Want to understand Islamic extremism? The answer isn’t in Islam — it’s in the Cold War.

Source: The Washington Post

Recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in political Islam and jihadist violence. An array of commentators have sought to link contemporary groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to classical Islam — drawing a straight line from the prophet Muhammad to Osama bin Laden and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

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This sentiment animates much of the rhetoric on the right. President Trump, along with members of his administration, has been far more willing than his predecessors to conflate violent jihadist groups with more moderate elements within the Muslim world, both past and present.

In reality, however, the roots of contemporary jihadist movements don’t come from the ideas of an ancient religion but rather from the reality of the recent Cold War. For half a century, U.S. leaders and their allies consistently worked to undermine secular progressive forces around the world, fearing that they might side with the Soviets. In the process, the United States unwittingly empowered the very forces of religious conservatism that Washington is battling today.

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