The horrific slaying of British Drummer Lee Rigby at the hands of two sociopathic Muslims in broad daylight has been rightly condemned worldwide with justifiable outrage. What is not so justifiable is the reaction of elements in the press and a rather dim witted right wing lot known as the English Defence League. Some media commentators have been critical of the cautious approach the British government took in identifying the offenders as radicalised Muslims. No such restraint from the thugs of the EDL who did their level best to imitate neo-nazis during the obligatory night time mini-riot through the streets of Woolwich in south-east of London.
These days blaming Islam for the violent behaviour of a fringe group of born and bred local fundamentalists is becoming a bit too easy - a knee jerk reaction to a complex problem of mainly socio-economic origins. While it cannot be denied that Koranic scripture has been used to justify jihad whether organised or DIY, the twisting and selective interpretation of any doctrine be it religious or secular can cause the same results once you take them out of their historical context. Biblical - especially Old Testament - verses are very specific about how to wreak vengeance on the enemies of Yahweh. However, this phenomenon is not exclusive to religion, the same can be done with secular dogmas such as Marx's Communist Manifesto or even the U.S Constitution. The point is this: anything can be made a platform for violence if the intent is rebellious violence to begin with.
The core problem behind anti-social and violent behaviour in Western nations is not their reading material but what motivates them to read it and believe it in the first place. Interestingly enough we already have the basis of the answers. Any legislator, counsellor or parent can read an online fact sheet (like this one) on why young people join gangs and will find the fundamental reasons for extreme behaviour: alienation, disaffection, poverty, peer group pressure and fear - they all contribute to the gradual build up of resentment towards the mainstream, a resentment channeled through their choice of rebellion. Simply put, radical Muslims in the West are gangstas. Such a religious gang provides them with an identity, bonding, a common cause, an outlet for their bigotry, and in their minds, legitimacy.
Take the example of September 2012 when Muslim youths rioted in the streets of Sydney over the release of the anti-Islamic film, Innocence of Muslims. What was really being expressed was a kind of gang warfare mentality against perceived dark forces being allowed to take root by the establishment. In other words they were protecting their turf. In this context, beards and kufi caps suddenly become the equivalent of bikers' colours. While it would be foolish to compare their kind of behaviour with the highly political, well organised terrorist campaigns coming from abroad, the roots of such threats grow from the disaffected youths in our own backyards similarly to the way Hitler took advantage of resentful German youths and young adults to form his Brown Shirts.
Clarity is crucial and context, vital. Religions must be understood for what they are: part mythology, part Iron Age politics, part basic history, forever rooted in antiquity. And because of that they must be understood in their historical context. Ergo, religious fundamentalism can never build a better moral world because it sits outside contemporary Western social norms, those norms the product of secularisation over the centuries. But neither are religions the perennial root cause of violent, anti-social mindsets. That argument is too simplistic to be true. The two men who killed Drummer Lee Rigby were violent to begin with, radical Islam simply being the trigger they were psychological looking for. The solution to such a problem is in first getting inside the heads of those who dwell in the alienated fringes of our fractured world and removing the conditions that caused the problem from the very beginning.