Today as the US woke up, it was greeted with horrific news. The Pakistani Taliban attacked a school run by the Pakistani Army and slaughtered over 140 civilians, mostly children. Yes, the school wasn’t a military school, but an ordinary school for kids. At the same time, a car bombing in Yemen carried out by Al Qaeda claimed the lives of 20 children. And over the weekend, a crazed gunman with pretensions of Islamic State membership took a restaurant hostage in Sydney, causing his own death and the death of two hostages when the Australian special forces stormed the building.
I think the fallacy that the Taliban and AQ are “freedom fighters” combating “Western hegemony” has been put to rest. The last I checked, the children in Yemen and Peshawar weren’t on the CIA’s payroll. What the Taliban, AQ, IS, and their affiliates are is death cults. Any legitimate grievance they may have had has long faded into the rear view mirror. They now perpetuate violence, all in the service of a dark utopia. That utopia is being partly realized in the IS-held sections of Iraq like Mosul, and the results aren’t pretty, even for orthodox, conservative Muslims. It is a cult of death and austerity, a yearning for a return to some prelapsarian state which never existed. It is a search for a dark Eden which never was but should have been.
But, of course, a death cult isn’t peculiar to the Muslim world. We have our own versions here.