Two must reads: The myth of religious violence, and why there’s no such thing as Islamic State.


It’s impossible to reduce this “long read” of Karen Armstrong’s into a single convenient pull, but I’ll take a stab at it.

The myth of religious violence (Guardian)

… After a bumpy beginning, secularism has undoubtedly been valuable to the west, but we would be wrong to regard it as a universal law. It emerged as a particular and unique feature of the historical process in Europe; it was an evolutionary adaptation to a very specific set of circumstances. In a different environment, modernity may well take other forms.

Another commentary in the Guardian approaches the issue from the standpoint of language:

Why there’s no such thing as Islamic State: From Isis to Aum Shinrikyo, the way language works can distort reality. We must be vigilant in reading between the lines, by David Shariatmadari

 … Linguists have argued for decades about the strength of this effect: the consensus is that language guides, rather than determines, thought. It can set up habits, no more. But habits can be tenacious.

Politicians have long known this. Advertisers know it. And so do terrorists. And with the evolution of Islamic State (Isis) we have a neat case study in the power of proper nouns.