Why We Fail to Understand Islamic Terrorism

Lessons We Can Learn From San Bernadino, Paris, Boston, Beirut, and History

It should be clear by now that most of the population, certainly in the Western world, still does not understand Islamic terrorism. One reason I believe that is the great variety of assessments that I read and hear from the various media. And as it has been said, what we do not comprehend, we cannot defeat.

“Understanding” should not imply sympathy or excusing some evil but comprehending it. I would say that most people, regardless of religious affiliation, fail to comprehend the mindset behind Islamic terrorism and there are significant reasons for that. I want to briefly state some of those reasons. But there are more reasons for our failure to understand than I will state here – and probably more than we know. Bear in mind, this is not about reasons behind terrorism, but reason behind our failure to comprehend it.

These reasons for our failure will not necessarily be presented in order of importance:

  • We tend to try to understand Islamic terrorism by applying Western secular psychology. Some suggest that the cause must be poverty, economic opportunity, ignorance or environment (I don’t mean “climate change”).
  • Terrorism violates our values, a better life, life itself, building vs. destroying, and more.
  • Western secularism has devalued the importance of theology which greatly influences philosophy, psychology, and economics.
  • Western secularism has posited that all people are born fundamentally good. We have trouble coping with the concept of evil.
  • More and more, we see everything as political, or through partisan eyes.
  • We have lost the lessons and values of history.

Islamic terrorism fits none of our paradigms. It comes from a different “mental planet”. By our failure to identify its religious roots, we fail to comprehend and defeat it. So what are its roots? Let me say that I am not a psychologist nor and expert, but I will offer a view.

  • Islamic terrorism is rooted in a particular ideology – a theology that we discount as “just another religion,” that we imagine is “mostly peaceful”.
  • Islamic terrorists believe in eternal rewards and are more focused there than Western secularism is.
  • Islamic terrorists are very focused on history and the past offenses against their interests.
  • Islamic terrorists believe in good and evil and think of us as the “Great Satan”.
  • Islamic terrorists do think politically, but it is politics based upon a spiritual idea.
  • “Covenant” is not an important idea in secularism. In fact, it is usually not an idea at all. However, it is a vital idea to those who covenant with Allah, with their brothers, and even with death itself.

One might conclude than I place much blame for our lack of comprehension on secularism. I do. Those with no real devotion to the eternal can never understand terrorist. What is more, they cannot understand basic Christianity or Judaism, or even their own history.

About the Author:

Charles Simpson

Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.