It’s a common thought repeated over and over in the American press. There seems to be agreement on it throughout the many political camps in the west. It’s also bullshit. Jihad is not an ideology. It is not based on a system of ideas or ideals.
Jihad is holy war, fought by Muslims against people who are not Muslims. The goal is the extermination or conversion of non-Muslims. It’s really quite a simple thing with many historical precedents that’s not possible to be ignorant of unless you’re wholly ignorant of the history of all Muslim civilizations.
My suspicion about the widespread tendency to declare jihad an ‘ideology’ ahistorically is because it means that it can be addressed as an ideology is addressed under democracy: with debate and discussion. You can’t debate with jihad. You could not debate the Mughal Empire when they came knocking at the city gates.
You either fight the invader, you submit to him, or you die.
If you’re an over-educated idiot, you can contort the meaning of ‘jihad’ to mean something like ‘inner struggle for holiness.’ This turns great figures in Muslim history like Saladin into chopped liver. You’re going to be deeply fucking confused if you think Saladin was motivated by some complicated ideology, as if that’s the only way to motivate armies to conquer territory faced with daunting odds. They didn’t even have enough paper to go around back then to even construct an ideology.
The easiest way to understand something like the Islamic State is to put it in the broader context of Islamic history. In which case it is readily understandable, and is how they understand themselves. The same assholes who are continually lecturing at us to think outside of European frameworks are the same assholes who are completely incapable of thinking outside the narrow framework of modern analysis.
It’s all really goddamned simplistic. They’re coming to kill all the unbelievers. You either kill them, you convert, or they kill you. It’s like trying to make football something that’s not about scoring more touchdowns than the other guy. You either kill them until there are no more of them, or until they stop fighting.
It would please me greatly to see people stop referring to jihad or terrorism as the expression of an ideology, because it over-complicates what is really a simple phenomenon. Economy of thought is underrated: you want to minimize the ratio between talk and action whenever possible, because both time and space are scarce.