By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam (for Safe Democracy)

Arshin Adid-Moghaddam explains how a common ignorance and stereotyping of Islam has led to strained relations between the Muslim and Judeo-Christian world. These misinformed views place blame inaccurately on the teachings of the Qu’ran, and lack a complete understanding of the variety of factors that influence modern day Islam, perpetuating what Adid-Moghaddam refers to as a belief in nihilistic terrorism. It is increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that throughout Europe and the wider Western world, Islam is being turned into a police matter. Western governments are increasingly calling for new policies in order to manage the growing threat to social order that Islam appears to present.

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is the author of “The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A Cultural Genealogy” (Routledge). Educated at Hamburg, American and Cambridge Universities, he teaches International Relations at Oxford University.

IT IS INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO IGNORE THAT ISLAM IN EUROPE, and the wider Western worlds has been turned into a police matter, and that Muslims call for management policies that Islam is permanently taken into account as a threat to social order.

Not a day passes without news reports about yet another raid on predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods, or fast-tracked arrests under new legislations, which have given the police and security forces in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Germany, and elsewhere extraordinary legal powers.

It is an almost natural reaction of the state and its apologists to legitimate the disempowerment of civil society in general, and minorities in particular, with apocalyptic threat scenarios that are constantly reifying the menace of the other –in its current appearance the abstract (yet always bearded foreigner), or the sleeper cell, who appears to be all-powerful and almost transcendental in his omnipresence.

Yet it appears to me, that explaining why some youths in my age group, with similar Arab sounding names, are willing to blow themselves up requires placing the issue of nihilistic terrorism within an analytical context, that is divorced from Islam in its multifarious, and conflicting meanings.

How helpful is the Qur’an in explaining the motivations of Richard Reid, the Muslim convert, born in Bromley to an English mother, and Jamaican father, and educated in London; or Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, and Germaine Lindsay: the home-grown suicide bombers, who planned, and executed the attacks on London’s Tube on 7 July 2004?

It is intellectually mediocre, and normatively racist, that some analysts presume that these self-proclaimed jihadists are somehow motivated by teachings in the Qur’an, or that their actions can be explained in terms of the inherent Muslim propensity for violence.


The signposts of this kind of nihilistic terrorism, which has created immense human suffering around the world, and a quick look at the biographies of its perpetrators, reveal that they are global in character. Not in the sense that the phenomenon is everywhere, but in the sense that its agents are nurtured by a global culture that engenders violence exponentially, both due to its technological structure and ideational a-morality.


Analytically, the phenomenon of nihilistic terrorism requires multidisciplinary knowledge beyond orientalist myths.

Normatively, it demands empathetic understanding of the disenfranchised second and third generation of Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants, who feel rejected by the Leitkultur of both Europe as an increasingly fortified supranational entity and, more dramatically, its nation-states with their propensity for uniform national identities.

And finally politically, it asks for explicit acknowledgement of the Muslim presence in Europe as part of the inter-cultural claim of the European project, as an empirical manifestation of its claim for openness, democratic empowerment, and ultimately, as a psychological, and historical link to Islamic civilisation, which, since its invention from the seventh century onwards, had an uninterrupted presence in the European mind.

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