the moment for the Islamic world to expose Islamism — but loosening its hold upon our faith falls upon those Muslims who value pluralism and pursue a civilised, enlightened Islam. The reformation many are calling for isn’t needed of Islam, but rather of Muslims — and specifically of Muslim leadership.